The March of Ecumania

Pastor Paul McCain reports that the ELCA (Enough Latitude to Cover Anything) is about to declare a policy of "interim Eucharistic sharing" with the United Methodists.

On one hand, it seems only appropriate; John Wesley would no more acknowledge the United Methodists than Martin Luther would claim the ELCA. On the other hand... can there be anyone with an ounce of intellectual integrity who can claim that there is any sense whatsoever in which the ELCA can be meaningfully be called a Lutheran church body?

No. We're way past that point. That question was relevant shortly after the ELCA's founding. Perhaps it would be better to ask whether there's anything the ELCA stands for, other than radical Left Wing politics and brain-dead post-modernism. The Real Presence bit the dust back when intercommunion was declared with the Reformed. Except, of course, that a belief in the Real Presence has never been a given among the rationalists of the ELCA anyway. Theoretically, Calvinists believe in at least a spiritual presence (whatever that means) of Christ's body and blood in the Supper- though in the Reformed denominations with whom the ELCA is in full communion that is even more passe than belief in the Real Presence is in the ELCA itself. The United Methodists, of course, are thoroughgoing Zwinglians, denying that the Supper is anything but a symbolic memorial meal. With this new arrangement, the de-Lutheranizing of the ELCA's theology of the Eucharist is complete. It has never been a church in which the Gospel has been dependably proclaimed in its purity. There can now be no question whatsoever of the Sacraments being administered there in agreement with the Gospel. The ELCA now fails the test of AC VII completely.

Maybe the real question is why the ELCA continues to use the word "Lutheran" in its name. The same applies, of course, to the "Lutheran" World Federation.


Perhaps the ELCA is too liberal. Perhaps it doesn't proclaim law and gospel as effectively as it should. However, I was at confirmation class last night (I am an adult advisor for one of the small groups), and the pastor stated that some falsely say that the ELCA does not believe in the real presence (as you do). I am in 100% agreement with his comment. The ELCA doctrine is, and always will be, real presence in the Supper. Look at any doctrinal statement regarding Holy Communion on The real issue is the mistaken view of many "confessional Lutherans" of Article VII of the AC. For some reason, the ELCA's having decided (mistakenly, in my point of view) to commune with the Reformed churches is seen as an abandonment of all Lutheran doctrine regarding the Supper (although I'm surprised I have heard no outcry about Calvinistic views of atonement and salvation). Apparently it's not enough to agree with Missouri and Wisconsin on 99% of Christian doctrine (which, in my opinion, is enough to meaningfully call the ELCA "Lutheran"); we also need to refuse fellowship with all who disagree in some areas.

Fact: The ELCA does believe in and teach real presence. Fact: virtually every ELCA member believes this doctrine. To say otherwise is pure fiction.

By the way, while I still feel that the ELCA has sent the wrong message about real presence in the Reformed accords, there is one thing in which I take solace. Despite the wrong teaching on the Sacrament in the Reformed churches, they nevertheless use essentially the same rite of Communion as Lutherans. Under what theological basis would we believe that ELCA members, recognizing the body and blood of the Lord, taking Communion from Reformed ministers do not receive the real body and blood of Jesus? (Let's stick with the vertical aspect for now. We know that we have different emphasis on the horizontal aspect.)

I remain, hoping that I can help to provide lay leadership in the struggle to restore a stronger sense of doctrine to the ELCA.
Bob Waters said…
The ELCA gives lip service to the Real Presence. Its Pietist background is such that by no means all of its congregations ever believed in the Real Presence. The entire thought world in which the Real Presence has significance is passe in the ELCA. And if the matter had the slightest importance, the ELCA would never have declared pulpit and altar fellowship with churches which deny it.

Your later question reveals the nature of the problem: you, yourself, aren't clear on the doctrine of the Real Presence. And how could you be? Few ELCA pastors are these days.

It doesn't come from the faith of the person receiving it (Calvin's position- and that of many "old time" ELCA pastors, who buy into the false teaching called "receptionism"). Rather, it comes from the Word of God.

That Word is in no case an magical incantation, which brings about what it brings about by the mere speaking of the words. That's ex opere operato thinking, the Roman Catholic heresy. Rather, the Word is inherently bound up in the meaning of those words as well.

When an assembly agrees that the words don't mean what they say- as every Reformed congregation, by definition, does- the Word isn't present, even if the words Jesus spoke on the night on which He was betrayed are parroted precisely. Jesus never instituted a supper in which bread and wine merely symbolize His absent body and blood, or one in which His person is divided so that He can be present "spiritually," but not physically.

What Reformed congregations celebrate is simply not the Lord's Supper. It's another supper they have invented, and
Jesus isn't present there- except in the sense that the Reformed believe Him to be. Doubtless what they celebrate reminds them of Jesus in the same way a picture or a cross on the wall might. But it's not the Sacrament of the Altar. It's a human ritual, in which the body and blood of Christ are not present- for absence of the Word.

The Word is there to be believed, not to be used as a magic formula.

Lutherans do not make Christ's body and blood present where it is absent by their faith. This is all the more the case because communing at a church's altar is an act of confession. By communing at a Reformed altar, an ELCA member- whatever he or she might believe in his or her heart- denies the Real Presence, as well as every other Lutheran teaching which the Reformed deny.

It's as simple as that. You don't make Jesus present. He does- thorough the Word, which is not empty syllables divorced from their meaning, but in God's intent in speaking them.
Bob Waters said…
0h, and one more point: why not join a Catholic church, or a Mennonite one, and try to change their minds? You'd have as much chance there as you do with the ELCA.

You're fooling yourself to think that you have any influence. And btw... exactly what have you actually done- or plan to do- to change their minds?

It's not that talk is cheap. It's that among conservative ELCA folks, it's pretty generally all we get.

In short, you're fooling yourself.