*...was, not so long ago, 'moderate, middle' of Lutheranism
I have been part of WordAlone for 10 years. As I look back over that time, I thank God for all the ways this movement has grown, matured, adapted to new situations and maintained its voice for reform. I wonder if the participants in those earliest e-mail exchanges that launched WordAlone could have foreseen how it would develop. In so many ways, it has become a force that cannot be ignored and it has had a measurable impact on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in a number of ways.
At the same time, however, WordAlone's voice has not been heard in the ELCA with much gladness or gratitude. While it may not be possible simply to ignore it anymore, I have recently noticed an effort to push WordAlone to the sidelines in a subtler way. Increasingly, I hear WordAlone described as a sort of interest group within the ELCA, just one more lobby within the "big tent" diversity of the denomination.
In particular, it is often played off as the "conservative" wing of the ELCA over against the "liberal" wing, with the clear implication that the moderate, sensible middle is where reasonable Lutherans would want to find themselves.
The almost comical irony, of course, is that those who infer they are the sensible middle actually were considered the liberals just a few years ago. In all reality, to get right of center in North American Lutheranism, one must look to our sister Lutheran denominations, not to WordAlone. Taking this thinking further, what WordAlone represents is what was the moderate, sensible, middle ground of Lutheranism just a short time ago. The fact that a number of persons even are trying to portray WordAlone as some kind of radical right-wing fringe says much less about WordAlone and more about how dramatically the ELCA leadership has moved the denomination away from historic, confessional Lutheranism.
As we in WordAlone continue this struggle to bring North American Lutheranism back to its confessional, orthodox heritage, it is crucial that we do not, even unintentionally, buy into the notion that WordAlone is just one more lobbying group within the "much-to-be-admired diversity" of the ELCA or allow ourselves to be defined as some sort of a fringe movement.
Far from seeking to move Lutheranism to some new or radical place, WordAlone is struggling to hold the ground that Lutherans had long occupied before a current generation of leaders and scholars began to move increasingly away from it. Far from being an interest group on the fringe of Lutheranism, WordAlone represents orthodox, confessional Lutheran theology within a denomination that still claims the name Lutheran, but seems increasingly unaware of what that even means.