A reflection from an ELCA Pastor on their actions this week in Minneapolis
Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.
Minneapolis...there's something about this city that leads church bodies into temptation, and to abandoning the faith of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.
As a "voting member" to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), I've witnessed firsthand the agony of a faithful, orthodox, minority crying out like a voice in the wilderness. In the same room where the General Convention of TEC voted to part ways with the rest of the Christian church and affirm +VGR, this week the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to "find ways for congregations that choose to do so to recognize lifelong, monagamous, same-sex relationships", and to ordain and "roster" (i.e. license) such persons as members of the clergy. It was no freak of weather that a tornado hit the convention center during deliberations, and broke the cross off the steeple of the church next door.
My overall feeling, after despair and righteous anger, was that this decision exposes an eschatological flaw in the structure of our "denomination". The Scriptures, Ecumenical Creeds, writings of the Fathers, Magisterial works of the Reformers, and our Luthearn Confessions and catechisms in the Book of Concord all bear witness to the Truth, Jesus Christ, at work at present in his Holy Word and Sacraments in the power of the Holy Spirit within the life of the Church. Supposedly this Tradition is the norm of our proclamation, teaching, faith and life. In fact, the "social statement on sexuality" that also passed in Minneapolis, (by 66.6%!) frankly recognized that any vision of sexual relations outside of celibacy in singleness and chastity within marriage would be "in contradiction" and a departure from this lode of teaching and Tradition. The "bound consciences" of congregations, synods, and bishops to disagree with the ministry policy changes, and to retain traditionalist oversight over their own clergy and pastoral practices is enshrined within these changes, but as we know from Richard John Neuhaus, where orthodoxy becomes optional, it will eventually be proscribed.
Unfortunately, as in the case of TEC, this week's small, supposedly representative deliberative body, became captive to the political designs of postmodernists dedicated to accomodating culture, appeasing sexual minorities, advocating for a gospel of "inclusiveness", rejecting classical understandings of Scripture and tradition, and in general played into the wiles of the devil.
These decisions, quite frankly, do not represent the heart of American Lutheranism, which is made up of many different faithful streams, the vast majority of which are Scripture-centered, mere-Christian creedal, sacramental, Eucharist-centered, evangelical/missional, with a unique piety shaped by a classical Western liturgy, strong hymnody, catechisms, devotional Bible study, confession & forgiveness, daily remembrance of Baptism, and a larger social-ministry apparatus than any other U.S. Church.
My guess is about 10% of ELCA congregations, mainly urban, elite, and "progressive" will embrace these changes. The remaining 90% of congregations either see themselves too congregationally to care about this bizarre statement that has no authority under Scripture, or will be outraged at the rejection of the authority of Scripture, and the breaking of communion with our thriving orthodox Lutheran churches in the Global South developing world, our immigrant/migrant ethnic congregations (up until now the fastest growing within the ELCA), and grieve our creating a stumbling block for all Scriptural, Gospel-centered Christians: Protestant, Evangelicals, Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic alike.
Those who opposed these votes vehemently came from 2 particular streams, in ways that I think compare intriguingly to the faithful orthodox who have emerged from TEC into ACNA: the Scripture-centered Evangelical pietist Lutherans, and the evangelical catholic Lutherans; perhaps roughly comparable to the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parties who now comprise the ACNA.