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August 26, 2009
Column #1,461
Evangelical Lutherans - Another Split Over Gays?
By Mike McManus

By a decisive 2-1 vote the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a 4.8 million member communion, voted to ordain gay and lesbian clergy living in "committed relationships" with someone of the same gender.

And it approved a resolution that commits the ELCA "to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable, life-long monogamous, same-gender relationships."

Lutheran conservatives were horrified!  "This is a tragic division that will move ELCA away from most of its members, most other Lutheran Churches in the world, and most of the rest of Christian churches," said Rev. Mark Chavez, the leader of two ELCA reform organizations: Word Alone and the Coalition for Reform (CORE).

How could he say that the ELCA "will move away from most of its members," when two-thirds of delegates supported the changes? He noted that when the Task Force first presented same-sex ordination and marriage in 2004, it was rejected by 57% of ELCA members.

Not surprisingly, the more conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, with 2.4 million members, opposed the ELCA action, and thinks the Lutheran name has been tarnished. A LCMS Church in State College, PA bought an ad for the local newspaper which states: "In a changing world it is good to know that one thing never changes. Come home to a place where the teachings of Jesus are the same yesterday, today and forever. Experience the difference. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church."

In fact, LCMS President, Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, addressed the ELCA Convention, frankly stating, "The Bible condemns homosexual behavior as `intrinsically sinful.' It is therefore contrary to the will of the Creator and constitutes sin against the commandments of God (Lev. 18:33…I Cor. 6:9-20; I Tim 1:9-10; and Rom. 1:26, 27).

The ELCA convention also adopted a clever strategy aimed at keeping everyone in the club  by approving a Social Statement called "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," that recognizes FOUR "different understandings and practices" which co-exist within the church:

1. "On the basis of conscience-bound belief some are convinced that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law…"

2.  "On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that homosexuality…reflect(s) a broken world in which some relationships do not pattern themselves after the creation God intended" and can be "lived out with mutuality and care," but they should not be recognized "as traditional marriage."

3. "On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that the scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation."  While they cannot "equate these relationships with marriage," churches "may want to surround lifelong monogamous relationships or covenant unions with prayer."

4.  "On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that" the community is "best served when same-gender relationship are lived out with lifelong and monogamous commitments that are held to the same rigorous standards, sexual ethics and status as heterosexual marriage" and should "seek the highest legal accountability."

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, charged that "this pluralism allows for radically different theologies to reside within one denomination and for fundamentally divergent understanding of Scripture and biblical authority to coexist. All parties now recognize that this coexistence will be very hard to maintain."

He is right.  And, in fact, there will be a meeting of orthodox ELCA Lutherans in Indianapolis in September to create a "confessional fellowship to take on many of the functions of a synod," says Rev. Paull Spring, founder of CORE.  He says "We are not starting a new church."

However, Rev. Chavez, the Executive Director of CORE, says, "Our goal is to pull together as many congregations - and synods - as possible, who will take a confessional stand" that is contrary to the ELCA permissiveness.

In speaking about the "Human Sexuality" statement, with its no less than four positions on gay marriage, Chavez charged, "A Social Statement is supposed to be a teaching document, not describe positions that are all over the map, which is more descriptive of our culture than of the church."

He noted that conservative Episcopalians created a similar organization, a network of Anglicans who shared a traditional belief in heterosexual marriage that ultimately led to the creation of the Anglican Church of North America, a new denomination of 100,000 members.

CORE and Word Alone now involve 400 congregations, the equivalent of two ELCA synods, and more will join.  Four dioceses abandoned the Episcopal Church from such diverse states as California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois to create ACNA.

Tragically, this is another example of a Mainline Church that has confused therapeutic perception of social justice which is man-made and fleeting, with the Word which is eternal.

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