"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Two Versions of ALC Doctrinal "Principles"

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


  1. I don't think it is used in Confirmation classes... at least not that I know of. I've never read it either, I suppose I should, but since my salvation is secure without doing so, I think I'll pass! :)
    I think about the only "rule" from the federation that applies to all churches within the federation, is that the KJV must be used in the pulpit. (Which I think is WRONG). The trend now seems to be that some things like different versions of the Bible, contemporary music, other instruments besides organ and piano, even TV's, is that it's OK in your home, car etc. but NOT in the church or to be used in a church service. And no, I don't understand the justification either...either it's ok, or it's not.
    Just me

  2. The new version seems to be basically an updated version of the old. I was 'introduced' to the original pamphlet many years ago. This document could actually be used by the Federation, the Old Apostolics, the Laestadian and the First Apostolic Lutherans without any major conflict as they all believe roughly the same. The Pollari/Independents teachings would not be in accordance with the pamphlet at least in regards to laying on of hands and confession. The problem is this document does not reflect what the church REALLY BELIEVES. It is sort of like a truth by omission pamphlet. This pamphlet only describes the written rules. I found that there existed a much more extensive list of subtle unwritten rules which are of primary importance: only church to be saved, shunning of others not in the church, group conformance, constant doubt, monotonous Christ-less sermons, no televisions etc.... The most complete lists of the unwritten rules that I know of are found on various postings on this web site as there is no publication that I know of that lists all the unwritten dogma/rules which are part of being a member of an Apostolic Lutheran type church. The more they say things have changed, the more they seem like they are basically the same. Comments anyone? Old AP

  3. I have read it at different times through the years, but didn't realize that there were any changes made. To me, it's largely a summary of Christian doctrine similar to other Christian denominations, except for some aspects which we are probably all aware of, such as laying on of hands. As to what the ALC says in this document vs what it actually believes, I think of it as the foundation and framework of a house. Due to the loosely constructed nature of the Federation, there is going to be variety in the way it is interpreted, but the basic structure is in place which the denomination has agreed upon. Just as any denomination is going to have a mission statement or statement of beliefs. Just makes sense to me. And I think that the freedom to focus on certain elements of spiritual life is important for individuals if they are led to do so. We don't have to be cookie-cutter characters. In fact, I think variety is healthy.

  4. The ALC Federation is an organization with "bottom up" hierarchy. The Central Board operates at the direction and pleasure of the individual congregations; they cannot issue statements and edicts that the congregations must follow. However, they do serve to mediate disputes within congregations.

    On the contrary, it is the congregations that approve changes in doctrine and church management by delegation at the annual Convention. Congregations, by membership, are bound by the decisions of the delegates, who are supposed to vote as the congregations direct them on various matters.

    Speaking to the "King James" issue, a supermajority of congregations has not elected to change that bylaw*. Many people have a genuine distrust of any other translations; others simply believe that in order to provide a consistent message we must have a single pulpit Bible. Still others don't see a problem with using other translations.

    (* By "not elected" I refer to the fact that approval of a bylaw requires a 2/3 approval by ALL congregations, not just those represented at the annual meeting.)

    So at the present time the doctrinal statement officially represents the ALC because a majority of the congregations voted to approve it. It cannot be changed except by approval of the congregations.

    Believe me, getting anything changed in the ALC Federation is like pushing an elephant uphill through molasses in January. Here's how it works: 1) a congregation proposes something at the annual meeting; 2) The proposal is tabled and sent to the congregations for consideration at the NEXT annual meeting; 3) At the second annual meeting the proposal is initially met with rancor and vilification because nobody has bothered to explain to the other congregations the reasoning behind the proposal, so it either dies or is tabled to another annual meeting; 4) At the THIRD annual meeting, the proposal may be approved if the congregations are agreeable or it may be rejected if they disagree -- and there will still be intense debate at the annual meeting which is pointless because the congregations have already directed their delegates how to vote; and 4) It will probably come up again and again and again. (I have been a delegate to the annual meeting of the Federation.)

    Despite all that, as Norah indicated, you'll find much variation among ALC congregations from hardliners to gracers. You'll also find groups of people who've left the ALC because it's too hardline, and people who've left because it's not hardline enought. Take your pick!

  5. About the only thing the Central Board gets to decide without approval from the congregations is that they choose who speaks at the Convention services.

  6. Question - Must congregations be actual members of the Federation to be allowed a vote? I recall hearing that, at one ALC convention business meeting, a congregation was allowed a vote (by proxy?) even though it was unclear if the congregation was an actual ALC member congregation. The convention may have decided that this congregation had voted previously and that past practice could rule. It apparently was quite confusing to everyone. What constitutes membership? Up to date financial contributions? Vote of the individual congregation to join ALC? Just wondering.

  7. Thanks for the info il Coro... I love your description of how change takes place... (would be funnier,if it wasn't so frustrating!)

    Just me

  8. Shovelor -

    Regarding membership in the Federation and the right to vote, the bylaws of the Federation state thusly:

    Article 3 - "... Therefore, independent congregations, affiliating themselves with this Church, having presented the proper credentials, whether incorporate or not incorporated, and individuals duly called in accordance with the confessions of the church, shall be identified with the legalized 'Apostolic Lutheran Church of America.'"

    Article 5 - "... One delegate, appointed thereto by the congregation affiliated with the Church, shall be authorized to vote. ... If the congregation does not support the Church General Fund with one free will offering during the last fiscal year, or does not abide by the decisions of the delegates made at previous Annual Meetings, or does not use the King James Bible as the pulpit Bible, that conregation delegate shall have a voice but not a vote at the Annual Meeting."

    Part of the procedures at the Annual Meeting is seating of the delegates. The roll is called of each congregation, whereby proxy forms are examined and delegates indicate their presence by congregation, then the convention of delegates is asked to vote on the seating of the roll. (This procedure seems a little odd, in that unseated delegates can vote themselves to be seated, but as there is no one else to do so they must, in effect, "swear by themselves.") Note that all congregations are represented "by proxy": prior to the meeting, the congregations are required to submit a proxy form stating who their delegate is. In this way, a congregation may be represented by one of its own members or by someone else. Likewise, one person may be delegate for multiple congregations. It so happens that sometime on person votes for and against a measure; this can happen because it is not the person but the congregation voting with that person as their delegate by proxy.

    Therefore, if there was a congregation whose delegate was seated without meeting the full requirements, they were seated by the other delegates and in so doing given the right to vote.

    To put it another way, the one who makes the rules can break the rules.

  9. Does anyone know if the OALC has articles of incorporation and bylaws?

  10. Free, I'm quite sure they do. The annual meeting held during June Meetings was conducted as though they have by-laws, etc., as I recall.