The board of directors of the WordAlone Network accepted an invitation to meet in York, Penn., for their first quarterly meeting this year. St. Paul Lutheran Church in York--about 30 miles from the new, eastern WordAlone office of Director Mark Chavez--hosted the meeting on Jan. 19-20. On Sunday, Jan. 21, board and staff members visited churches in Annville, Dallastown and Philadelphia, Penn., and in Annapolis, Md. This was a very timely opportunity to meet Evangelical Lutheran Church in America members in the East and to heighten awareness of the work of the Network.
The Lutheran CORE steering committee met in York the day before our board meeting and then met with our board on the morning of Jan. 19. It was a good opportunity to meet with the leadership of Lutheran CORE to hear firsthand about their plans for the on-going working relationship among WordAlone and the other reform groups that are in the coalition working for reform in the ELCA. Mark's position as director for WordAlone and Lutheran CORE helps to keep lines of communication clear as we work together toward a visible and active presence at the churchwide assembly in Chicago this August.
Following the joint meeting with Lutheran CORE, the WA board received with enthusiasm a progress report from Dennis Bielfeldt on the "Institute," which previously was referred to as the house of studies. The "kick-off event" for the Institute will be in June at Mt. Carmel Ministries, Alexandria, Minn. More information about this will soon be forthcoming. In view of our larger vision, I presented a 10-year plus development plan for establishing a center for Lutheran education and ministry with the institute being the teaching institution and chief endeavor of the Network's theological reflection.
The board considered resolutions prepared for assemblies to deal with concerns in the areas of ecumenical relations, the meaning of Scripture and recent changes to the Mission Investment fund. These will be forwarded to synod contacts and chapters. Elections of church council members, the secretary and presiding bishop at the churchwide assembly were discussed. The board also worked on a draft statement of WA's theology of ecumenism.
WordAlone's annual convention this year will focus on the Lutheran interpretation of Scripture, which is a foundational issue for the WordAlone Network. The ELCA also will be addressing this issue in a document being developed, "Book of Faith: Lutherans Read the Bible." Dr. Karl Donfried and Dr. Steven Paulson, our keynote presenters, will speak about the confessional Lutheran interpretation of Scripture and whether or not it is observed in the ELCA. In doing so, they also will review the method of interpreting Scripture in the ELCA's third sexuality study, "Free in Christ to Serve the Neighbor," released in December.
In addition, a number of requests have been made to WordAlone to prepare a review and critique of the new ELCA sexuality study. A drafting team will be appointed and a teaching document prepared for use by individuals, chapters and churches as they study and respond to the ELCA study.
The board called upon me to complete a book dealing with the issue facing the church of the authority of the Word and to compile the writings of some of our best Lutheran theologians to provide a much needed educational resource to WordAlone supporters and beyond. Other educational resources being prepared include a new edition of the WordAlone introductory brochure and a DVD teaching Lutheran ecclesiology on "Who or What Is the Church?" Availability of these resources is projected for late spring or early summer.
WordAlone and all of its new partners in our work have a big year ahead. Working with the same level of resources as in years past and having only a minimal increase in staff continue to be challenges as we step out in faith to put into action the bigger vision that has guided our goals and objectives for years. The board realizes that the calling and demands on the Network are larger than our budget and staff, and yet approved stepping out in faith to claim the "center" of Lutheranism by establishing an institute that will faithfully prepare the next generation of lay leaders, pastors and teaching theologians. We do so not with fingers crossed but hands clasped in prayer.
"For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible." (Mark 10:27).