was a Roman Catholic with a predilection toward reincarnation. Atthe conference there was, of course, communion. I did not partici-pate, and several of the volunteers followed my lead, much to theconsternation of the LAMP pastor-pilot present. This issue causedrather intense discussion back at the training center. Those whosupport LAMP should know that its pastor-pilots
y here andthere across the north communing Christians without regard forconfession. Non-Lutherans are welcome as volunteers in LAMP’sprograms. This is the case with pastor-pilots of both the LutheranChurch—Canada (LCC, a sister church of the LCMS) and theEvangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC, a sister church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).This should come as no surprise, given LAMP’s own o
cialdescription of its work: “The Lutheran Association of Missionar-ies and Pilots (LAMP) is an independent mission organizationassisting the Christian church with ministry in sparsely settled orphysically isolated areas of Canada and the United States.” Thisall-inclusive and decidedly ecumenical statement of purpose isdirectly at odds with the LCMS constitution, which places as acondition for membership the “renunciation of unionism andsyncretism of every description” and the renunciation of “takingpart in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congrega-tions or of congregations of mixed confession” and “participatingin heterodox tract and missionary activities” (Article
Minis-tering to dear Christian people of various confessions in very iso-lated areas with consolation, comfort, and encouragement wouldbe one thing. But LAMP is fully committed to full ecumenicalparticipation: in other words, to the practice of altar and pulpitfellowship with all Christians. I contend that when such is thecase, the gospel su
ers.Through intense study of the New Testament and the historicdoctrine of the Lutheran Church, as well as the history of hermissions, I became rather convinced that the problem of Indians“not allowing Lutheran churches” was rather an excuse forLutherans not allowing to Indians Lutheran churches. LAMP inits inception had been a brilliant idea, but it had devolved into abasically ecumenical organization that had surrendered any insistence on the purity of the marks of the church—the gospelrightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered—forbroad ecumenical acceptance and opportunity in the north.LAMP’s approach, heavily in
uenced by the Pietist deemphasisof the gospel-and-sacraments marks of the church, simply wasand is incapable of building the church in any real sustainableway in the north.It is true that little children—thousands of them!—hear thegospel through the Vacation Bible School teams that LAMP
iesnorth every summer. I rejoice over this fact. But much of that life isnot sustained by regular life about the gospel. As I myself wit-nessed, the religious groups that expend the most e
ort amongIndians, that establish churches and with which LAMP readily cooperates, often preach a di
erent gospel. I’ll never forget oneMennonite missionary in the north who insisted on works playinga part in our salvation, since Paul had said, “Work out your salva-tion with fear and trembling.” I had conducted a LAMP VacationBible School with her and her husband. It’s hard to imagine theconfusion and law-oriented darkness that reigns unless one spendssigni
cant time among these people.
theology and perfectionism. But the average Indian is not a fool. Hehas better insight into the human condition than most white “mis-sionaries.” He knows law religion is a farce. Since this kind of reli-gion is, by and large, what is available to him in the churches presentin the north, he rejects the organized church. He can’t be a Christianbecause he knows he can’t be sinless. (The theology of perfection-ism is, of course, much more prevalent in the Mennonite, Amish,Pentecostal, and holiness strains of the United Church.)Shortly before we were to leave Deer Lake, the neighboringUnited Church pastor, who was an Indian, came and told us,“The people here want you to stay.” That was one of the mostgratifying sentences I had ever heard, especially since our LAMPpastor-pilot had earlier admitted that, of all the volunteers in theprogram, he was most concerned with me disrupting the villagebecause of “conservative views.” In spite of the invitation, we hadto leave. Seminary was waiting.
A NEW OUTLOOK
I don’t remember exactly when it began to dawn on me, but as Iseriously studied the New Testament and Lutheran theology at theseminary, I began to wonder about the truth of the statement “TheIndians won’t allow Lutheran churches.” Perhaps it was true some-where at one time, and may yet be so in many places, but was it anironclad rule? For a while I maintained some hope of workingwithin LAMP as a pastor-pilot. I even had at least one extendedphone conversation with its Executive Director. He spoke positively of my coming aboard LAMP, given our very excellent experience inDeer Lake. The di
cult question I had was, Could I in any way maintain the biblical and confessional Lutheran—and historiccatholic—principles of church fellowship and still
nd a place inLAMP? The question I posed was, “Is there room in LAMP for apastor-pilot who takes seriously the constitution and confession of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)?” The answerwas a clear though circuitous
. That was really the answer Ineeded to hear. It was really the same question that men likeJohann Gottfried Scheibel and Georg Philipp Huschke posed tothemselves
years earlier. They couldn’t maintain Lutheran prin-ciples of fellowship
the Prussian Union either.
I knew full well LAMP’s position on the fellowship issues. Whenstill in training, the volunteers attended a conference on nativeministry in Manitoba. Those present ranged from an essentially Unitarian native theologian from the University of Minnesota, toPentecostals, to a native Roman Catholic priest for whom the peacepipe was the eighth sacrament. One of our own LAMP volunteers
LAMP in its inception had been a brilliant idea, but it had devolved into a basically ecumenical organization that had surren- dered any insistence on the purity of the marks of the church.