ELCA , LCMC and NALC: Can we begin the journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation?

Publicado: julio 19, 2013 en Luteranismo, LUTHERAN CORE

By Rev. Stéphane M. Kalonji, MDiv, MA; Reformation Lutheran Church, New Bern, North Carolina

Within the past decade, hundreds of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregations have gone through a process that led either the whole congregation or only a few members to leave and join Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) or the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). In many cases this was a rough and painful experience. There is no doubt that our sinful nature has made its mark on a split that has revealed where we stand with regard to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions. In many cases, both those staying in the ELCA and those joining the LCMC and NALC acted toward each other in hurtful ways. These continue to hold us captive to the past and to weaken our witness of the saving Gospel to our communities and the world. Fortunately, we have hope of a better future in Jesus Christ, who has given us the ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are at the heart of the Church’s ministry and central in our proclamation of the Gospel, because Jesus Christ came to forgive sins and reconcile us to God the Father. In 2 Cor. 5:18-19, the Apostle Paul teaches us that God has reconciled us to Himself through His Son, and entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. God has entrusted this ministry to us not only for those outside the Church but also for us— NALC, LCMC and ELCA— members of the Body of Christ. The sinful attitudes and behaviors that have accompanied our separation call us to exercise this ministry to heal the hurting Body of Christ. In his article “The Father’s Ministry of Reconciliation through His Son” ( The Word at Work, Vol. 2, Easter 2013, p.9), the Rev. Dr. Dan Lioy writes, “The Apostle Paul wanted everyone to know that if they procrastinated—namely, if they delayed in appropriating the Son’s work of reconciliation—their souls would be in mortal jeopardy. For this reason, Paul urged them to embrace and act on the message of reconciliation while they still had the opportunity to do so.” Since many of our congregations split in sinful terms, we are called by the Word of God to act on the message of reconciliation, and to do so while we ELCA , LCMC and NALC: Can we begin the journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation? still have the opportunity—before Satan uses time to harden our hearts and while the members who have sinned against each other still live. Our church bodies therefore need to be intentional and, trusting in God the Holy Spirit to lead, begin the journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation.

The journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation is a process. In his book The Ministry of Reconciliation. Spirituality and Strategies (1998), The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Schreiter presents what this process entails: “First comes repentance on the part of the wrongdoer, then the victim forgives, and then there is reconciliation. There must be some act of apology or acknowledgement or repentance by the wrongdoer. Guilt must be admitted. Then the victim can summon up forgiveness. And then wrongdoer and victim can be reconciled.” (p.64) In my ministry in New Bern, NC, I have used funeral services that brought together members of my congregation and those of the congregation from which we split as an opportunity to share the message of reconciliation. I also invited members of my congregation and the ELCA congregation from which we split to a presentation on forgiveness and reconciliation. Unfortunately, that presentation did not receive the full participation of its intended audience because the members of my congregation were the only ones who attended. This “failure” did not end our efforts to address forgiveness and reconciliation. We will continue to use every opportunity to be ambassadors of reconciliation.

In light of the un-Christian handling of separation that has characterized the process when members of a congregation decide to leave the ELCA and join LCMC or the NALC, our three church bodies are called by the holy Gospel to work, with respect for each group’s identity, on forgiveness and reconciliation. Intentional get- together between members of congregations that have split, to open themselves up to one another on their experiences of separation, can put us on the road to forgiveness and reconciliation. At the “institutional” level, our church bodies could form groups of women and men to pray and help congregations to act on the forgiveness and reconciliation ministry which, as St. Paul says, God has committed to us (2 Cor. 5:18). An organization like Thrivent Financial for Lutherans also could consider going beyond its current focus, to include the ministry of reconciliation. In many places, Thrivent provides a forum that brings together members of the various Lutheran bodies. This forum could be used as an opportunity to address Christian forgiveness and reconciliation

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