Hunting for Church
Many of you who know me know that I (and my family) are looking for a new church. After five years, we left our church due to deep doctrinal issues with the pastor and concerns over the direction that the council was going. It was one of the most painful decisions I've ever made, because this was the first time in my life that I've been so involved in a church. Of course, I understand that all churches have their warts, and that given the human element, it's unlikely that we'll ever find a church where there is complete harmony. But in this case, my wife and I didn't agree with what was being taught from the pulpit, so we had to move on.
Donna and I both grew up as Lutherans, but she grew up in the Missouri Synod (or LCMS), and I grew up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (or ELCA). While the basic doctrine is the same, the Missouri Synod is a much more conservative, some might say fundamentalist church.
The LCMS is certainly specific where doctrine is concerned, and leaves no wiggle room. In fact, that's probably the defining difference between the two groups: The LCMS is much more rigid in its adherence to Luther's confessions, and follows its scriptural beliefs quite specifically, while the ELCA allows for variations in interpretation. For example, the LCMS holds very specific views about the meaning of the Lord's Supper, among them the belief that it is a sacrament that should be undertaken only by people who agree completely in the meaning of the sacrament. In fact, to participate in the sacrament without understanding its meaning is actually harmful (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Because of this belief, the LCMS practices “close (or closed) communion,” meaning that you may not participate in communion unless you share the same beliefs that are held by the Lutheran church.
The ELCA, on the other hand, has articulated its belief that the differences of belief about communion between denominations are largely inconsequential, and practices open communion with various other denominations (most recently and visibly the Episcopalian church…which has lead many an ELCA Lutheran to ask if we're all Luthripalians now).
So, as we start our quest for a new church, we find ourselves with a decision to make: LCMS or ELCA? (The other option, where Lutheran churches are concerned, would be the Wisconsin Synod, but from what I can tell, that's probably a little too conservative for my tastes.) Surprisingly, at least to my parents (my Grandfather was an ELCA Lutheran minister), we seem to be settling on LCMS, and we've been attending a relatively new LCMS church near our home.
In future postings, I'll add some more commentary on this whole situation. I've been diving much deeper into doctrine and theology (which is a good thing, and makes me wonder why I never did this before), and will share some of what I've found.