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The state of the union

by Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

January 31, 2003

I am doubtful that many among you were shocked at the "news" shared in the state of the union address Tuesday night, Jan. 28. Financial and economic distress and war and rumors of war were the topics of the night. That seems to be the "state" we are in as a nation and if once considers it for a moment, the state of the institutional church.

The financial picture for the ELCA is not great, and it is reflected on the level of the synodical budgets as well. And there are "wars" going on inside the ELCA. Some say if WordAlone would just "quit," things would be okay.

Oh, that we all would know of the things that make for peace!

The area I live in is being hit hard by the current economic downturn. Many are out of jobs or are experiencing reductions of salary or hours. Being the site of an Air Force base, we also are personally aware of the day-to-day military build up. The "state" here at home is not good. I'm sure your story is similar.

So how important at a time like this could fighting the mandatory imposition of an historic episcopate be? How important could it be to bring representative governance to the church? How necessary is it to search the scriptures and confessional writings for direction concerning the many moral and ethical questions we are confronted with? Maybe because the state of the "world" seems so tenuous and fearful we, the WordAlone Network, should hang it up and get in step with the ELCA program, get relevant.

Some would say this is exactly what we should do. In other words, we should get our priorities straight.

I think we already have. I believe who the WordAlone Network is and what we join together to do are even more important and essential in this current "state" and time of uncertainty and hopelessness. This is the time for the church to come to terms with what it is and what it is not. This is the time for the church to get its own identity in Christ Jesus straight so that there is no uncertainty in who we are and "whose" we are. In this certainty we can witness to the only source of hope that exists, Jesus our Lord.

Within the Network, I am certain we have disagreements about the ELCA's issuing social statements. I, personally, believe they have caused many of the problems we experience today as a church. In making these statements the ELCA abandons the Lutheran understanding of how each hearer receives the Word and how the Word takes root in each person in a different way.

We lose track of the freedom we have as Lutherans to subscribe to many political or social points of view rather than to one political or social viewpoint. We actually do have the freedom, rather, to live out our citizenship in light of our individual hearing of the Word and participating in the Sacraments.

The Lutheran church is made up of condemned and forgiven sinners . . . Democrats, Republican, Independents . . . The Word is lived out in our differing vocations and our diverse manners of participating as citizens.

No social statement issued by the institutional church can ever speak for all of the ELCA members . . . nor should it try.

For the church is where the Word is preached and the sacraments administered rightly. When the church claims that as its sole identity, its state of the union will be wholeness and holiness.