Showing posts with label Federation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Federation. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Two Versions of ALC Doctrinal "Principles"

I've long been aware of the 1996 ALC official doctrinal statement Principles of the Doctrine of Christ as Taught in the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America A long-winded document with lots of proof-texting and presenting assertions as if they were self-evident, it makes my head hurt to try to wind my way through it (and I am typically the type of person who likes to read this type of thing!)

What I didn't know until recently is that there was an earlier version of this document that was much shorter. First published in 1989 and titled A Brief Statement of the Principles of the Doctrine of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America it also states the ALC position on such theological issues as conversion, justification, baptism, confession, laying on of hands, etc.

Neither version of the document speaks to issues such as shunning, exclusivism, dress codes for women and men, TV ownership and viewing, or the host of other issues that seemed to make the ALC distinctive back in the day.

Thinking back to my ALC confirmation class, these documents were never mentioned. We used Luther's Small Catechism, and the confirmation teacher pointed to the Nicene Creed, Apostle's Creed, and "unaltered Augburg Confession" as being the main doctrinal documents for the church. Does anyone know if either version of the Principles is used today in confirmation class or anywhere else?

SEE ALSO: Principles of the Doctrine of Christ

Monday, January 24, 2011

Media and the ALC

Lately I've been visiting various ALC church web sites listed on the denomination's church locator page. There are 57 congregations listed there from all across the United States, providing interesting insights into the role that the internet and media plays in this historically media-suspicious branch of Laestadianism. The congregations listed there range from those without any web presence all the way to those that provide advanced multi-media options for viewing, listening, or reading part or all of their church services.

(As an aside, I would love to know if this is an exhaustive list of all current ALC congregations. If it is, it makes the level of media use all the more compelling. Even if it isn't, however, I still think that what follows is interesting. Either way, the list seemed pretty exhaustive to me.)

One thing that struck me was how many congregations had live streaming video, live streaming audio, live telephone dial in, or archived audio or video of the services. It seemed more than a little ironic considering that many of these congregations were strongly opposed to television back in the 60s and 70s, and against the internet in its early days. On the other hand there has always been a role for media. I remember sermons being recorded on audio cassette when I was a kid, and they were circulated widely among those who lived too far away to attend an ALC congregation regularly.

Of the 57 congregations I looked at, 5 have live streaming video feeds over the internet when church is in session. That is nearly 10%!

Lake Worth
Spruce Grove

Of the 57, 4 have live streaming internet audio when church is in session.

New Ipswich

For those who may not have an internet connection, there are 4 congregations that provide a local or toll free telephone number and PIN where you can dial in to listen to church while it is in session over a land line or cell phone.

New Ipswich
Spruce Grove

Eliminating duplicates, that makes 10 congregations out of 57 that provide some means of accessing the church service live without being physically present. That's 17.5% and an astoundingly high number, if you ask me!

Carrying on the audio tape tradition in a modern format, 15 congregations had archived audio, video, or text of past sermons that could be either streamed or downloaded for playback on an iPod or other digital player. That includes some of the congregations with live options, however.

I haven't looked at other denominations in this level of detail, but my gut level reaction is that the ALC is making much heavier use of live streaming media than many other denominations.

I wonder why?

One ALC site I visited stated that they are merely trying to make the gospel as widely accessible as possible. While I don't discount this as part of the justification, there are many other denominations with more evangelical fervor that don't seem to use live streaming media as frequently as the ALC does.

I think the relatively small size of the denomination also plays a role. As with the earlier generation of audio cassette exchange, live streaming media fills a real need for many Laestadians that might live too far away from the closest ALC congregation to be able to attend services regularly.

I also wonder if vestiges of the old Laestadian exclusivism play a role in the demand for this type of "at a distance" access? Where other people might consider switching to a closer or more convenient denomination under these circumstances, Laestadians face a much higher bar where much more is at stake. Viewing services over the web allows them to stay connected even if they are hundreds of miles away from the closest like-minded congregation.

From an ex-Laestadian perspective, I find the streaming sites to be a great asset with a wealth of current information on the state of the denomination. I don't have to waste my time actually attending church services in order to keep up on what's current. If someone tries to sell me on the idea that things are so much different now and better than they used to be, I can test those assertions against written, audio, and video material directed at the flock and not as a sales pitch to backslider outsiders such as myself. :-)

Finally, I wonder what type of unintended consequences will happen as a result of putting the church service online? Will it invite more scrutiny because anyone can see it? Will devout ALCers start skipping church because they can watch it in their bathrobe Sunday morning instead? (or at least claim to?) Will there be more switching between congregations (or even between branches of Laestadianism) because there is now an easy no social cost way to check out other congregations?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Apostolic Lutheran Church Makeover

No, they haven't started holding classes on the proper application of mascara or the best way to fasten a huivi. As far as I know they haven't told the men to stop smoking out front after services. ;-)

The Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (Federation) official web site has had a makeover. High time, I'd say, as the previous version of the site looked very much like a product of 1993.

The new site recycles a lot of content from the earlier version, but I did notice a few points that I thought were interesting.

On the Find a Church page, there is now an entry for each listed congregation called "online services," which will tell you if a particular congregation offers such 21st century amenities as a web site, video streaming, audio and video archives of sermons, or other multimedia.

Back issues of the offical ALC publication Christian Monthly are available going all the way back to 1998.

The Sunday School curriculum is available as a PDF download. I thought this was especially surprising, because when I was in Sunday school there was no curriculum that I could see, other than flipping open the King James Bible and preparing for boredom. For the kids the "flannel graph" was a big hit. :-) I wonder how long the ALC has had a national, standardized, official Sunday School curriculum?

A box of 1,000 communion wafers is only $15.00. That seems like a pretty good deal. Fifty copies of The Sinner's Plea for $3.50? I think I'll pass. ;-)

Seriously, though, I wouldn't mind seeing PDF or web versions of some of the foundational ALC documents such as the catechism and the constitution/bylaws.

Nice update to the site!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Principles of the Doctrine of Christ

I was rooting around on the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (ALC) web site recently, and stumbled across Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, one of the most comprehensive statements of Laestadian belief that I've seen thus far. Does anyone know if any of the other branches of Laestadianism have tried to "codify" to this extent?

I was raised in the ALC, and my immediate reaction to the document was one of surprise. I don't remember this document ever being referred to in sermons, confirmation class, or Sunday school. Who wrote it, and by whose authority is it a doctrinal statement? Gotta love unsigned documents. Did it pass through the Central Board? Did some seminarians think it was a good idea? ;)

Another thing that struck me was how it didn't mention any of the "don'ts" that so many of us were raised with. Nothing in there at all about drinking, dancing, TV, and keeping separate from "the world." In that sense there seems to be a real disconnect between the document and what is often stressed as important in real congregations.

Talk about proof-texting! I was amazed at how little the document tries to truly argue for its position. Instead it merely asserts its position, and then cites a number of Bible verses as if their application to that particular doctrine were self-evident. I found myself rolling my eyes even for doctrines I agree with! I think it goes beyond proof-texting, and into "puke-texting."

For instance, here's the section about The Baptism of the Holy Ghost and of Fire. Is this even coherent?

Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said John indeed baptized with warer; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost (Acts 11:16). John the Baptist witnessed of Jesus, saying: ...He shall baptize ye with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11,12). The Apostle Paul refers to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, as he writes: And hope maketh not ashamed: because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Romans 5:5). Likewise John writes, ...and every one that loved Him that begat loveth Him also that is begotten of Him (I John 5:1).

This divine love binds the children of God together by the Holy Spirit which is in them. This the bond of perfectness (Colossians 3:14). All who are born of the Holy Spirit are the children of God. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16).

This love of God, which is given to the children of God, is the motivating force in God's kingdom on earth. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again (II Corinthians 5:14, 15).

But this love is not understood by everyone in this world, as the Apostle John writes: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not (I John 3:1).

Jesus made it known what His own can expect: I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? l tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law (Luke 12:49-53).

Here is where one learns what true cross-bearing is. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27). This is because the seed of the woman (Christ by His Spirit) has come to abide in the hearts of the true believers. Therefore, it follows as the Lord God spoke to the serpent, the devil, after the fall of Adam and Eve: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed... (Genesis 3:15). The Comforter of God's children, the Holy Spirit, with which they are empowered and enlightened to confess their faith and to proclaim the true doctrine of Christ, will reprove the world of the sin of unbelief, the righteousness of the world and its judgment. For they being ignorant of God 's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Romans 10:3,4). This is as Jesus says: And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (John 16:8-11). For this cause, the ...adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).

The Apostle Peter, having experienced much tribulation because of faith in Christ, was able to write: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified (l Peter 4:12-14). Also in the first part of his epistle: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: What the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (7 Peter 1:6, 7). Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5: 12). These things I have spoken unto you. that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).