In the weeks and months ahead, members of congregations belonging to the ELCA will attend annual congregational meetings, synod assemblies and, ultimately, the churchwide assembly in Milwaukee, Wis. Resolutions calling for reform of the ELCA in several critical ways will be offered, debated, amended and approved. There will be efforts to change the ELCA constitution.
Meanwhile, other Lutherans have carried the challenge of reinvigorating confessional Lutheranism by creating a new association of Lutheran congregations (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ).
But, as the old television serials used to say, “Back at the ranch,” congregations and Lutherans across the United States declare there is no hope, there is no way to change the ELCA or to create an effective alternative voice, it’s all simply too difficult and since nothing can be done, we shouldn’t waste our time.
This is nonsense and needs to be recognized as such. The only thing we know for sure is that if nothing is attempted, nothing will be gained.
The woods are full of self-confident, but spectacularly wrong, predictions.
Rear Admiral George Melville wrote in 1901 that flying machines were impossible and it would be wrong to lead the people "to believe the contrary."
In 1839, a famous surgeon wrote, "The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it today. Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient."
Lee De Forest, an early innovator in radio broadcasting, was tried on charges of fraudulently using the United States mail to sell public stock in the Radio Telephone Company; the district attorney ridiculed De Forest's predictions of transmission of the human voice across the Atlantic characterizing De Forest’s comments as "absurd and deliberately misleading statements." Although acquitted, the skeptical judge advised him to get a "common garden variety job and stick to it." (Judges don't always get it right, either.)
If all of this teaches us anything, it is that the future is not ours to predict. But it is ours to seize if only we choose to do so.
Oh, and one other thing. Matthew tells us we have one little additional advantage in matters of faith: "Jesus looked at them and said, 'with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"