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Spiritual Division in North American Zion Led to Heresy

LLC Board of Directors | The Voice of Zion January 2023 --


The spiritual division that has troubled our North American Zion for many years has sorrowfully led to heresy. During the 2022 LLC Annual Meeting, congregation delegates formally acknowledged that two congregations no longer travel in unity with other member congregations. Discord surfaced soon after the 2015 LLC Summer Services. In the years that followed, some alleged that the teaching of our Laestadian Lutheran Church (LLC) was wrong on a number of points of doctrine. These matters were discussed in small group meetings, joint board meetings, regional meetings, and continent-wide meetings. Among points of doctrine discussed were justification, the office of the Holy Spirit, the relationship between the written and spoken Word of God, the relationship between God’s Word and God’s congregation, the essence and role of the congregation, the forgiveness of sins, confession, and the role of the congregation’s servants.


A continent-wide meeting of congregation board members, annual meeting delegates, and speakers was held May 7–8, 2021, to discuss the growing spiritual division and doctrinal questions. Two days of extensive discussion at this meeting, like earlier meetings, did not result in one-mindedness and unity. Two distinct voices were heard. The Apostle John writes, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). Most congregation representatives and meeting participants agreed that the Holy Spirit had spoken through the mouths of God’s children and guided the discussion. They heard the familiar voice of the Good Shepherd. Some, however, were of a different mind. They did not hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and did not join in saying “it felt good to the Holy Ghost and to us” (Acts 15:28). The Holy Spirit calls and unifies God’s children in understanding, mutual faith, and spirit (Eph. 4:3,4). Years of discussion made it clear that a false spirit was dividing our North American Zion. The meeting openly acknowledged that there were two groups in our midst and that we could not long continue as a divided flock.


Jesus said that false teachers are known by their fruits (Matt. 7:16). God’s Word clearly identifies the fruits of His Spirit and the fruits of the flesh. The fruits of the Spirit include love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, while the works of the flesh include hatred, discord, strife, and heresies (Gal. 5:20,22,23). Among those who have departed, the critical mind and spirit with which they viewed and approached God’s congregation and its servants in North America have borne fruits of discord and strife. They did not see God’s congregation here as a golden candlestick and thus they did not heed Jesus’ instruction: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:29).


In addition to these fruits, disturbing traits appeared in the positions of some who have departed. Among these was a rebuffing, at times even a belittling, of sanctification. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:2). Minimizing its place in the lives of God’s children leads to unwatchfulness in the endeavor, a dismissing of the danger of sin, and a diminishing of the importance of confession. This was accompanied by another disturbing trait, namely, the dismissal of the importance of preaching absolution in sermons and in general.


The Holy Spirit continues the work of Christ in His congregation. The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies God’s congregation on earth. Martin Luther said: “I believe that there is on earth a little holy flock or community of pure saints under one head, Christ. It is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, mind, and understanding. It possesses a variety of gifts yet is united in love without sect or schism.” 1 This unity of faith, mind, and understanding is not achieved by human wisdom, debate, or negotiation but by the Holy Spirit’s teaching and enlightenment of God’s Word in the congregation. Luther further explains, “The Holy Spirit reveals and preaches that Word, and by it he illumines and kindles hearts so that they grasp and accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.” 2


At the 2022 LLC Annual Meeting, delegates raised the issue of the spiritual division in the North American Zion and the danger of the harm and confusion it spread. During a free and open discussion, meeting delegates and attendees shared a loving call to repentance to restore unity of faith. This call was neither recognized nor accepted as the call of the Holy Spirit. Delegates recognized a different voice and spirit in the speeches of delegates and guests from Minneapolis and Wolf Lake and that those congregations did not travel in unity of spirit with other LLC member congregations. Delegates then made a motion to formally remove the Minneapolis and Wolf Lake congregations as member organizations in the LLC. The motion was discussed at length and then passed with near unanimous approval. The motion was in accord with the LLC bylaws which state that member congregations are required to “act in conformity with the same spirit and doctrine confessed by the other member congregations” (Article II, Section 1).


We sorrow over this heresy and pray for the return of all who have strayed and become lost. We recognize that the Apostle Paul’s words have been fulfilled in our midst: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). We pray that they might still find grace to walk footsteps of repentance and return to the Father’s house, to His living congregation. It is the kingdom of grace here on earth, through which leads the way to the kingdom of glory in heaven.


LLC Board of Directors

Northwest: Roger Plough, Carey Simonson, Dean Simonson, Marv Wittenberg

Southwest: David Edwards, Michael Kumpula, Lauri Nevala

East-Central: Randy Hillukka, Petri Hotari, Jim Jurmu, George Koivukangas, Peter Kuopus, Rick Nevala, Sam Roiko, Keith Waaraniemi


Sources:

  1. Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 417.

  2. Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 416.

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