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Statements—The Living Word?

by Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

October 15, 2002

A week ago the Board of Directors of the WordAlone Network met for their quarterly meeting held in Columbus, Ohio. Upper Arlington Lutheran Church graciously hosted and cared for us. They had arranged for an opportunity at the close of the meeting for folks from area congregations to gather with the board members for questions and conversation. It was a time of great blessing for all of us. The fellowship we share in our common confession was very evident. Often the discussion was very passionate as many shared their concerns for their church and the future. This time set aside for discussion was alive with the Living Word among us.

Members of the board had earlier that day put the finishing touches on the “Mission Statement” for the WordAlone Network. The following is what we humbly present as a statement of our past, present and future as a movement:

WordAlone is a Lutheran grassroots network of congregations and individuals committed to the authority of the Word manifest in Jesus the Christ as proclaimed in Scripture and safeguarded through the work of the Holy Spirit. WordAlone advocates reform and renewal of the church, representative governance, theological integrity and freedom from a mandated historic episcopate.

We all realize that whenever a statement is crafted and published for public review there will be debate and varying opinions on what it says, doesn’t say and should say. Acknowledging this, let us also acknowledge that no “statement” should be able to define the Network or the church in totality. Statements are just that, a static quotation of words on a page. We believe, teach and confess the “living” word that dwells, produces and enlightens. It lives, breathes and grows because it is active in the church, which is an activity itself, not a “thing.” The proclamation of Jesus Christ is not a statement

Presidents, CEO’s and interest groups issue statements usually due to issues. The ELCA has taken up issuing all sorts of “statements” on social issues. The result has been a division of the house. Those statements claim to declare where all of us in the pews and pulpits of this church stand on the “issues.” The issuing of these statements allows no longer for the Lutheran understanding that the Word will take root and produce differently in each hearer. In a church bent on inclusiveness as a defining quality, it excludes diversity of opinion on the “issues.” To deny that Lutheranism spans the political spectrum is to deny the reality of who fills the pews and pulpits across the Lutheran churches.

Realizing how diverse the Network itself is, the board offers this “statement” not to divide but as a guide—a response to the request for a simple set of sentences to describe the Network in order that we might share who we are more easily with others. I have no illusions that this statement will “do” anything for us. But, if used rightly, it can provide guidance for our future and simplify our introduction to others.

Really the only one who could make “statements” that were not static edicts but rather did something was Jesus himself. When Jesus said, “I am . . . ” he was, is and will be. His statements become our proclamation, the Living Word.