There is more and more talk by ELCA members in all parts of the country, many of them outside the WordAlone movement, regarding the formation of a non-geographic conference or synod. A “working group” of 13 pastors from nine states met in Minnesota in January to discuss preliminary work needed if this concept is to become a reality. Currently there are congregational leaders from California to New York, from Minnesota to Texas who concur that the time seems to be upon us for the formation of a conference or a non-geographic synod.
The only known factor in this equation is the term “non-geographic.”
Membership would not be based on where a congregation was located on a physical map but rather where it was located on the theological map. Because of the more and more apparent theological drift within the ELCA, it seems timely for congregations to “locate” themselves not according to their geographic locale but rather by their self-understanding of the church’s mission and ministry on biblical, theological and confessional grounds. The “where” answered by a non-geographic conference or synod would be where you were as individuals and congregations in your teaching, preaching and practice of your faith according to the orthodox teachings of the historic Lutheran Christian church.
Are you involved in the transforming ministry of the living word of God or are you conforming to the world and its rapidly changing social standards? Does the Word of God—living, spoken and written—have authority over you and your life of faith? Do you see the church as an “institution” of bricks and mortar—the visible and tangible—with its hierarchical structures, or do you understand it as believers gathered around the Word and sacraments?
Who? What? Why? When and how? These are all being asked about the concept of a non-geographic conference or synod. Let’s take them one at a time knowing that as this concept is being formulated, there are many thoughts being shared but few hard and fast answers settled upon.
I have observed that many congregations are tired of being dragged places they don’t want to go and to which they find no scriptural directive to move. They recognize the theological drift of the ELCA. They see its current decline in evangelical mission. They want to move forward faithfully in a renewed mission based upon Christ’s Great Commission and not on yet another social agenda. I believe many of our local churches have clarity on the issues being studied by the ELCA and they are not interested in being brought through another parade of votes at successive assemblies until the decision is acceptable to the “home office.”
Congregations are getting more and more disillusioned with leadership and voting members who devalue and readily disregard the need for their voice and vote. I have seen that although continually detoured from their primary mission and ministry by ELCA “issues,” they desire to bind together with others who want to invest their resources—time, energy and money—in preaching and teaching the good news of Jesus.
You probably have more questions, fewer answers and a variety of thoughts after reading this. Suffice it to say now, at this early stage of development, that to move forward can create a “place” for Lutheran congregations to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of other congregations to confess their common faith no matter how far apart they are geographically.
We are “neighbors” in the church of Jesus Christ, united by our faith alone. Why leave now when we neighbors near and far need each other and voices crying in the “wilderness,” a non-geographic place of preaching, repentance, prophecy and confession?