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Time to Exercise Your Bound Conscience

by Sarah Wilson September 02, 2009

So, here we stand. A tiny portion of the ELCA's membership, somewhat more than 500 people, have decided at a single event to overturn the historic teaching of the church, without any real attempt to back it up scripturally or theologically or even persuade most members of the church. Alas. But they have thrown us a bone--we are allowed to exercise our bound consciences. So let's get to work. Here are three continuing resolutions proposed by various persons in the ELCA and sent to us at LF--we are going to let them remain nameless, lest their bound consciences come under attack by other bound consciences--for congregations to consider adopting as part of their constitutions...

So, here we stand. A tiny portion of the ELCA's membership, somewhat more than 500 people, have decided at a single event to overturn the historic teaching of the church, without any real attempt to back it up scripturally or theologically or even persuade most members of the church. Alas. But they have thrown us a bone--we are allowed to exercise our bound consciences. So let's get to work. Here are three by-laws proposed by various persons in the ELCA and sent to us at LF--we are going to let them remain nameless, lest their bound consciences come under attack by other bound consciences--for congregations to consider adopting as part of their constitutions.

It's worth noting that section 9 of your church's constitution (assuming it follows the ELCA's model constitution), which is the most obvious place to put these resolutions, cannot be changed or amended. Presumably this is to prevent individual churches from deciding that their pastors don't have to follow the Lutheran Confessions, certainly an honorable and necessary requirement (though how much it actually works is another question). The point is, if you attempt to insert these resolutions in chapter 9 and you also dwell in a synod hostile to these resolutions, they will have valid constitutional ground for rejecting them. Therefore it will be necessary to adopt them as "continuing resolutions" or "by-laws." By-laws on the whole are stronger, harder to change, and therefore preferable.


By-law Proposal #1

Every pastor shall lead by personal example in the use of the means of grace, in faithful service, and holy living. Every pastor shall subscribe to Visions and Expectations of 1990. Christian marriage is the union of one man and one woman blessed by God and recognized by the state. Married pastors shall be faithful to the spouse and unmarried pastors shall be abstinent.


By-law Proposal #2

1. This congregation receives the pastoral guidance of the 1993 Statement of the ELCA Conference of Bishops, that “there is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship.” However, pastors within their local contexts are to “provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister.”

2. Only a pastor who subscribes to and lives according to the November 23, 1990 document, Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which calls pastors to faithfulness in marriage and chastity in singleness, shall be eligible to be called as a pastor of this congregation. The Christian tradition defines marriage as a covenant of faithfulness between one man and one woman and chastity in singleness as abstinence from sexual activity, heterosexual or homosexual. Only a pastor who preaches, teaches, and lives according to these understandings shall be eligible to be called as a pastor of this congregation.


By-law Proposal #3

Premable. After years of debating, since 1991, whether or not to change historical Christian teachings prohibiting homosexual behavior, the ELCA at its national convention in Minneapolis, MN, August 17-23, 2009, adopted a compromise position on the matter. In effect it says that each congregation can decide for itself what to do. This means there will no longer be any national prohibitions on the matter of homosexual behavior. Specifically this means that ELCA congregations are now free (1) to teach that homosexual behavior isn’t, in and of itself, sinful, (2) to call homosexual pastors who aren’t celibate to serve their parishes, and (3) to bless or marry homosexual couples in their churches.

No ELCA congregation is required to do any of this. But if they do, they will not be disciplined or expelled from the ELCA the way St. Francis Lutheran Church and First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco were on January 1, 1996. Equally true, ELCA congregations are free to affirm the historical teachings against homosexual behavior if they want to.

Therefore, this congregation resolves the following.

(A) According to the Scriptures, Homosexual Behavior is Sinful. In this we follow the statement of ELCA predecessor body, the American Lutheran Church, in its statement “Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior” (1980): “This church regards the practice of homosexual erotic behavior as contrary to God’s intent for his children. It rejects the contention that homosexual behavior is simply another form of sexual behavior equally valid with the dominant male/female pattern. We have reviewed the challenges to the traditional interpretations of those scripture passages that appear to proscribe homosexual behavior. We are not convinced by the evidence presented. Among passages cited as requiring interpretations different from the traditional interpretation are Genesis 18:16-19:29; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10.”

(B) No Homosexual Weddings. In this we follow Resolution CB93.10.25 of the ELCA Conference of Bishops (October 1993): “We… recognize that there is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship. We, therefore, do not approve such a ceremony as an official action of this church’s ministry.”

(C) Homosexual Pastors Must Be Celibate. In this we follow Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA (1990): “The expectations of this church regarding the sexual conduct of its ordained ministers are grounded in the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that ordained ministers are to live in such a way as to honor this gift. Ordained ministers are expected to reject sexual promiscuity, the manipulation of others for purposes of sexual gratification, and all attempts of sexual seduction and sexual harassment, including taking physical or emotional advantage of others. Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.”


Please write to the editors to let us know if and when your congregation adopts such statements, or whether you have alternate resolutions to propose.

Unpleasant surprise

Posted by David Pross at September 02, 2009 12:47
I had thought our congregation, based on the statements of not a few in the congregation, would disavow what happened at CWA. I have been informed by the pastor that will not be the case, and that the congregation will be staying in the ELCA.

This is an untenable situation for me. Therefore, I will be looking for an ELCA congregation that has adopted these very sound recommendations.

Failing that, I will be looking toward rejoining the LCMS.

Constitutions

Posted by Randy Nicholson at September 02, 2009 15:49
Dear Friends,
Even if we were to adopt this language into our constituion, we are still a member of the ELCA. As a member, our church is contributing (financially and otherwise) to the ELCA and tacitly support the social statement. We are saying that we can accept the death of the body as long as we, the limbs, try to remain healthy. The words of the suggested amendments ring hollow as long as the church remains a member of the ELCA. I applaud your faithful attempt to build a wall around your church, but if we continue to buy ammunition to break down that very wall, we have done nothing.

Bound consc8ience

Posted by Robert McGurn at September 02, 2009 16:54
The reality is that having a conscience bound to scripture and the orthodox teaching of the one, holy catholic and apostolic church means no longer being able to be bound to the ELCA.

The need to change the constitution just underlines the truth of what already is: the ELCA is no longer one church. The vote did not just change church teaching and separate the ELCA from the one, holy catholic and apostolic church - it also destroyed the ability of one part of the church to be in communion with the other. While the real disagreement was about scripture, what we will now have is the "pro-gay congregation/pastor list" and the "anti-gay congregation/pastor list." At the occasion of each pastoral vacancy, every pastor, every congregation, and every parishioner will have to vote, and the vote will not be couched as a vote on scripture. It will be decided on the gay issue.

Sadly, changing the constitution doesn't change the risk and spiritual cost of remaining in the ELCA. Why would I want my congregation to remain in a church body from which it must defend itself? Why should they stay in a church body from which its youth needed to be protected? Why should faithfully given benevolence dollars be used to support unfaithfulness?

Having a bound conscience for me is not a constitutional question. Rather, it means that I have to find another church body with which to be bound.

What will this mean in 5 years? 10 years?

Posted by Rik at September 02, 2009 19:02
By-law Proposal #3 (C) includes: "Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful." Based on the decisions made in Minneapolis, there are obviously some in the ELCA who would not read this as a strictly heterosexual statement. While proposals 2 and 3 state something to the effect of "as a covenant of faithfulness between one man and one woman and chastity in singleness as abstinence from sexual activity, heterosexual or homosexual", this is not as direct in proposal #1. Will a copy of "Visions and Expectations of 1990" have to be added to the constitution itself for ready reference? The words, "are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses" means one thing in 2009, when very few states in the USA accept "homosexual marriage." Should this change in the future, and either most states accept this perversion, or it is somehow forced nationally on all 50 states, I can see how some could argue "those bylaws were written for a different time--Homosexual marriage is common today, and who are we to say that homosexual pastors must refrain from sexual relations within the context of marriage? I agree with the previous comments by Robert McGurn: "Why would I want my congregation to remain in a church body from which it must defend itself? Why should they stay in a church body from which its youth needed to be protected? Why should faithfully given benevolence dollars be used to support unfaithfulness?"
Ultimately, a congregation cannot serve two masters.

Bound Conscience

Posted by Norman Sulaica, Jr at September 02, 2009 19:02
These by-laws can serve as temporary measures for congregations struggling with CWA decisions. Some church are considering redirecting synodical benevolence to ministries the congregation desires to support. Please do not stop receiving and giving benevolence just redirect it. There temporary measure can be taken while congregations prayerfully consider the options before them.

Our bishop did not see that congregations withholding benevolence to the synod as an expression of bound conscience. He did indicate that churches who do not give benevolence to the synod could be disciplined. Imagine that! So a friend of mine in his unique way of thinking said, "we should to the synod a dollar every month." This step could register in the synod office the position of the congregation in relationship to the CWA's vote.

Adjust earlier note

Posted by Norman Sulaica, Jr at September 02, 2009 19:05
Posted by Norman Sulaica, Jr at September 02, 2009 14:02
These by-laws can serve as temporary measures for congregations struggling with CWA decisions. Some church are considering redirecting synodical benevolence to ministries the congregation desires to support. Please do not stop receiving and giving benevolence just redirect it. This temporary measure can be taken while congregations prayerfully consider the options before them.

Our bishop did not see that congregations withholding benevolence to the synod as an expression of bound conscience. He did indicate that churches who do not give benevolence to the synod could be disciplined. Imagine that! So a friend of mine in his unique way of thinking said, "we should send to the synod a dollar every month." This step could register in the synod office the position of the congregation in relationship to the CWA's vote.

Discipline?

Posted by David Pross at September 04, 2009 20:55
Discipline still exists in the new ELCA?

Oh, the Places You'll Go?

Posted by Chris at September 02, 2009 20:28
Dear Pastor and Concerned Lay Congregant,

Congratulations!
Today is you day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

But in the end, you see, it was always just about YOU.

Have fun, Godspeed, and write when your perfect kingdom is built by your own good works and your own two hands, we'll be anxious to hear how you did it all on your own.



Say, what?

Posted by Rik at September 02, 2009 23:55
Yeah, Chris? What's with that?!! I haven't heard anything about anyone building their own "perfect kingdom." You ended with "we'll be anxious to hear how you did it all on your own." Who's doing what on their own? In case you are not away, many are upset at this time, and with good reason: Their church has abandoned them by abandoning the clear word of God in Holy Scripture. The few who brought this on the ELCA did not even care enough for their overseas sister-churches, their ecumenical partners, or their fellow brothers and sisters in the ELCA to prevent division in their churchbody--they just voted their desired outcome regardless of how this effected consciences. And now, you have the nerve to suggest that they can and will go any place that they desire--I have never heard anything so ridiculous before! The church members dissed at the CWA were not the ones seeking their own direction at their own choosing. Rather, they were the ones seeking to stay true to God's Word, even when others put up their sails to be led by the breezes of the spirit of the times. I admire those who are truly seeking God's direction. Many of them, for a long time wrote that they desired to stay in the ELCA, and be a witness within this church body. I've read that repeatedly on LF and other sites. When an assembly of humans think that they have the authority to overturn God's teachings--with the audacity of those building the tower of Babel--enough is enough. What, and how much do you have to remove from a Lutheran church body before it is no longer Lutheran? Before it is no longer Christian? (I am referring to the organization, I am not judging the hearts of the individual people involved). Jesus said, "By it's fruit you will know it." So, you can insinuate all you want to that those who actually leave the ELCA are sectarian. And you would be wrong. The branches need to remain connected to the vine to live. If they are connected to something not connected to the Vine, they are without life. May God have mercy.


I tried to be a light in the ELCA

Posted by David Pross at September 03, 2009 01:37
But it's been made clear to me there's no room in the ELCA's purported "big tent" (with rainbow-coloured canvas, no doubt) for those who believe as I do; i.e., that the Bible is the Word of God, period.

Don't misconstrue. I haven't been kicked out. But I have been told that "the ELCA is going places in ministry" I may or may not be able to follow.

I cannot, and will not, follow the path laid at CWA.

I tried to be a light in the ELCA...

Posted by Glenn Ryder at September 03, 2009 02:32
I've come to the conclusion, like many others, that I'm not leaving the ELCA. The ELCA has left me.

Um, yeah, right.

Posted by David Pross at September 03, 2009 01:46
By the heck...those nasty, self-centred "traditionalists" in the ELCA think it's all about THEM?

The homosexual lobby won this "victory" by appealing to FEELINGS.

It's all about ME, how I have been "persecuted" by the way the ELCA's standards USED to be, it is MY RIGHT to be ordained, and I don't like those nasty passages in Scripture by the misogynistic, homophobic Paul of Tarsus, and Jesus didn't say a word about homosexuality, much less "committed, same-gender relationships" (a line that is starting to make me nauseous) so I WANT MY RIGHTFUL PLACE IN THE PULPIT, and I WANT MY RIGHTFUL PLACE FOR MY "PARTNER" AND I TO BE WED IN HOLY MATRIMONY. It doesn't matter that almost 2,000 years of Christian teaching are to be overthrown, that the ELCA will likely become a pariah in the wider Christian community (except for the Episcopalians, UCC and Metropolitan Community Church). I want "justice."

So who owns the problem?

Homosexual Marriage

Posted by mdebusk at September 03, 2009 17:38
Being an old, lay, Lutheran Christian I do have a question about Homosexual "marriage". I'm a pro-life person, but I see the need to allow abortions to continue (women will seek them legally or illegally) to protect the lives of the women. I am against homosexual "marriage", but what do we offer homosexuals who want to enter a relationship? Wouldn't it be better to offer something to encourage a "union" rather than to have promiscuous homosexuals? Thanks for any thoughts or ideas.

union verses promiscuity

Posted by Dana at September 03, 2009 19:26
The fundamental question is one of origination. Is the institution of marriage a divine or human construct? If it is a human device, than humanity has the right to change its context at will —- as it has as society develops and as cultures regulate its scope.
If it is a divine institution, then it is the responsibility of faithful Christians to accept it as God has given. We have received a model from Scripture and tradition that defines marriage as a life-long commitment of love and support between one man and one woman. This is what we understand God has revealed as His ideal.
As far as promiscuity, the scriptural context is that sexual intercourse should only be in the commitment of marriage —- and in a marriage as defined by Scripture.
To create a device that recognizes monogamous homosexual relationships is equivalent to establishing one bank to be robbed over and over again. One bank because robbing multiple different banks is dangerous to the bank robber. This scenario of course ignores the undeniable fact that robbing banks is wrong. Do we have a right to redefine what God has given as the model for sexual intimacy and marriage? I don't think so. That is the crux.
I hope this helps.

Reply to Dana

Posted by mdebusk at September 03, 2009 20:00
Thanks for your reply, Dana. I pretty much believe we are on the same page. I would not want to redefine marriage; what I was looking for was "something" that recognizes homosexual "unions". I have read Pastor Rodney Juell's "Letter To a Friend on a Difficult Issue" several times in the winter issue of Lutheran Forum. In it states, "Tolerate the evil. Even make your peace with the evil and do the evil if there seems to be no alternative. But do not approve the evil." Would there be someway to "recognize" homosexual unions without "approving" homosexual unions?

Very problematic

Posted by Dana at September 03, 2009 21:05
How does a faithful Christian then allow for the sin without affirming it? It is a very difficult thing to balance. The only model scripture gives us in the face of our sin is repentance. Repentance is the acknowledging of it and our own sinfulness, a heartfelt plea for forgiveness and a commitment to cease from sin and make right whatever harm we have done. Although Scripture sometimes describes sin as more weakness than rebellion, it makes no provision to allow for it. Scripture also makes plain that sexual immorality carries with it its own kind of punishment. In all the debate, we have not talked much about that. If we are correct in our understanding, then with the prohibition, there should also be warning.
Granted, the church has done a very poor job of addressing the issue of homosexual orientation. Many have over simplified the issue by reducing it to merely a matter of choice. Political correctness has limited the scope of conversation I am afraid.

Young Voices and Marriage

Posted by Norman Sulaica, Jr at September 04, 2009 17:55
Thought #1: I read each response, and I listen to those on the congregation. The conclusion which rises to the top is simple. My young families are opposed to CWA vote. They can ready to say "bye" to the church. The is not about age. It is about God's Word. It is about the will of God. It is about God's law and grace. The CWA placed this divine reality to the side to follow the voice of society and culture.

Thought #2: I just returned from a required, mandated meeting by the synod to address the vote of the CWA. Those people in favor and opposed to the vote on Resolution #2 (same gender unions) called it for what it is -- marriage. Proponents and opponents recognized with ceremony soon to be written that these functions are about gay marriage. We can use the name union, yet it is still marriage.


offer opportunity to commit?

Posted by Rod at September 04, 2009 03:45
About offering an opportunity for homosexuals to commit to a partner... Really? Is it better to allow them to commit to sin with one person rather than dabble in sin when they can't resist? I surely don't think the Christian Church should uphold either of these as options!

GOD HAS PUT THEM IN OUR HANDS

Posted by Richard Davis at September 03, 2009 19:07
Sarah writes, "A tiny portion of the ELCA's membership, somewhat more than 500 people, have decided at a single event to overturn the historic teaching of the church,".

I think the Constitutional amendment is a great idea assuming that most ELCA congregations would adopt it.

Yet most of the above responses to this suggestion are negative and ready to give up to the 500. The branch that is my congregation is connected to the one true vine. It does not run thru Chicago. We may be adopting such an amendment in the near future.

I could envisage 90% of ELCA congregations adopting such constitutional amendments if all would stand and fight with the tool I believe God has put in our hands.

God is in charge. Start acting like you believe it. I don't think he wants you to walk away from this Body because of political maneuvers by a Godless few. Two can play the political maneuver game. I think God wants us to stay and fight. This is a very effective way of doing that.

Office of the Keys?

Posted by Henry at September 03, 2009 21:01
Does exercising one's bound conscience include withholding absolution from impenitent bound consciences?

Rank & File: Do You Know Where Your Church Is? You Don't Need To!

Posted by Don Struckmeyer at September 04, 2009 12:39
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, two jobs, family etc.) to fight the "political" movements in the ELCA. So, the simplist solution and most time-effective is to vote with my feet. I am amazed that an elite leadership would be so righteous in the belief to promote the gay lifestyle that they were willing to change a thousand years of tradition and "ignore" the view of members, clergy, and the true concensus in the church - this I find the most upsetting. So, like the commercial about your children, I don't, in fact, "Know Where My Church Is." And, I dont't have the time/energy to find out.

The following is the explanation I gave my ministers as to "why" this issue is so important to an otherwise "regular" member:



Ordaining Practicing Gays Will Require the Acceptance of Gay Marriage:

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 to Some People "Choosing" 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 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 this 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 life. 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 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 Kinds 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 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 the Killing of the Unborn 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, 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.



Rank and File

Posted by Paul Grunzweig at September 04, 2009 15:20
Don S - Your comprehensive statement nails it perfectly

- Another rank-and-file "guy sitting in the pews."

From a schmuck in the pews voting with his feet

Posted by David Pross at September 04, 2009 17:28
Mr Struckmeyer, you have presented one of the most cogent, reasoned arguments against this Gospel reductionism that I have yet read.

I fully believe that this should have been put to a vote, by EVERY member of the ELCA, in EVERY congregation in the USA, the one in Canada, and the ones in the Caribbean. Had that happened, I am sure that the outcome would have been very different. I certainly can't see rural congregations in the Great Plains having gone for this.

But we weren't entrusted with that.

Why try to stay in the ELCA at all?

Posted by James Gustafson at September 04, 2009 16:05
I am personally dumbstruck by the arguments presented for how to stay in the ELCA and yet not endorse the ELCA’s change in doctine? As if leaving the ELCA were somehow a heretical thought in and of itself. But honestly, I think that anyone who feels so attached to the ELCA, it’s their very Family - for generations, etc., these people have their priorities mixed up.

Can one's ELCA membership override their loyalties to the Word of God and following Jesus? Of course not, and I don't think anyone is actively arguing for that interpretation either, but their actions and intentions to stay in affiliation with a church, at seemingly any cost, even though the ELCA is clearly endorsing a non-biblical and non-traditional Christian theology and changing the salvation message itself (by telling the practicing homosexual that they do not need to repent of their sexual activities it IS changing the Lutheran salvation theology to something other than Lutheran. Claiming this little difference is an opinion of scripture, a non-essential doctrine that we can safely differ on, ignores the fundamental problem caused by sanctioning unrepented sin, this policy change creates a false belief in the hearer of the ELCA message that their sin does not need to be repented of, therefore it IS a fundamental doctrine that cannot be ‘dismissed’ as irrelevant).

If the ELCA is your “family” and you are reluctant to disavow it and leave it behind…
Matthew 10:35-39
[i]For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.[/i]

But if you do leave, fear not…
Mark 10:28-30
“[i]Peter began to say to him, "See, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.[/i]”

Matthew 8:22
[i]And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”[/i]

Who then is your brother and sister in Christ if you do not follow your ELCA family?
Mark 4:35
“[i]For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.[/i]”

Fear of change is no reason to continue your affilitation with wrong.

What's Next?

Posted by Rob Hage at September 04, 2009 17:23
I did not speak up in church on Sunday, but I agree with everything that was said by others. I have been praying about this for a long time, and like most who have, hoped this day would never come.


Personally, I have witnessed this disturbing agenda in the works for the past 6 years at the synod meetings I have attended or watched online....still in shock that it passed while most of us were ‘sleeping’. - I still believe this vote was left in the hands of less than 1% of those it affects...but now, that argument is a mute point.

Unfortunately, to reverse this vote in the short term in the ELCA is highly unlikely...it could be a minimum of 3 years, if ever. ...someone please correct me if this is not accurate.


I know there are many like minded people who want to worship in community, outside of a corporate thumb. Now that this line has been drawn in the sand, it is time to choose a side.

There is no more debating about the size or color of this line, it is there and we must each choose one or the other....waffling or waiting is not an option, and time is not on our side.


Worshipping under the ELCA corporate now to me would be no different than worshipping under a shiny new golden calf. Even with a by-law that says “Don’t worry folks, we will never have a calf worshipper be your pastor”...in my opinion, this simply will not fly in our church - or many, many others like it...nor should it ever. The principal of this matter carries far more weight than the remote possibility it will ever come to OS.

I think we will be just fine without the ELCA - or the ABCD or the DEFG. As long as Jesus is always our CEO in everything we do, I am confident He will bless us beyond our current imagination if we follow His lead. He has never let us down.

Just what will we lose if we leave the ELCA? What will we gain? We need to make a list before the next meeting?


I personally wish to remain a Lutheran - as much as Martin did. To understand what I literally mean, I encourage you to read Luther’s Large Catechism and other works to answer this question—Am I a Lutheran?. Dig into it for yourself, don’t let others tell you what you should believe. Like pastor said on Sunday, read if for you yourself. Unlike in Luther’s time, 99% of us can actually read and don’t have to be told what to think.

More to the point, I discovered by reading his works that Martin Luther NEVER wanted to split the Church catholic, and he never wanted the resulting reformation to be called ‘Lutheran’. I think he would have much preferred ‘Followers of Christ’ over ‘Lutheran’ - people who daily seek repentance and humbly receive God’s grace...not consciously/ purposely sinning and counting on God’s grace the next morning so that they can intentionally do it all over again. ...or, as they had become accustomed to in Luther’s day, they paid a few coins to the church to obtain forgiveness from God.

People who do this send Christ to the cross over and over and think nothing of it....regardless, in His Mercy, God waits for each of us so that one day we may come to Him through His Son, give up, and stop doing ‘this’ – but only by His power, and on a schedule of His own choosing, will He reveal Himself to us. ....Yes, I too send Christ to the cross every day, and I humbly regret this. I am not destined to stop doing this until I go to heaven.

Under Jesus commandment to love one another, I will continue to love and witness of God’s love to the rapists, child molesters, homosexuals, prostitutes, adulterers, addicts, murderers, atheists, agnostics and voo doo-satan worshippers ...I will never endorse, or let them think that what they have done, or are doing, is right by God, but I will let them know that God will both convict and forgive them for what they have done, and give them a peace that they can’t possibly imagine - if only they turn to Him. Only the Holy Spirit distributes the true power and gift of Self-Control...there are no 12 step programs to receive the gifts of the Spirit.

‘These’ people seldom walk through the doors of OS on any given Sunday, but I would welcome and encourage them to do so with love.
However, I do recognize that every single person who currently walks through the doors of OS, though they may not be a rapist or murderer, we are all misfits!!!
Praise God for each one who walks through those doors seeking Him.


My love of our christian community at OS is very high.

Only because of what Jesus personally revealed to me 5 years ago, am I even a part of this family today.

My loyalty to God’s word trumps my loyalty to OS, and my house will not remain affiliated with the ELCA.

I too renounce this latest resolutions, and will back it up by turning in our ‘membership card’ at the nearest, most appropriate, time.

In Christ alone,

Rob

Nicely Said...

Posted by James Gustafson at September 04, 2009 17:56

Rob Hage Said: I personally wish to remain a Lutheran - as much as Martin did. To understand what I literally mean, I encourage you to read Luther’s Large Catechism and other works to answer this question—Am I a Lutheran?

I wholeheartedly agree, I have a different perspective though. Remaining Lutheran this time actually requires one leave the ELCA, staying with the ELCA is leaving Lutheran Christianity. ;)

Another "nicely said" for our Rob

Posted by David Pross at September 04, 2009 19:31
Yes, indeed, nicely said. And lovingly, too.

If our congregation was leaving the ELCA, I would stay with the congregation.

However, it is not.

Therefore, our next move is to the AALC or LCMS.

Voting with the feet

Posted by Paul at September 04, 2009 22:37
My wife and I voted with our feet just this week.

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CHURH IS? YOU DON'T NEED TO1

Posted by Don Struckmeyer at September 05, 2009 12:26
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 simplist 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 view of members, clergy, and the true concensus 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 dont'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:

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 CONSEQUENCE:

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 OPPOSTION:

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.





Sounds Like something I have heard before

Posted by John at September 06, 2009 00:13
Remember when the ELCA decided to ordain women. Such controversy and fears we heard. Look how we have been blessed by that decision. Perhaps "all things work for good for those who love God". They did back then and I bet the Spirit might do it again even if we don"t trust Him. We will see in a few years.

The warnings you heard before turned out ot be correct

Posted by James Gustafson at September 06, 2009 03:03
John said: "Remember when the ELCA decided to ordain women. Such controversy and fears we heard. Look how we have been blessed by that decision."

Rather, I wonder if the warnings that were given then, the people that wondered if the slipperly slope once entered would lead directly to something like this day. It would appear to me that the warnings and fears of then may have been right, in the end, not the other way around, as you suppose. Where are the blessings of that decision if they are the first step to leading to this fall of the Lutheran theology that has been passed down through the ages?

Judgment

Posted by Kurt Johnson at September 07, 2009 14:51
"For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment." James 2:13

The difference between Judgment and Discernment

Posted by James Gustafson at September 07, 2009 19:53
It is true that we don't have to bother ourselves with judging those outside of the church... but those inside the church is a different matter.

1 Corinthians 5:12
"For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?"

Knowing them by their fruits requires us to judge the fruit...

Matthew 7:17-23
"So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"

Inside versus Outside

Posted by Kurt Johnson at September 08, 2009 03:16
James 2:13 DOESN'T SAY that "judging inside the church is a different matter." You make my very point involving proof-texting regarding the larger issue.

Inside verses Inside

Posted by James Gustafson at September 08, 2009 04:49
James 5:19
"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."

Apparently you would have it that we can't tell other Christians when they are "wandering" away, but James seems to disagree with you. I already quoted Jesus, Paul and James showing that we can and should help our fellow Christians know when they are doing wrong. You call it judgemental, James calls it bringing back a sinner from his wandering ways, Paul said in verse 13, "God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you." and Jesus said we are to tell them from the fruits they bear.

I can't help you any futher, if you don't believe James, Paul or Jesus, I can't help you.

Don't fret over non-help

Posted by Kurt Johnson at September 08, 2009 19:38
Don't fret. If I needed you to help me, I'd be in deep trouble. Fortunately, I understand it very well.

Line in the Sand

Posted by Rik at September 08, 2009 20:43
May God give His people the strength and determination to do what they need to do at this time, as a line has been drawn in the sand and people must decide which side they are on.

It is not a question of what is easiest--for some, staying in the ELCA is the easiest choice, and for others it is easier to leave no matter what. What IS important here, is that a church body in convention has made its official decision that it no longer wants to be normed by the Word of God in Holy Scripture. Is a church still a church just because it still appears to be a church? Others have made far better arguments than I can in favor of leaving the abandonment of Law and Gospel, and joining with others of like mind in adhering to Biblical doctrine (teaching). For encouragement on one's move forward, might I suggest one take a look at the Wittenberg Trail (http://wittenbergtrail.ning.com/)to meet fellow pilgrims and grow in the knowledge of God's good teachings.

Sides

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 13:53
The idea of chosing sides comes out of legalism. I go for building on relationships not separation. Tell me what is it on each side that I have to chose between.Describe for me what my options are.

Sides

Posted by John at September 11, 2009 13:54
The idea of chosing sides comes out of legalism. I go for building on relationships not separation. Tell me what is it on each side that I have to chose between.Describe for me what my options are.

Care about me, also

Posted by John at September 12, 2009 19:53
"The ELCA no longer wants to be normed by the Word of God in Holy Scripture". Such nonsence, Rik. We are just not so legalist about these matters and are able to see our possible inability to know the will of God perfectly. We do understand that thinking living people understand differently. What must I do when by brother understands differently than I do. Love him, do not label, keep talking together to give the Spirit further opportunity to bring agreement. Repect each others conscience. Hang in their Rik, care about me as well as your opinion. You never know we both might grow a bit.

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