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We confess and teach

by William K. Drew (WordAlone board member, Spokane, WA)

News: May 30, 2006

I became a Lutheran about 10 years ago. I had left the denomination of which I had been a member when it became painfully obvious to me that, for all practical purposes, that denomination defined itself solely by its rituals, and not by its faith. While that denomination contained many faithful Christians, it had lost its scriptural moorings. It paid lip service to scripture, but had no confessional compass. Accordingly, leaders of the denomination could preach and teach as they pleased with no accountability. They could deny the resurrection; deny salvation by faith through grace. Everything was up for grabs and any opinion was as good as any other.

As a matter of conscience, I could not remain in such a denomination. But where to go? I entered a period of reading, reflection, and prayer. I spent much time reading confessional materials of various denominations. This included reading the entire Book of Concord. As a result of this journey, I reached the firm conviction that the Lutheran Confessions best witnessed to the Christian faith, as I had come to understand it.

When I first joined a Lutheran congregation, I shared this story with my pastor. He was rather surprised by it and noted that in his 25 years as a Lutheran pastor, he had never known anyone who had become a Lutheran as a result of reading the Book of Concord. In fact, he did not know many Lutherans who had ever read the entire Book of Concord. So, I sort of became the "Lutheran confessions" guy at my church. I was amazed at the number of people who had never even heard of the Book of Concord. Few could name the confessional writings contained in that book.

I suspect that this "confessional illiteracy" is more the rule than the exception in the ELCA. We in WordAlone, therefore, face a big challenge in redressing this situation. Our confessional arguments will never resonate among people who know practically nothing about our Lutheran confessions. We need to be producing clear, understandable educational resources for use by congregations in all levels of Christian education. This is a task for all of us in WordAlone. All WordAlone congregations should be working on developing and trying out materials and programs for Christian education that emphasize the Bible and the Lutheran confessions. Then, through the WordAlone Network, we can share with one another the best and most effective of these materials and programs. While it is important to tackle the specific issues that challenge us today as Lutheran Christians, we must not neglect the task of promoting basic Biblical and confessional literacy.

[Editor's note: The May June issue of the Network News will report on a specific effort by WordAlone to collect and share the educational resources that congregations have developed and are using.]