A Brief History of the LMS-USA

Where did the LMS-USA have its beginning? Some might point to events that were allowed to happen when the newly formed American Association of Lutheran Churches (1987) was only a year old. Others might look to the occasion of a so called, 'contemporary service' which was a part of the 1990 annual meeting of The AALC (As it turned out, this service was not so much 'contemporary' as it was Pentecostal). But it might be most accurate to trace its roots to events that began to take shape in the spring of 1993.

That spring a former AALC pastor put Pastors John Erickson, Christ Lutheran, Chetek, WI, and Ralph Spears, St. Matthew Lutheran, Indianapolis, IN, into contact with each other. Both pastors were concerned with what was becoming of the AALC, and most deeply concerned over the inroads of Pentecostal theology into what they and other pastors and congregations had been told was to be a continuation of the best of the former American Lutheran Church (ALC). These inroads were seen not only in the orientation of new pastors and congregations being accepted into the church body, but also in the personnel being chosen to lead and teach in the new seminary. This same spring Pastor Erickson was also contacted by another AALC pastor, Pastor Richard Hueter, Community Lutheran Church, McAllister, WI. Pastor Hueter also had concerns regarding the direction of AALC Theological Education.

After some discussion back and forth, Pastors Erickson, Hueter, and Spears arranged for a meeting of pastors who they felt might have some similar concerns. They also included several other pastors because they were members of the Western Great Lakes Region of The AALC. The meeting was set for October 7, 1993 at Janesville, WI.

At the October 7th. meeting, Pastor Erickson presented a paper sharing his concerns that the AALC had an identity problem. It was the thesis of the Erickson paper that The AALC grand experiment of forming a church body bringing together Orthodox, Evangelical, and Charismatic Lutherans under one roof, was not working. Pastor Spears presented a paper lifting up his concern over worship practices (or lack thereof) in the AALC. The AALC Assistant Presiding Pastor was present at this meeting and submitted a report of the meeting to The AALC Presiding Pastor. It was soon evident that the concerns of Erickson, Heuter, and Spears were not, for the most part, shared by the others, or of concern to the AALC leadership.

It was only a couple of months after the Janesville meeting that Pastor Donald Thorson (Christ Lutheran, Chippewa Falls, WI, and Western Great Lakes AALC Regional Pastor) sent a memo to several pastors voicing his growing concern over the man being nominated to a new professorship at the AALC Seminary. In answer to concerns that had been expressed as to the charismatic/Pentecostal bent of the new AALC Seminary, this new nominee was being presented as a charismatic who could well keep things in balance between the Orthodox, Evangelical, and Charismatic strands of the church body. Pastor Thorson had been led to understand that the three-strand issue had been laid to rest long ago. Now he came to see that the concerns expressed at the Janesville meeting were indeed legitimate.

As a result of his concern, Pastor Thorson and his congregation drew up a resolution to be presented to the 1994 AALC Convention that would call the church body to immediately drop any reference to a three-strand (Orthodox, Evangelical, Charismatic) description of The AALC. Further, when it became evident that the aforementioned seminary professorship nominee held a neo-orthodox view of Scripture, the Christ Lutheran Resolution called for the removal of this individual's name from consideration. All attempts at a pre-convention meeting of clergy to discuss and meditate on these matters came to no avail, while at the same time, the official publication of the AALC put forth a concerted effort to gain the election of the nominee .

By this time (early 1994) one other pastor, Rev. Roy Steward, Faith Lutheran and Barley Lutheran, Altoona, PA, had joined the aforenamed pastors with his similar concerns. In March of 1994 Pastors Erickson, Hueter, Spears and Steward met in Chicago to organize an effort to counteract the inroads of neo-orthodoxy and charismatic renewal movement theology within the AALC, and in so doing, give support to the resolution drawn up by Pastor Thorson and the Christ Lutheran Congregation. At this meeting these four (4) pastors, with backgrounds, evenly divided in the former ALC and LCA, formed the "AALC Forum", hopefully to be an instrument to bring about reform within the Association.

At the June 1994 AALC Convention the battle was joined and it became evident to the majority of the AALC Forum Pastors that any efforts toward reform were futile. Following the convention, Pastor Thorson and Christ Lutheran, Chippewa Falls joined the Forum and together the now five Pastors and 6 congregation (this includes the Barley Church, Bakers Summit, PA, which had not joined the AALC) subsequently organized the first Indianapolis Conference on Biblical Inerrancy which met in Indianapolis, IN, in August of 1994. The result of that conference was the Indianapolis Statement on Holy Scripture, which was given final form as the Annotated Indianapolis Statement on Holy Scripture. This statement on Scripture was adopted as the position of the new LMS-USA at the Second Indianapolis Conference held in April, 1995.

In January of 1995, Faith Lutheran, Altoona and Pastor Steward were the first of the FORUM pastors and congregations to withdraw membership from the AALC. As reasons for leaving they cited not only the areas of theological concern over the threefold strand definition and growth in Pentecostal orientation of the church body, but also the autocratic leadership styles they witnessed within the AALC. The leaving by Faith Congregation and its Pastor was followed by Christ Lutheran, Chetek and its Pastor Erickson, and then by St. Matthew, Indianapolis and its Pastor Spears. These three Pastors and their congregations, not desiring to remain independent, immediately began discussion and reflection upon plans for the formation of a new Lutheran Church Body. It was decided that a Moderate/ Middle Conservative, Confessional, Liturgical and non Hierarchical Lutheran Church body was needed within the spectrum of Lutheran Church options. Plans were developed accordingly.

At the April 1995 Indianapolis Conference there was a united desire among those present to organize a new church body. Plans that had been developed by the three pastors in consultation with each other and their respective church councils or church boards were presented to the conference steering committee. The result was the birth of the LMS-USA with the unanimous approval of all Pastors and Congregational delegates attending the Conference Steering Committee meeting. Pastor Hueter and the Community Lutheran congregation was not represented at the Conference and following the Conference chose to have no part of the newly formed LMS-USA. Both Pastor Hueter and the congregation of Community Lutheran have continued membership in The AALC. The Congregation of Christ Lutheran, Chippewa Falls, WI, was involved in the decision making that lead to the LMS-USA, but as of early 1996, neither the Congregation or its Pastor, Rev. Donald Thorson, have taken action to leave the AALC and/or join the LMS-USA.

Of the initial pastors, Pastors Erickson, Spears, Steward have made subscription to the LMS-USA. Of the initial congregations, Christ Lutheran, Chetek, WI, St. Matthew Lutheran, Indianapolis, IN, have also made subscription.