ELCA: How Did We Come to This? by Robert Benne

 
During last week’s biennial Church Wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the church affirmed major policy recommendations to allow for the blessing of same-sex unions (which practice will soon inflate to same-sex marriage) and the rostering of gay and lesbian pastors in partnered relationships. Earlier in the week it also passed by one vote-out of over a thousand total votes cast-a Social Statement on Sexuality that admitted there was no consensus on the moral evaluation of homosexual conduct, and offered no compelling biblical or theological reasons to support the policies it later in fact adopted.

The Statement was firm and bold on issues that everyone agreed upon-the moral condemnation of promiscuity, pornography, sexual exploitation, etc.-but indecisive and vague about contested issues-co-habitation, premarital sex, the importance of the nuclear family, and, of course, homosexual conduct. Right before the vote on the Social Statement a totally unexpected tornado hit the Minneapolis Conference Center where we were meeting as well as the huge Central Lutheran Church next door, knocking the cross off one of its towers. Orthodox voting members saw the work of God in the tornado’s cross-toppling effects and in the vote that passed with a .666 majority. Revisionists noted that the sun came out after the vote. In response the orthodox quipped that the sun comes out almost every day but rogue tornados are pretty rare.

Those in the orthodox camp warned the assembly not to vote on binding church doctrine, especially if it had no convincing biblical or theological arguments to overturn the moral consensus of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church held throughout the ages and by 99% of the world’s Christians. Such action would identify the ELCA with a rapidly declining liberal Protestantism while departing from orthodox teaching and practice. Strong arguments against the Social Statement and policy recommendations were made by pastors and laypersons-bishops were for the most part silent-to no avail. The church left the Great Tradition of moral teaching to identify with the United Church of Christ and the Episcopalians.

How did this come to be? On the one hand, the fact that the largest American Lutheran church body had become the first confessional church to accept homosexual conduct was a traumatic shock to many. There was much anger and anguish. On the other hand, the decision was not at all unexpected by those of us who have fought against the underlying currents operating in the church from its very inception. The fight has been long yet predictable. Liberal Protestantism was the ELCA’s destination. Indeed, its presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson-is fast becoming the charismatic leader of liberal Protestantism.

“There is nothing but the Social Gospel,” shouted a voting member at the assembly. But that is certainly not Lutheran doctrine. The various programs of social change taken to heart by the church are human works in God’s left-hand reign, having to do with the Law, not the Gospel. Rather, the real Gospel is clear: the grace of God in Jesus Christ is offered to repentant sinners condemned by the Law and then called to amendment of life by the Spirit. Liberating efforts in the realm of social and political change are possibly effects of the Gospel, but certainly not the Gospel itself.

But the ELCA has accepted the Social Gospel as its working theology even though its constitution has a marvelous statement of the classic Gospel. The liberating movements fueled by militant feminism, multiculturalism, anti-racism, anti-heterosexism, anti-imperialism, and now ecologism have been moved to the center while the classic Gospel and its missional imperatives have been pushed to the periphery. The policies issuing from these liberationist themes are non-negotiable in the ELCA, which is compelling evidence that they are at the center. No one can dislodge the ELCA’s commitment to purge all masculine language about God from its speech and worship, to demur on the biblically normative status of the nuclear family, to refuse to put limits on abortion in its internal policies or to advocate publicly for pro-life policies, to press for left-wing public domestic and foreign policy, to replace evangelism abroad with dialog, to commit to “full inclusion” of gays and lesbians at the expense of church unity, and to buy in fully to the movement against global warming. Though it is dogmatic on these issues it is confused about something as important as the assessment of homosexual conduct. Yet, it acts anyway because of the pressure exerted by those who want to liberate church and society from heterosexism. (cont.)

Read full article: VirtueOnline

 

_______________________________________

 

 – Robert Benne was a voting member of the Virginia Synod at the 2009 Church Wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is Director of the Roanoke College Center for Religion and Society.

 

Feel free to make comments pro, or con.

 

 

Advertisements

What’s in a Name?

From  The-Christian-Post

Reporter Charles Boyd

The sign outside the church would usually read St. Timothy Lutheran Church. But the word “Lutheran” has been covered over and now simply reads   St. Timothy Church.

The minister of the Charleston, W.Va., church, the Rev. Richard Mahan, explained his actions to his congregation during service on Sunday.

“I asked that this be done because I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed of what the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has done to a church I’ve loved for 40 years,” he said.

Last week, ELCA’s highest legislative body voted to lift the denomination’s ban on noncelibate gay and lesbian clergy.

On Sunday, Mahan used his sermon to teach his congregants, which typically numbers 300 to 400 each Sunday, about homosexuality. He told them, “We welcome the sinner, but we do not welcome the sin. All are welcome, but the sin is not.”

“We have always welcomed gays and lesbians to our church, but according to the word of God, we do not believe they are to be ordained,” he said, according to the Charleston Daily Mail. “I am not speaking out against the gay and lesbian community, but I am speaking out against the ordination of gays and lesbians as pastors and bishops and leaders of the church – and the blessing of same-sex marriages.”

Mahan’s stance was widely supported by his congregation, who gave him a standing ovation during the service.

The pastor urged the congregation to pray about what they should do next in response to the vote. He reassured them, however, that nothing would change regarding the church’s mission in the mean time.

“Let me assure you, nothing is going to change here at St Timothy. Jesus is still the same. The Bible is still the divinely inspired word of God.”

Mahan believes that the vote will split the church and may see a number of individual congregations choose to abandon the ELCA.

Explaining his own convictions, he said, “I love everyone. I love all people. This is just completely contradictory to the word of God. I love homosexuals, have ministered to them, and had homosexuals in my congregation. Nowhere in the Bible does it say you can have same-sex marriage.”

_________________________________________________________

 

Do you think this pastor and his congregation did the right thing?