More than 200 members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America plan to gather in Lindenhurst, Illinois, on Friday, September 28, to reflect on their concerns regarding actions taken at the recent churchwide assembly of the ELCA and to plan for the next such assembly in 2009.
The meeting, at St. Mark Lutheran Church, will begin with a Bible study by Dr. James Nestingen, professor emeritus at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, followed by a presentation by Dr. Robert Benne, director of the Center for Religion and Society, Roanoke College in Virginia. Both will address the theme, "'This Church' and God's Church." Pastor Paull Spring, retired bishop of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod and chair of the Lutheran Coalition for Reform (Lutheran CORE), will speak to issues facing the ELCA. During the afternoon, attendees will meet in regional groups to plan and organize "grass roots" efforts to uplift their hopes and goals for the ELCA.
Lutheran CORE called the meeting even before the churchwide assembly in August to advocate more effectively for the authority of the Word of God in the ELCA, which it believes is in danger of being marginalized by directions the denomination is taking. Specifically, CORE uplifts the authority of the Bible by insisting on the priority of the revealed Name of God as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" and upholding the doctrine of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life. The group also will work to raise up leadership across the ELCA who share these goals.
While the Chicago assembly of the ELCA declined to change the policies of the denomination forbidding pastors to be in same-sex sexual relationships, it did urge "restraint" in discipline of such persons until a 2009 report from a task force is received. The ELCA also recently issued a new worship book which provides for other names for God than "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," and it is preparing resources for reading the Bible which, based on some preliminary indications, causes concern among Lutheran CORE members for possibly eroding the authority of the Bible.
The Lutheran CORE traces its roots to meetings in the early 1990s when pastors and theologians began to express concerns over the theological directions of the denomination, formed in 1988 by a merger of three predecessor bodies. An ad hoc group called Solid Rock Lutherans worked to uphold the standards of the ELCA regarding homosexuality at a churchwide assembly in Orlando in 2005. Lutheran CORE was formed in 2005 to continue these efforts to reform the ELCA.
Lutheran CORE is an independent group which intends to be a coalition of individuals, congregations, and reform groups within the ELCA. Members are committed to remain within the ELCA at this time and work for reform of the church body. It is led by a steering committee of ten persons elected by members who gather for its annual meetings.