| August 26,
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
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
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
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
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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