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The Loyal Opposition

by Dan Biles — September 09, 2009

The issue in the ELCA, post-churchwide assembly is: What are we going to do now? How will we live together in this very fractured church, in spite of our disagreements? Some advocate leaving the ELCA and forming a new Lutheran church altogether. I do not think it is viable alternative. It strikes me as sectarianism, even if it goes by the name Lutheran. Those who cut off from a relationship always bring the wounds from the previous relationship into any new church they create, usually in unhealthy ways. So, if we stay, how shall we live? Borrowing from our English and American political history, I suggest that we become the loyal opposition...

The issue in the ELCA, post-churchwide assembly (CWA) is: What are we going to do now? How will we live together in this very fractured church, in spite of our disagreements?

Pastors and congregations are figuring out what to do. The options are many. As Robert Benne wrote in a recent article after the CWA (“How Did We Come to This?”):

There will be a profusion of different responses by congregations and individuals. Many congregations and individuals will leave the ELCA. Others will bide their time to see what Lutheran CORE (Lutheran Coalition for Renewal) will become as it strives to articulate and then embody the best of Lutheranism. Many will withdraw from involvement in the ELCA and its synods and live at the local level. Many others will try to live on as if nothing happened.

Some advocate leaving the ELCA and forming a new Lutheran church altogether. I do not think it is viable alternative. It strikes me as sectarianism, even if it goes by the name Lutheran. Those who cut off from a relationship always bring the wounds from the previous relationship into any new church they create, usually in unhealthy ways.

So, if we stay, how shall we live? Borrowing from our English and American political history, I suggest that we become the loyal opposition.

The idea of “loyal opposition,” as it originated in England and in the U.S. after the election of Thomas Jefferson, is that one can be opposed to the actions of the government or ruling party of the day without being opposed to the constitution of the political system. That’s what those who are opposed to what happened at CWA should become by whatever organizational means they find most suited to the long-range goal of calling the ELCA to repentance and return to the foundations of Scripture, creeds, and the Lutheran Confessions.

Both “loyal” and “opposition” need further clarification.

We are, first loyal. We are loyal to this Church, the ELCA. We are loyal even though it has erred in its decisions at CWA. It is still the Body of Christ, even though though right now it is diseased, suffering from an infection of postmodernism. (Even Luther, at his vitriolic highest, while calling the pope the antichrist, never said the whole Church was apostate. By Christ’s own promise, that is not possible. As God made clear to Elijah at Horeb, there is always a faithful remnant.)

I don’t think you could get a more succinct statement of the sickness at the heart of the ELCA than this quote that recently appeared in our local paper in an article about the CWA:

“Tim Mumm, an assembly delegate from Whitewater, Wisconsin, said the Scripture that guides opponents of the more liberal policy was written by mortals, at a much earlier time, and doesn’t reflect what many Christians now believe.”

There it is: “Written by mortals at a much earlier time. Doesn’t reflect what many Christians believe.” That is postmodernist philosophy at its clearest: no authority other than the self, religion as subjective expression of one’s interests, values, feelings. All tradition is dismissed as an outdated relic of the past. Can we still sing Luther’s great hymn, “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word”?

It must be understood that the real issue at CWA was not sexuality. It was the authority of Scripture, Creed, and our Lutheran Confessions. This relates to a whole raft of other issues that have been eating away like corrosive acid at the faith of our church: baptisms in names other than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; confessions of faith other than the Apostles’, Nicene, or Athanasian Creeds (e.g., the “creed” that was “confessed” at Goodsoil’s service during CWA); worship skewed to fit political or social agendas; the abolishment of Scripture from the life of the church, especially worship, as it is replaced by politically correct paraphrases.

As one pastor wrote me, “The vote in Minneapolis was the brick that broke the camel’s back. Ever since the formation of the ELCA, the Scriptures, creeds, and Confessions have been ignored in the ecumenical agreements, in the new Lutheran study Bible, and in social action. Some pastors have struggled in this but each one separately was not enough to make one leave. The homosexual vote brought the issue out in the open to the laity. Now we have a full-blown, obvious situation.”

Yet, we are still loyal to this Church. We are loyal to its constitution, which confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation for all who believe. The constitution accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life—even if the last CWA in its decisions forgot this. The constitution accepts the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this congregation—even though some in this ELCA replace the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with others of their own devision. The constitution accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel and the other Lutheran confessional documents as valid interpretations of the Christian faith.

We are loyal to the Church, so part of our work must be to call this erring ELCA back to its true foundation: the Gospel, recorded in the Holy Scriptures and confessed in the ecumenical creeds and Lutheran confessional writings, as the power of God to create and sustain the church for God’s mission in the world.

Because of our loyalty to the Church, we must oppose the direction of the current ruling party. We must fight the infections of postmodernism and Gnosticism that are making this Church sick. We must take a stand against the ELCA’s drift into liberal Protestantism and for a return to catholic and orthodox teaching and practice.

Because we are loyal to the church, we must oppose the recent decisions on sexuality and ministry policies made at the CWA. We must simply, steadfastly state: the CWA erred. Majorities are not infallible. Majorities make mistakes. As Martin Luther noted in 1521 at his trial at the Diet of Worms, “Popes and councils [and ELCA Churchwide Assemblies] have erred.” But God’s Word does not err. The Holy Spirit, according to Jesus’ promise, leads the church into all truth and keeps it united in the one true faith.

Because we are loyal to the Church, we cannot cooperate with the new situation post-CWA. How this non-cooperation will take place, what forms it will take, remain to be worked out. But our response must be firm, steadfast, peaceful non-cooperation. There are already hopeful signs in this direction; e.g., the vision of Lutheran CORE.

Being the loyal opposition is the harder road to take. It is the way of the cross. It is so much easier to walk out with our heads held high, proud and sure of the rightness of our cause. There is a great emotional payoff in telling someone, even the ELCA: “We will have nothing more to do with you.” Cutting off is always easy. But the Lord Jesus and the witness of the Scriptures tell us this is not the way God’s people operate. Even in the worst days of Israel sins, the prophets did not abandon God’s people. When Elijah cut oout and went to Horeb, God told him to return to His people and resume his ministry. In the darkest days of Judah’s fall from grace, Jeremiah invested in real estate.

The path of loyal opposition will require of us patience, persistence, and a high degree of civility. Ranting at the ELCA will not serve our cause. We shall have to walk the narrow road of maintaining respectful contact with our opponents, even while honestly disagreeing with them and refusing to cooperate with the direction they are taking the ELCA.

But we can do this in confidence that we will be heard. After all, they must accept us. Not to do so would violate the cardinal doctrine of liberal Protestantism: “We are an inclusive church.” (Or prove that, after all, nothing is more intolerant than liberalism’s tolerance.) And who knows when a word from us will succeed in calling the ELCA to metanoia—“to change one’s mind”—i.e., repentance. And changing its mind is what the ELCA needs to do.

In the most recent issue of De Trinitate, the newsletter of the Society of the Holy Trinity, Frank Senn made this very astute observation even before the CWA was held: “The actions of the CWA will resolve nothing. This is one of those issues that will take a century to resolve, just like gnosticism and Arianism in the ancient church.”

It is good to have the perspective of history. At one time, Arianism even seemed to have the upper hand in the church, and its great opponent, Athanasius, often suffered many defeats before orthodox teaching prevailed. We should realize that we are bit players in a long play. We need to play our role as the Loyal Opposition patiently, firmly, persistently, speaking the truth in love, contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, trusting that God’s Word forever shall abide.

Dan Biles is the Pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.

Fighting

Posted by David Pross at September 09, 2009 06:07
I was no great military strategist, nor even an officer, but one thing I have learnt of military strategy is that at some point, one has to retreat and regroup. The Marines call it "advancing in a different direction." Fighter pilots say "light the pipes and bug out."

To do that, one has to admit that one has lost - no easy thing.

I think one must face the question: is the organisation of the ELCA worth the blood, sweat and loyalty Pr. Biles is asking to put into the ELCA? Or is the body itself so diseased that an amputation is in order?

I doubt very much that traditionalists would even be able to be a "loyal opposition." In the Westminster parliamentary system still practiced much more in the UK and the Dominions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand than in the US Congress. If you've ever seen Question Period in the British and Dominion Parliaments, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition still have the guaranteed right to be called upon and speak their piece, which they do quite vigorously (and quite profanely, in the case of Australia). The Westminster framework assures that, going back to 1215 (all those poli-sci courses were worth it, after all!).

In the ELCA, the framework has been changed. The "majority party" does not have to give the opposition traditionalists free voice, nor is there a mandated Question Period. No, Pastor, with all due respect, they do not have to listen.

Refusing co-operation? How? Redirecting giving will serve little more than to bring disciplinary action from the synod, as will continuing to preach that homosexual behaviour is a sin.

It will be up to each individual, each pastor, each layperson, to decide whether or not the fight is worth it.

I am as much a fighter as anyone, but it is imprudent to waste one's strength fighting a losing battle.

Only a fool fights in a burning house.

FOR RANK & FILE - IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO MOVE ON

Posted by Don Struckmeyer at September 09, 2009 12:02
DAN,

I'VE POSTED THIS COMMENT BEFORE, AND IT SEEMS TO PROVIDE A GOOD RESPONSE TO YOUR IDEA OF THE "LOYAL OPPOSITION." I'M AFRAID THE ELCA HAS ALLOWED ITSELF TO BE TAKEN OVER BY A THEOLOGY OF PROGRESSIVISM (CHRISTIANITY THROUGH POLITICS)AND THE TRADITONAL FORCES HAVE NOT ONLY LOST THE BATTLE, BUT THE WAR. MOST TELLING, WAS THE "INABILITY" OF THE MAJORITY OF MEMBERS TO INFLUENCE THE PROCESS TO AT LEAST REQUIRE A 2/3RDS SUPERMAJORITY BEFORE THE CHURCH REVERSED ITS TWO THOUSAND-YEARS OF PRINCIPLES.



I've read a lot of the discussion over ordaining practicing "gay" clergy, and most of it, from a "rank & file" member's perspective, is a very "inside baseball" discussion. As a rank-and-file member, I don't have the time (four kids, jobs, family etc.) to fight the "political" movements in the ELCA. So, the simplest solution and most time-effective is to vote with my feet. I am amazed that an elite leadership would be so righteous in their promotion of the gay agenda that they were willing to change a thousand years of tradition and "ignore" the views of members, clergy, and the true consensus in the church - this I find the most disturbing. So, like the commercial about your children, I don't, in fact, "Know Where My Church Is." And, I don't have the time/energy to find out.

The following is an explanation, which I sent to my ministers, as to "why" this issue is so important to a "regular" member:

ORDAINING PRACTICING GAYS WILL REQUIRE THE ACCEPTANCE OF GAY MARRIAGE (AKA UNION):

It is a clear and irrefutable truth that ordaining "practicing" gay clergy will also require the church to bless and support gay marriage. Obviously, the church cannot sanction two people being sexually involved without permitting them to be married within the church. That, of course, will lead to the promotion of the gay lifestyle as part of church's life and activities.

PROMOTING THE GAY LIFESTYLE AND MARRIAGE - WILL LEAD SOME PEOPLE TO "CHOOSE" THAT LIFESTYLE:

Some people are truly gay as a result of how God made them. And, that is one of the strongest reasons for not condemning anyone who is gay, practicing or not. However, people can also, through free will, choose to be gay. In history, there have been societies that have fully accepted the gay life style with a substantial portion of their population practicing homosexuality. However, is that what God wants for his world? It would appear that both the natural world and the practical world indicate that the preferable lifestyle for a family is to be headed by one mother and one father. The marriage of one woman and one man has also been the western world's model for family life and society for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Could there possibly be "wisdom" in that preference or have all the good people who came before us simply been blinded by pointless bigotry? I believe most children benefit from having both a masculine and a feminine influence in their lives. Unfortunately, promoting homosexuality will lead people, who are not necessarily gay, to experiment with it, and perhaps make a conscious decision to go down that path in their lives. Currently, we are having a national debate as to what the proper place for homosexuality is in America. Ordaining practicing gays will, of course, be a step closer to normalizing that lifestyle and equating a gay marriage (union if you prefer) to a heterosexual marriage. Once that is accepted as "truth," our children will be taught in school that there is no difference between the two and anyone should be able to choose the path they're most comfortable with. Of course, anyone who would finds fault with that "truth," will be labeled a bigot.

CANDIDATES FOR SEMINARY ARE DISCRIMINATED ON ALL KIDS OF FACTORS:

Gay candidates are not discriminated because they're gay. As I understand the current policy, adopted not that long ago, a gay person can be ordained as a Lutheran pastor as long as he's committed to the church to the extent that they will not to be a practicing gay. This does not seem to be far from the Catholic's request that priest show the same dedication by not being a practicing heterosexual. I'm sure the church looks at many factors concerning a candidate to determine if they should pursue the ministry: aptitude, dedication, talents, and even age. If it's permissible to discern appropriate candidates by those factors, why shouldn't their commitment and dedication be sought through a pledge to not practice homosexuality?

THE SAME ARGUMENTS WILL SUPPORT POLYGAMY EVEN BETTER:

One of my concerns is that once you start "redefining" thousands of years of wisdom and tradition, e.g. one woman and one man make a marriage, there really is no reason to stop. Every argument for approving practicing gay clergy in the name of "justice" can also be made for accepting polygamy. While no world religion has ever promoted homosexuality, Polygamy has been accepted by several. Closest to home, of course, were the Mormons who practiced polygamy in the 19th century. The United States "discriminated" against the polygamist by requiring Utah to outlaw the practice in order to join the Union. In recent media interviews, polygamists have stated their belief that they are in a "loving" and supporting relationship. (By the way, there is no reason that polygamy can't involve one woman with multiple husbands.) As far as nature's verdict/inclination goes, most people would acknowledge that men are "naturally" polygamist. It is by social norms and personal commitments that they are monogamist. One could easily argue that a many-parent family would even do a better job of raising children.

SOCIETY HAS A RIGHT AND DUTY TO DEFINE MARRIAGE AS ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN:

While not likely tomorrow or the day after, the scenario that polygamy becomes legalized in the name of "fairness," clarifies the obvious fact that society has a right and even a duty to define what a marriage is and what the ideal family structure should be. That, of course, does not deny that a gay couple can have a loving and beautiful family with children. However, for the reasons we are all aware of in our daily lives, it is obvious that gay unions should not be put on the same plain with a union of one-man and one-woman and that society and children, in general, benefit from heterosexual commitments.

OPEN MINDEDNESS IS NOT A "SAFE HARBOR" FROM CONSEQUENCES:

I'm not sure what would drive the clergy, the church, and individuals to promote the homosexual agenda. My guess is a feeling that it is unjust to request that a gay person be asked to deny who they really are. Possibly, it's a question of fairness. While it is right to oppose perceived injustice, there also should be thinking beyond one's feelings. As I tried to explain above, most of us that oppose gay marriage don't do so because of an innate dislike of gay people. We believe, however, there are real consequences to equating homosexuality with heterosexuality. There are also real consequences for determining that society cannot discriminate in this area, e.g., the acceptance of polygamy. I would hope that those who want this change would take a moment and think of what it will mean.

FIAT THROUGH ELITISM

With a national debate going on as to the proper place for homosexuality in American life, why would the ELCA choose, at this time, to enter the fray on the side of approving gay marriage? The current policy of ordaining gays who promise not to practice homosexuality appears completely reasonable - a policy the church had previously accepted not that long ago. The vast majority of Americans are opposed to equating homosexual marriage and heterosexual marriage. Yet, the church feels compelled to push the gay agenda further by changing a reasonable policy to one that promotes the practice of homosexuality and gay marriage. There is no doubt in my mind, that if the proposal were put before the rank-and-file members of the church, it would not be accepted. But my guess is that will never happen. It's also amazing that this issue was not discussed with congregations. I can only think of a couple of possible explanations for leaving members out, and none of them are good.

There have been several times in American history when elitism prevailed over common sense with disastrous results. Most notably, in the Supreme Court's decision Roe Vs Wade, five judges decided they knew the moral and social answer to abortion and decided that a woman's right was "unconditional." Since that decision in the early 1970s, millions of children have been murdered. What was the outdated, outrageous Georgia law that was overturned? The overturned state law allowed a woman to have an abortion in the case of incest, rape, or a threat to her life. Which represents true humanity, the Supreme Court's decision (five judges) or the old Georgia law? In any case, my point is that when a few people presume they have the wisdom and insight to speak for a much larger body of people, thereby denying the larger group the opportunity to debate and consider the issue, we've often had very bad decisions with terrible unintended consequences.

THE 'ODDITY' OF PROMOTING GAY LIVING - WHILE ACCEPTING ABORTION ON DEMAND WITHOUT OPPOSITION:

I truly find it odd, that the leadership in the ELCA wants to "tackle" the gay issue, but are mute concerning abortion on demand. It really wasn't surprising to learn that one of the country's few abortionist who would conduct late term abortions for any reason was a member of a Lutheran Church. Years ago I looked into issues concerning abortion. I was amazed to learn that one of the two large Lutheran churches, before they merged, had actually passed a social statement declaring that abortion was permissible (it was later rescinded) as long as the couple prayerfully considered the action. One of the things to consider according to the statement was their economic situation. No doubt the congregations were also left out of that discussion and final decision. As a side point, the bottom-line explanation in the statement for accepting abortion, under any circumstance was with respect to "evangelical ethic." I never did find out what those crucial words meant - words that would defend the murder of thousands. So, this oddity, for what ever reason, speaks to me that there is a political agenda behind these stands by the church. I don't believe they are, in fact, scripturally driven.

A SIMMERING REDUCTION OF PERSPECTIVE:

When these controversies come up, some of the mainline churches eventually take what I would call the liberal path. From that, I see a continuing reduction of ideas as conservative members leave the churches, like that of a simmering sauce pan, until the only thoughts that are left are the "right" ones.



OK, already

Posted by Paul at September 09, 2009 16:12
This has been posted often enough, now.

Letter to Pastor: The Promotion of Human Weakness is Not the Same as "Caring."

Posted by Don Struckmeyer at September 09, 2009 12:18
THE FOLLOWING IS A RESPONSE TO MY PASTOR:

I believe most issues are a matter of degree. All of the missteps, except for one, that you mentioned (drug dependency, divorce, Affairs, etc.), while not commendable, do not approach the overall harm to American Society of promoting homosexuality.

The one exception is having an affair; I don't believe anyone should continue as a pastor if they've had an affair - it is a "selfish" violation of their sacred pledge to their spouse, and if we take the marriage sacrament seriously, it is the breaking of one's pledge to God. Besides, if they're married to a 100% Norwegian, like I am, they could be missing some of their body parts as a result of that indiscretion.

Having tolerance or even empathy for an unfortunate situation is different from "promoting" the situation. For example, showing care to a pastor having an unavoidable divorce is not the same as the church saying that it makes no difference whether you have a divorce or try to stay married. Of course, the church would want married couples to do what they can to stay committed and keep their families together. In fact, if there was more stigma attached to getting divorced, I'm not sure that would be such a bad thing. We seem to have a lot of people claiming they "fell out of love."

The promotion by the ELCA statement of homosexuality in society for the general population, as in Ancient Greece and Rome, represents a "carnal behavior" that has no potential to realize the purpose of joining a man and a woman in a family. In fact, it is the antithesis of what the Bible indicates God hopes for a man and a woman. It is the antithesis because it usually involves only carnal satisfaction without the risk of pregnancy and with the added excitement of being unusual. Perhaps that's what the bored aristocracy in Greece found so fascinating. In American, nearly half the male encounters involve the same partner only once, hence the notoriety of the sex shops in New York.

Unfortunately, the ELCA statement equivocates homosexual marriage with heterosexual marriage, and therefore, moves forward the gay agenda to "normalize" homosexuality. While it may be difficult not to empathize with a pastoral candidate who is in a truly committed relationship, that situation has to be considered with respect to the effect of "promoting" homosexuality. I believe it will undermine morality in the general populace; something the early Christians, with good reason, were concerned about. To normalize homosexuality will lead people to experiment with it and possibly select it as a lifestyle. We simply don't know for whom it is "natural state" or for whom it could possibly result in a committed, life-long relationship. But we do "know" that the general acceptance of homosexuality as "normal" will undermine the Biblical precept of controlling lust within the confines of a marriage and for the purpose of a family.

I believe the prior policy of allowing gay candidates to become pastors, if they took a pledge of celibacy, was both caring and at the same time recognized that it was not the proper place for the church, a defender of sexual morality, to promote homosexuality as a lifestyle. Like I've mentioned, candidates are excluded on a number of factors, so the requirement of celibacy did not seem unreasonable. If the candidate couldn't live with that pledge, then he/she could pick another profession. It seems "selfish" to me that a gay candidate expected the church to turn its back on tradition, scripture, and its commitment to morality in order for them to be ordained as a "practicing" homosexual. With respect to companionship, the candidate's partner could have also accepted the pledge thereby allowing their continuing relationship.

Considering that gay pastors were to have taken a pledge of celibacy under the prior policy, I'm still unclear why they wanted to make themselves public while pledging to be celibate. Couldn't they just have kept their sexual orientation to themselves? One of my concerns, is that they were simply making a "statement." I think it's obvious that a group, which did not represent a general consensus, pushed forward their agenda over the last eight years. I'm afraid the 1993 policy of ordaining non-practicing gays, which was reasonable, set the stage for the unfortunate spectacle of a Christian denomination effectively promoting homosexuality instead of adhering to its principles. The church should have, instead, simply "cared" for those who, either by nature or by choice, had to live with homosexuality. Most Lutheran churches I know of have been accepting of gay couples, but that, of course, is much different than a denomination endorsing homosexuality.

Yes

Posted by Paul at September 09, 2009 16:15
"I'm afraid the 1993 policy of ordaining non-practicing gays, which was reasonable, set the stage for the unfortunate spectacle of a Christian denomination effectively promoting homosexuality instead of adhering to its principles."

Yes.

"Gay church"

Posted by David Pross at September 09, 2009 19:02
I believe that since 1993 the ELCA has slowly, but irreversibly, become the Metropolitan Community Church with a very slight Lutheran veneer.

Loyalty?

Posted by Rev. Spaceman at September 09, 2009 13:38
I've been loyal to the ELCA for quite some time, even as a sexuality agenda was being shoved down my throat throughout my education. I've tried to work for positive reform. I commend those who have worked even harder. If everyone simply picked up an left when one, two, or even three things went wrong, there would be serious chaos. Buy my loyalty only goes so far. In the end, I am loyal to the Church catholic, not to a particular institutional structure called the ELCA. Actually, I think that forming a new Lutheran body in North America is a tremendous opportunity to clarify these issues and to provide a more faithful Lutheran witness to our culture. It may take a lot of work, but I'm willing to participate. No church body will ever be perfect, but at least we can have a lot more integrity than what we have right now.

Reply to Rev. Spaceman - New Lutheran Church

Posted by Pr. Dan Biles at September 09, 2009 16:51
You may want to read Peter Speckhard's "Searching for the Center" in the latest issue of Lutheran Forum Letter on the difficulties in trying to create a new Lutheran Church.


LOYAL OPPOSITION

Posted by Michael Dooley at September 09, 2009 17:11
I admit to being intrigued by the notion of a "loyal opposition"; but, as another has posted, now that "they" have won the assumption will be that the period of "prayer, dialogue and listening" among all sides is over and it is time to "move on". No, they don't have to let us talk. One can only imagine of the glowing articles in The Lutheran about same-sex partnered Pastors wondrous lifegiving auras in once dead congregations--or some such.

As I hear it, the wheels of repression are already starting to grind.

One thing is sure. I hate putting it in such raw political language; but unfortunately it applies. The only way to beat a machine is with and machine. The champions of the new regime didn't get there just wander into the synod assemblies. They were organized and knew what they wanted. Are we organized?" Do we in fact know what we want"?

Another thing is sure. This isn't over. Many in the assembly may have thought approving the Statement effectively moves to put it all behind us. But two practical difficulties will be coming down the road. What about the pool or gay Pastors which we grow that will never receive a call or calls "beneath" their "gifts"--missing out on larger congregations with larger enumerations and benefits". Will congregational "independence" come under attack next? In the future, will our Pastors be assigned?

Indeed, the religious left will labor until there is no hint that there is anything wrong with same-sex behavior and lifestyle. THAT is their ultimate goal.

Another challenge will come when gay Pastors refuse to keep their sexual activity within their partnerships. "Why should we be force to abide by heterosexist expectations? What's good and holy for heterosexuals is not the same as it is for gay lifestyles." What kind of "accountability" does the Church have in mind for this?" Or was all that talk about "accountabilities" just sunshine being blown up our a**?"

Of course, one should never discount the propensity of the religious left to claim the statement says more than it actually says. There is always that little gremlin that runs around talking about the "spirit" of the agreement being greater than the actual letter of the document.

Nope. Unless there is some tangible form of opposition they must deal with (maybe a non-geographical synod?), they will feel no need to deal with anyone.

Comment on Michael Dooley

Posted by Pr. Dan Biles at September 09, 2009 17:52
Perhaps a non-geographical synod is the concrete form loyal opposition will take. CORE states they see their future as a free-standing synod, carrying out synod ministries apart from the ELCA. I don't know if that means total institutional separation, or being "separate, but not divorced," as Hinlicky's article stated.

Loyal Opposition--Loyal To Whom?

Posted by Rik at September 09, 2009 20:09
Dan Biles wrote, "Some advocate leaving the ELCA and forming a new Lutheran church altogether. I do not think it is viable alternative. It strikes me as sectarianism, even if it goes by the name Lutheran." Pardon me, but the ones who are sectarian are the ones who cut themselves off from the church catholic. "For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." (Matt. 3:9b) And you call those who remain loyal to God's teachings "sectarian?" By severing from a "church" that--by its own official decisions--has ceaced to be church, one can rediriect ones loyalties to The Lord of the Church, in opposition to the organization that only claims to be a Christian church. The ELCA got it wrong when they chose to supersede the role of Scripture as the source and norm for faith and doctrine, replacing God's Word with the fallible, fickle, perishable, Sodom-pleasing word of man.

So, yes, there needs to be opposition to false teaching in all its works and ways. And yes, there needs to be loyalty, but loyalty to God and His Word, not to the mutiny who have already sabotaged H.M.S. ELCA, guaranteeing its destruction as it sinks lower and lower, tossed about in the dark, troubled waters of political correctness, societal compromise, garden(of eden)-grown rebellion and murky anthropocentric delusions blinded to the Light of Christ. The mutineers, drunk with the strong spirit of the times, have actively resisted every attempt to save the ship. Who will help throw out the life buoys? Where is God's rescue squad? A new or existing ship is needed, and time is of the essense.

There is no Christian Church left to leave

Posted by Erik Fretheim at September 10, 2009 15:52
At the CWA the church left us and repudiated it's Christian roots. It's no longer a matter of whether to leave the church, but rather a matter of whether we lend our numbers to the claims of the institution that they have our support.

The real issue is not the matters of homosexual promotion, but rather the rejection of the core of Christ's mission. What the assembly has declared is that men can decide what is right and wrong, what is sin and what is not. Once men have assumed the authority of scripture, then then scripture and the law no longer condems - because either we vote away the sin, or because it is just human nature, so not sinful. Without condemnation, there is no need for Grace. Without Grace, there is no need for Christ and Jesus becomes just a nice guy in an old fashioned story.

Call it what it is: heresy. If I were a pastor or bishop, perhaps I could remain and rail against the heresy, but as a simple believer, all I can do is remove my name (and number) from the use of those who would hold it up as evidence of the correctness of their actions.

If the organization later repents, renounces their heresy and returns to the church, I can come back, but that appears unlikely - though perhaps, since anything is possible in Christ (not that they really want him any more).

Condemnation

Posted by John at September 10, 2009 16:07
Erik:"Therefore, ther is now no condemnation for those who are Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of he Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."You may want to check your comment above in light of this text from Romans 8. What do you mean "If they really want Him " anymore? What a terrible judgement. I don't believe you have your hat on straight about what the Gospel is and its relationship to law and sin.

Saved by Law or Grace

Posted by Erik at September 10, 2009 18:18
John,
You missed the point. If we believe the law comes from God through his Word in the Bible, then we need Grace and indeed therefore have no condemnation under the law. However, if we take the ELCA position that we can determine the law, then if we sin, all we need is a vote of the CWA, or making someone feel good, or some other human action to "fix" the law so it does not condemn us. At that point, there is no need for Grace since we can already vote ourselves justified.


If on the other hand, we acknowledge God's law, we need Grace and we need Christ in our lives, but we don't need a vote of the CWA.

What is sin.?

Posted by John at September 10, 2009 19:06
Surely you know that there was more than one interpretation of the texts that speak too homosexuality. That being the case it was necessary to let the Spirit speak in another way. In the church it is by a vote. You probally don't agree with this, but this is where respecting each others conscience comes in. Can you respet the fact I believe my interpretation is correct to the degree that I am willing to act out of my faith on this issue. Even if you don't wish to respect my conscieious I don/t think making negative judgement about those who disagree with you is even being loving. Tell me what you think.

If They Really Want Him

Posted by Rik at September 10, 2009 18:18
John, Erik was right! Take a look at your Romans 8 passage again, this time without twisting Scripture by taking it out of context (it is part of St. Paul's letter to the Church in Rome, not an isolated sentence from a fortune cookie). "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1,2 NIV. JOhn, so far it looks like you are right. "Therefore..." The first step is to figure out what the "Therefore" is there for. To truly get a right understanding of this context, I would suggest backing up to Romans 7:4, and then reading up to and including your passage. Those who are in Christ have died to the effects of the law (death). "Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law." Rom. 7:7. "So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good." Rom. 7:12. "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin." (7:14). In the note in Cconcordia Self-Study Bible (CSSB) it says, "Even a believer has seeds of rebellion in his heart" and "it may graphically point out the failure even of Christians to meet the radical ethical and moral demands of God. It also points up the persistent nature of sin." (CSSI, p.1727, 7:14 ). "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (7:24,25) Look up "Lord" in a dictionary while you're at it: "1:one having power and authority over others: a : a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom wervice and obedience are due." (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary [G&C Merriam Co., Springfield, Mass., 1979]). "So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." (7:25) "Therefore, there is no condemnation..." He doesn't write there is no more sin. The CSSB explains it thus: "The law brings condemnation because it points out, stimulates, and condemns sin. But the Christian is no longer "under law." (CSSI, p. 1721, 8:1) Please don't miss in Romans 8:1 the part where it says "...FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS." "3 For what the law was powerless to do...God did by sending his own Son...to be a sin offering...And so he condemned sin in (the flesh [NRSV & ESV, alt. in NIV]), 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." Saint Paul goes on to describe two contrasting mindsets: "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires;" he goes on, "but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Even those united with Christ in their baptism (Rom. 6:1-10) can later turn away.
What DOES the Spirit desire? Reading some of those "tough passages" that Sarah Wilson wrote about in "The Severity of the Scriptural Warnings" — July 29, 2009 — should help us to know the answer to this question (I would include the "gloss-over passage" of Isaiah 5:20,21,24b). But we are free, right? What difference does it make how we choose to live? We can interpret the Bible any way we want to. Yet Jesus told His disciples "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (St. John 14:15 NIV) He went on to say (in v. 21) "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Oh, that we would truly seek His will, not ours. Erik wrote, "The real issue is not the matters of homosexual promotion, but rather the rejection of the core of Christ's mission. What the assembly has declared is that men can decide what is right and wrong, what is sin and what is not. Once men have assumed the authority of scripture, then then scripture and the law no longer condems - because either we vote away the sin, or because it is just human nature, so not sinful. Without condemnation, there is no need for Grace. Without Grace, there is no need for Christ and Jesus becomes just a nice guy in an old fashioned story. Call it what it is: heresy." Did the minds of the majority of voting members present at the CWA have their minds set on what the Holy Spirit desires, or were they seeking compromise with the ways of the world? You decide.

Condemnation

Posted by John at September 10, 2009 18:53
Rik: Your right I should have included the context. If you look back at my other posts you see that to do so is very important to me.
I am pleased that you shared part of the context for the verse I shared. However, you did not share the more important context which is what comes after the 8:1 verse. When you read and study that you will see why I used 8:1 to comment on Erik"s statement. Even without condemnation I need grace. Thanks for pulling my string on context.John

In Christ

Posted by John at September 10, 2009 19:32
Rik: For the person in Christ there is no condemnation. Because I do not know peoples hearts I don't know who is in Christ. So I am very careful about condemming others.

In Christ (Response to John)

Posted by Rik at September 10, 2009 20:12
John,
"Because I do not know peoples hearts I don't know who is in Christ. So I am very careful about condemming others." Thanks. I was not at Minneapolis. It is not for me to condemn those who were present. Yes, their actions spoke loudly, but I leave judgement to God. I do not have an inside knowledge on who was thinking what when they voted. Some votes may have been out of confusion, while others much more calculated. Only God knows. Some votes may have been by those who have studied the Scriptures for decades, while others were heavily influenced by the words of others. Only God knows. May God have mercy. May God redeem the times, for these days are evil. May God (some how, some way) bring good out of evil. May those who formerly slept in their church awaken and become proactive witnesses within and outside of the Body of Christ. Now is not a time to debate adiaphora--may God bring us back to His way, to His truth, to His Life. May His love grow within us and overflow to others (in Law and Gospel), and may His people live as His people, not as chameleons blending into the worldliness around them. May His bride cease her unfaithfulness, and be made pure, washed clean in the blood of the lamb. May God's will be done on earth. May God have mercy on me.

The underlying issue and the practical issue

Posted by Robert McGurn at September 10, 2009 19:55
Those who are debating the correct/incorrect use of scripture are, of course, dealing with the foundational problem underlying the sexuality questions.
But on a purely practical level, Biles' proposal suggests we should continue within a body from whose teachings we must protect our congregations and especially our youth.
Why would anyone, including pastors, want to stay in, or financially support, an organization that teaches things dangerous to the lives and souls of its members? To me, this question will be almost impossible to answer especially if another Lutheran church should form. The ELCA is not THE Church. Indeed, it has revealed itself to simply be another liberal, dying, protestant denomination.
I recognize the Lord's call to take up our cross and follow him. But frankly, the ELCA and its quota-driven, God language-changing, social-liberalism, pro-choice policies IS the cross I've been carrying. I'm ready to put that one down.

The ELCA is not THE Church

Posted by David Pross at September 10, 2009 21:28
Well said.

I cannot in good conscience return to the ELCA, for almost the same exact reasons you have mentioned.

We have visited an LCMS parish and are looking at an AALC one as next visit.

This is going to sound nasty, since I used to get peeved at all those who said the ELCA wasn't really Lutheran, but now I find myself (sadly) more and more in agreement. The ELCA's stances are now much closer to Agricola.

If I want to remain Lutheran, I cannot do so in the ELCA.

The ELCA ia NOT the Church

Posted by Cris at September 10, 2009 21:47
"WE"(His faithful followers) are the Church, the Body of our Lord!

Reply to Chris

Posted by Pr. Dan Biles at September 11, 2009 01:06
"WE (His faithful followers) are the Church..."

That sounds like the claim of the sexuality statement: "Journeying Together Faithfully," just now from the other side. Personally, I would much rather put my trust in the faithfulness of Jesus, rather than any of my pitiable attempts at faithfulness to Him.

As I understand Augustana VII, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, purely preached and sacraments administered according to the Gospel, that constitutes the Church, not the claims to faithfulness of His people.

As Luther's hymn teaches us, faithfulness is something we pray for, rather than presume to claim about ourselves.



Lutheran

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 13:40
David: This last statement is plain silly.There is still in Christ faith people in the ELCA. Don?t part from them.

Lutheran

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 13:41
David: This last statement is plain silly.There is still in Christ faith people in the ELCA. Don?t part from them.

Lutheran

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 13:44
David: This last statement is plain silly.There is still in Christ faith people in the ELCA. Don?t part from them.

I'm already gone...

Posted by David Pross at September 12, 2009 03:10
...to paraphrase the old Eagles' song.

There is no going back.

Actually, the ELCA left me and went somewhere I cannot, in good conscience, cannot follow.

There are some very good Christian people in the ELCA, and it stinks that they now have very little voice.

Some are going the same path as I am, but I don't tell anyone else to go with me, or even to agree.

Ways of the Holy Spirit

Posted by John at September 12, 2009 01:12
Rik: The ways of the Holy Spirit of course. I trust the Spirit to do His thing. I do not trust those who have interpreted the texts either way for none of us knows righteousness. But I do trust the Spirit to speak through His Body of Christ. I certainly am not in a position to Judge who is right and who is wrong. So my love for the Spirit directs me to not try to judge either and trust Him. No matter what He wants us to love one another, all sinners as He does.

Ways of the Holy Spirit

Posted by John at September 12, 2009 01:13
Rik: The ways of the Holy Spirit of course. I trust the Spirit to do His thing. I do not trust those who have interpreted the texts either way for none of us knows righteousness. But I do trust the Spirit to speak through His Body of Christ. I certainly am not in a position to Judge who is right and who is wrong. So my love for the Spirit directs me to not try to judge either and trust Him. No matter what He wants us to love one another, all sinners as He does.

Condemnation

Posted by Mike Bauman at September 17, 2009 18:24
Nice proof-text John. I thought you did't practice such behaviors?

--Mike

Reply to Fretheim

Posted by Pr. Dan Biles at September 11, 2009 00:17
"There is no Christian Church Left to Leave."
That is quite a claim. And it is not true.
It says, in effect, that the whole ELCA as a Church is no longer a Church, that the whole ELCA is apostate.
That is simply not true, because it cannot be true. The Church qua Church cannot sin. The witness of Scripture is that there is always a faithful remnant (see, for example, God's Word to Elijah at Horeb, I Kings 19). It is contrary to Christ's own promise to His Church.
I hear words like apostasy, heresy, etc. thrown around much too carelessly. I am sure it gives satisfaction to some people to vent their anger in this way, but it does not brin clarity to our situation. Others have used the term "erring Church" or "heterodoxy" for what is happening in the ELCA -- not just on the issue of sexuality, but in many other areas, as I mentioned in my article. That is much more helpful to understanding our situation.
Could it be that our role is like that of Abraham, who prayed to God to spare Sodom for the sake of even ten righteous persons?


Is the ELCA the Christian Church

Posted by Erik at September 11, 2009 02:54
You are right, the ELCA still proclaims itself as a Christian Church, however, it can no longer claim to be one in any orthodox sense. As long as it accepts the doctrine that the CWA, or conscious, or making others feel good can override the Law in the Scripture, and therefore that men can remove sin (implied if not stated) then it is not Christian in the orthodox sense even if it still claims a link to Christ.


And yes, I'm certain there are very many good Christians and rightous believers in the ELCA. But the ELCA is not itself "The Church", it is just somewhere they find themselves. That they are there does not make the positions of the ELCA right. Remember that Luther tells us that taking the sacrament from an unbeliever doesn't diminish the effecacy of the sacrament, because the real power of the sacrament is not in who it came from, but in the belief of the receiver. There are many true believers in the LDS, the RC and other faith traditions as well. There were many true believers among the iconoclads, the manicheans, etc.


Cast into outer darknesst

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 03:13
I'm sure glad that Christ is more merciful than some of you guys are. He doesn't throw us out of the Kingdom because of one sin. If he did he would have to throw us all out.

Who is this Christ we choose to follow?

Posted by Henry at September 11, 2009 11:42
“Do not think that I come to bring the peace upon earth: I came not to send peace but the sword. For I come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and the man’s enemies shall be they of his own household. He, who loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he, who loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And he, who does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me” (Matt.10: 34-38).

The Church

Posted by David Pross at September 11, 2009 04:29
If I do not stay in a Lutheran Church, i.e., if I end up in one of the Calvinist branches (Presbyterian, Christian Reformed), if the Gospel is preached, the Sacraments are administered, and the church body is loyal to the clear witness of Holy Scripture and its Confessions (in that order), then that is still the Church, no matter what the sign outside says.

Church,body of Christ

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 13:35
About the above posts: The Church is the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is made up of people who are faith people in Christ. The Church is wherever two or three are gathered together in my name.
I think it is falsely judgeing and playing God when people who disagree with us in good faith are called names.

Luther Quote

Posted by Erich at September 11, 2009 14:57
But the Gospel needs to be preached in its purity and Sacraments rightly administered, in order to find the Church.

Preaching and sacraments

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 18:39
Erich: Does not have to be, but where the church is they will be.Gospel not law.

Preaching and sacraments

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 18:54
Erich: Does not have to be, but where the church is they will be.Gospel not law.

Understood

Posted by David Pross at September 11, 2009 20:21
The two are not separable.

If the Gospel is not rightly preached, the Sacraments are not rightly administered, and the reverse.

False

Posted by John at September 12, 2009 01:16
David: False

False

Posted by John at September 12, 2009 01:16
David: False

Prove it...

Posted by David Pross at September 12, 2009 03:11
...using something other than Romans 8.

loyal opposition?

Posted by Son of WMC at September 12, 2009 01:57
Pastor Biles,

For more than the last ten years as a pastor myself, I have been in the loyal opposition within a synod of the ELCA that has ever increasingly moved in support of the policy changes and other teachings that have sold out the Lutheran Confessions. I've been in the loyal opposition and hoped that the whole ELCA would retain the proper teachings even when my synod got it wrong. Now the whole ELCA institution has an official position of having it wrong, very wrong. The ELCA is not going back. How can I be so sure? When I started out among the loyal opposition, there was still a large faction to join in opposition with. Every year's Synod Assembly comes, and every year the faction gets smaller and smaller. I used to get a fair number of congratulations when I spoke in opposition from others who didn't have the courage, but even that has waned. The opposition hasn't had the backbone to stand up when it had the chance. Most don't want conflict. Now that the ELCA has gone so fully astray, there is nothing more to stay around for. I'm tired of living in a context where I increasingly feel exiled among the very people I'm supposed to be working with. For all practical purposes, though it is true there are faithful persons in the pews, the ELCA as an institution is now apostate and I cannot stay. Staying gives an implicit endorsement to what has happened and I cannot offer that. How am I to do ministry with this on my back? And as soon as I protest my loyal opposition the retort will be, "Well why do you stay around then?" Furthermore, one does not have to form a new denomination, even with the moniker "Lutheran" to leave the ELCA. But I ask you, if leaving the ELCa is sectarian, then what of the Reformation? Why was there a split in the first place? And in no way will I accept that it was all Rome's fault. Furthermore, since Vatican II and the papacies of JPII and Ben XVI, the question Jaroslav Pelikan said we all must ask, "Why am I still a Lutheran?" leaves me to think I cannot be one anymore for in one way or another, all of Lutheranism has become very sectarian. I'm heading for Rome as soon as I am able. At least there, I know there will be a magisterium to protect the doctrine on faith and morals handed on to us by the apostles. I cannot say the same for any of Lutheranism.

Should we all head for Rome?

Posted by Erik Fretheim at September 12, 2009 03:16
I asked the question once: When you are convincing someone to believe in Christ, should you also convince them that they need to join the Lutheran Church? Maybe it's time to ask that question again?

Last time what I got as a response was that: "They should join the church they feel most comfortable in", "it doesn't really matter which church they chose", and "they are all just paths to the same place." If these are the real answers, then we are choosing churches based on man's needs, not on the Word. If that is the only reason we have, then perhaps we had better think again and accept that we should all submit ourselves to one church, not for our convenience but for unity?

Personnally, I don't think we are there yet, but it is time to ask the question, and it looks as if I am not the first to ask: Are there significant meaningful reasons left for continuing the rift of the reformation?

unity in Christ

Posted by Peter at September 12, 2009 06:00
Dr Fretheim,

In a word, yes. The AC proposes a single doctrine of the church, namely the Gospel. That Gospel is God's promise in the crucified and risen Christ to be merciful to sinners forever. Promises don't work unless trusted, hence trust (aka faith) alone is what is necessary for sinners' salvation. All subsequent doctrines of the church must be explanations of how that Promise impacts other aspects of Christian belief and life in order to hold any weight. It also gives us the proper hermeneutic for distinguishing God's words of Law from that Word of Promsie in the Bible and God's legal left-hand work from that of the saving right-hand.

Where other churches adhere to that single doctrine, unity is no problem. Unfortunately, many churches deny that doctrine and deny the Gospel's power by adding additional regulations onto it. Insofar as people are learning the promissio, it does not matter what church they are in. However, where that promissio is obscured, we need to recognize that fact as well as proclaim the promissio. It's hard to have church unity when the other church body holds to a false gospel. Not impossible, but it's going to be a source of tension. Unity may be practically impossible with those church bodies that try to place the Gospel into a box of their own devising, because they would rather refuse unity than accept the freely-coursing Word.

Isn't this the problem y'all are facing right now? The ELCA isn't kicking anyone out, but there's a disagreement over whether or not you can stay because it's no longer your box. Same thing happened with the Reformation in the first place, and later with the Wars of Missouri, except that then those trying to put God in a box had the power to throw Luther and the others out instead of having to leave on their own in order to shore up their box.


That's not ALL the AC says

Posted by David Pross at September 13, 2009 03:13
The AC promulgates Law AND Gospel; something the ELCA "leadership" seems to have forgot.

Whether or not you realise it, Peter, you have put the "Gospel" into YOUR own "box" of what you believe the "Gospel" is.

Again, I think of Bonhoeffer's doctrine of "cheap grace": Yup, we're saved through faith in Christ, now we can do what we jolly well like...

Luther wrote about that in "Against The Antinomians" and stood strongly against Agricola on much the same issue.

No, I won't be going to Rome. I don't see any Biblical support for the papacy, praying to saints or regarding Mary as "co-redemptrix."

However, I have known some very fine Roman Catholics who take their faith seriously, both clergy and laity, including probably the best chaplain in the Air Force (Captain Lambert, this means you, though I hope you're at least a Colonel now).

But I can see how Rome or Constantinople would appeal.

I plan to stay in Wittenberg. Failing that, Geneva or Edinburgh is the next stop.

freedom is dangerous

Posted by Peter at September 14, 2009 01:29
David,

Where in that Gospel I laid out above does it differ from the Reformer's "box"?

We certainly live under the Law of retribution, and even without hearing it in the pulpit, our condemnation under the Law is obvious to everyone. It's clear in all of our broken relationships. No one disputes that the wages of sin are death.

I don't actually mean this to be offensive, but I don't think you have a full appreciation of the Gospel's power. Freed in the Gospel does not mean "do as thou wilt". That freedom brings with it an entirely new ethos resulting from our encounter with Christ. So long as we are in this new ethos sin does not matter because when living in the new ethos, we are doing God's work and walking in the Spirit. We're free to abandon Christ's promise and that ethos, but then we're back under the Law and the death that brings. This is where I see the sinner/saint distinction being especially important, in that we continually fail to trust Christ and stay within that new ethos. And that new ethos isn't "this is what feels good to me". It's walking in the Spirit, having the mind of Christ. Paul tried to describe this, especially to the Corinthians as well as others-- that's what those lists of 'do this, don't do that' are-- descriptors and clues about what life in Christ is like. They were never intended to be read as prescriptive. This is also what Luther is getting at when he says that in Christ "we will make new Decalogues".

This relates to homosexuality and many of those other laws (abstention from blood, which the apostles uphold in Acts but was no longer practiced even by Luther's time) in that they are relativised. Homosexuals are called to live their faith from the place to which God has ordained them-- and our understanding of sexuality is that it is God's good gift given for the care and protection of our species. Homosexuals have as much of an obligation to participate in the estate of marriage and live faithfully together as heterosexuals.

All is permissible...

Posted by David Pross at September 14, 2009 03:06
...but not all is beneficial.

My understanding of the Gospel is quite clearly different to yours, Peter, and we are not going to convince one another.

I don't know where you get your understanding, outside of the fact that you are acquainted with homosexual couples in your congregation. Mine goes way back to Confirmation, and the pastor who taught me (who also baptised me) is likely retired now, if not dead.

This is a primary reason why I have left the ELCA: their understanding of Scripture and mine have diverged so far there is no reconciling the two.

I'm a realist. I'm not going to stay in the ELCA, hoping for something that will never happen and just grinding my gears.

As a poker player of long standing, I know when to fold my cards and leave the table.

Crossings

Posted by David Pross at September 14, 2009 03:15
After looking at the "Crossings" website, Peter, I see where you get some of your views.

Of course, as with all human points of view, it is biased - at least as biased as what one would read on LutherQuest, just in another direction.

let's lay out our Gospels, then

Posted by Peter at September 17, 2009 03:03
David,

How about we lay out our Gospels side by side and see how they measure up?

It's interesting that you quote that part of Corinthians. Is homosexual marriage beneficial? And if not, why not? Paul's list of sins later on in Corinthians was not a description of 'things that God hates' so much as 'things that physically cannot be done simultaneously when trusting Christ'. That is, it doesn't take Paul's or the Bible's say-so to see that it is contrary to Christ. Without appealing to 'part of the Bible says it's wrong', can you show that homosexual marriage is not beneficial? You've said elsewhere that you don't shy away from the label 'socialism'. Do you believe homosexuals should be granted civil unions? And if so, why so?

comment

Posted by reads elert too at October 20, 2009 01:57
Peter says: "Homosexuals have as much of an obligation to participate in the estate of marriage and live faithfully together as heterosexuals."

This is a false move. Within God's ethos under law, the order of creation, as a configuration of existence and less a prescription, the estate of marriage is confined to one man and one woman as Genesis states. An estate is an arena in which only a specific man who cannot switch places with anyone else is joined to a woman who cannot switch her place with anyone else. It is not an arena for same-sex unions. This is clear from both Scripture and the Apology of the AC.


On Swimming the Tiber

Posted by Pr. Dan Biles at September 12, 2009 03:37
That is a decision, Mr. Son of WMC, I respect. It is the only decision that makes sense for a Lutheran, if you are not going to stay in Lutheranism.

The Lord be with you. Pray for us "catholics in exile."

response to Pr. Biles

Posted by Son of WMC at September 12, 2009 16:33
Pr. Biles and other "catholics in exile" - you indeed have my prayers. God be with you always.

The Tiber or the Golden Horn

Posted by Erik at September 14, 2009 02:36
Perhaps it is better to re-examin not the rift of 500 years, but the one of 1000 years ago?

curiosity

Posted by Peter at September 12, 2009 04:05
Son of WMC,

So when Jesus was hanging out with the tax collectors and prostitutes, was he condoning them?

response to Peter

Posted by Son of WMC at September 12, 2009 16:31
Peter,

You well know that Jesus "hanging out" with the tax collectors and prostitutes isn't the same thing as being conjoined to an organization that makes a verifiable public confession about what it believes. Had Jesus engaged in the behavior of embezzling or fornication, then indeed Jesus would have been condoning what the tax collectors and prostitutes were doing. We both know that didn't happen. He sought to convert them to a relationship with God and a holy life lived in and for him. The actions of the ELCA CWA have altered that public confession of the ELCA to the point where personal desire and pleasure trumps God's law and gives the illusion that the tax collectors and prostitutes can do whatever they like should they not agree with the Church because "God will understand" and because "unless you have consensus among church memebers you can't really know what is true." Interestingly, this is the sort of question the Pharisees used to ask Jesus to try to trip him up. Do you see that?

Protect to control

Posted by John at September 12, 2009 18:53
The Pharisees were concerned about staying in control. Therefore, they refused to see that Jesus was presenting a New Covenant, expanding a narrow understanding of the law and Godpel.They had closed minds to seeing Jesus. Jesus reconized that he was going to get through to most of them. I believe we see this same thing happened in some places in the Lutheran Church. Especially around present issues. Jesus I believe is saying, "But I say unto you". I hope not to be a Pharisee.

Protect to control

Posted by John at September 12, 2009 18:55
The Pharisees were concerned about staying in control. Therefore, they refused to see that Jesus was presenting a New Covenant, expanding a narrow understanding of the law and Godpel.They had closed minds to seeing Jesus. Jesus reconized that he was going to get through to most of them. I believe we see this same thing happened in some places in the Lutheran Church. Especially around present issues. Jesus I believe is saying, "But I say unto you". I hope not to be a Pharisee.

"New covenant"

Posted by David Pross at September 13, 2009 03:14
There is no Biblical proof that the ELCA is offering a "new covenant."

It seems more to me like "do what thou wilt."

Covenant

Posted by John at September 13, 2009 20:48
David: Not a new covenant but an expanded way of looking at behaviors within the Gospel. Of course you would not consider this poasibility because you must protect the old. Maybe lose control.

Covenant

Posted by John at September 13, 2009 20:52
David: Not a new covenant but an expanded way of looking at behaviors within the Gospel. Of course you would not consider this poasibility because you must protect the old. Maybe lose control.

Fulcrum

Posted by David Pross at September 14, 2009 03:14
John, if I were a less-tolerant person, I might find that insulting.

I am trained in critical thinking. It is central to my vocation. I have looked at this from as many sides as I could, though not dispassionately. It is not possible for a human being to be completely objective.

And, as a behaviourist I do claim a certain amount of authority.

There is definitely a tipping point of the fulcrum in the ELCA. It was a gradual paradigm shift that had its final pushing-the-door-to at CWA.

However, I do not recall that I ever had control, so there is no reason for me to fear "losing control." One cannot lose what one has not had.

I heard a very good sermon this morning at an LCMS congregation, emphasising both Law AND Gospel.

The Ethics of Blogging

Posted by Pr. Dan Biles at September 14, 2009 03:16
Dear Mr. Pross:
I read in one of your responses to Hinlicky's article a few weeks ago, "I will not stay.
I'm cashing in my chips and cutting my losses."
I respect that decision and the reasons why you no longer can call the ELCA your church home.
What I do not understand, then, is why you are still on this blog. It is one thing to leave with integrity and civility; it is another to leave throwing stones at the house you left behind. Your focus should be on the gifts and positive contributions you surely can make in your new Church, not carrying on arguments with the Church you have left. Your spirit will be healthier for it, too.

Respectfully yours,
Pr. Dan Biles

Ethics of Blogging part 2

Posted by Dana at September 14, 2009 04:22
Dear David Pross,
I for one appreciate the point of view you offer (most of the time). I think that all reasonable voices are welcome. You have been polite when disrespected and eloquent in your arguments. Leaving the ELCA is a viable option to those who find their consciences bound to the point of constriction. I think that point of view should be represented. It strikes me as unethical to ask a reasonable voice to be stilled. One can't help but wonder if Pr. Dan feels he is loosing the argument.

reply to Dana

Posted by Pr. Dan Biles at September 14, 2009 04:37
I think you missed my point entirely.

And be assurred, I am not about "winning" an argument. That's trivial. My article was a view to consider as part of the process we all in the ELCA are in, trying to figure out how to live in the ELCA post-CWA.

Point taken

Posted by David Pross at September 14, 2009 06:00
Pastor Biles:

Your point is taken.

My posting here is ended.

Pax Christi
DP

so what about the LCMSers here?

Posted by Peter at September 17, 2009 03:09
Pr Biles,

What about the LCMS and WELS people who read this blog? Should they be discouraged from posting because that would be throwing stones at a neighbor's house? Or is it only the ex-ELCAers who count as throwing stones?

Or is it more generally that criticism of the ELCA is throwing stones, in which case maybe you and Dr Hinlicky need to have a little chat?


New Covenant

Posted by John at September 14, 2009 15:50
David: Jesus was bringing a new covenant and the Pharisees could not accept it.
The ELCA is not bringing a new covenant. You are surely right about that. The ElCA has spoken in assembly about how the new covenant is reflected in the use and place of the law. Many refuse to even look at that possibility. Just like the Pharasees did in Jesus's day.

including the excluded

Posted by Peter at September 14, 2009 01:47
Son of WMC,

I don't think you fully appreciate the extent to which interacting with lepers and unclean people or even speaking to women was taboo. Jesus specifically treats those people (while they are still sinners and with the understanding that they will still be sinners) as part of the community, and that means they are called to participate fully in that community. Incidentally, I think you should check out this discussion of the anathemas in the Lutheran confessions: http://www.crossings.org/archive/ed/CURRENTIMPLICATIONSOFTHE.pdf The ELCA statement actually does close to the same thing, except that it stops short of fully including homosexuals where marriage is concerned. It's also an extreme stretch to say that including homosexuals in the estate of marriage is the same as saying people can do whatever they like. In a way, that's how homosexuals are currently treated, since if people use their misperception of the Law on you when you're in a committed, lifelong, monogamous relationship, where does the Law help you avoid doing whatever? For all that some claim I'm ignoring the Law, I think it's the 'no homosexual marriage' side that is unwilling to make proper use of the Law. There is a distinction between married homosexuals and homosexuals indulging in orgies, which your use of the Law does not discern. I think those who support civil unions for homosexuals should at least recognize this.

response to Peter

Posted by Son of WMC at September 14, 2009 04:37
Peter,

You wrote, "I don't think you fully appreciate the extent to which interacting with lepers and unclean people or even speaking to women was taboo. Jesus specifically treats those people (while they are still sinners and with the understanding that they will still be sinners) as part of the community, and that means they are called to participate fully in that community." I don't think you fully appreciate what Jesus was doing among lepers, unclean people and women among others considered outcasts and sinners. For starters, Jesus wasn't concerned with restoring persons rightful place within generic communities. Jesus engages both outcasts and sinners as people whom God created and whom he, Jesus, will die to redeem from sin and death, offering them an identity as a precious child of God and an inheritance in the Kingdom of God forever, should they be willing by God's grace to repent of their sins, rely upon God's mercy and forgiveness, and seek to live a holy life rejecting their former sinful ways. Jesus never condoned sin, no matter what it was. Furthermore he taught parables about the final judgment where the sheep would be separated from the goats as well as giving authority to apostles who taught that persons who unrepentantly practiced a number of sins, including homosexual behavior (in or out of so-called committed relationships since nothing of that sort was ever differentiated) would not inherit eternal life. God's Word is Christ Jesus and is found within the pages of Holy Scripture. Jesus does not contradict himself nor would the Holy Spirit inspire Scripture to contradict Christ who himself said of the Holy Spirit that he would remind us of all that Jesus taught as well as teach more that the disciples were not ready for at the time Jesus made this same statement.

Furthermore, Peter you said, "It's also an extreme stretch to say that including homosexuals in the estate of marriage is the same as saying people can do whatever they like." You're kidding right? You and those who agree with you on this, overturn standard Christian teaching held for roughly 2,000 years, without a firm, wholistic and contextual basis in Scripture, but only based on personal opinion and experience and you are telling me that using a similar process couldn't lead to anything anybody wanted over the long haul? What's to stop you or anyone else, really? Just disagree with standard teaching, treat Scripture as irrelevant in the current age given "enlightened" cultural trends, and push for all you are worth in a church polity that will allow you to come back again and again, wearing out your opposition until finally you get your way because people are tired of battling. Give me a break!

Then Peter, you say (incredibly), "In a way, that's how homosexuals are currently treated, since if people use their misperception of the Law on you when you're in a committed, lifelong, monogamous relationship, where does the Law help you avoid doing whatever? For all that some claim I'm ignoring the Law, I think it's the 'no homosexual marriage' side that is unwilling to make proper use of the Law. There is a distinction between married homosexuals and homosexuals indulging in orgies, which your use of the Law does not discern. I think those who support civil unions for homosexuals should at least recognize this." Just where in "the Law" do you find sanction for homosexual, committed, lifelong, monogamous relationships? What is your source for "the Law"? The Bible? C'mon, surely you jest! There is absolutely nothing in Scripture that advocates for such relationships, only your wishful exegesis. And by the way, its not "my use of the law" that does not discern such a false distinction. That's where the Tradition of the Church comes in. I nor any on my side of the debate invented this. On the other hand, your position has only been put forward in the very late 20th Century and early 21st Century. Who is more likely to have their position rooted in Apostolic teaching, really? Surely not your side. And don't bother confessing the creeds anymore since Apostolic Tradition means nothing to you anyway. Words do mean something, and consistently so, even over 2,000 years.

gospel plus

Posted by Peter at September 17, 2009 03:44
Son of WMC,

Your Gospel is gospel plus: "Jesus engages both outcasts and sinners as people whom God created and whom he, Jesus, will die to redeem from sin and death, offering them an identity as a precious child of God and an inheritance in the Kingdom of God forever, should they be willing by God's grace to repent of their sins, rely upon God's mercy and forgiveness, and seek to live a holy life rejecting their former sinful ways."

Sola fide means faith alone and only. It does not mean repentance is a prerequisite nor that even "seeking to live in a holy life rejecting their former sinful ways" is a prereq. Both of those things may result from trust in Christ, but that is what comes after, not before. Both repentance and seeking to live a holy life are human heart issues, and that is not the level on which our sin is. There is one level deeper, and it is that deepest level-- our fundamental problem accepting God as our judge-- from which our rotten hearts come and why we are going to be damned. We need the right God-connection, and Christ provides that. Once our God-connection is fixed, we have right hearts and from those right hearts proceed right actions. We constantly need to be looking to that deepest level for the healing, and the significance of that is that the upper levels are not the issue. If homosexuals in committed, monogamous relationships are in Christ, you need to trust them when they say that is their God-given calling. If you don't think they're in Christ, I'd like to hear your reasoning. If it's 'doesn't live up to the Bible', or 'doesn't live up to my expectations' I'd like to know how you think YOU are ever in Christ given Christ's command to "Love one another as I have loved you". It's also interesting when sheep and goats come up, it's always the other group that are the goats. Note well that it isn't the sheep or goats dividing them, or even a sheep with a book, but Christ Himself. Is it trusting Christ to try to separate sheep and goats yourself? Is it even the church's job to worry about who are sheep and goats, or is it to proclaim Christ's Gospel of forgiveness to both? (and if you cite the 'bound on earth, bound in heaven, loosed on earth, loosed in heaven' in response, you've just provided Scriptural authority for "loosing" homosexual marriage.)

I've tried to show that my arguments are rooted in the Gospel. It is not Rome's gospel, but as true to the Reformers as I understand it. It is not church tradition that must be continued, but proclamation of the Gospel.

But for homosexual marriage being part of God's Law, it certainly follows from the Bible and the AC. Just about all of those passages discussing marriage itself find ready application in the marriage between two homosexuals. Much as we understand 'render unto Caesar' not to literally mean we must have an emperor, we can understand 'man and woman' to be 2 people.

Slavery was also only abolished in the US in the 19th century. Paul upheld it, so Apostolic teaching was clearly against that one. Or the abstention from blood given by the Apostles and in Scripture in Acts and relaxed by the time of the Reformation? And if you're considering the change to Rome, what about the teachings in 1 Timothy about how a bishop ought to be a head of household with 1 wife? Seems the RC's forgot that little bit of Apostolic authority.

Reminds me of '93

Posted by Matthew Lynn Riegel at September 13, 2009 04:26
"Loyal Opposition" -- last time I heard those words was in the fellowship hall of Christ Lutheran, York, PA. Fr. Mark Chapman outlined a similar concept in the wake of CwA'93. At that time, a remarkable gathering of Lower Susq Black Shirts and White Shirts sat around the table. Who woulda thunk it possible that we could lay aside our warring over liturgy for just a few minutes to talk about our common understanding of life under the Word of God as faithfully and validly explicated by the Confessions? Oh, well, Asha George-Guiser had referred to such as dinosaurs in her CwA'93 sermon. In my darker moments, I comfort myself with the thought that some future church historian, sifting through the archives, will find our theological bones and exclaim, "My god(dess), they really did exist, and they were magnificent creatures."

Not Scripture Alone

Posted by Matthew Lynn Riegel at September 13, 2009 04:42
Many have identified the collapse of the authority of Scripture as the source of the confusion/error. Like J.B.Bury, multicausation seems more likely to me. Yes, the loss of Scriptural authority. Also, the pervasive influence of scientific materialism which undermines tropological interpretation of Scriptures. Post-Modernism's tribalism of truths. The influence of Gospel Reductionism. The lack of interest in (or outright rejection of) Sanctifciation in the narrow sense (which, despite protestations to the contrary, is found and strongly explicated in the writings of the Lutheran Dogmaticians of old). Lax catachesis. Underinvolvement in ecclesiastical politics. Together, these forces create a perfect storm. You can't fix just one of them and hope for a better outcome. Indeed, try to fix any one of them, and the others will be used as instruments in homeostatic response.

statements by Carl Braaten and Robert Benne

Posted by Son of WMC at September 14, 2009 04:59
I had occasion to read material on the Lutheran Core website and ran into a paper by Braaten and an article by Benne in "Christianity Today". The following exerpts say what I've felt all along.

From "The Aroma Of An Empty Bottle" by Braaten: "I will leave it to smarter historians than I to explain how it happened that the ELCA could
slide so quickly down the slippery slope of liberal Protestantism. Meanwhile, I would
hazard two suggestions. First, Lutheranism may contain within its origins the seeds of
its own instability. When the first Lutherans lost the magisterial authority of the Roman
Catholic Church, it had no sure authority to put in its place. The solas sounded good in
theory, but it finally comes down to who who has the authority to interpret and apply
them in changing times. In the history of Lutheranism the locus of official authority has
been wandering all over the place. In the ELCA final authority lies in the hands of a
quota-selected majority of lay members who could, if they chose, decide to merge with
the Moonies or Mormons, just as they have decided in favor of altar and pulpit fellowship
with Methodists and Moravians. Far-fetched? Not any more than the decisions
taken at the 2009 Assembly in Minneapolis. In the church the leaders are supposed to
be successors of the apostles and not echoes of majority opinion.
My second suggestion is that the ELCA has succumbed to the same ailment as liberal
Protestantism. What is that? Modern Protestantism is an amalgamation of historic
Christianity and the principles of the Enlightenment, its rationalism, subjectivism, and
anthropocentrism. The underlying assumption is the neo-gnostic belief in the innerdwelling
of God, such that everyone is endowed with the inner light that only needs to
be uncovered. The light of truth does not shine through the Scriptures and the Christian
tradition as much as through scientific reason and individual experience. This is what
happened in Minneapolis: appeals to reason and experience trumped Scripture and
tradition, punctuated with pious injunctions of Lutheran slogans and clichés. The majority
won. And they said it was the work of the Spirit, forgetting that the Holy Spirit had
already spoken volumes through the millennia of Scriptural interpretation, the councils
of the church, and its creeds and confessions."

From "How the ELCA Left the Great Tradition for Liberal Protestantism" by Benne: "But how did the liberal Protestant agenda replace the Christian core? There are many reasons, a good number that many American evangelicals share with Lutherans: a culture moving quickly toward permissive morality; the self-esteem movement leading to cheap grace; lay individualism combined with apathy toward Christian teaching; an obliviousness to church tradition and to the voice of the world church; and, above all, the loss of an authentic principle of authority in the church...Sola Scriptura, a Lutheran principle adopted by evangelicals, did not seem to be sufficient in such circumstances. An authoritative tradition of interpretation of the Bible seemed to be essential. More was needed than the Bible alone. Protestants seem to lack such an authoritative tradition, so they fight and split. In this situation, the option of swimming the Tiber seems all the more tempting."

These two, Braaten and Benne are among the highest of esteemed Lutheran theologians in America today. They both nailed it on the head. And that's why I'm going to Rome a.s.a.p. For even LCMC and whatever comes from Lutheran CORE will have the same fundamental troubles as the ELCA does, as do the other flavors of Lutheran denominations. The Reformation has been an utter failure since after the time of the Council of Trent and its time to declare it over and dead for it has no more use other than to serve the wishes of Satan to keep the Church of Jesus Christ divided and mired in heresy.

ELCA the Unifier

Posted by luthersterotypicus at September 14, 2009 13:19
ELCA began as a banner carrying organization under the aegis of "unity" which became a virtual playground of theology. A whole range of new "historic" approaches would free form new theologies. The chicken has now laid the egg and none should be so surprised. It held the wax nose of Scripture without any needed direction from Lutheran Confessional traditions. The only surprise should be....what took it this long.
"Unity" continues to be its Magna Carta.

Rome is not the answer. It is to see the need for the Reformation that continues. That showed the sincerest desire to remain with the Church was in fact, a formulation of a new one. New wine in old wineskins does not work too well.

Still Why Rome?

Posted by Erik at September 14, 2009 16:43
If the reformation was about repairing what went wrong with the Roman church and returning to the traditional beliefs, then perhaps the exploration of where to go should include the Orthodox church. Other than "filique", which was more an issue of how it was included than whether it was included, are there any significant theological issues? And there is no pope, priests are married (but not bishops), there is independence within structure. Sure the traditions are different, but these are not theology, and there is room for a Bulgarian province, an Armenian province, etc. Why not a Lutheran Orthodox province? And with the American Orthodox Church you wouldn't even have to change Christmas dates. It could even address the isses of authorative interpretation and keep the reformation alive.

reply to Erik

Posted by Son of WMC at September 14, 2009 16:58
Erik,

The filioque is not our issue for one. Secondly, the Orthodox Church also is having its trouble for lack of a united magisterium. Finally, mother church is the one the Lutheran church came from. Unless there are issues that remain (which in my humble opinion there aren't) then reconcilliation is what is required.

reply to luthersterotypicus

Posted by Son of WMC at September 14, 2009 17:01
luthersterotypicus,

Other than the cry "Semper Reformanda" which advocates an ever watchfulness, a continual need of reforming what hinders the Gospel (on par with repentance), what is there needing reforming that prevents at present the healing of the breach of the 16th Century? Really?

What still needs fixing

Posted by Erik at September 14, 2009 19:21
Well, for one earned salvation through indulgences and/or time spent in purgatory. The doctrine of Imaculate Conception which ignores the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Then we have the new addition of papal infallability.

There are also plenty of customs and traditions issues, such as married priests, etc. that could be challenging to accept.

reply to Erik

Posted by Son of WMC at September 14, 2009 19:44
Erik,

On the issues you have mentioned, have you studied the Roman Catholic explanations of each? If you have you would discover that the RC does not believe in earned salvation, that indulgences have only to do with something like making restitution for the damage sin has caused (like the store owner whose window was broken by the boy playing sandlot baseball whose terrific hit crashed through - the boy fesses up honestly, and the store owner says "I forgive you, now what are we going to do about that window?" Do you realize that purgatory according to the RC is not a means to earn salvation, but a process of purification, done by the grace of Christ, to make one pure from any sin or tendencies toward sin left in a person upon death so long as they were not in a state of mortal sin (sin that rejects God and repentance)? Do you realize the Catholic position on the Immaculate Conception was one shared by Martin Luther? Do you realize that the teaching on papal infallibility as advocated by the RC does not in any way suggest or infer that the Pope can never sin or make an error, but only offers that when teaching "Ex Cathedra" meaning when the Pope presents a doctrine required for belief by the faithful, that given the promise of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth and the keys singularly given to Peter to bind and loose doctrine (which the RC says cannot contradict previous teaching or Scripture) the Pope cannot err (which has only been exercised twice in the history of the RC)? Do you realize that the RC doesn't say that its a sin for priests to marry (that some rites that are in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome do have married priests) and that it is a matter of practice for Rome given their feeling it is better for a priest to be single and celibate since to be married causes a division of interests when the congregation is more than enough for the priest to handle and given that sometimes a congregation can put a pastor in an uncomfortable situation of choosing between being faithful to the Gospel and trying to look out for the interests of his family? I think you have a lot of researching to do before you can say without a shadow of a doubt that there are such issues standing in the way of returning to Rome. I know that I had 24 such issues and I have found all of them resolved, but it has taken the better part of ten years to achieve that. Openness to what each side has to say and comparing that to Scripture and Tradition will reveal much. Especially reading the Apostolic Fathers who learned at the feet of the Apostles and who expounded on early Church practice and understanding of what the Church then taught. Read that and then tell me which denomination that most resembles.

An Opportunity to Learn

Posted by Erik at September 14, 2009 20:16
Actually, I don't know all of the details of all of the issues, but I do think it is an excellent time to learn and to be in dialog. There are some issues, such as Immaculate Conception which are doctrinal issues, but which are not core to the faith, or essential to redemption, that can perhaps be better placed at the side, there are others, which are core and which there may be a resolution, such as you briefly touched upon.


At the same time, I don't think we should limit our dialog to exclude the Orthodox. When we talk about the Church Fathers, early practices and customs, there is a lot there as well. While the two splits came many years apart, there were many of the same issues involved.

Maybe the right time for this kind of exploration is behind the way the Spirit has been working with the ELCA? Let's get input from those who have explored the RC, both positive and negative, and from those who have explored Orthodoxy and let's see where it leads.

I suppose in all fairness, we ought to take a peek at some of the protestant churches as well, just in case.

Ex Cathedra

Posted by Rik at September 16, 2009 17:22
Son of WMC,
You wrote: "Do you realize that the teaching on papal infallibility as advocated by the RC does not in any way suggest or infer that the Pope can never sin or make an error, but only offers that when teaching "Ex Cathedra" meaning when the Pope presents a doctrine required for belief by the faithful, that given the promise of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth and the keys singularly given to Peter to bind and loose doctrine (which the RC says cannot contradict previous teaching or Scripture) the Pope cannot err (which has only been exercised twice in the history of the RC)?"
What were the two instances in history?

two instances

Posted by Son of WMC at September 18, 2009 04:04
Rik,

From information from "New Advent" the Catholic online encyclopedia:

1) "In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin." Based on Luke 1:28 (kecharitomene - "full of grace") and early church tradition this teaches that Mary's imaculate conception was bestowed on her by the merits of Christ's crucifixion retro to her birth. This allowed for the birth of Christ, who was completely holy to come forth from a womb just as holy. The key here is that her holiness is dependant upon Christ. Furthermore she is held up as the model for a fully human holy life given among other things, her complete submission to God's will when she said in response to the Angel Gabriel, "Let it be with me according to your word", as well as in her gracious words in the Magnificat.

2) "By promulgating the Bull Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared infallibly that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a dogma of the Catholic Faith. Likewise, the Second Vatican Council taught in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium that "the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things (n. 59)." This is based on Revelation chapter 12 and early Church tradition and in no way settles the question as to whether or not she actually died. It does however take into account that there is no place on earth that makes a claim to having her remains, unlike all of the other early Church saints.

comment

Posted by also reads elert at October 20, 2009 02:10
Yes, going to Rome is not the answer. Official RC theology has not annulled Trent and its condemnations as some in Lutheranism have believed since JDDJ in the latter part of the 1990s. The ELCA officially recognizes the unaltered Augsburg Confession as well as the Formula and Smalkald Articles. The core of the argument is that the ELCA despite its public offering in terms of CWA2009
still officially affirms that the church is where the Gospel is preached in its purity and the sacraments are rightly administered according to the Gospel. Somewhere that is happening and God knows where that is happening.

As to visible unity of the church, no can do except through Christ's promise. You won't see it but in faith it is "seen" in the sense of St. John's writings.

To Son of WMC

Posted by luthersterotypicus at September 15, 2009 14:45
The breach of the 16th Century resulted from the Church of that day refusing any reformation based on the Scriptures. Thus the breach remains as long as the church refuses the needed cure of the Scriptures. In the 16th Century, this resulted in a new church being formed. Some might seem a similar position today. Reformation is nothing more than raising the old Apostolic Church to a present, local, and physical reality. There was never an attempt to remain "loyal opponents" but to advocate the pure teachings of the pure and only Church. The 16th century recognized that all breaches cannot be crossed.

CWA vote by laity

Posted by Curious at September 15, 2009 17:14
Why were there so many laity involved in this vote? I am a lay person and I can't imagine voting at this level for something that would have such an impact on all ELCA members. I certainly am not a theologian and have no training/education in theology and I'm sure most of the laity that voted on this don't either and have not been to seminary. Is this vote even legitimate given all the lay people voting? I wouldn't put a lot of trust in the person sitting next to me in the pew to be educated, well informed, etc. in making decisions of this magnitude. Can someone help me understand why so many laity were voting members?

CWA voting member quota system

Posted by Pr. Rafe Allison at September 17, 2009 00:42
To Curious. According to the "rules" of the ELCA CWA, you do not have to be a theologian, a clergyperson, or have any specific training or background whatsoever. The rules say the CWA is supposed to be 60% lay/40% clergy, 50% male/50% female, and (as much as possible) 10% racial/ethnic minority. In my synod at least, each conference elects one clergy and one lay voting member at their annual meeting prior to the CWA of any given year. The sex is predetermined to maintain the quota. (So Conference X is told to elect one lay voting member - female, while Conference Z is told to elect one lay voting member - male and so on.) Then the bishops and Synod Council V.P.'s from each syond are added in. I'm witholding any personal comment or opinion... those are just the rules as I understand them. Hope this helps?

response to luthersterotypicus

Posted by Son of WMC at September 18, 2009 04:14
luthersterotypicus,

Actually, there was blame to go around for the breach of the 16th century. But in no way was it a result of a lack of willingness to reform. Otherwise the Council of Trent and what has come to be called the Counter-Reformation would never have come into being. Abuses of power and teaching were corrected, just not to the satisfaction of the Lutheran reformers. And as far as reform based on the Scriptures is concerned, the Lutheran reformers wanted it based on "Sola Scriptura" so they said, but in reality that had to be viewed through the interpretive lens of Martin Luther and company, who arrogated to themselves the authority to re-interpret Scripture in isolation from Sacred Tradition and the authority of the Magisterium that was properly delegated by Christ Jesus to the Apostles and to their successors including Peter who was singularly given the keys to bind and loose doctrine. In point of fact, the "Reformation" cannot be the raising of the old Apostolic Church to a present, local, and physical reality - because the old Apostolic Church had the authority of the Apostles which the Protestant churches do not have. The polity of the ELCA and of all the Protestant churches ought to be evidence enough of that. If you are truly interested in "...the pure teachings of the pure and only Church," then may I suggest you read the Apostolic Fathers as well as the rest of the Ante Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers and then in all honesty, tell me which church their writings most resembles.

Loyal Opposition might be more difficult than we think?

Posted by Pr. Rafe Allison at September 17, 2009 00:31
Pr. Biles writes: "The path of loyal opposition will require of us patience, persistence, and a high degree of civility. Ranting at the ELCA will not serve our cause. We shall have to walk the narrow road of maintaining respectful contact with our opponents, even while honestly disagreeing with them and refusing to cooperate with the direction they are taking the ELCA."

I'm not writing to disagree only to add a word of caution. After a post-CWA meeting of conference pastors and our bishop and now our synod's Fall Convocation, I can tell you that the idea of "bound conscious" is now out-the-window in the ELCA. Along with all the difficulties pointed out above, you will find that the cry to get on board (conform to) the inclusivity train (catch the hypocrisy!) has commenced in full. If you stand in oppostion to the decisions that were made OR the basis on which they were made (like myself)... watch out! The train is coming and you (we) are standing on the tracks. As I was told by a member of our Synod Council: "The decision has been made. It's over! Now, get on board or get out!" Respecting "bound conscious?" Apparently the only thing we're called to "respect" are the opinions of those pushing us towards moral relativism. If we decide to proceed as a "loyal opposition" in the ELCA we need to do so with both ears open. Hey! Do you hear that? Sounds like a train coming to me! God's Peace for the journey.

Gay Ministers vs Wedding Ministers

Posted by Pastor Pablo N. Aymat at September 21, 2009 05:28
I used to be a member of the ELCA in Puerto Rico and was in the process of being endorsed as a seminarist. However there was a "big" problem for the candidacy commitee regarding my application: I was (and am) an ordained wedding officiant or wedding minister. The comitte did not like this and even tought i tried to compromise (making changes to the website, uniform, logo etc as suggested by the president of the comitte), the comitte was hesitant to allow for me to be endorsed until i gave up officiating weddings.

It is interesting (and sad) that even thought a large percentage of churches in the Caribbean Synod were without a pastor, and that there are not many seminarist who will cover those positions (and others that will become vacant by the time they graduate)that the leadership of the Synod were so staunch in their requirements. They could not handle a wedding officiant (who after all united couples to be happy), but they can handle more controversial subjects such as homosexual ministers. So in the ELCA homosexual pastors are ok (even tought there is biblical text speaking on the contrary) but wedding ministers are not allowed (which the Bible speak nothing of as far as i know)

Needles to say I am still in Seminary, left the ELCA, founded an independent lutheran church. The ELCA lost a potential minister, and gained an independent Lutheran church within its territory. The more educated theologians become, the more wisdom they loose. The more "open" the leadership claims to be, the more they "close" to other oportunities and resources. I can see why Jesus did not go to the temple to find the best theologians to be his disciples.

Grace & Peace!
Pablo N. Aymat
Pastor
Genesis Christian Lutheran Church

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Morningstar of India

The Book That Cost a Cow

A Sermon Commemorating
the Outbreak of World War I

Learning to Love Leviticus

The Ecclesiological
Implications of an Open Table

...and much, much more!

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