October 24, 2014

An Outline: My Journey from Evangelicalism to the Lutheran Tradition

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Here is an outline from two talks I gave at the church where I am currently learning and serving. It is just an outline, so if you have questions or want clarifications on anything, ask away. My purpose was to describe my personal reasons for why I, as a Christian, have moved from the culture of evangelicalism to the Lutheran tradition. To do this, I felt it necessary to help my Lutheran brothers and sisters understand what we mean by “the culture of evangelicalism,” what its roots are, its characteristics, my opinion of its weaknesses, and how the Lutheran tradition answered many of my concerns when I became a “post-evangelical.”

* * *

From Evangelicalism to the Lutheran Tradition

Background

The word “evangelical” (Gk. for gospel) has a long tradition of use in different settings.

  1. In the OT, it is used in the prophets to announce the good news of the end of Israel’s exile.
  2. In the NT, it is used to describe the announcement of Jesus and the apostles of the good news that God’s promises are fulfilled in him and God’s Kingdom has been inaugurated through his life and ministry.
  3. In the 16th-17th centuries, it was used to describe the Reformation churches to distinguish them from Roman Catholicism.
  4. In the 18th-19th centuries, it was used in connection with the “Evangelical awakenings,” and thus became associated with Puritanism, Methodism, pietism, and revivalism. The emphasis was on a “religion of the heart” and conversion to Christ through personal decision.
  5. In the 19th and 20th centuries, evangelicals and fundamentalist churches took sides together against “modernism” and the higher critical approach to the Bible.
  6. In the 20th century, evangelicals began to separate from fundamentalists, believing that Christians should not abandon the world but remain involved in culture, education, and society. This was the period of “classic evangelicalism” with Wheaton College, Carl F.H. Henry, Billy Graham, Christianity Today, and student missions and parachurch organizations such as Youth for Christ.
  7. From the 1960’s forward, evangelicalism developed into a particularly prominent culture in the U.S. In reaction to social upheaval, various movements developed and grew– the Jesus People movement, charismatic movement, parachurch movements, church growth movement and megachurches, the move away from denominations, the development of Christian media, and the development of the Christian Right in the “culture wars.”

It is this “culture” of evangelicalism and the churches (many of them non-denominational), with its roots in the 18th-20th centuries that we are focusing on in this talk.

gjon-mili-evangelist-billy-graham-preaching-sermon-at-madison-square-garden-nycSummary:

Evangelicalism is…

  1. Rooted in pietism and revivalism.
  2. Forged in defending the Bible.
  3. Related to but distinguished from fundamentalism.
  4. Characterized by missionary zeal, church growth ethos.
  5. Energized by culture wars and conservative moral issues.
  6. Biblicist, cross-centered, conversionist, activist, non-liturgical/sacramental.

Weaknesses

  1. Lack of history, tradition.
  2. Lack of appreciation for worship.
  3. Naïve Biblicism.
  4. Inadequate ecclesiology.
  5. Culture war mentality.
  6. Functions better as a mission than a church tradition.

Streams Emerging from Evangelicalism

  1. Emerging Christians: reacting to institutionalism, conservatism, dogmatism of evangelicalism. Seeking creative, new forms of holding and practicing faith.
  2. Neo-reformed Christians: reacting to shallow doctrinal and theological culture of evangelicalism. Seeking intellectual rigor and disciplined practice.
  3. Ancient-Future Christians: reacting to absence of worship, liturgy, historical and sacramental perspective. Many returning to historic churches and denominations. Seeking life in community and communion with saints in all times and places.
  4. Nones: reacting to many aspects of evangelicalism as a culture. Seeking spirituality without religion, good life in secularized world.

Luther Preaching in Wittenberg_jpgHow the Lutheran Tradition Answers Many of My Post-Evangelical Concerns

  1. A creedal community that sees itself as part of the “one holy apostolic and catholic church.”
  2. The preeminence of Christ.
  3. The centrality of the Gospel and grace.
  4. The theology of distinguishing law and gospel.
  5. The practice of Word and Table worship.
  6. A sacramental theology and perspective on life.
  7. A proper emphasis on pastoral theology and practice.
  8. The doctrine of vocation.
  9. The theology of the cross.
  10. A robust musical tradition.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    As someone who has identified with the Southern Baptist Church for 45 years and now finds herself and her family more comfortable in a Lutheran worship service (because the SBC has changed and we are blessed by the litergy), I’m curious what doctrinal / theological issues you have had to wrestle, or are wrestling, with to make the change.

    I’m also curious about the Ancient-Future Christians – are those people forming new congragations or people like me? (we have jokingly said we are ‘Baptist refuges seeking shelter in a Lutheran church’.)

    • As described here, A-F Christians are primarily those who are returning to historic traditions. Some of the emerging folks are looking to more ancient practices without joining a traditional church or denomination.

      • Do you think Ancient-Future Christians have something essentially in common with the Paleo-orthodoxy?

        • I think the main connection is point #1: A creedal community that sees itself as part of the “one holy apostolic and catholic church.”

          As I spoke last night, it hit me afresh how important this point is to me.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      The term comes from the writings of the late Robert Webber, a Wheaton professor of Evangelical background who became an Episcopalian and saw in the rites and traditions of the Episcopal Church a lot of stuff that he was sorely missing in the Evangelical world. He brought a lot of them back to his Evangelical friends, colleagues and students. In some cases, those folks ended up going to historic mainline churches. In other cases, they tried to revive their Evangelical churches with liturgy and tradition.

      A lot of his work is based on the work of Gregory Dix (e.g. The Shape of the Liturgy) that was very instrumental in the liturgical changes that occurred around Vatican II and the decades to follow, and especially the influence of those writings and events on the liturgical patterns of mainline Protestantism. In the 60’s and 70’s, the mainline Protestants had an ecumenical revival in liturgy that was largely based on the Episcopalian changes that were based in the Catholic changes in Vatican II.

      Some folks have since questioned Dix’s scholarship on the pre-medieval liturgies and have argued for a return to older liturgical patterns that are more solidly rooted in the Latin liturgies of the late middle ages than in Dix’s synthesis of older liturgies. But Dix’s influence on Webber has guaranteed that among Evangelicals who study liturgy, the pre-1960’s protestant liturgies won’t likely take much root.

    • It’s important to note that as far as AF Christians, the Anglicans have taken church planting and domestic missions pretty seriously. The AM, PEAR, and ACNA have really found their identity in mission.

      • As people leave evangelicalism and move elsewhere, I think that one possible benefit for historic churches, mainline denominations, and their conservative offshoots will be a renewed sense of mission. It’s one of evangelicalism’s strengths and perhaps it will be carried along the new streams emerging from it.

  2. Excellent summary, my only slight disagreement is that I put neo-reformed as a stream reverting to fundamentalism under the pretext of theology.

    The nones are by far the largest right now. The ancient-future among us make a lot of noise in the blogging world, but there aren’t many of us.

    • Allen…agreed on the Neo-Reformed. I like to call it “Fundementalist 2.0″. Different parts of the movement also can be broken down further, for example given Sovereign Grace’s history over 40 years and how much its changed its doctrine and beliefs I like to call it “Mormonism 2.0″

      • I agree with the “broken down further” element, which impacts the “Fundamentalist 2.0″ aspect. Many in the revitalized Reformed movement (those who are missional, distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, etc…) are not happy with others who have the Fundamentalist attitude. Some have such an attitude have been asked to leave some Reformed churches, so let’s not paint with too broad a brush.

      • Eagle, as much as you dislike the neo-reformed, there is no way you can equate their theology with Mormonism!

    • Couldn’t agree more, but I relate it more to legalism: fundamentalism promotes a legalism of behavior; neo-reformedism a legalism of belief. The former is a distortion of grace, and the latter of truth. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (Ro 1:17). A Jesus-shaped spirituality is the answer.

      • “A Jesus-shaped spirituality is the answer.”

        Many in the Reformed camp would totally agree with you.

        • No argument there. My comment-length point of a book-length discussion is that neo-reformed theology starts with a system of belief and works in; a Jesus-centered theology starts with the person and work of Christ and works out. I have been told more than once, “If you would just accept Reformed theology then you could understand Scripture correctly.” To me, that’s a de facto legalism of belief.

  3. The challenge is finding a Lutheran church which still holds to a Lutheran tradition, rather than syncretizing and accomodating teachings from the pervasive American evangelical culture (e.g. Rick Warren, Ken Ham, Beth Moore, worship circus etc.). I think Lutherans put so much confidence in their tradition that they believe they can redeem the evangelical culture without polluting that Lutheran tradition. From my experience attending a Lutheran church for five years, you can’t drink the evangelical koolaid without being affected by the poison. I know Lutherans struggle with the image of being separate and exclusive, and such accomodations may be an attempt to break down those barriers. If I’m going to drink the koolaid no matter what, why bother with joining a Lutheran church?

  4. The biggest weakness in evangelical faith is the culture wars. The culture wars effect how the Bible is to be viewed, shape doctrine, leads to political invovlement, and in almost every generation the culture wars have produced scars and left a trail of devastation and harm that came about as a result of hubris. It could be the effort to outlaw alcohol in the early 20th century to outlawing abortion, or pornograghy today. The only culture war that I think was worth it was the abolition movement but even the abolition of slavery came about as a result of secular means.

    If evangelicals could leanr to let go of the culture wars the could really empower the gospel along the way. But to do this they have to let go of political ambition.

    • Prohibition is kind of a special case. It wasn’t really a Fundamentalist-driven issue. It actually has roots that go back further than that. Many Fundamentalists supported it, but there were also a lot of do-gooder mainliners who supported it, too.

      But I do agree with you that the culture war has caused a lot of damage within Evangelicalism. I think it’s created a lot of cynics out the kids of Evanglelicals. Kids can see hypocrisy very clearly, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of discernment to see people preaching one thing and doing something else.

      • I think shattered expectations put a few nails in the coffin. Behind every skeptic is a disappointed idealist, they say. Where the church teaches we are simultaneously saint and sinner, I believe there is significantly less letdown. I hope this teaching catches on a bit more in Evangelicalism generally.

        • Josh in FW says:

          yep, I’m one of those disappointed idealists.

        • Eugene Peterson in the book The Contemplative Pastor really hammers this point. He says something to the effect of “the benefit of seeing people as sinners is that you are never disappointed when they act like one” and therefore the pastor’s job isn’t to create better people but to “preach the forgiveness of sins”.

          • Great quote! Preaching the forgiveness of sins is to important for the comforting of troubled consciences (i.e., those who believe the words of God’s law).

        • DaisyFlower says:

          I would may add to view them as ‘forgiven’ sinners or some other qualifier.

          I can see the benefit in doing what you say and for Christians to keep in mind other Christians are sinners too, which would potentially avoid a lot of problems (such as feeling like you have to wear a mask all the time, be perfect, and can’t admit to having problems, making mistakes, etc). That would be great.

          However… at another blog, participants were talking about a group of churches (maybe SGM?) and many Neo Calvinist churches that lay it on so thick that the teach “worm theology,” they encourage way too much navel-gazing, reflect on your sins, confess all the time what your sins are which makes people feel rotten, they forget that God has forgiven them (if they’ve accepted Christ).

          People in these churches have reported that when they do ‘fess up to specific shortcomings, bad habits, or sins, that they get yelled at or disciplined or judged.

          IMO there should be a middle ground where people do get reminded or taught they are (forgiven) sinners but not bludgeoned with this information or made to feel like God hates them.

    • Adrienne says:

      I agree Eagle about giving up political power. But that is a huge subject that really touches on the core beliefs of Evangelical churches for the past 30 some years. The idea that we will change the world “by force”. We will bring in the Gospel by the election box. I think Jerry Falwell’s Silent Majority movement and Pat Robertson’s grandiose insanity gave the church a new taste of power. Not the power of the Spirit – Paul said we don’t fight the fight with worldly weapons but with divine power. The church has, for the most part, rejected that. For too long in the U.S. I think the church felt it did not want to resemble the culture, come apart and be separate. But once they got a taste of power, of financial “success” of real or assumed political power they turned around and wanted to be identified WITH the culture. They wanted to be “yoked” with the unbelieving culture if it meant they had power. Basically it has, in my opinion, weakened the church to the point where we don’t even know who we are or who we are supposed to be. Not by strength nor by power but by My Spirit.

      • Adrienne, I think you meant Falwell’s Moral Majority. The Silent Majority was Nixon’s idea of those who supported him on Vietnam.

        But the term “grandiose insanity” regarding Pat Robertson is correct.

      • Good point, and I think it reveals a deeper issue – Jesus turned the world’s power structures upside down. The evangelical approach often seems to demonstrate that we haven’t learned this lesson and are still relying on the world’s power to will. A sort of neo-constintinianism. And yes, I just made that word up.

    • DaisyFlower says:

      Eagle said, “If evangelicals could leanr to let go of the culture wars the could really empower the gospel along the way. But to do this they have to let go of political ambition.”

      I was discussing this same topic at the TWW blog a couple of week ago.

      I was a social conservative for many years, and still mostly agree with other social conservatives on morality, but I am so worn out by them, with the constant complaining and the excessive focus on culture wars, and how Christian groups, preachers, and churches, are always screaming about American politics, mid East politics, urging Christians to vote one way or another.

      I don’t think it’s wrong for Christians to vote or run for office, or to oppose abortion (or whatever other topic), but I am disturbed now by how some are consumed by all of it. They spend more time complaining about society and politicians than they do in actually helping people.

  5. Great nuts and bolts explanation Chaplain Mike. I’m tracking with you on all these points, though for slightly different emphasis, I’ve been more attracted to conservative Anglicanism. I think we’ll see a slow buy steady resurgence of both in the next couple decades.

    • A resurgence of conservative Anglicanism would be a blessing to the world. From what I hear, it’s quite the rage in the southern hemisphere. But in the US, I’ll believe it when I see it. I really want to see the ACNA flourish.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

        Yeah, the global south is where all the action is in the Anglican World. Especially in Africa. But there’s been growth here, too. Lots of church planting. Lots of new ordinations. Lots of adult baptisms as well as infant ones. I don’t see us making Abp. Duncan’s 1000 new churches during his term, though. We’ve done… a couple or three hundred, I think.

        • As a theogically traditional, young, single Episcopalian, I am much less sanguine about the Anglican breakway churches in the United States. They are typically afflicted with the same ills that dumb ox described of theologically traditional Lutheran churches. Of the ten or so I’ve attended, the liturgy is so casual that it seems like little more than a hip gloss, and for some reason they reject they world’s most beautiful church music tradition in favor of contemporary hymns. Let me be clear: I suspect the parishioners like this style and that it feeds them. I simply don’t thing it reflects the richness and uniqueness of the Anglican tradition.

          Not to mention the fact that, if all the breakaway churches rejected the fundamentalist impulse of bolting amidst theological disagreement (however salient that disagreement may be) and instead “took a stand for scripture” within ECUSA, they could band together and have considerable influence within it. They speak of having been “forced out,” but, well, the victim mentality has always been one of the more distinctive marks of fundamentalism and American Evangelicalism, so there you have it.

          • One can only wonder how much different the mainlines would be today had all the theological conservatives stuck it out and fought for their ideas from within. Would they be different? Would the progressives eventually have gotten fed up and left? Would they be more centrist? God only knows.

    • Josh in FW says:

      I’m also finding myself attracted to the Anglicans, but that is probably due in part to my awareness of them due to the press surrounding the Fort Worth Diocese litigation. While the litigation has made me aware of the conservative theology of the local Anglicans, it has also resulted in me laying back and waiting before seriously visiting any of the local parishes.

      • Josh — Before Anglicanism shattered, I went to Holy Trinity Church near the TCU campus. I loved it then. Do you know anything about it today?

        • Josh in FW says:

          There is a “Trinity Episcopal Church” on Bellaire (across the street from campus). http://www.fortworthtrinity.org/ This particular church is one that chose to stay with TEC. My understanding of scripture is such that I could not see myself becoming a member of a TEC congregation.

          • Radagast says:

            We had a big taste of the Anglican split here in Pittsburgh as it was the stomping ground of Bishop Duncan. He had a great working relationship with then Roman Catholic Bishop Weurl who has since been assigned as Cardinal in DC.

          • Josh in FW says:

            Well Radagast, I will say that you, Pattie, Damaris, and a few friend in the real (as opposed to cyber) world nearly got me to Rome. Who knows what may happen in the future, but I just can’t embrace all of Rome’s dogmas.

          • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

            FWIW, Josh, the Diocese of Fort Worth has a reputation for being one of the more Anglo-Catholic dioceses in ACNA.

  6. Josh in FW says:

    Thank you for posting this excellent outline. This post will help me explain to friends some of the stuff bouncing around in my ADD brain.

  7. I’m 62, a Campus Crusade baby, seminary grad, a K-12 homeschool dad of 4 since 1988, with forty years of evangelical missions, church, and parachurch service, including starting our own ministry to Christian parents in 1994. I call myself a classical evangelical, even though nobody really understands what that means (and frankly I’m not sure if I do either).

    The current cultural expression of the evangelical church as a worship concert with video entertainment and a dynamic conference speaker leaves me cold. I came of ecclesiological age during the relatively short-lived church renewal movement which gave credible hope of restoring vitality and vision to both the life and the ministry of the evangelical church. The church growth movement soon kicked it to the side of the road, the megachurch was born, and the rest is church history.

    Now I long for a church that balances the vitality of body life and the vision of bold ministry and mission. The liturgical tradition faithfully provides the former, the evangelical tradition faithfully pursues the latter, but few seem to do both. The Anglican tradition meets a deep need in my aging spirit for tradition, stability, Christ-centered worship, and connectedness, but I also want vision, movement, and ministry. I have not yet found a liturgical church that balances the body-maintenance culture required to make it work, with a visionary ministry culture.

    So where does a “classical evangelical” go who needs a meaningful church, but also wants creative and visionary ministry? I want my church to be more than just a weekly liturgical fix, but that seems to be the only option right now. Am I even being realistic, or am I just a nonconforming evangelical idealist who needs to get over it, get real, and just “dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.” Any thoughts are appreciated.

    • I like the term “classic Evangelical”. I think there are probably more people like you than you think even though it seems Evangelicalism has been completely taken over by megachurches. I feel like the one thing that I do like in Evangelicalism is the sense that there’s an accessibility (for lack of a better word) to God and spiritual things for the average person. At its best, Evangelicalism is a very democratic and populist movement – church for the people and by the people. So in many ways, I think chasing after big-name speakers and musicians is actually denying its DNA.

      I don’t know what the answer is, really. We’ve been attending a Vineyard church off and on that I kind of like, but, unfortunately, my wife really doesn’t like it. I like a lot of the Vineyard ethos. There are parts of liturgical tradition that I do like, but there are other things that leave me cold. So, I’ll just wait a little longer I guess.

    • I don’t know where you live, but if you are in central Florida, the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida has churches that offer meaningful worship (liturgical, but with varying styles) and visionary ministry. There are also United Methodist churches who may offer what you are talking about.

    • Good comment and analysis. You describe the same “wilderness” many of us have known. The biggest weakness I see so far in the Lutheran circles in which I’ve been moving is a sluggish commitment to mission. Not everywhere, but pervasive enough that it is concerning. I hope I just don’t know enough yet and will learn differently.

      • I loooooooooooooooooooooove this humility Chaplin Mike. It takes a lot to be able to talk about the weaknesses of the faith tradition you are in. That shows a lot of humility and strength. If more people were open to self reflection and criticism I think so many parts of Christianity would be stronger. As I see it every faith tradition has their plus and minus. Some folks only like to focus on the pluses and don’t allow personal criticism or brush it off as being bitter, etc… But how do you grow otherwise? How do you learn humiliy? How do you know how your spiritually doing unless you can put something on the block and examine it? If all faiths from SBC, to AOG, to UMC, to ELCA, to RCC did this so many churches can be strengthened. Kudos to you for setting the example. We love you Chaplin Mike! :-D

        • DaisyFlower says:

          @Eagle.

          If it makes you feel any better:
          I was brought up Southern Baptist (SB), and I’m no longer happy with them, mainly due to lack of compassion among members; the head cheese is allowing Neo Calvinism to infiltrate SB; the teachings about gender roles.

    • Clay,

      I think these are great questions, and I’m not sure I have an answer. As someone who will be ordained in the ACNA by the end of this year, I see some of the same problems when you say “I have not yet found a liturgical church that balances the body-maintenance culture required to make it work, with a visionary ministry culture.” It is very difficult for Anglicans to teach their way of worship and devotion to an American culture that likes being fed fast food style. Anglican worship really is dependent upon a use of language and it takes time and effort for the convert to grow accustomed to it.

      “So where does a “classical evangelical” go who needs a meaningful church, but also wants creative and visionary ministry?”

      I think there will be more of these kind of churches in the future, but it will be a painful process to get there. In the church where I now serve (an independent church with German Evangelical and Reformed roots) we are introducing elements of liturgical worship, but there is push back at every step. Many (most?) Evangelicals just don’t have a category for understanding historical forms of worship, and recoil at anything that smells “catholic”. At least that’s been my experience.

      If I had the patience, I might stick it out, but I’ve been at this for about a decade, and am not optimistic about the future of Evangelicalism as a movement. I’m throwing in with the ACNA. I think they have something that Evangelicalism desperately needs, and they may will be poised to provide it. God only knows.

    • The LCMS has everything you are looking for, just not usually in the same place. We’re better at pitting the extremes against each other than we are about harmonizing and synthesizing them. But we’re working on it. We could use your help!

    • Maybe a liturgically-flavored Vineyard church if there is such a thing and one near you?

      • Oddly enough, they actually do exist. There’s a few Assembly of God’s out there rediscovering ancient patterns of worship.

    • Thanks for all the good commiserative and challenging thoughts. I’m not ready to call myself post-evangelical, but I definitely feel lost in some kind of wilderness when it comes to church. I can clearly envision in my mind the kind of church I long to find, but I just haven’t seen it yet with my eyes. And besides, I can never get Dr. Howard Hendricks’ words out of my brain: “If you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it…you’ll only ruin it.” Perhaps some of us are just destined to long rather than belong. If so, so be it.

  8. Clay, I share a similar story to yours (albeit much shorter, I’m only 28). I grew up as a child of missionaries in Colombia, went to seminary and have served as both a pastor and chaplain (military and hospital) over the past few years.

    In high school I attended a typical evangelical megachurch, and was turned off by the consumer mentality, worship performances, and general lack of depth of services. The focus was on growth, but growth in numbers, not in depth or discipleship. Since then, my desire has been to be part of more intimate churches: smaller, less dynamic, more community focused and much less flashy. I come from a very low church background, and still don’t feel a strong need for liturgical structure (in the high-church sense).

    I long for a church that is focused both inward and outward though: engaged in life together within community (aside from once or twice a week services) and also life lived outwardly in mission, ministry and extension of Christ’s Kingdom.

    I am wary of fads…they burst up and die faster than I can keep track of them anyway. One thing I have appreciated lately though, is the idea of ‘missional communities’ or gospel communities (both buzzwords admittedly make me cringe). These are neighborhood based groups that meet regularly and are the foundational piece for the larger church of which they are a part. Sunday services at the church involve multiple groups getting together, but the idea is to live life in community, focus on neighbors and neighborhoods, and help move away from the mindset of the church as a place instead of a people following Christ (disciples).

    I appreciate this as I think it fights off some of the superficiality and inoculation to the Gospel inherent in performance megachurches which often have leadership doing a good job casting vision, but lacking in discipleship.

  9. Just curious –

    Did any of you recently minted Luderans face any of the ethnic dislocation similar to that faced by those of us who have waded the Bosporus?

    How are the lutefisk festivals?

    • I think it depends on the area where you live.

      In PA (where I grew up and live now), most of the longtime Lutherans are of German descent, but there’s a healthy portion of Scots-Irish and “other” folks mixed in. It’s similar to – but at the same time, very different from – the Scandinavian cultural emphasis in parts of the Upper Midwest.

      I don’t think PA Dutch people would recognize lutefisk if they tripped and fell over it. ;)

      • Adrienne says:

        No but they love Scrapple

        • And hog maw.

          • numo,
            I’m an Italian Episcopalian who spends a lot of time among ELCA Lutherans of German descent in Lancaster County, PA after having moved here from Northern Jersey (home of the NJ Dutch) about 6 years ago? Are we neighbors?

          • Don’t forget pig stomach!

            Followed by whoopie pie.

          • Robert F: Nope. I’m further away from Philly…

            Now, whoopie pie is good. But all that organ stuff – forget it!

          • Robert F,

            Pig stomach = hog maw. The local ELCA puts on a community dinner featuring hog maw twice a year. It’s always a sell-out.

        • Not here they don’t!

          Pickled eggs, shoe fly pie… that’s more like it.

    • So that’s what they call it when you convert to Orthodoxy. My congregation of the LCMS has over 20 ethnicities represented (and somehow I’m the only Mexican!), but we are in New York, after all. I’ve encountered some LCMS parishes that appear to be about 95% German. But it’s really bad when the church body has their ethnicity in their name: Greek Orthodox, Dutch Reformed, African-Methodist-Episcopal, etc…

      • Hey Miguel, when are you coming out with more music videos?

      • When we visited the Greek Orthodox church near us for the first time, a little old Greek lady came up to my wife and asked her, “are you Greek, honey?” (my wife actually could pass for being Greek – she looks very Mediterranean even though she’s mostly German). When my wife said no, the woman was like, “well, that’s OK…”. It was just kind of funny.

        I do like their Greek Festival during the summer, though.

      • RE. AME – you are aware that the church was created at a time when black people were not allowed to b<i.be anything of importance, even in the North?

        There’s a definite reason for that name, and for the continued existence of the church, as well as other predominantly black denoms and congregations,.

        • I’m certainly not complaining about predominantly black congregations! I’ve sang in a few of their choirs, and it was a very life enriching experience.

      • err, make that “be.”

        See http://www.ame-church.com/about-us/history.php

      • Anglican? *Roman* Catholic? *Southern* Baptist?

        • (This is in reply to Migue’s comment above, that “it’s really bad when the church body has their ethnicity in their name”).

        • Hey, we never called ourselves Roman Catholics. Just Catholics. It was the Anglicans who started calling us Roman Catholics, and it just kind of caught on with everybody else.

    • “Waded the Bosporus?” You’re tall, Mule! :-)

  10. Excellent overview. You have captured a lot of the history and character of the various branches of the movement in a very concise manner. I had not thought about the “Streams Emerging from Evangelicalism” in the way that you summarized them. That makes A LOT of sense.

  11. I would be interested to see a similar post by someone who left Lutheranism for U.S.-style Evangelicalism. Perhaps they would number among the “weaknesses” of Lutheranism its tendency to be dull, liberal (I am not complaining, mind you, but anyone who converts to Evangelicalism is likely to lean to the right–of course there are right-wing Lutheran groups as well), and hidebound.

    BTW, the category of “nones” includes people from every conceivable religious group, not just Evangelicals. They are remarkably diverse and include, for example, atheists as well as SBNR. Many are simply disinterested in religion, as opposed to reacting against it.

    • That’s an interesting point, because growing up as a fundamentalist, evangelicalism gave me a place to be me and think outside the box without getting punched in the face, and even a large, megachurch experience where I could blend in and not have anyone recognize me or talk to me. Of course, I am now a Lutheran, so…

  12. Dana Ames says:

    R. Webber’s “Ancient-Future Worship” was very helpful for me. It was the first explanation of Christus Victor that I was able to grasp – I guess I was at a point where I could actually hear it for what it is. I appreciated his summary of pre-800 AD Christianity – a breath of fresh historical air after years of Evangelical culture that basically thought the church went off the rails between 100 AD and the Revivalist era (the folks I spent the most time with were suspicious of Lutherans and other “high church” Protestants as “too Catholic”). I liked the way he drew the connections between that time and our “post-modern” era.

    I realized that what Webber was doing was giving a summary, and that was ok – it was a jumping-off point for me to begin exploring the writings of Christians in that pre-800 AD time period. That, along with deep reading of NT Wright, particularly his books on Jesus, is was “led me to the Bosporus” – Hi Mr Mule with Briars :)

    Dana

  13. As long as you don’t think your journey should be everyone’s journey.

    I don’t like that iMonk is turning into an in-your-face Lutheran blog.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      1. A significant percentage of the commenters on this blog (including myself) are not affiliated with, and have no intention of reaffiliating with, any of the Lutheran faith traditions.

      2. Many of the guest bloggers on this site are not affiliated with the Lutheran church.

      3. Chaplain Mike is affiliated with the Lutheran church. At least he is honest enough to demonstrate that his positions are colored and shaped by the Lutheran church. The term “in-your-face” is a emotionally manipulative misstatement; I would rather state that the posts on this blog are an accurate representation of the ideology of the person who writes them.

    • SottoVoce says:

      Michael Spencer greatly admired the Lutheran tradition and wrote several posts about it, which were instrumental in my decision to become a Lutheran. It’s not exactly a new development.

    • Been there done that said: As long as you don’t think your journey should be everyone’s journey.

      I don’t like that iMonk is turning into an in-your-face Lutheran blog

      Here, Here.
      Former Lutheran by baptism and family tradition( that would have left me on the road to hell) turned fundementalist baptist (which would have left me without hope in this life), turned evangelical (which leaves me scratching my head often), turned evangelical and reformed – where Jesus is the center and the gospel is for this life too.

      ALL traditions have thier flaws and come and go. How I express my faith journey is not prescriptive for anyone else. Can we ease back on the bashing?

  14. I would consider a Lutheran church but I cannot stomach Martin Luther. There is a reason the Nazi’s quoted him in the early days to get the church on board. I have always tried to figure out why his doctrinal beliefs did not make him more loving toward women, Jews and peasants. Can one ignore the Luther in Lutheran? :o)

    And I am NOT named after him, either.

    • It was good enough for Martin Luther King, Sr. to change his name from Michael King, and to name his son Martin Luther King, Jr.

    • Steve Newell says:

      Would you reject Thomas Jefferson’s works since he owned slaves and fathered children with his slaves. How can a man write “all men are created equal” have slaves? Should SBC be considered evil since it was founded by those who wanted to continue slavery in the 1840’s?

      Martin Luther is like all of us, sinners. There are aspects of his life and writings that I would also find offensive. But are you willing to toss out the good with that bad?

      The Lutheran Church is defined by the Lutheran Confessions not by Martin Luther. Read the Lutheran Confessions if you want to find out Lutheran believe, teach and confess.

      By the way, the name Lutheran as a derogatory term applied by those who opposed the Reformation. This is no difference from the term “Christians” as a derogatory term in the early Church. In Germany, the “Lutheran Church” is called the Evangelical Church.

    • Martin,

      As Lutherans we are not slavish followers of Luther, but are bound together by the Lutheran Confessions (1580 Book of Concord) part of which was written by Luther. Like any other great figure in history, you will find both good and bad. One Luther scholar went so far as to joke that he wished Luther had died 10 years earlier, before he said many unfortunate things.

      Also, do some research on the Nazi’s use of Luther and their subsequent plans for the church. Ultimately it was their intent to have the Christians join the Jews in the ovens and many died in the camps. They used a few items from late in Luther’s life as propaganda to further their aims, not because they respected the man or believed what he believed.

      Most Lutherans endeavor to pick out the good in Luther and leave the rest.

      • Robert F says:

        Apart from Martin Luther’s personal ethical failures in relationship to the Jews, the Anabaptists, etc., it has been plausibly argued that his doctrine of the two kingdoms tends to result in an attitude of compliant, uncritical obedience to the state in matters that are considered to be theologically the domain of the earthly kingdom rather than the heavenly one, as it did in Nazi Germany before and during WWII; and that this uncritical compliance furthermore tends to lead to silent complicity and then.active participation in state-sponsored evil. So there is a theological issue involving ethical problems with regard to the Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms.

        • Among some what you say has been true at certain times, though I think the ‘complicit with the Nazis’ line has been overplayed. Bonhoeffer and the ‘Confessing Church’ are marvelous examples of Christians who embraced the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and properly discerned into which Kingdom various issues fell.

          What you attest to is not the failure of the doctrine, but the failure of some to properly apply it.

  15. I have been thinking about this…where do the Messianic Jewish “church” fall? They are the 1st believers…where do they fit? Evanglicals or Lutheran or cathlic or what? How do you see them?