graphic website title banner

Board of Directors gathers at Tea, SD

Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

November 7, 2006

photo of Jaynan Clark EglandThe Board of Directors of the WordAlone Network met for its fall session at Tea, a community outside Sioux Falls, S. D., a rural but developing area. The following Sunday, many of the members of the board went out to preach and teach in local churches, both rural and urban. Two "traveling" board meetings a year are held away from the Minnesota office, and serve as great opportunities to energize the churches, chapters and individuals from those areas.

Before going out to share the Word, the directors were confronted with the reality that there is no "business as usual" for the Network any longer. Though correspondence continues, the Network News is published, the website updated with regular articles and announcements, chapter and churches meet locally and annual events are held, still there seems to be an increased urgency to "get on with it."

Within the Network a general attitude of tiredness seems to be encroaching because we haven't "fixed it yet." To meet the challenge of energizing volunteers across the map to engage in a work of witness and proclamation--and which labor often is criticized and its results are not recognized easily--is a continuing challenge to the volunteers and staff in leadership roles. Lutheran Christians still care deeply about the state of the "church" but they seem to think the institution should have woken up long before now. In light of the continuing need for future-oriented actions that will help all of us to reflect theologically and to engage in reform and renewal, the board engaged in the following:

  • Heard reports from the director of the house of studies, Dennis Bielfeldt, and voted to move forward on the convention directive to establish an accredited and autonomous house of studies to equip the next generation of pastors, lay leaders and professors. It is a huge task before us that will not be accomplished with our present staffing and resources; thus, proposals for moving all educational efforts under the direction of the house of studies team and increasing staff were accepted. In addition, the board met with an endowment planner and is considering fundraising efforts for the long-term endeavor of establishing a Lutheran confessional house of studies. Plans to offer classes at one or more of the multiple sites still are looking hopeful for the fall of 2007--though laying groundwork for using some facilities of various institutions and accreditation procedures are time consuming tasks.
  • Learned that if "applied for" ordination by-law exceptions are approved, the number granted in 2006 would equal the highest number since the passage of Called to Common Mission, the full communion agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church. It is noteworthy that the students would be approved by synods that, historically, have not yet dealt with the process. A gathering of students at Luther Seminary began meeting on a regular schedule this fall essentially as a WordAlone chapter. This should help to increase awareness and help educate confessional students about problems with the full communion relationship with The Episcopal Church that mandated the human tradition of the historic episcopacy.
  • Discussed a resolution questioning the current agreement with The Episcopal Church that will be available to offer at synod assemblies in hopes it will be passed along to the churchwide assembly in August 2007.
  • Reviewed other resolutions dealing with the authority of the Word, ministry standards and representative governance that will be forwarded again in order to keep such "institutional questions" in front of the voting members.
  • Learned that elections for presiding bishop, secretary, church council members and other committees are being targeted for possible elections or to provide opportunities for WordAlone members and friends to speak to the voting members and bring our concerns forward.
  • Accepted very hopeful reports of our work with the other reform groups under the label of Lutheran CORE as the number of educated and concerned Lutherans increases and the geography expands. Director Mark Chavez's recent move to Pennsylvania is expected to increase our support.
  • Was told efforts to get local churches to share a common confession in order to associate with one another thus gaining a voice for proclamation as well as enabling forward movement with our joint mission and ministry remain a challenge for the steering committee of LC3 (Lutheran Churches of the Common Confession). Without a catastrophe or other obvious sign of the denomination's serious weaknesses and troubles, many churches seem to have a "wait and see" attitude.
  • Reflected on how we in fact work against ourselves in waking up the ELCA members to what some in leadership propose. As we diligently head off disastrous actions one resolution at a time we, in effect, allow the church's members to believe that a crisis has been alleviated or that things aren't as bad as one might think. To work within the ELCA for reform and reflection will continue to carry with it this double effect that makes our task even more difficult.

The fall theological conference is scheduled Nov. 12-14 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fridley, Minn. The conference will consider fundamentals proposed for the WordAlone Network. We hope that from presentations, discussions and reflection the conference will produce a basic document for consideration by the Network at our annual spring convention.

I want to emphasize and remind all of us that coming to terms with what is at stake and what we are willing to go to the wall for becomes even more important as we establish a center for theological education. Opposition and controversy abound across the ELCA and our future-looking endeavor will be viewed by some as a threat and, thus, the need to be even more clear on who we are, what we are doing and where we are going.

Going to the wall for the WordAlone Network will require, of course, remaining at the foot of the Crucified One's cross.

Thanks and blessings,

Jaynan Clark Egland, President