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WordAlone has no place to rest

by Betsy Carlson, editor

June 3, 2009

The WordAlone Network is going to teach and preach Lutherans out of the present crisis over the authority of the Holy Bible, said WordAlone President Jaynan Clark Egland at the organization’s convention in April in Golden Valley, Minn.

“This year, 2009, is very important for WordAlone and its outreach,” she said. “It seems that the ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] is going to come forward and finally be open with what they are doing. The church we know and love has been hijacked from the inside of the ELCA and ELCIC [Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada], the Lutheran World Federation and other Protestant churches.

“There are those of us who aren’t going along to get along and in that we enjoy Lutheran and non-Lutheran support.”

Egland said she was glad the ELCA Church “Council said what it did.”

The council recommended in November 2008 to the upcoming churchwide assembly that a simple majority rather than two-thirds approval of any changes in ordination and ministry standards would be sufficient. The council also forwarded to the assembly a suggested sexuality social statement and proposals to ordain practicing homosexuals and to recognize same-sex relationships.

“No longer do we need the night vision goggles to see where the ELCA leadership intends to go,” she said. “It is also clear where WordAlone and other confessors of Jesus are and where we’re not going. WordAlone and others who based on the Word of God dare to faithfully oppose the changes are told that we’re afraid. We’re not afraid, we’re angry and a bit confused how this kind of stuff can be going on in the church and more people don’t just lose it, take a stand and object!”

She asserted that “groupthink” is going on in the church and that it has to be exposed.

“Someone stole the church we grew up in. An act of piracy has been committed [she held up a T-shirt with a pirate’s skull and bones and the phrase ‘The beatings won’t stop until the morale changes.’] Of course, the morals also have to change and then we are [‘supposed’] to feel good about it.” Egland said. “Many calling the shots don’t even believe in the resurrection any more. We are at a point of cataclysmic change in how the church defines marriage. Enough of our irreverence, conformity, assimilation.”

Those leading the way for change are not legislatures or the gay movement, she said.

“No, they are the wolves from inside the real and institutional church,” Egland said. “This is an inside job by wolves who have posted hirelings at the gate and are leading the flock astray.”

She called on WordAlone members and other confessional Lutherans to come forward, to come out of indifference and she asked, “Will we be identifiable? Will we say what we know to be true?”

Egland said she didn’t care what church her listeners were in or what initials were in front of their Lutheran names. The WordAlone Network is a network for any and all confessing Lutherans, the salt for a world in need.

With a bale of straw, a plank of wood and rock visible in the front of the church Egland said, pointing to the bale of straw, “Some of us have so many last straws we’ve accumulated an entire bale of them! Foxes had holes and birds nests but Jesus had no place to rest and neither do we. We’re not going anywhere as our institutional church leaves us behind,” she said. “We’re staying right here with Jesus. Jesus finally only had the straw in the manger, the wood of the cross and the rock of the tomb to rest his head. We should expect nothing different.”

“We have no place to go but to the feet of Jesus. Our Good Shepherd knows his sheep. . . . He also has his eye on the hirelings and the wolves. They also are in his hands which is the very best place for them.”

Keynote speaker Pastor Charles Lindquist, director of the World Mission Prayer League in Minneapolis, Minn., told the convention he appreciated the Scripture texts that were chosen for the gathering.

“They are texts about feet, from the heart of the book of Romans,” he said, “in chapter 10 we read that the good news is for everyone. The Scripture says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (10:11, 13)”

Just a few verses later, Lindquist noted, were the verses chosen for the convention, in which Paul offers one of the most famous apologies for Christian mission in all of the Bible: But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (10:14-15)

Paul was burdened for the lost, in particular for the unreached and underserved people groups away off near the end of the world, the people of Spain, he said. Paul wrote to the sisters and brothers in Rome to enlist their feet, and their help in bringing the good news to Spain.

“The book of Romans is a missionary tract. I am a mission administrator; I can recognize a missionary tract from a mile away,” Lindquist said. “Here Paul is presenting his best case for surrender to the mission of God.

“It was Martin Kahler who once said pithily, ‘Mission is the mother of theology.’ It is true for Paul and his letter to the Romans: Paul’s mission ‘mothers’ his theology. He writes in the spirit of mission, for the sake of mission, in service of God’s mission.”

Lindquist added that the further theology drifts from service to the mission of God, the less helpful it becomes.

The reflections he then shared were based on Paul’s outlook on Spain, Rome, Jerusalem and the Kingdom of God.

Lindquist said he wasn’t speaking of Spain as the country of Don Quixote, but as an emblem of the unreached, as the far horizon, as the borderline between faith and unbelief, between the lost and the found, between those who have heard the good news of Jesus Christ and those who have not yet had the opportunity.

“Let me submit to you very simply: this is a borderline that matters. For Paul, at least, and for those who hope to follow him, Spain matters,” he said.

Lindquist said he was going to share how a Lutheran might put the issue, from a Lutheran point of view and in a Lutheran sort of way. He quoted James Scherer, a retired professor, from his book, “Gospel, Church and Kingdom” (Augsburg 1987, page 37).

Mission as applied to the work of the church means the specific intention of bearing witness to the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ at the borderline between faith and unbelief….

The entire life of the church has a missionary purpose, to be sure. But the heart of mission is always making the Gospel known where it would not be known without a special and costly act of boundary-crossing witness.

A former missionary himself, Lindquist told the WordAlone convention that about one-third of the world remains unevangelized even in the first decade of the 21st century. That amounts to 2 billion men, women and children, he said.

In continuing to his discussion of Rome, Lindquist noted that in the New Testament the early saints appear in the plural, “the beloved of God, the royal priesthood, the holy nation,” as to individual saints being mentioned.

He said that in Rome Paul finds partners in the mission of God, colleagues in mission.

“Do you know: the world is filled with Christians you have never met—who are today your colleagues and partners in mission,” he asked. He told stories of missionaries from India, Latin America and Kenya who are at work around the world.

Lindquist spoke of having coffee in Maralal town in northern Kenya with an Anglican priest from the Samburu tribe. He said he leaned across the table to thank the priest for all the work the Kenyan church has done in a collaborative Bible translation with the World Mission Prayer League and for standing for the Bible and advocating faith when much of the Anglican Communion seems adrift.

Then in a gesture he said he would never forget the priest leaned over the table himself, put his hand upon Lindquist’s arm and said, “You are not alone.”

Lindquist reminded the WordAlone members that when they advocate faith, they are not alone, the African church stands with them and is praying for them. The Christian church of Africa is approaching 400 million members, he said.

“The world church in Rome—I mean the sisters and brothers in Maralal—matter,” said Lindquist.

In moving on to talk about Jerusalem, he said that by the time Paul was writing to the Romans, Jerusalem had become a kind of geographical shorthand for “church headquarters.” Paul was concerned about Jerusalem, collected an offering and asked the Romans to pray they would accept the offering.

“Jerusalem matters, but not as much or in quite the same way that you thought it did,” Lindquist said.

He told a story of Archbishop Francis Arinze, Catholic archbishop of Nigeria, who was invited to speak at commencement at an American Roman Catholic university in 2003. People on the stage with him and in the audience stood up and walked out as Arinze stood up for traditional Catholic teaching on the family and sexual morality.

Then the archbishop said that religion is not something marginal, that people should be serious about it and should allow religion to lead them, according to Lindquist.

“It didn’t go over well,” Lindquist said. “Let me make a prediction. Someday soon the mainlined American church will stand in a huff and walk out on their sisters and brothers from Asia and Africa and Latin America alleging that they have become, at last, too conservative, too biblically literalist, too morally old fashioned…. They will stand and walk out in a huff, and no one will notice.

“You see, at some point, we will no longer share the platform. Jerusalem matters, but Jerusalem has moved! It is no longer in Chicago or St. Louis or Minneapolis or London or Geneva. We need to learn how to read the Bible again, through believing eyes, and probably from Nigerians.”

And going back to the theme of Romans as a missionary tract, Lindquist said that it is a tract that works because it has a story to tell, the story of the Kingdom of God.

It is a story in which the border between believers and the lost is told; a story of God’s people being equipped and set apart for God’s missionary purposes; a story in which God’s favor rests in the Gospel, “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” and not in Jerusalem, not in institutions, not in hierarchies, not in tradition.

It is a story in which the grace of God matters, and matters for all the tribes, tongues and nations of the world, he said.

Lindquist paraphrased Luke 12:31, “Seek the kingdom and everything else will come into proper perspective. You’ll get to Spain right, when you put the kingdom first. You’ll get Rome right too. And you’ll come to understand Jerusalem in its proper light and scope.

“When we put the kingdom first, we find our place, we are pieces and parts, in the wonderful mission of God.”

[You may download Pr. Lindquist’s presentation, "Spain Matters."]