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Friday, August 21, 2009

What does the name "Lutheran" mean?

Today's vote by the nation's largest "Lutheran" body only confirms the direction it has taken and in which it has been headed for many years. A news article describing this convention action may be found here. Since this body is named "Lutheran" such action brings confusion to those who are not Lutheran as well as many who are as to what the name "Lutheran" means. While the vote is not surprising it does bring an association to the name "Lutheran" that is not held or accepted by many Lutherans. Since this is the largest "Lutheran" body such public association with this vote and all Lutherans becomes more complicated.

On the one hand, such a vote is not unique to Lutherans. Many "mainline protestant" bodies are going in the same direction and have already voted or will vote to do the same thing. That is, it is not surprising because it is a phenomena greater than what it means to being simply "Lutheran." On the other hand, it is clear and will become clearer in the days ahead that many Lutherans who do not belong to the nation's largest body will be making clear that distinction.

The "Lutheran" identity is best determined by what is found in Holy Scripture and not by convention vote. Such a vote might be defended as an interpretation of Scripture in the current context but even that is debatable. This is a topic too big to discuss here. It is probably best here not to fret the meaning of the name "Lutheran" as it is to understand and accept that today's vote was not so much a "Lutheran" phenomena but one that reflects more clearly what it means today to be "mainline protestant." If this association is made with today's vote then the name "Lutheran" and its meaning may be freed from cultural expectations and associations and be returned to associations that are more closely tied to the Scriptural and churchly focus of its origins.

Will this happen? At least in the case of the nation's largest "Lutheran" body this is not likely ever to happen. This reality is reflected in today's vote, a vote which was expected to come for many years. This vote reflects what we can expect from what is known as and associated with as "mainline protestantism".

1 comment:

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of Leadville, CO said...

I put a link to this on The Leadville Lutheran blog.