Letter from Jack and cult fathers to American Lutheran Church


July 15, 1976

Executive Committee of the Eastern District
The American Lutheran Church
Bethesda Air Rights Building, Suite 345W
7315 Wisconsin Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20014

Gentlemen:

We have received your inquiry regarding our commitment to the ALC constitution and certain other matters and will try to respond in as forthright a manner as possible, asking only that you read our response carefully and with the same concern with which it is written.

You asked whether the position of our congregations remains in concert with the confessional position of the constitution of the ALC. Having re-read this confessional statement in Chapter 3 of the constitution, we re-affirm our stand with the position that is stated therein, including, incidentally, the words "inerrant", "infallible", etc., which seem to have caused so much difficulty in certain other quarters of the ALC.

Please do not be misled by that which certain self-appointed "defenders of Lutheranism" and other assorted critics may accuse us of teaching (salvation through the law, etc.). There are many rumors and even documents floating around which have been authored by the uninformed and believed by the gullible, but which contain countless factual inaccuracies and virtually endless variations of half-truths, misrepresentations and outright falsehoods regarding our congregations. We have long ago abandoned any attempts to track these down and to correct them, discovering that most people believe what they want to believe anyway, and that the few who are honestly open to understand what is really happening here will come with an unbiased mind and ask.

As far as our commitment to the constitution of the ALC, we are not aware of any point at which we reject it, but if there is a question regarding our loyalty to a particular article, perhaps you could direct us to that article in order that we might address ourselves to it more specifically.

The matter of dealing with the Bible study groups, etc., that meet in the distant areas, was also raised in your letter. We have explained in one of the meetings of the pastors and district leaders the options that seem to be open to us and the difficulties that we face with each one of them. There would appear to be only three.

(second page)

1. We could in the interests of intra-Lutheran accord, abandon these ministries and the people who are served by them. But these ministries were all begun in response to the urgent pleadings of people who live in these areas, asking that we come and help them. To turn our backs on them at this point would be to elevate a regard for structure and organization above a concern for people.

We are obviously aware that there are Lutheran congregations in these areas, and that certain inter-Lutheran agreements have been made to avoid duplication of effort, competition, etc. But permit us to ask a few questions for a moment. In Patchogue, for example, with what evangelistic thrust are we in competition? And, where is the extensive Bible study program which we are jeopardizing? And, why have the churches in that area refused to listen to what many of their people were saying or to heed the pleas of those who have since found it necessary to reach out to us for the ministry which they require? The list of questions could easily be extended and it would indeed be unfortunate if the zeal to condemn our action were to become a smokescreen obscuring a curiosity as to the reasons for this history of inaction. There has been ample opportunity for the churches of that area to respond. To date they have not, either because they will not or because they cannot. But it would be unconscionable for us to abandon at this point the people there who now relate to us. Ministry to spiritually hungry people simply must take precedence over jurisdictional agreements. Certainly these agreements were never intended to frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit or to leave hundreds of people to die on the vine. To us, therefore, the mandate is clear. We cannot turn back and if we find it necessary even to purchase property in these areas in order that the work may be done effectively, this, too, we will have to do.

2. The second option would be for us to work together with the churches in these areas. This was the avenue that we had hoped to pursue at the last meeting of the pastors in Glen Head, but we ran into such an antagonism over a series of rather picayune issues (e.g., the presence of the laymen that we had been told to bring) that intelligent discussion seemed to be virtually out of order.

We find this avenue blocked and, incidentally, have no intention of participating in any further meetings of this particular nature. Twelve hours of harangue over rumors and half-truths have made it rather obvious that the potential of this approach registers close to zero.

3. The third option for us is to withdraw from the ALC and thereby remove the element of "Lutheran competition". A committee presently studying the relationship of St. John's, Christ Lutheran and the Hebrew Christian community, with a view to bringing all of parts of them under a common governing structure, has discussed at length our relationship to the ALC. A subcommittee of this larger committee has recommended that the tie be severed, but the committee as a whole has yet to endorse that recommendation. Out stand from the beginning has been that such a move would make things too easy for us and possibly also for the ALC as a whole. We believe that the ALC is going to have to make a decision as to whether or not we are still an acceptable voice within the larger body. If the ALC decides that we are not, we will receive that decision with a deep measure of sadness, but will in any event feel compelled to pursue the work which we firmly believe has been set before us.

Perhaps there is a fourth option, even a fifth. If so, we would sincerely like to have them pointed out to us in order that we might consider them. You have asked us whether we are willing to deal with the issues raised by the activities of out Bible study groups in these other areas. We are not positive that we know exactly what you want us to do when you ask us to "deal with the issues." We have presented to you the struggles that we have with the only three options that we see at this point and await a further explanation of your intent.

(third page)

In closing, we must express one item of great personal disappointment to some of us, and that is that in all the years that the foundation for the present situation was taking shape, we have never succeeded in counseling personally with out bishop. It was almost ten years ago that Pastor Hickman advised Dr. Huffman by telephone of some of the early developments here that began to move us away from the more generally typical Lutheran situation. It was more than five years ago that Pastor Hove wrote a letter inviting Dr. Huffman to come and meet with us in order that we might share the things that were taking place. That invitation was repeated in person at the 1975 district convention and again in 1976 at the meeting in Glen Head. Certainly any busy pastor can empathize with a situation wherein an important call slips away and never gets made, and we do not raise this point as a matter of criticism of our bishop, but rather as a sobering commentary on a church that can become so pre-occupied with administration, meetings, the working out of regional agreements, etc., that there remains no time to sit down in face-to-face counseling, prayer and the joyful consideration of the challenges that the Lord in His wisdom has placed before us. Whether or not this can still be meaningfully done, we don't know, but we are positive of one thing, and that is that the matter will never be resolved administratively.

Sincerely,

Jack Hickman
Pastor, St. John's Lutheran Church

Donald F Smestad
Pastor, Christ Lutheran Church

John W Hove
Pastor, St. John's Lutheran Church

Jack C Jacobs
Lay Pastor, St. John's Lutheran Church & Christ Lutheran Church

Warren E Strong
President, St. John's Lutheran Church

Thomas De George
President, Christ Lutheran Church

Members of the Church Council of St. John's Lutheran Church (most names not recognizable)
Frederick W Brown
Even S Thorsen
John Blasidford?
Philip M Ramu
Louis J Ramu
Bert Christensen
Robert J Gross
Thomas W Naverson

Members of the Church Council of Christ Lutheran Church
Frank gallo
(the rest of the signatures are hard to read)

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