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Luther Rose ML 125pxThe Gospel of Barney — highly recommended — recently detailed the growth and development of the Lutheran Church in the United States.

Please read it in full, as it has much useful information. A summary follows.

Students of church history know that Germany and Scandinavian countries adopted Lutheranism during the Reformation.

When people from these countries emigrated to the United States, they stayed in their denomination and worshipped in their first language.

Consequently, there were groups of German congregations: the General Synod, the General Council and United Synod of the South. These merged in 1918 to become United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA).

There were also Finnish congregations under the banner of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (Suomi Synod), established in 1890.

Danish congregations comprised the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, established in 1872.

Swedish churches affiliated with the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, established in 1860.

In 1962, these groups merged to become the Lutheran Church of America (LCA). It was the largest Lutheran church body in the United States. The German congregations were in the majority.

At that time, I remember seeing a lot of Lutheran churches in the Midwest. Some towns had a majority of Lutheran and Catholic congregations. My Lutheran neighbours were of Swedish heritage on one side and German on the other. I went to church with them a couple of times in the early 1970s. The service was liturgical with traditional hymns. Sunday School was demanding for my young peers. The senior pastor took the Confirmation class and drilled the candidates on the Bible and their ability to associate various Old and New Testament passages with common scriptural themes.

The Lutheran Church impressed me. As I was about to be confirmed at that time, the Lutheran classes were much more in-depth than my Catholic ones.

However, Barney tells us that, a little over a decade later — in 1988 — the LCA became the ELCA in what is considered to be a ‘hostile takeover’.

Like The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA), the ELCA is now more interested in ecumenical unity and left-wing politics than spreading the Gospel.

This is ironic, particularly as the ‘E’ in ELCA stands for … ‘Evangelical’. Hmm. ‘Evangel’ means ‘the Gospel’. Evangelical Lutherans should be preaching it.

And like TEC and PCUSA, ELCA’s congregations are on life support. Their leaders think that by espousing universalism and politics congregations will grow. In fact, the opposite is happening.

Older people continue to attend because that is their church heritage. A number of Anglicans, myself included, feel the same way as do our contemporaries in TEC and PCUSA. We pray for faithful clergy and congregations.

However, these congregations are dwindling because pewsitters no longer hear the Shepherd’s voice from the mouths of His clergy — John 10:1-18 (emphases mine):

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Sadly, we are hearing the voice of the stranger, the hired hand and the thief.

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