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Theologians challenge

—LWF study document

by Betsy Carlson (Editor, WordAlone Network)

News: July 25, 2003

For information contact: Pastor Mark Chavez, Director, WordAlone Network, (Cell) 651-247-7653

Theologians challenge LWF study document

[Note: Click the following links to view the Lutheran World Federation's statement and the WordAlone Network’s Theological Advisory Board's response.]

The Theological Advisory Board for the WordAlone Network, a renewal movement within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has just released its response to a statement by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) on the ministry of bishops dated November 2002.

The LWF document is titled, “The Episcopal Ministry within the Apostolicity of the Church: A Lutheran Statement 2002.” The WordAlone response challenges the LWF on its basic premise that faithfulness to the apostolic witness and the unity of the church is dependent upon the episcopal or bishop’s office of ministry, rather than “the sole sovereignty of Jesus Christ over and in the church.”

The WordAlone theological board document was written after ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson invited WordAlone to respond to the LWF statement. Bishop Hanson wrote that the LWF “document has recently been approved for study by the Executive Committee of the LWF, encouraging response from member churches.”

Hanson was responding to a letter from Dr. James A. Nestingen, chair of WordAlone’s theological board.

Nestingen earlier had encouraged Bishop Hanson and the ELCA to respond to the theological board’s November 2002 statement, “Admonition for the Sake of the True Peace and Unity of the Church.” The Admonition addresses a new ELCA requirement that bishops must ordain new pastors and that bishops be ordained/installed into the historic episcopate of the ELCA’s full-communion partner, The Episcopal Church USA. Formerly pastors could ordain pastors and bishops were not required to be in any historic episcopate or apostolic succession, which are said to trace back to the apostles of the early Christian church.

WordAlone’s theological board met at the end of April in Roseville, Minn., U.S.A., studied the LWF statement, and began drafting their response. The final document was released July 24.

The members of the Theological Advisory Board are:

International members

Dr. James C. Bangsund, Makumira University College, Usa River, Tanzania

Dr. Ingolf Dalferth, Institut für Hermeneutik und Religionsphilosophie, Zürich, Switzerland

Dr. Hans Schwarz, Universität Regensburg, Institut für Evangelische Theologie, Germany

Dr. Notger Slenczka, Fachbereich Ev. Theologie der Universität, Mainz, Germany

Dr. Martin Synnes, Det teologiske Menighetsfakultet, Oslo, Norway

Dr. Dorothea Wendebourg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Theologische Fakultät, Germany

Dr. James Burtness, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Dr. Dennis D. Bielfeldt, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD

Dr. Gerhard Forde, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Dr. George W. Forell, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

Dr. Mary Jane Haemig, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Dr. Roy A. Harrisville, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Dr. Hans J. Hillerbrand, Duke University, Durham, NC

Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury, Union Theological Seminary (Richmond), Glen Allen, VA

Dr. Gerhard Krodel, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, PAp

Dr. Gottfried Krodel, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN

Dr. James Nestingen, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Dr. Steven D. Paulson, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Dr. Walter Sundberg, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Dr. Vitor Westhelle, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Chicago, IL