Problem #1: Where’s the beef? Pastor Steven Gjerde, in “Tempering Troublesome Spirits,” faults fellow Lutherans for dealing with “style” rather than doctrine, but he himself has the same problem.
He does not want to suggest that “every division is wrong and hateful” (60), but he laments that the NALC and LCMC divide “so sharply over matters of order and style rather than doctrine” (58) and advises the leaders of these bodies “to deal directly with their own constituencies’ tendencies to caricature one another and divide over questions of church culture” (59). When we “caricature each other on the basis of cultural choice and churchly style… we are failing to love our neighbors as ourselves” (60).
What are the substantive gospel issues that keep Gjerde in the ELCA? He ducks: “I have chosen to stay within that body for the foreseeable future, within certain conditions and for reasons we consider faithful and wise….” (57, emphasis added); “Sometimes there must be divisions for the sake of highlighting all the more clearly God’s righteousness and truth” (60).
What conditions? What reasons?
The whole dilemma lies in such “conditions” and “reasons.” After all, there is no pure church, no pure doctrine. There is only pure gospel. Because salvation is at stake in the pure gospel and its consequences, the devil’s in the details of Gjerde’s illusive “conditions” and “reasons.”
Gjerde ends: We “should temper all our actions, and even more, our actions toward brothers and sisters trying to confess the same truth about him” (60, emphasis added).
What is the content of “the same truth”? Gjerde doesn’t deliver the beef.
The “truth of the gospel” (Gal 2:5, 14) is that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone through the cross alone.
This gospel has necessary, practical consequences. Because the cross is all-sufficient, nothing more can be required – not a particular structure or priesthood, not a conversion experience, not inerrancy, or the like.
CA VII: It is enough that the gospel be “preached purely….” “Purely” = by faith alone in Christ alone through the cross alone.
The ELCA, however, compromised this gospel in 1999 when it changed its constitution to require the Episcopal, sacramental episcopate (§10.81.01). This was the status confessionis action that spurred the creation of LCMC. It made the ELCA a gospel-plus church. Every pulpit is tainted by this required add-on.
Problem #2. Massive misinformation. Gjerde is silent about the 1999 constitutional change and its significance for faith and life.
He is wrong about basic facts: For example: “Even the LCMC did not become ‘separately incorporated” until the ELCA declared that it must” (57).
Not true at all. The Articles of Incorporation for LCMC were filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State on September 20, 2000. The LCMC constitution and bylaws were approved by the WordAlone Convention in February 2001. The LCMC constituting convention was held in October 2001. The ELCA had nothing to do with any of these actions.
Gjerde chides conservative Lutherans: “I’d even venture to say that the tendency among conservative Lutherans to eschew institution (sic) has partly led to the problems we’re facing. Rather than fight, rather than appearing mean, rather than care as servants of the church should care, we withdraw, let it go to hell” (59).
To the contrary, Lutherans from coast to coast fought the good fight for many years but realized by the constitutional changes in 1999 that the battle was lost. Constitutional changes set the wickets for the future.
Gjerde incorrectly describes the NALC. The NALC doesn’t just have bishops, as if bishops per se were the problem, as Gjerde implies others think.
Rather, the NALC requires that its head bishop be installed by a bishop, with prayer and the laying on of hands. The NALC has formal agreements with Episcopal seminaries to educate its seminarians. The NALC objects to the ELCA’s 2009 decisions on gay sex, but it has adopted a hierarchical structure similar to the ELCA’s.
Problem #3: Knocking down the straw man “absolute.” Gjerde claims: “Whence comes the basis for making either the NALC or the LCMC or both the absolute means of a more orthodox ministry?” (59)
No one claims that LCMC or the NALC are absolute. Perhaps Gjerde uses “absolute” to absolve himself from making a move to a provisional organization which is a life-boat, although not absolute.
Problem #4: Institutionalism/Pietism. Gjerde acknowledges the importance of institutions: “If we are truly committed to the ministry of word and sacrament….we should easily recognize that the word will require institutions to be its handmaiden and the church will require institutions to be its shelter” (59). Yet institutional differences seem not to matter because we’re all just “trying to confess the same truth” (60).
Gospel-plus churches undermine the gospel. That’s not a problem?
Gjerde ends with teardrops of progressive pietism – lamenting self-righteousness, calling for repentance – yadayadayada. Can’t we all just get along?
If only Luther had “tempered how he conducted himself” (60). If only he had worked harder at “practicing mercy” (60). After all, weren’t they all “trying to confess the same truth” (60)?
Steven Gjerde, “Tempering Troublesome Spirits,” Lutheran Forum
(Fall 2012) 57-60.
 See Pure Church, no – Pure Gospel, yes! At www.crossalone.us. (Major Theological Issues/Basics)
 See Pure Doctrine, no – Pure Gospel, yes! At www.crossalone.us . (Major Theological Issues/Basics)
 See Practical Consequences At www.crossalone.us. (Here We Stand)
 See We are not free to gospel-plus At www.crossalone.us. (Major Theological Issues/Basics)