Confessions of an Ex-Lutheran

by Sharon Carlson

What intrigued me most about Arthur Bowman's "Confessions of an Ex-Covenanter" was the discovery that here was someone who seems to have joined the Lutheran Church for the reasons I left it, and to have left the Covenant Church for some of the reasons I embraced it! This alarming coincidence seemed even more startling to me when I came to the end of the article and found that his concluding hope was that the Lutheran Church would one day reach accommodation with Rome. His dismay that the Covenant would most likely continue to prefer the company at Wheaton also provided evidence that a gulf, which might be widening, exists among Protestant denominations.

A first reading of the article — with its glimpse into the confusion of varying Protestant interpretations on such topics as worship, baptism, communion and creeds — is disconcerting to those of us who know that the Gospel, by its very nature, should be unifying, whole, precise. Christendom has brought upon itself through the ages a kind of irreparable brokenness, a divisiveness that makes a mockery of the Apostle Paul's plea — and indeed the will of Christ — that we as believers should be one body. And we are all to blame.

Although a fuller discussion is needed on the various differences enumerated by Bowman, I wish briefly to make mention of his objection to (and by so doing come to the defense of) the Covenant Church's liberal use of the word "I" in its hymnody, worship service, and so on. Far from interpreting this as "self-centered individualism" — much less a kind of "pietism" the church must rise above — it is precisely this individualism that is the hinge upon which the door into the Christian Church must hang. It was, in fact, the lack of emphasis on the individual that first pushed me away from the Lutheran denomination. The contrast in the Covenant appealed to me strongly.

While I don't believe that the Lutheran Church has lost sight of its original grounding, that is, believers saved by grace, I do feel it has failed to convey with consistency the individual necessity of personally deciding one's own response to God. We come to Christ alone. And the Covenant Church, as far as I know, has remained steadfast on this point. It is inconsequential whether it is approved in the eyes of Rome. I am especially pleased that the Covenant Church continues to gain insight by setting forth the Bible as the final interpretation of Truth.

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