MILWAUKEE (BP)--A Lutheran church body that regards the office of the Roman Catholic papacy as the Antichrist found itself thrust into a national spotlight after the departure of Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann from one of its churches.
CNN reported that Bachmann officially terminated her membership at Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minn., on June 21, six days before she declared her intention to run for president. Her former church is part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the third largest Lutheran denomination and, according to some, the most theologically conservative.
Bachmann now attends Eagle Brook Church, a congregation affiliated with the Baptist General Conference, The New York Times reported.
The Washington Post reported that Bachmann stopped attending Salem Lutheran Church two years ago, and her recent official removal from the church roster was a response to the pastor's request that she clarify her membership.
Supposedly at issue was the synod's belief that the Roman Catholic papacy fits the biblical description of the Antichrist. Mark G. Schroeder, synod president, wrote in a statement on the synod's website that the Lutheran Confessions -- which the synod holds as an accurate reflection of biblical truth -- identify why the papacy is the Antichrist: It claims to speak with authority and even infallibility; it claims salvation only comes through the Roman Catholic Church; and it emphasizes that faith and works are both necessary for salvation.
"In holding to each of these teachings, the Roman Catholic Papacy placed itself in clear opposition to the foundation of the Christian faith, and therefore in opposition to Christ himself," Schroeder wrote.
Even when Bachmann was attending Salem Lutheran Church, she distanced herself -- and her church -- from WELS' views on the papacy during a 2006 debate, according to the Christian Post, which reported that Bachmann said her pastor "was absolutely appalled that someone would put that out. It's abhorrent, it's religious bigotry. I love Catholics, I'm a Christian, and my church does not believe that the pope is the Antichrist, that's absolutely false."
Jared Wicks, theologian-in-residence at John Carroll University, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the synod is misinterpreting the Catholic doctrine of infallibility as well as the church's teachings on salvation.
"Popes since the 1850s have said that salvation goes far beyond the Catholic Church," Wicks the Journal Sentinel.
Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, told the Catholic News Agency that while he regretted the synod's doctrine on the papacy, he found no evidence of anti-Catholic bigotry on Bachmann's part.
"Just as President Barack Obama is not responsible for the views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rep. Bachmann must be judged on the basis of her own record," he told the Catholic News Agency.
PURITY IN THE WORKPLACE BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT -- Evangelical leaders striving to maintain their sexual purity are facing new challenges in today's corporate climate, where close contact between men and women is increasingly common.
"As laudable as Dr. Graham's practice was -- to never meet privately with a woman -- it's a practical impossibility in today's workplace environment," Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College and author of Faith in the Halls of Power, told the Christian Post.
Women are increasingly mingling with men in leadership among evangelical organizations. The Post reported that Cherie Harder took the helm of the Trinity Forum, Joanna Mockler became chair of World Vision's board, and six women became presidents of evangelical colleges.
W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, told the Post that studies indicate greater numbers of the opposite sex at work are linked to more infidelity.
Some men, aware of the risks, are taking precautions to protect their marriages. Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson, told the Post that among his strategies are refusing to eat or travel alone with a woman -- he made an exception for a business trip when a woman's male colleague was sick -- and talking with his wife about everything.
Hyatt warned that men shouldn't be fooled into thinking they are ever safe from temptation.
"Men that are wise will be intentional about this," he told the Post. "It's naive to think that somehow we can be so sanctified that we don't have to take into account our biology.... I've seen ministries, individuals' lives ruined because of a moment of indiscretion."
John Evans is a writer based in Houston.
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