“Original sources” supplied the information that resulted in a recent vote by acclamation by Morningside Lutheran Church, Sioux City, Iowa, to join the WordAlone Network, redirect some benevolence funds and remain in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, according to Phil Osborne.
He was a member of a task force that for five months studied “Called to Common Mission,” (CCM) the full communion agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church USA.
He says the task force wanted to be thorough and accurate in its report because it was “such an important vote.” Their sources included, in addition to CCM, the Bible, the Conference of Bishops 1999 Tucson Resolution on CCM and the “Concordat,” an earlier full communion proposal rejected by the 1997 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
At a congregational meeting of 325 members, there was a “loud, resounding” aye to joining WordAlone, says Osborne. He called that number, “heavy attendance.” The congregation has more than 2,800 Baptized members with average worship attendance of 1,083, according to ELCA website figures.
Osborne says the main thing to tell other congregations studying CCM is, “Be thorough and go to the original sources, so (they) can’t say, ‘That was a biased report and how can you back that up?’
“CCM is basically not what confessional Christians want because it’s power to the bishop and the constitution, rather than the confessions. If you get your facts together and you’re really thorough, people are really going to vote for you.”
Morningside Lutheran’s task force started gathering facts last summer after an informational meeting on CCM called by a pastor and council member, says Osborne. The purpose of the session wasn’t to influence anybody, just to discuss what CCM stood for. From that, there were enough interested people that the matter went to the church council, which established the task force.
The task force started by going to the ELCA website and the WordAlone website, which guided them to the original sources. They got reports from other congregations that had voted on CCM issues. Osborne says that even though the task force was heavily pro-WordAlone, they wanted to be as objective as they could.
“We figured that somewhere along the way somebody was going to say, ‘Are you sure that was the way it happened?’ We wanted to get our ‘I’s dotted and our ‘T’s crossed,” he says. The resultant report was a half an inch thick. The task force recommended joining WordAlone.
One reason for the care in researching the CCM issues, he adds, is that the task force assumed there would be more opposition than they actually got.
“We had a lot of grassroots support that we didn’t know was there,” he concludes.