Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is the only True Church in Milwaukee?

Peter Berger, a Lutheran, describes Michele Bachmann's former denomination and ruminates about Lutherans, Catholics, the religious commitments of politicians, excommunications, and anti-Christs. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod:
.... The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) was founded in 1850 by German immigrants. (By the way, the term “Evangelical”, in the name of this and of other Lutheran bodies in this country, should not be understood in its usual sense in English. It is a translation of the German “evangelisch”, which simply means “Protestant”.) It now claims about 390,000 members, much less than the two more numerous Lutheran bodies, the theologically (and also politically) liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), whose conservatism is close to that of WELS, but in the latter’s view not close enough. The headquarter of WELS is in Milwaukee, which through most of its history has been known as the Beer Capital of the World, but can now also boast as the location of a Lutheran version of the Vatican. ....

WELS believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, including the creation stories in the Book of Genesis. It holds that Christian fellowship should only be extended to those who share the right—that means its, doctrinal views—which effectively excommunicates just about all other Christians, with the possible exception of Missouri. (At some point—I don’t remember why—there was talk of also excommunicating Missouri, but it was decided to only “admonish” LCMS.) “Fellowship” apparently means, not just communion, but any activity of praying together, which is why Wisconsin kids were not allowed to join the Boy Scouts. As one would expect, WELS is rigorously conservative on all issues south of the navel. There are of course no women clergy. In 1959 WELS published a “Statement on the Antichrist”, whose key sentence reads “We reaffirm the statement of the Lutheran Confessions, that the Pope is the very Antichrist.” I don’t think that many Reformation scholars would agree with this interpretation of the confessions. In the wake of the brouhaha about Bachmann’s resignation a WELS spokesman, Joel Hochmuth, issued a clarification. (Anyone who understands German will relish the name.) He said that the status of Antichrist refers to the papacy as an institution, rather than to individual popes. .... [more]
Is the Only True Church in Milwaukee? | Religion and Other Curiosities
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