MAHTOMEDI (AP) -- They say they cannot, they will not, recant.
More than 1,000 Lutherans spent the weekend organizing opposition to some conditions of an alliance with the Episcopal Church they say compromise some of their beliefs, especially regarding how bishops are ordained.
Now the WordAlone Network, having completed its constituting convention in this St. Paul suburb, is hoping for a compromise while acknowledging the possibility of a worst-case scenario: being kicked out of the Chicago-based ELCA -- the largest Lutheran organization in the world -- and left to start a new church.
WordAlone supporters don't oppose the alliance to recognize and share Episcopal sacraments and clergy and cooperate in missionary projects, which the Evangelical Church in America approved in the August vote. Together, the two churches total about 7.5 million members.
What members of the WordAlone Network, which began as an Internet campaign after the pact was approved last summer, opposeis the mandatory ''historic episcopate,'' in which three predecessor bishops -- believed to be from a line extending back to Christ's apostles -- ordain new bishops by the laying of hands. They question the integrity of that lineage.
Members spent the weekend aligning their views, electing an executive board and taking care of other administrative matters to solidify their organization.
The Rev. Roger Eigenfeld, elected president of the WordAlone's executive board last weekend, suspects a significant minority of the 5.1 million ELCA members are sympathetic to WordAlone's cause.
''The question now is, how do you stay a loyal opponent? And will the ELCA make room for us?'' said Eigenfeld, who is also pastor of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, the host congregation.
It is that fine line between loyalty and dissension that WordAlone is trying to toe. Eigenfeld said a split from the ELCA is highly undesirable; splinter churches are typically minor, he said.
''If it came to that, we would be prepared to do that,'' Eigenfeld said. ''But we definitely don't want that. We love this church.''
The Rev. Mark Hanson, bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod of the ELCA, doesn't think the historic episcopate goes against Lutheran beliefs. But he said he appreciates hearing WordAlone's commitment to stay with the ELCA.
''We'll continue to have conversations about the issues that have been raised,'' Hanson said.
Hanson said the ELCA church council, the denomination's national governing body, meets beginning Friday in Chicago. He said the council has received WordAlone's compromise proposals.
''It's my hope that a response would be forthcoming,'' Hanson said. ''The challenge will be to find a compromise."
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