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Lutheran (ELCA) vs Anglican (TEC)

Discussion in 'Denomination Specific Theology' started by DeFyYing, Feb 7, 2022.

  1. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    Hi, I grew up Roman Catholic and was Orthodox for a few years but started having some theological as well as social doubts that has me trying to decide between the two liturgical mainline denominations. With Lutheranism I'm pretty much all on board with the Augsburg Confession and really like Lutheran theology. I have attended an "Evangelical Catholic" Lutheran church that has that liturgical reverence as well as a commitment to the confessions.

    With Anglicanism it seems that it's very fragmented, with a lot more diversity of theological and liturgical preferences. Yet, it's interesting that the reformed evangelicals, charismatics, laudians, and anglo-catholics are all in communion with each other despite their differences. I am particularly interested in the "Old High Church" as well as the Anglo-Catholic traditions, and after attending St Thomas Fifth Avenue for Evensong I must say that the liturgical beauty attracts me.

    I think it boils down to whether or not I believe a church should be confessional or not. With Lutheranism everyone believes in the same things as there is a coherent doctrinal statement that keeps everyone united, and they vary in terms of worship practices. With Anglicanism, it seems that the only doctrinal requirement are the Creeds. I find myself a little at odds with the 39 Articles, but it seems that generally they aren't heeded much attention by Episcopalians so I don't know if that matters. While I understand the two are in full communion, I plan on pursuing ordination so I need to pledge my "loyalty" to one of them lol

    To me, they seem like solid protestant faiths with lots of similarities, both having a strong liturgical and doctrinal link to the early Church. However, as I try to finalize my choice I feel conflicted regarding their emphases.

    Which is the correct approach? From the surface, it seems that having doctrinal orthodoxy through a common confession is a good approach as there is teaching that's upheld to catechize the church. With this in mind, diversity can be found in worship based on individual preferences.

    However, on further reflection a faith expression categorized by common worship (lex orandi, lex credendi) while allowing multiple perspectives on the eternally unknowable questions to coexist in communion with each other seems appealing, as well. Perhaps having freedom to believe independently is the way things should be done, but then I wonder what authoritative truths can be taught as a standard if everything is a free-for-all?

    I'm stuck, guys, I'd appreciate the help.
     
  2. tampasteve

    tampasteve Free State of Florida Staff Member Administrator CF Senior Ambassador Angels Team Supporter

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    Well, I was a member at an ELCA church for a couple of years. I like/d the way that the ELCA is, by and large, a more high church liturgy than most TEC churches. That said, the ELCA is Confessional as they hold the Confessions in high regard, but they are not Confessional like the other Lutheran denominations such as LCMS and WELS/ELS. More on that if you desire, just ask.

    ELCA are not really as cohesive as they seem on the surface. The congregation still holds a lot of sway on how they will have services and what they support. Look to the variation of relatively conservative parishes to the very, very liberal St. Ebenezer/Her Church. However, overall the Sunday Traditional service will be pretty standard from church to church due to the very good Evangelical Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Book of Worship.

    By and large most TEC parishes are not as low church as many other churches in the Anglican Communion. Services run around 1.5 - 2 hours for services with communion, in my experience. Most ELCA services run around 1-1.5 hours. My church did communion at every service, but not all TEC do. Actually, I have never been to an ELCA service that did not have communion.

    You have to decide if you are desiring a liberal denomination that is shrinking. By and large the ELCA and TEC churches are aged and shrinking. Some are actually combining in dual congregations, which I find fascinating. There is already pulpit fellowship and a ELCA pastor can preside at a EC church service, and likewise.

    The theology that underlies them is not that different, hence the full communion with TEC and ELCA and in the Union of Utrecht. You should try the ones in your area to find a good "fit". I went to four local ELCA churches before deciding on the one we were members at.
     
  3. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    This too is a very general statement that does not actually apply outside of Synodical lines. Some synods, like the one mentioned in your thread title, treat the confessions as a mere historical foot note. Proof? They have declared full fellowship with Churches that have theologies that conflict with the confessions on such things as the Eucharist, Baptism, Confession and Absolution. They have excluded the Athanasian Creed from their service books. Female ordination, their views on human sexuality, etc.

    To learn more, consult the LCMS/LCC; WELS; the International Lutheran Council.

    There are profound differences between the Liberal and the Conservative synods that are not new; these go back to "Crypto-Calvinist Controversy" noted in the confessions, and culminated in the Prussian Union. Such is why my ancestors left Alsace; so we could retain our confessional beliefs and practices here in the new world.
     
  4. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    There are two issues here, at least. For TEC: One way to read English church history is that the Anglicans avoided at least some theological controversy by centering the church on liturgy rather than theology. Hence only the most basic things are considered essential.

    For ELCA: What does it mean to be confessional? In the current Presbyterian tradition there are two approaches. The conservative approach considers historic confessions normative. Confessionalism is protection against change. The mainline Presbyterian churches see confessionalism as reflecting a commitment to do theology as a community, with historical roots, but not a commitment to never change. For the PCUSA this has resulted in new confessions (and a new catechism with confessional standing).

    The ELCA hasn't quite dealt with this, I don't think. They aren't committed to changelessness. De facto they take the same view as the PCUSA, but they haven't been willing to create new confessions.

    In fact I would claim that there's pretty much a common mainline theology, which includes many in TEC, ELCA, PCUSA and the Catholic Church. I believe the PCUSA has been the most forthright in recognizing and dealing with this, but there's really little difference across the community. If you don't see yourself as part of that mainline theological community, you might be better off in one of the conservative representatives of one of the theological traditions. At that point, of course, it becomes important to pick one of them.
     
  5. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    Thank you, the shrinking of the mainline denominations does intimidate me a little. I've been altar serving as an acolyte at this "evangelical catholic" Lutheran church in NYC, maybe I'll commit to them
     
  6. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    The difference in the origin stories of American Lutheranism between the LCMS and ELCA is fascinating. Like you said, the LCMS is mostly German in that they were trying to escape forced union in Prussia whereas the ELCA is more multicultural in being both German and Nordic Lutheran.
     
  7. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    Thank you, I've heard that the PCUSA revises their confessional documents, is that true? With ELCA even though they don't update the Book of Concord it seems that they hold to a "quatenus" position of the confessions rather than "quia" like LCMS.
     
  8. tampasteve

    tampasteve Free State of Florida Staff Member Administrator CF Senior Ambassador Angels Team Supporter

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    I ended up leaving the ELCA due to their continued liberalization of the denomination, but if that suites your beliefs then it is a good fit.
     
  9. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    Even as a continued member of the ELCA I freely admit that I have trepidation about my denomination. To a certain extent, it is the fact that more diverse voices are welcome in the ELCA on certain issues that drew me to the ELCA in the first place. Simultaneously, I am uncomfortable with a number of things which I've seen in the ELCA.

    I've looked around, looked up a number of the smaller synods, though there are only a number of Lutheran synods represented in my area (which is arguably more than anywhere else I've lived).

    The LCMS's more hardline position on things such as Young Earth Creationism and certain positions taken on social issues has meant that I don't believe I can, in good faith, be part of that synod. I don't think the solution to the problems of the ELCA are truly addressed by the LCMS or WELS.

    And seeing as I'm a Lutheran, and I confess the Confessions, I can't very well not be fellowshiping and worshiping with fellow Lutherans.

    In some sense I suspect that my "ideal synod" would be something between the ELCA on the one hand and the LCMS on the other. But then I also dream about the day when we can--all of us who confess Christ--come and share at the same Table.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
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  10. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    I can relate. While I can appreciate the social liberalness of mainline protestantism, the theological liberalism especially on the fringes of the denomination has been exhausting
     
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  11. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    There were revisions to Westminster in the early 20th Century. But that’s unusual, and the reason for doing it is no longer there. Instead, we have done new documents, The major one is the Confession of 1967. More recently, a Catechism and the Brief Statement of the Reformed Faith. That’s not because of any changes since the Confession of 1967. Those document serve different purposes.
     
  12. tampasteve

    tampasteve Free State of Florida Staff Member Administrator CF Senior Ambassador Angels Team Supporter

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    I know what you mean. The issue for me is that the head of the denomination and the general gatherings seem to be going further and further left, pushing out the conservative parishes and members, basically just waiting for them to literally die off. The ironic truth is that the ELCA tries desperately to present a very diverse (in their opinion of diversity) face, while in reality being one of (if not the) most old and white denominations.

    LCMS/WELS/ELS were not real options for me either, I just could not join them in good consciousness with my different views.
    The issue is that the social and theological liberalism is not really on the fringes of the ELCA and TEC, it is at the highest levels and actively promoted in most of the synods/diocese. TEC still has some conservative diocese, but the ELCA does not really have whole synods that are conservative at this point, there are some parishes that are. If that works for you then I am not judging it, but it should be something you are aware of if you are going to make a commitment to the denomination. I thought that being in a more conservative parish in the ELCA would buffer me from it, but that turned out to not be the case.
     
  13. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian Supporter

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    What about the NALC? Wouldn’t that constitute a via media between the ELCA and LCMS?
     
  14. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian Supporter

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    From a purely career oriented perspective, one thing to consider is the very sad decline in both denominations in terms of membership. Also the Episcopal Church of today, which has in rural areas several conservative and moderate parishes even now, indeed, my experience of rural Episcopalianism is very different from my experience of urban Episcopalianism, and I don’t know if this holds true in ELCA contexts or not, may not be the Episcopal Church of tommorrow, depending on what emerges from the proposed revision of the BCP, the development of which was authorized I think in 2018 or 2016 despite the leadership previously having rejected the idea of replacing the 1979 BCP.

    I would propose that while a true vocation is sacrificial and job security is not in the traditional sense applicable, given the relative cost of seminary tuition, you would not want one of either two things to happen, the first being rejected, either now or later, but especially after having graduated seminary but before being ordained and assigned to a specific position, for a difference of theological opinion, or being in a sense laid off due to parish closures. However, I don’t want to suggest a careerist approach to vocations; I do think one should consider their family, the needs of their family, and what the implications of working in a specific denomination might be in terms of their educational requirements and what might happen if one either has a spiritual compunction in a sense that becomes incompatible over time with the values of that denomination due to chanting theological orientations, and also what life in that vocation is like.

    For what its worth, I feel that the ELCA might be more theologically liberal than the Episcopal Church on the level of individual parishes, but I am only going off of the basis of some of the more extreme ELCA parishes out west and how they tend to differentiate themselves from, say, LCMS or NALC parishes.
     
  15. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    NALC is nice, plus I hear that they have good relations with ACNA. However I am LGBT affirming, it took me a while to get where I currently feel ok the issue but the it’s something that I feel strongly enough that I can’t abandon it even if I hear cringe heresy preached from the pulpit
     
  16. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    whoops sorry edit
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2022
  17. Paidiske

    Paidiske Clara bonam audax Supporter

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    Given that the particular need driving you to "pick a side" is the question of vocation, I wonder whether part of your discernment ought to be to look seriously at what pursuing ministry in either would mean. What are their discernment and selection criteria and processes, what training would they require, what support would there be, etc etc?

    While I agree with @The Liturgist that one doesn't choose a denomination just for convenience, if the reality is that the door to ministry is going to open in one direction but not the other (for example), that might well help you make the decision.
     
  18. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    I guess in terms of convenience it would be easier for me to be Anglican. It seems that people of my liturgical persuasion are rare in America, at least in ELCA, so I'd have to move to Sweden or Finland to find like-minded high sacramental Lutherans. I'd have to leave everything behind from my old life and travel to another country and learn another language, it'd be quite the feat. Whereas with Anglicanism I could potentially serve in America, New Zealand, England, Scotland, etc. while still speaking English.

    What confuses me is how similar Anglican Prayer Book Catholicism and Lutheran Evangelical Catholicism look, I can't tell what the differences would be among the more moderate Dearmerite Catholics besides being very English
     
  19. Paidiske

    Paidiske Clara bonam audax Supporter

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    I would say - having experience of a pretty broad spectrum of liturgical styles - don't rule out the possibility of learning to worship and work well with a style that is not your preferred one. I come from a very low church beginning and found working in very high church settings quite a steep and difficult learning curve (occasionally having to navigate and negotiate genuine issues of conscience); but the gift of that is that now I can offer for just about anywhere except the absolute extremes.
     
  20. DeFyYing

    DeFyYing New Member

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    Very good points, I am not entirely opposed to "low church" practices as I had a lot of experience with a Baptist church that really captured the passion that many Evangelicals feel. It's a beautiful feeling and I respect all worship styles, I just prefer the immersion of being in the Kingdom of Heaven that I feel in liturgical worship
     
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