Single issue? (That dog won't hunt!)

by Jaynan Clark Egland, (President, WordAlone Network; Pastor, Prince of Peace Lutheran, Spokane, WA)

October 2, 2002

As I speak to folks across the ELCA, WordAlone Network members or not, one of the most common concerns is that we have a “single issue” identity.

Within the Network, the question for many following the vote in Denver three years ago and again when Called to Common Mission (CCM) was implemented was, “Is it over?”  I attributed this question to a feeling of defeat and an overlooking of the importance of “resistance” as a crucial part of reform.  It also indicates a view of the Network as focusing on a “single issue.”

It always has been difficult for me to comprehend how a network or fellowship that calls itself “WordAlone” could be “single issue.”  It assumes that the ecumenical agreement with ECUSA (The Episcopal Church USA), which has imported the fictional historic episcopate into our understanding of ministry, is the only problem.  I perceive that for many in the Network, the mandatory imposition of Episcopal rites of ordination was the final straw, not the first and only one.

Thus, we organized a movement to be a voice to oppose CCM but we came with a variety of concerns for the church.

To address only a “single issue” seems not only problematic but also impossible.  Where do you begin?  Which concerns do you not address regarding the Word alone?  The shrinking mission of the ELCA, the unrepresentative nature of church governance established according to the ELCA constitution, stewardship and budget concerns, the ecumenical agenda, the social issue statements, the changes of ministry standards?  ...All worthy “single issues”!

Those who worry that the Network will slip from one “single issue” (CCM) to another (homosexuality and possible ministry standards change) do not seem to grasp the depth and breadth of the concerns of the members of this growing Network.  Across the map, people are gathering at WordAlone sponsored events to study the scriptures, to consider questions of the authority of the Word and to discuss what the Christian church of the future should look like.  No “single issue” has been apparent but rather I’ve seen a yearning to learn and grow in their understanding of scripture, the confessions and the nature of the hurch.

As I attend ELCA gatherings at all levels, national and synod assemblies, convocations, conference events, I note time and time again that the one focal topic is the sexuality study and the possible changing of the ministry standards.  Over and over again I am reminded of one writer’s comment, “The ELCA is more concerned about sexuality than the Great Commission.”

Single Issue?

On the other hand, it is easy to tag the Network with any type of controversy and label, but “single issue?” I don’t think that dog will hunt!