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Time:02:37 am
What is the difference between ELCA, LCMS, and WELS? I'm going to be baptized ELCA, and I know that ELCA is considered the most liberal of the 3. I know that they ordain women but all 3 are considered Lutheran. What are the differences in your opinion? No basing on any of these please, just looking for some ideas for how they're different.
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chaz_lehmann
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Time:2009-05-31 11:55 am (UTC)
Since the ELCA is a merger of at least 3 predecessor bodies, there is much diversity of believe within it. You will generally find more similarity in a group of LCMS or WELS congregations scattered across the country than you will in the ELCA.

Here are the specifics, however:

The ELCA does not have an unconditional subscription to the Book of Concord (Lutheran Confessions). That means that pastors of the ELCA may choose what from the BoC to teach and what not to teach. They are free to disagree with the teachings of the 16th century Lutheran Confessors.

In the LCMS all pastors are required to unconditionally subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions because they believe those confessions faithfully teach what the Scriptures teach.

The WELS view is similar to the LCMS, but the WELS tends to take a more exegetical approach to doctrine, that is to say: They try to draw all doctrine directly from Scripture without paying quite as much attention to the historic confession of that doctrine.

The second place there are big differences between the three are on the doctrine of Scripture.

The ELCA says that the bible is the inspired Word of God but within the ELCA you will find some who say that the Bible only "contains" the Word of God and you will find some who say that only the Gospel is inspired. This is one of the places of the greatest diversity in the ELCA. The ELCA also does not universally accept the idea that the Scriptures are inerrant. The historical critical method of interpretation is also commonly used in the ELCA.

The LCMS and WELS both teach that the Scriptures are verbally (the words themselves) and plenary (*all* the words) inspired and inerrant. One example of how this plays out is in the belief in a literal six-day creation. The LCMS and WELS also reject the historical critical method of interpretation.

You've also noted the issue of women's ordination. It is accepted in the ELCA in part because of the ELCA's approach to Scripture (which doesn't necessarily see Saint Paul's proscriptions against women's ordination as inspired in the way the LCMS and WELS do).

In the LCMS and WELS it is rejected because they believe it contrary to Scripture. WELS and LCMS, however, are not on the same page as to what the office of the holy ministry *is*.

There are other smaller differences that I'd be happy to discuss. Do you have any specific questions?

(I am an LCMS pastor.)
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adele87
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Time:2009-05-31 04:34 pm (UTC)
No, but I think you've just confirmed that I've made the right choice in joining an ELCA church. Or, at least, the right choice for me. As far as a 6 day creation, the concept of the hour is fairly new (newer the Genesis anyway) and day in those days could have meant something totally different. There is tons of evidence for the big bang theory, in my opinion.
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chaz_lehmann
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Time:2009-05-31 04:50 pm (UTC)
If you'd like to discuss the exegesis of Gen. 1 sometime, I'd be happy to. I'll just say that Moses illuminates what he meant in Gen. 1 in Exodus 20.
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basswhooper
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Time:2009-05-31 05:03 pm (UTC)
I believe in the literal six-day creation, but because of something in one of Paul's letters. I'd like to hear more about what you're referencing in Exodus 20.
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chaz_lehmann
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Time:2009-05-31 05:11 pm (UTC)
Take a look at how Moses explains the rationale for the third commandment (Remember the Sabbath...).
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basswhooper
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Time:2009-06-01 04:46 am (UTC)
Yes, I am quite familiar with that. And as adele87 pointed out below, if a person chooses to believe that the days in question were open-ended "God days" as opposed to literal, 24 hour days, then Exodus 20 carries no weight as it pertains to this issue. (I speak from experience, for this is how I once believed.)

adele87, yes, you are correct in that yom can mean an indefinite period of time, and I know that at least once in the OT it is used in that manner. However, the VAST majority of times where it is used, it refers to our 24 hour day. (Although even this was not enough to change my thinking on the subject of the six day creation.)

And I, too, am all smiles here. I do love a healthy, civil discourse ever so much more than an argument!
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chaz_lehmann
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Time:2009-06-01 04:48 am (UTC)
Actually, it carries a lot of weight. Why? Because the comparison Moses makes in Exodus 20 makes it clear what he meant by 'yom' in Genesis 1.
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basswhooper
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Time:2009-06-01 01:53 pm (UTC)
if a person chooses to believe that the days in question were open-ended "God days"...

It carries weight only if one believes that yom always equals day. Again speaking on how I once believed, I thought that God performed his acts of creation (including the seventh day) in seven God days, and then intended for us to reflect it in microcosm with our tiny little mortal (24 hour) days.

Let me say again that I was wrong, I just didn't know it at the time. And as I've said, all of the "Well, it says 'day' here, here, here, and here," in the world didn't change my mind.

This did:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men...

My belief in the "six God days" Genesis account included evolution. However, the engine of evolution is driven by death (i.e.- unsuccessful mutations are eaten/die out, while successful mutations survive and pass those traits along). But if the above statement is true (as I believe that it is), then there was no death in the world before Adam dropped the ball in the Garden of Eden. So, having had this passage pointed out to me, *poof* there went my belief in "six God days", and all of a sudden six literal days made sense to me for the first time.
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chaz_lehmann
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Time:2009-06-01 01:56 pm (UTC)
It carries weight even if you don't think yom always means day. Why? Because Moses specifies what he means by yom in the text of Exodus 20. He also indicates that he meant the same thing in Genesis 1 that he meant in Exodus 20.
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basswhooper
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Time:2009-06-01 01:59 pm (UTC)
*sigh*
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chaz_lehmann
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Time:2009-06-01 02:02 pm (UTC)
Exactly. I think we're using "carries weight" differently. I'm using it as "carries weight as a substantive argument that has to be dealt with." I think maybe you're using it as "is persuasive."

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basswhooper
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Time:2009-06-01 02:18 pm (UTC)
Precisely!
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padawanspider
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Time:2009-07-11 04:56 pm (UTC)
*blink* I never even thought about that.

...I think I have an idea for Sunday's Bible study...

thanks!
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adele87
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Time:2009-05-31 05:09 pm (UTC)
Not to be a jerk, but I can play this game too. I was raised as an Orthodox Jew and have studied all of the Torah (Gen, Ex, Lev, Num, and D.) in the Hebrew, the original translation.

The word "day" is actually translated from "yom". "Yom" can be translated to "age" or "time" or "day".

And yes, I am very familiar with Exodus 20, as I am most of the OT. I know my OT at least as well as any Christian, having studied with the top rabbis in the Jewish community in my hometown for 15 years. :-p
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chaz_lehmann
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Time:2009-05-31 05:12 pm (UTC)
I wasn't trying to pick a fight. I was just saying that if you want to talk about it, I'd be happy to. I'm choosing not to respond to how well Orthodox rabbis know the Old Testament, because I suspect that conversation would not be helpful.
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adele87
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Time:2009-05-31 05:18 pm (UTC)
Probably because of the lack of prophecies that they see. Haha, but we were talking about creation, not that.

Sorry, the tone of stuff on the internet comes across as almost attackful sometimes (I don't think attackful is a word but it is now, haha). There is no real emotion behind what is said.

I do have some other questions, but they're actually more Jesus focused. I believe all the traditional Christian things (born of a virgin, died on the cross, rose again, went into heaven, etc). I'd rather discuss Jesus then Genesis, haha.
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chaz_lehmann
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Time:2009-05-31 05:21 pm (UTC)
Genesis is all about Jesus, from beginning to end. :-)

But yes, that is precisely the point. The learned Jewish rabbis of His day are who Jesus was speaking to when he said, "You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God."

If an interpretation of Scripture doesn't reference Christ, then it is not a proper interpretation.

BTW, it's generally unwise to play "I read the OT in Hebrew" games with LCMS pastors, almost all of whom are required to read the OT in Hebrew. This one has been doing so for 18 years (probably not as long as you, but a good long while).

No anger intended in anything I've written. None at all.
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japerry
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Time:2009-06-01 04:01 pm (UTC)
In response to the teachings you refer to, I think these people look at Christ and the bible in a slightly different way, focusing on the teachings of Christ and how to follow in his example.

Those who follow these teachings usually interpret passages such as John 3:16 to mean those who follow in Christ's example will have eternal life. When the passages are interpreted like that, it negates the specific dogma of the Christian Church. This can be very scary, since people naturally like more structure in their faith.

I don't think its the fringe of the ECLA. At least not in the Pacific Northwest. I personally think this is the only way we will go forward into a world of compassion and peace. As long as people of different religions kill or claim each other are 'going to hell' because they interpret God as Allah or Buddha, or whatever, there will be division. Jesus' overall message was to unite the world, not divide it. You'll only find this thinking inside the ELCA, and why its okay to accept those who believe in the four teachings you mentioned, and other teachings that evangelicals condemn.

In my years of ELCA youth, university (PLU), and church, we've been taught that Jesus is love, that our salvation is universal and we should do our best to reflect the love hes given us unto others. That is why I belong to the ELCA.
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squinting_kitty
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Time:2010-07-06 10:12 am (UTC)
It is a horrifically sad state when I have to consider some who claim to be Lutheran as outside the Christian Church.

You, quite frankly, scare me. I don't think you have the right or the power to decide who's "right" and who's "wrong" when it comes to faith. Do you really think yourself equal to God, to judge who is truly or properly faithful and who is not?

But then I'm a member of the ELCA. So perhaps that clouds my perspective. I just can't fathom judging someone else's faith like you seem willing to do. It's between each person and God. How can I--how can any human--approach something so perfect as God and hope to understand one tenth of its immensity, to make judgments on what other people believe about it, to sanction those who disagree with oneself?
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adele87
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Time:2010-07-06 11:50 am (UTC)
Thank you for saying this. You seem awesome. We should be friends. :D
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adele87
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Time:2010-07-06 02:31 pm (UTC)
So basically, if someone doesn't think like you, they're doomed to hell. I don't think it's very theologically sound to say, "God created a group of people, and will later doom them to hell if they don't see 'the way'."

Very open minded, that. *eyeroll*
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adele87
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Time:2010-07-06 03:01 pm (UTC)
Our Lord frequently dined with sinners and tax collectors. You should too.
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adele87
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Time:2010-07-06 03:12 pm (UTC)
are you refering to the homosexuality statement, and less recent, abortion statement?
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squinting_kitty
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Time:2010-07-06 05:57 pm (UTC)
*shrug* You take a rather more literal approach to the Bible than I do. And I am familiar with and have recited both the Nicene and Apostles creeds. I can't say as I am familiar with (prior to Googling just now) nor that I agree with (having considered it) everything in the Athanasian creed.

I am familiar with the ELCA's sexuality statement and I rejoiced when it passed. I'm not familiar with the abortion statement also mentioned below, but chances are that if you also disagree with that one that I will like it as much as the sexuality statement. If you think that makes me apostate, I can't say as though I care. God's opinion is the only one that matters.
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[icon] What is the difference between ELCA, LCMS, and WELS? I'm going to be… - Lutherans Around the World!
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