Nicodemus societies needed?

by Pastor Paul Andell (WordAlone board member)

May 23, 2003

My confirmation class and I had just arrived at their “break” destination, a large outlet shopping center in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

It was an unlikely place to run into an old friend in the faith. But there he was in front of me, merchandise in hand. He and I had served for years on the board of a synodical agency.

Almost immediately he asked if I had attended the recent WordAlone event.

I said I had and that I had loved it. Then he looked at me and said, “I'm thinking of putting together a 'Nicodemus Society' which meets at night, of course, for fear of the authorities.” Its purpose, he said, would be to bring together Lutheran laity and clergy who are concerned about the social and theological direction of the ELCA.

They will have to meet in near secrecy because honest questions or conscientious objections are discouraged and politically incorrect in this Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. I found that out a year and a half ago, when, after Bishop Roy Almquist had visited our church, he wrote me a letter asking why I still had WordAlone materials in our narthex. “The Church has spoken, Paul. Now, get over it.”

Some of us still have difficulty with churches who equate their authority with the authority of the Word. Some of us who consider ourselves faithful to our understanding of scripture and confessions would rather meet in near secret than conform to dictums of a moving parade of assemblies meeting in the name of a church.

Recently I met with a congregational group interested in making theirs a WordAlone church. Their pastor and their congregational president clearly opposed this. But the sentiment of supporters was that they had to do something. I commend them for trying. The concern is embodied in the words of one woman who said to me, “I feel we're straying as a church.”

It seems there will be more Nicodemus societies forming as a result of the church’s “new wisdom,” even if the societies have to meet at night.