Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Seismic Shift in World Lutheranism?

The formation of the North American Lutheran Church by disillusioned former members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been a long time coming but nevertheless has made the secular news, even in far-away Australia, where happeneings in the Lutheran world rarely cause a blip on the secular news radar.

What has not been reported or commented on much, however, is the presence of representative leadership from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania and the Ethiopian Lutheran Church - Mekane Jesus at the convocation. These two bodies are officially the 2nd and 3rd largest Lutheran church bodies in the world - 1st is Sweden, but since church membership in Sweden is 95% nominal I think these two bodies are actually 1st and 2nd largest respectively.

Just as has happened in Anglicanism so also in world Lutheranism over the last two decades the centre of gravity has shifted to the Global South, which means that attempts at revision of the traditional teaching on homosexuality in Lutheran World Federation* aligned churches are not likely to go without vigorous opposition from within that organisation. What is at the moment a slight but noticeable tremor could in fact be the harbinger of a seismic shift happening in world Lutheranism which will alter its landscape completely.

Here is the relevant section from the August 27 Lutheran CORE press release announcing the formation of the new church body:
Lutherans around the world celebrated the creation of the NALC. Two of the largest Lutheran churches in the world sent official representatives to the Convocation. Representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus told the Convocation of the support of their church bodies for the NALC. These two church bodies from Africa are the second and third largest Lutheran churches in the world, each with 5.3 million members. They reported that Lutherans throughout Africa were praying for the Convocation and for the NALC.
“May God bless Lutheran CORE and the vision of the NALC,” said the Rev. Francis Stephanos, president emeritus of the church in Ethiopia and a former vice president of the Lutheran World Federation. “One cannot put the word of Scripture to a vote. . . . The churches of the South will choose Scripture over the mighty dollar.”
The Rev. Dr. Benson Bagonza, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania’s
Karagwe Diocese, preached for the closing worship service and participated in the installation of Bishop Spring.

* For non-Lutheran readers, world Lutheranism is grouped around two bodies, the very large Lutheran World Federation which formed in 1947 and has been dominated until recently by liberal elements in European and North American Lutheranism, and the much smaller and theologically more conservative International Lutheran Council, which is led by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. For largely historical reasons connected to a church union in 1966, which I will not go into here, the Lutheran Church of Australia has maintained associate membership in both organisations.


Matthias said...

I looked at this and thought

Or in the case of the ELCA 'the banner suffered loss' and we hope the new group will hoist it high.
Interesting that once again those countries that face off with islam ie global South are supporting this group.
I can imagine Martin Luther knocking on the doors of the dead Lutheran churches in Sweden and In germany ,calling on them to repent. But will they?? This is also alesson to the non liturgical Evangelicals sitting smugly in oz and USA thinking they are the global leaders

Pr Mark Henderson said...

I think shaping up against Islam woud have a way of sharpening one's confessional consciousness - if you're going to say no to people who want to subject you to slavery for not being Muslim, you need to know why and believe it wholeheartedly.