- Where can more Information on Centrist, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutherans be found?
- What is Involved in forming a new Independent Centrist, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran congregation?
- How can a small congregation support Pastoral Ministry?
- Is there a good supply of pastors? Is there a good supply of Pastors in the Centrist, Biblical, also, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran Synodical federation, fellowship & association? And what about Seminary training?
- What is the Call process?
- Are there any restrictions to a congregation or a pastor choosing to leave the ELCM?
- Can an entire Congregation join ELCM from another church body?
- What hymnals do the congregations of your church body use for worship ?
- Why have another Lutheran Church Body?
- Will ELCM have a probationary membership period?
- Since the initial membership of your group is in Pennsylvania, will you mainly be focused upon Pennsylvania?
- Do you have or will you have bishops? What about teaching authority/supervision in the church?
- What is the ELCM practice regarding Benevolence?
- Why are there occasional references to the Central Pennsylvania Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium and General Parish or to CPaELMGP?
- Why does the ELCM constitution list all of the writings contained in the Christian Book of Concord as "Secondary Symbols?"
1. Where can more Information on Centrist, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutherans be found?
This is mainly the place! We are posting all of our materials as we develop them to this our website location. If you have received a copy of this from a friend or an acquaintance but do not have a computer, then we suggest that you make use of a public library computer system. Many of the public libraries now have installed computers with access to the World Wide Web for public use.
2. What is Involved in forming a new Independent Centrist, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran congregation?
All it takes is dedicated people willing to gather weekly around God’s Word and Sacraments. One of our congregations (Barley Ev. Lutheran) began with just 7 people and now just 3 years later is pushing past 130 in membership.
An initial congregation can begin either as a Bible Study group meeting in member homes or it can begin as an initial meeting of interested persons similar to our successful York Pennsylvania effort who then begin an interim organization: choose a Board or a Council, choose a name, and plan where and when to begin to hold public worship. (Our York effort was a very good learning experience for us and we have gleaned some very good lessons that will be of considerable help in future efforts.)
Like the early Christian congregations large buildings and facilities are not needed in order to begin a church. A resident pastor is however very important for a congregation to truly be established on solid Biblical and Confessional foundations. It is possible for congregations to be established without a resident pastor on hand but in our experience the congregations must be very receptive to the guidance from a pastor who supervises the effort. The early colonial experience is a model in this regard. The lay people by and large established the bulk of the early Lutheran congregations but were very receptive to the guidance of the few scattered pastors. Troubles arose where the congregations where not receptive to the leading and guiding of a pastoral shepherd.
Groups that already exist can decide to organize as an independent and autonomous Centrist, Biblical, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran congregation inclining to the right congregation in association with other likeminded congregations and Pastors. When a group is ready to organize the officers of our association are contacted, the President of our Central PA. Ev. Lutheran Ministerium & General Parish then meets with the group, and the plans for a new congregational organization is begun.
Congregations can be organized through advertising efforts followed by an informational meeting which gather together folks interested in being part of a new congregation's formation. Such was the model followed in the successful 1997 York PA Mission planting. We did learn, however, that when such a group of folks is gathered that there needs to be considerable preparatory teaching in the Biblical and Confessional understandings prior to the opening of the charter for the new congregation. There is danger in assuming that all who have been members of Lutheran Churches truly know what the is meant by a Confessional Lutheran Biblical orientation.
A new congregation can also be organized in a word of mouth fashion especially if a Bible Study group or Study class is already meeting regularly. If you know of any such already existing study groups or study classes that might have interest in becoming an Independent and Autonomous Centrist, Biblical, calm, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran congregation inclining to the right in our association please let it be known that they may contact the President of our Central PA. Ev. Lutheran Ministerium & General Parish by writing to Pastor Roy A. Steward at RD5, Box 864 Altoona PA. 16601-9610, or by calling (814-943-4609), or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. How can a small congregation support Pastoral Ministry?
Our association has congregations able to support full time Pastorates but also has congregations in which the laity assume a major portion of the ministry effort under the guidance and shepherding of a Circuit riding pastor. We believe that congregations can come alive with God's Word and the efforts of dedicated and committed Lay leaders as long as in our experience they have proper understanding of the Polity of the church. The danger is that where a circuit riding pastor cannot be present the Lay leaders in the congregation will see themselves in the role of Pastor and the Pastor who makes a circuit visit as being but a visitor or a hired hand of the congregation. As we are able to gather pastors who are of a like mind with us we will have pastors available who will be willing to serve in tent making situations and be resident in a particular Mission situation. Having a pastor who is resident in the area of a Mission is we now believe the best arrangement for the planting of a new Mission.
A Tent making Pastor works at a secular job through the week and preaches, teaches, and leads worship on evenings and weekends. The Apostle Paul was the first to follow this approach. We firmly believe that as we establish congregations that the Lord will provide the Call to qualified pastors to serve those congregations.
It truly is amazing how quickly a small congregation can build up its resources and not only support its pastor but also acquire property and build a church of its own. Here also our experience has shown that a new congregation must put the setting aside of funds for the Pastoral Ministry the major focus above and beyond the acquisition of a Building.
Small congregations that are being encouraged to close down and consolidate with other congregations are especially encouraged to make contact with us. We think our approach can make small congregations come alive once again.
4 Is there a good supply of pastors? Is there a good supply of Pastors in the Centrist, Biblical, also, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran Synodical federation, fellowship & association? And what about Seminary training?
At the moment our pastors are stretched very thin as we make a new beginning and it is very difficult to find former ALC/ LCA/ ELCA pastors who are willing to rethink the Liberal positions that they were taught in Seminary. We have been blessed to have former ELCA pastors and retired ELCA pastors (of LCA background) to help our congregations by providing supply preaching and emergency hospital visitation. Our effort is very young though, and we are hopeful that as we become more organized and that as it becomes known that we are in existence that the Lord will provide additional pastors for our effort. "The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, Pray the Lord of the harvest to send Laborers into the vineyard"
In acquiring Pastors, we do have the option of calling solid Biblical and Confessional pastors from the more Conservative Lutheran Church bodies. The possibility exists of developing a close association with the Association of Free Lutherans (Lutherans of a non Liturgical and fairly Pietistic orientation) and drawing upon their Seminary graduates to serve in our congregations. However, we are intent upon being cautious even in the possibility of calling pastors from the more conservative Lutheran Church bodies, for often these can come from the other extreme or from the opposite end of the spectrum represented by the ALC/LCA/ ELCA style. We are not intentionally Pietistical in our orientation. We are intent to be and remain Centrist, Biblical, Pietistic al, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran congregation .
We have been experiencing a very significant growth in the number of our congregations and pray that the Lord will raise up for us those who will be open to serving as Centrist, Biblical, Pietistic al, Evangelical, Liturgical Pastors. We are convinced that The Lord will provide.
We are willing for our future Seminary Students attend either ELCA Seminaries or Seminaries of Conservative Lutheran Church bodies as long as our Centrist, Biblical, Pietistic al, Evangelical, Liturgical pastors meet regularly with the Seminary Students for mentored studies and reflections that bring to bear our Centrist, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical positions. Should we eventually decide to organize a new Lutheran Church body we have given initial thought to modeling any future Seminary along the lines of Muhlenberg and his associates wherein students would spend time in residence at several congregations where they would pursue their Biblical and Theological studies under the guidance of several active Parish Pastors and the Lay leaders of the congregations where they are placed- perhaps heavily utilizing the capabilities of the Internet. This would enable a future pastor to get first hand experience over the course of four years in actual parish ministry which immersed in Biblical/Confessional Studies, chats, group conferencing etc. in the presence of the pastors and officers of the Body. Dedicated lay leaders in the churches have much to teach future pastors.
5. What is the Call process? In Calling of a pastor is the process restricted to going through the Association and its officers?
There are no restrictions to searching for a Pastor. The President of ELCM or the President of a respective member Synod may recommend the names of persons for a congregation’s consideration but the Call process would be totally open to the Leading of The Holy Spirit and congregation is free to interview any pastor of their choosing. Likewise pastors are free to submit their names to any vacant congregation.
Because of our Independent and Autonomous Free Lutheran nature of organization it is trusted that the congregations' would seek out Pastors' who believe in the basic Biblical and Confessional positions of our Association. Freedom in Christ is basic to our understanding of church organization.
6 Are there any restrictions to a congregation or a pastor choosing to leave the ELCM?
No there are no restrictions. Pastor’s and congregations may freely choose at any time to no longer be members of ELCM We have no desire to compel pastors or congregations to remain members of our ELCM if they no longer desire to do so.
Congregations are guided solely by the stipulations set forth in their own constitutions.
While all of our initial member congregations have similar constitutions based on "H. M. Muhlenberg’s organizational principles" each congregation is nonetheless free to adopt and develop a constitution to suit its own situation provided it accepts the Biblical/ Theological positions that have previously attained the unanimous consensus of the member pastors and congregations of our association.
It is entirely possible that a congregation would remain a member of ELCM while its pastor would not be a member or vice versa .
7 Can an entire Congregation join ELCM from another church body?
Since we are a Lutheran Church body incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania they may indeed ! Most Church bodies make provisions for their congregations to vote to leave and join another church body. Congregations follow the procedures set forth by their respective present Church body.
For example: A congregation desiring to leave the ELCA (or to simply explore to explore its options ) in order to join with ELCM would be free to invite our President or an ELCM Synod President to speak to their membership. All ELCA congregations are required to have two consecutive votes of approval by a super majority (2/3). Between the first and 2nd votes the ELCA Synod officials have the right to speak to the membership and leadership of the congregation. If, however a second vote by a 2/3 majority of the congregation indicates approval to leave the ELCA and join our ELCM then that congregation may leave the ELCA with it's property and assets in order to join with ELCM. This process applies If the congregation was formerly an American Lutheran Church (ALC).
If, however, the congregation was formerly an LCA congregation or if the congregation was organized as an ELCA congregation then the congregation must make application to the Synod Council for approval to transfer its membership to the our Association in order to leave with its property and assets after having two successive 2/3 majority votes to leave and to join another Lutheran Church body such as ELCM.
Should the ELCA Synod council refuse to acknowledge the two consecutive votes of the congregation desiring to leave as well as its official request the congregation can follow ELCA constitutional appeal channels until it gains a transfer to ELCM or whatever other Lutheran Church body it has chosen. There would be a number of steps a congregation could follow in order to gain a peaceful release.
A congregation would not automatically loose its property simply by voting its desire to leave the ELCA. If the congregation was formerly LCA or was organized as an ELCA congregation the action to transfer would not be formalized until acceded by the Synod Council.
Most other Lutheran Church bodies are "Congregational" oriented in organizational structure and the congregations in those bodies would need only to hold congregational votes as stipulated. In congregational oriented church bodies the vote of the congregation is the final word.
ELCA Pastors can now roll over their accumulated Pension funds into a Pension fund of their own choosing upon leaving the ELCA.
The Pension plans of our pastors are all self directed by the Pensioner. The large Lutheran Life Insurance companies are willing and able to establish Pension plans for Pastors.
8 What hymnals do the congregations of your church body use for worship?
Our congregations are free to choose the Hymnal that they feel best suits their local needs and as long as the order of worship is recognizable as a basic Lutheran order of worship. Most of initial member congregations use the Red Service Book and Hymnal (SBH)of 1958. One of the congregations uses a more contemporary worship format but sticks to the Lutheran order of worship.
We are open to the use of Contemporary worship styles as long as the historic Lutheran understandings of worship: Word and Sacrament are recognizable.
We are also not opposed to Charismatic expressions as long as these are not viewed as essential to worship and as a means of determining who is and who is not a genuine Christian. Because "the contemporary" reflects contemporary culture or "Zeit Geist" (the spirit of the times) it does bring with it a large portion of secular understanding into the church’s worship and so we do urge cautious reflection and Biblical understanding when using contemporary pieces.
Likewise because the Charismatic expressions tend to elevate human feeling and emotion above Word and Sacrament,we also urge caution in light of Biblical and Confessional understandings relating to use or opportunity for charismatic dimensions in congregational worship. We connect you with an excellent re-publication of an excellent study booklet authored by the now deceased Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod Pastor, The Rev. Julius V. Kimpel . Check it out as Pastor Kimpel does an excellent work in discussing the subject of the Charismatic movement in the Lutheran Church.
9 Why have yet another Lutheran Church Body called "ELCM" as an Independent and Centrist Lutheran Synodical federation, fellowship, & association of Pastors and Congregations? Why not have the congregations and pastors of ELCM join one of the other existing Lutheran Church bodies?
This is a serious question we are wrestling with. Since there is such ferment and unease in the various Lutheran church expressions we have chosen for the moment to take a wait and see approach while at the same time working on our Doctrinal understandings and possible organizational proposals.
Aside from the ELCA, virtually all of the other Lutheran Church bodies in the United States are of the "Middle Conservative to Ultra Conservative nature". The pastors and congregations of our Synodical federation, fellowship, & association are of a Centrist, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical orientation.
Thus we have organized as ELCM for the purpose of offering a Centrist, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran alternative option within the Lutheran spectrum.
We understand the reality that Pastors transferring to the Conservative Church bodies from the ELCA or from a time of wandering in search of a new home are in most cases expected to undergo up to a full year of further Seminary training and/ or to undergo a probationary period of at least one year for observation before becoming a full voting member of another Lutheran Body. We provide an alternative option to that approach. We are available only for those needing a "stopping off" point or "temporary rest stop" for Pastors and congregations needing to be in fellowship with others while they study various issues and decide on there further course. Pastors and congregations become full voting members of ELCM upon their approval and are not expected to undergo a time of probationary membership.
Congregations joining the middle conservative to conservative bodies, while not subjected to quite the same rigorous examination and treatment as pastors, are likewise often treated in a probationary way. In these middle conservative - conservative bodies there often is a sense of never having become a fully accepted pastor or congregation. In addition it is very difficult for even those who considered themselves fairly conservative in the LCA or ALC or ELCA to feel totally at ease with a goodly number of Biblical, Theological and practical matters adhered to by the middle conservative to conservative Lutheran Church bodies.
The former spectrum choice of only Liberal or middle Conservative/ Conservative we believe actually served to keep many centrists from leaving their respective church bodies simply because there seemed no alternative choices. Thus we believe that there may be a very important need for Centrist, Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical Lutheran alternative option for pastors and congregations.
We believe that "Yet another Lutheran Church family" will not hurt but may in fact be healthy for a renewed Lutheran vitality in America. Consolidation and centralization removes the decisions from the grass roots and dwindles the number of lay leaders and pastors who can truly be involved in the life of the Church beyond the congregation and in the maintaining of the Full Scripture and the Confessions as the authority and norm of life in Christ. And so we believe that the more small Lutheran Church bodies the better!
10 Will ELCM have a probationary membership period?
No, we will not have such a probationary membership time. When approved as a member to the Clergy or Congregational roster the pastor or the congregation would be a full voting member. All voting in all matters beyond the congregational life would be by "Unanimous Consensus in light of Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions" and thus there would be no need for fear of an infiltrating minority eventually taking over and changing things from the original foundational understandings.
Back to top11 Since the initial membership of your group is in Pennsylvania, will you mainly be focused upon Pennsylvania?
It remains to be seen. We would be open to having a much broader focus for our Synodical federation, fellowship, & association. In fact our official name is the Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium of North America". There have been expressions of interest from beyond Pennsylvania but we know that very few know that our ELCM as a Centrist Lutheran Mustard Seed possibility is in existence. Those who know of our existence often think of us as a sliver or splinter of a splinter of a splinter of a splinter. That of course is a good way to paying no attention to us. Actually we left the ELCA at the end 1991 and searched for a Lutheran group that would be centrist Lutheran. We held trial membership in TAALC and in LMS-USA and found them both to be not "centrist" Lutheran and so we don't count leaving trial memberships as being a splintering.
Small we are indeed but when we read the Holy Scripture it is abundantly clear that God has pretty characteristically not chosen those who are strong and mighty (numerically or otherwise) to accomplish His purposes. And so we have hope that the Lord may use us too.
12 Do you have or will you have Bishops? What about Teaching authority/ Supervision in the Church?
No we do not anticipate having Bishops other than our Pastors. The Word Bishop was a good word until it took on the Monarchical trappings and so we prefer the sense of "Pastor". The Office of Ministry is understood to be instituted by our Lord and the pastor is the Shepherd of the Congregation in accord with God's Placement through the Call of the Congregation. The pastor we believe is thus properly the President of the Congregation to which he is called.
Beyond the congregation a pastor may be called to serve in an office in any organization of ELCM. However we would want to avoid the Monarchical orientation and would have the highest offices in any body we might organize to be that of a President answerable to the consensus of Pastors and congregations. Our Constitution for all levels of ELCM beyond the congregation also provides for a nonpolitical office of "Dean" to have a primary role for the "pastoring" of pastors.
All pastors are viewed as being of one and the same office of ordination to Word and Sacrament ministry. We do not desire hierarchical arrangements and likewise wish to avoid Clergy domination or Clericalism. We desire very much to have our Lay leaders very much involved in all decisions beyond the local congregations. Likewise we would wish to avoid all notions that the pastors are the hired hands of the congregations.
All pastors who would be officers in any organization of ELCM are expected to be actively serving congregations.
Teaching authority is understood to be the prerogative of the Office of Ministry. For ELCM this teaching authority at each various expression is exercised by the pastors collectively in and through the Ministerium. In this we would follow the model of Muhlenberg.
The Ministerium primarily deals with matters of Doctrine and makes recommendations to ELCM as a whole. Actions of the Ministerium have moral teaching authority especially as these would be determined by unanimous Consensus or agreement among the pastors and with the approval of the General Conference Executive board and General Conference in light of Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions.
13 What is the ELCM practice regarding Benevolence?
We have no apportioned Benevolence ! That’s right, you heard it clearly, there is NO APPORTIONED BENEVOLENCE. The Congregations freely choose to send funds to the central treasury for support of basic expenses. Since our Officers and staff are not salaried this keeps our expenses very minimal.
The Ministerium and General Conference Executive Board recommend to General Conference and the The General Conference of ELCM recommends to the congregation's various Missions and special Ministries that are deemed worthy of support. Each individual congregation then is free to choose which of the recommended missions and ministries it would give support. The Congregations send their Mission support directly to the Mission or Special Ministry rather than through a central treasurer. It is our view that this succeeds in keeping Mission and special Ministries very close to the people of the local congregations and to the local parish pastor’s. It avoids power politics from developing around budget disbursements. Budgetary matters has so often been the gathering point for various special interest groups. We thus avoid a good bit of that kind of focus for ELCM.
14 Why are there occasional references to the Central Pennsylvania Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium and General Parish or to CPaELMGP?
The Central Pennsylvania Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium and General Parish or CPaELMGP was the un-incorporated entity that is the Parish arrangement between Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, Duncansville PA and Barley Ev. Lutheran Church, New Enterprise, PA. This continues to exist as the General Parish arrangement between these two congregations and their Pastor.
This General Parish arrangement began in December of 1992 when Faith Lutheran launched the successful Mission effort which resulted in Barley Lutheran congregation. The General Parish continued throughout the our trial membership with TAALC and with LMS-USA and then served as our umbrella organization as we reflected upon whether or not to officially incorporate a Centrist Lutheran Church body.
Our Web site began thus as the CPaELMGP Web site and now has become the ELCM Web site. There are lots of documents on the Site and so it will take a bit of time to edit and update all the various pages so that the references are to ELCM and not to the CPaELMGP.
15 Why does the ELCM Constitution list the Smalkald Articles, Apology, Large Catechism, and the other writings of the Lutheran Confessions as "Secondary Symbols"? Are these regarded as are only informative, not normative?
We followed the very early Constitutions which were part of the Eastern Lutheran Traditions (PA & New York Ministerium, the congregations that preceded them, and the General Council, & ULCA).
The listing of Primary Confessions and then Secondary Symbols was tied in with the Apology and Formula being expositions of The Unaltered Augsburg Confession; The Large Catechism being an Exposition of the Small Catechism, and the Smalkald articles being a post Augustana statement.
The early Eastern Lutherans held to the Augsburg Confession and Small Catechism as primary perhaps because the Swedes and other Scandinavians felt many of the other Confessional items were addressing specific German problems?
We in ELCM hold to a Quia understanding of all the writings contained in the Christian Book of Concord but follow the method of listing the items as Primary and Secondary Symbols again primarily because most of the other writings are commentary and expansion upon the first two. It is somewhat analogous to the distinction maintained by the Lutheran Reformers between the Homologmena Books of the New Testament and the Antelogommena Books.
We reject the Quatenus approach to the Confessions held by ELCA.