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The slightly Lutheran congresswoman

When reports started circulating that Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann was a member of a congregation in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, I thought: this could be interesting.

The WELS is a small (400,000-member) denomination known for its rigid confessionalism--a description that is not just mine but one used by most other Lutherans. (See Lutheran Churches in the World, produced by the Lutheran World Federation.) WELS adheres to a strict interpretation of the Lutheran confessions of faith that were written in the 16th century, and its rigidity is such that it broke off relations with the conservative Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod in the 1960s and refuses cooperation with church bodies other than those with which it is in total theological agreement. I don't think there are any. (CORRECTION: That isn't strictly accurate: the WELS is in fellowship with one other church body in the U.S.--the tiny (40,000-member) Evangelical Lutheran  Synod--as well as with some Lutheran groups abroad. --DH)

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to have a presidential candidate who is a conservative Christian not as in "conservative evangelical" but as in conservative, creedal, sacramental, confessional Lutheran. How would her Lutheran understanding of the two kingdoms, and of law and gospel, shape her politics?

But it turns out Bachmann no longer belongs to the WELS's Salem Lutheran Church, hasn't attended Salem for months, and claims no ties to the WELS. This came out after the Atlantic pointed out that the WELS officially regards the papacy as the Antichrist and that this might be a political liability for Bachman.

The Atlantic's comment roused several commentators to say that they were shocked that anyone was shocked by WELS's stance. After all, isn't that what Lutherans believe? Well, not most of them.

Mollie Hemingway, for example, writing in the Wall Street Journal, took the view that of course Lutherans think the papacy is the Antichrist, and aren't they are entitled to their beliefs? She sought to minimize such "strong rhetoric" by pointing out that the "current pope, Benedict XVI, is particularly close to the Lutherans."

Well, yes, the current pope is close to some Lutherans, and he even helped forge an agreement with the Lutheran World Federation on justification. But Hemingway might have admitted that the pope is not close to WELS Lutherans, and that WELS Lutherans would have nothing to do with any ecumenical conversation or agreement with him.

In any event, Bachmann does not appear to have distinctive WELS-related views on the papacy or on anything else. As Sarah Posner reports, Bachmann is a conservative Christian "mishmash"--a Lutheran "moved by Francis Schaeffer to get involved in conservative politics, who attended a law school founded by a Pentecostal and a Christian Reconstructionist."

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I am shocked by the lack of integrity in this post. First, the blatant false statement that the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is not in fellowship with any other church body is completely false. They are members of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Council, and in fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod here in the United States, and 23 other Lutheran church bodies around the world. A simple glance at Wikipedia would have revealed that without even having to scroll down the page. But it seems that the author is not interested in truth but slander. The current pope also recognized that the Roman position on Justification has not changed as a result of JDDJ and that the canons of Trent are still very much in effect, including canon 9 which states: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema." This condemns the central belief of the Lutheran faith to eternal damnation. That the LWF signed on to this Joint Declaration simply proves that its members are just as Lutheran as Mrs. Bachmann.

We've posted a correction in

We've posted a correction in the post above.

Thank you!

AMEN!!!!!! That comment hits the nail squarely on the head.

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