Phoenix, AZ (March 26, 2001) The 2000 seat Valley Cathedral, Phoenix, AZ, was packed by more than 1000 delegates from all over the country as the second annual three-day WordAlone Network convention began on Sunday, March 25, 2001.
The WordAlone Network was organized last year to resist an agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) which requires the ELCA to accept ECUSA practices, particularly regarding bishops and the ordination of pastors. Lutherans have traditionally held that church structures may take a variety of forms as necessary for spreading the Christian message.
A major focus of this year's convention is the approval of a constitution for a new association of Lutheran churches, provisionally being called Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).
Inspiring contemporary praise music, worship and communion inaugurated the convention as attendees considered Bible reflection by Virgil "Bud" Thompson, a Lutheran pastor from Spokane, WA, and managing editor of the Lutheran Quarterly journal.
Thompson compared the present situation in the Lutheran church to the people of Israel being kept as slaves in Egypt before the time of Moses. Thompson said, "There have been 1,000 different faces through the ages, but always the same voice of Pharaoh, 'You don't have to believe it, you just have to do it'...Pharaoh has confused himself with God."
After noting that the ELCA has been pursuing "one ideology after another," he said it was most disturbing that the ELCA has confused law and gospel, seeking from the law what cannot be accomplished except by what the gospel proclaims.
"You can't make faith by imposing law," said Thompson. "The law makes us aware of sin. You can't use the law to accomplish only what God can accomplish." Thompson also noted that when Martin Luther's opponents could not to back up their position with scripture, like the ELCA they would also argue, "The church, the church, the church..."
But referring back to the Exodus story, he said, "The more the people of God resisted, the more they multiplied and spread...Truth conquers. It is its nature to advance when it is being resisted...Old Pharaoh thought he had in hand what was his to whip the Lutheran mob into submission. But that was not the end of the story. We will see what will happen to the Lutheran mob in the 21st century. God has a long history of keeping his promises."
WordAlone president Roger Eigenfeld, St. Paul, MN, also spoke, comparing the WordAlone Network to David battling Goliath. "David trusted God and was not afraid.
He knew that all he needed was God's power. But everyone else just watched."
Eigenfeld noted that many in the ELCA were also watching from behind rocks in fear to see what happens next, some saying, "Don't rock the boat, the church has voted, let's just move on, get over it." But Eigenfeld also reminded listeners that thousands of ELCA pastors are afraid to speak out, and need WordAlone to give them courage.
Eigenfeld noted that the church changed significantly on August 19, 1999. "I could never understand why something is necessary when it is not necessary, even the Augsburg Confession says it is not necessary." Eigenfeld drew laughter when he quipped, "I tried that on my parents once."
Eigenfeld said that WordAlone's goals included resistance, promoting representative leadership in the ELCA, and raising up new congregations. He said that if millions of combinations are possible even when playing with a child's simple toy blocks, more than one way can surely be found to relate to Episcopalians.
He said he hoped WordAlone convention attendees would leave with a unified leadership moving in the direction of consensus, a universally accepted strategy for moving ahead, and a common conception for the future.
The evening concluding with a discussion of the proposed LCMC constitution.