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"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A reflection from an ELCA Pastor on their actions this week in Minneapolis

A reflection from a good friend of mine, Pastor Ryan Mills of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, who was a "voting member" (i.e., delegate) to this year's Churchwide Assembly:

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.

Scandinavian Pietism, responsible for the vast number of Luthearn churches through the U.S. East and Midwest, focused on Scripture, discipleship, and holiness of life. The evangelical catholic movement within Lutheranism, particularly as represented by clergy in the Society of the Holy Trinity (STS, similar to SSC), see the Lutheran church more as a reform movement within the Western Church, destined for a relationship with Rome, liturgically maintaining the Western Rite with Gospel-centered proclamation of Jesus Christ, crucified.

Lutherans understand God's Word as always at work in both law and gospel, together. The law kills, exposes sin, convicts of guilt, and declares God's righteous judgment. The gospel comes as promise, as forgiveness for Christ's sake, by grace alone without any merit on our part, and as a word that accomplishes in the hearer a new creation in Christ.

Perhaps this Churchwide Assembly and the ELCA as a whole now experiences the "law", and rightly so. But for those who are faithful at the foot of Christ's Cross, something new will emerge on the 3rd day.

A gathering of congregations in Indianapolis in September under the oversight of 6 or more retired bishops, seeks a new biblical, confessional, orthodox, missional Lutheran body in North America. Dozens of very large congregations, large swaths of evangelical catholic congregations, scores of rural pietist congregations, long-alienated Canadian congregations, and many African and Asian immigrant congregations will be represented. Do not expect an immediate "leaving" of the ELCA, or individual Synods (Dioceses) to withdraw, but the gradual emergence of a robust and faithful ecclesial substance. There have already been overtures to this group from streams of Christendom that have surprised me. In Christ, the future is bright.

Pray for us, dear readers. Know that under the "accidents" of this week's actions, the "form" of Christ's true church will yet be found within the Lutheran witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Ora pro nobis.

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.


The Rev. Ryan Mills, STS

Pastor

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Grand Prairie, TX

17 Comments:

Blogger Pat Dague said...

A wonderful reflection-I will be praying! -Pat Dague

Posted it here:
http://transfigurations.blogspot.com/2009/08/reflection-from-elca-pastor-on-their.html

7:15 PM  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

As a polite, yet firm suggestion, I would recommend that those ELCA'ers who are opposed to what happened in Minneapolis also be opposed to WO as well.

(WO = Women's Ordination).

I say the same thing to TEc members as well.

2:19 AM  
Anonymous Technology said...

This is quite a dangerous decision. Allowing homosexuals to serve as clergy will confuse a lot of people.

4:41 AM  
Anonymous Lars Olson said...

Here is the funny thing about stereotypes - they don't always correlate the way we think they should. I come from a church that traces its roots back 125 years to the Norweigan Lutheran Church of which my great-grandfather was one of the founders. Rich heritage, firm in the faith and ground in scripture. We are a somewhat rural congregation, the nearest town of more than 10,000 is over two hours away. The closest town of over 100,000 is probably five hours away. Yet very few, if any, who sat in the pew this morning were upset with the decision made in Minneapolis. See, they have a pastor who has shepherded them to understand that we are all children of God, no matter if we agree or not. Are they sad? Yes. Perhaps not for the reason you believe. They are sad that there is so much hatred coming from people who call themselves Christians. Sad that name calling happens because two people can't agree on something. Yes, they are sad with those "traditionalists" who claim that the ELCA has been taken from them. You see, they understand the church to be God, not one person's viewpoint. That's the difference.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written, Pastor Ryan! Best wishes these next few months.--Fr. Matthew C.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous jasonbradyut said...

This is just appalling. If Luther, the late German Christian protester, would still be here…where the denomination “Lutherans” derived from, he would be stunned and completely disappointed in this horrible abomination to the Word of God and the Gospel. I totally am against this election. When God created “man” he created Adam and Eve, NOT Adam and STEVE!!! Hello people. This is a direct form of disobedience to God. And this is happening in a Church, a denomination that professes to know the Word of God???? Please, God will have to deal with you guys…and it won’t be pretty.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing that bothers me most about "Christianity" is that we are to love our neighbor. Yet, our actions do not follow our words. It is just such a simple concept, yet so hard to do. The words that Ryan spoke/wrote, do not speak of loving our neighbor, rather loving our self. Every comment that is posted focuses on selfish reasons. The gay community is hurting for a Christian home and hurting for religion. What the ELCA voted on shows love and acceptance of God's children. If people do not agree with it, then they need to love the sinner and hate the sin. I am sure Ryan is a sinner, just as I am. I can admit that I am and work daily to improve my life. Ryan needs to get off his throne and give it up to God. Ryan's words were condemning of gay people and hurtful. In my eyes, what he said is simply not Christian, rather just judging "gay" people. Last time I checked there is only one that can pass judgment on others. Just a hint...it is not you, I or Ryan. And one last thought all sins are equal, if you are so good to pass judgement on gay people I suggest you reflect on yourself. Are you worthy to be a Pastor or deciple of God's word, are you even worthy to enter into a Church? Because of the "Grace of God" eventhough we are not worthy, we are able to enter the house of God with other sinners and repent our sins and faults. Then walk out onto the street and preach the gospel of God to ALL people.

Peace in Christ

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Merrilee Alexander said...

Ryan, as Christians, we are taught to always find a way to hold thoughtful, respectful discourse. Your diatribe is neither thoughtful nor respectful, but, rather, filled with narrow-minded hypocrisy.

I am saddened by the hardening of your once loving heart.

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

test2

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to point out to everyone here that "accusing the brethern" and misusing scripture are classic tools of Satan himself. He tried doing this to Jesus in the desert but was rebuffed by proper use of scripture. To the person who quoted "love your neighbor" to try and support sexual sin, and to the person accusing Ryan of hypocrisy, etc., I need to point out that you are acting like the devil.

Ryan has spoken the truth which is the loving thing to do. If one is headed for disaster, the loving thing to do is tell the truth.

I pray that Rev. Mills is able to continue speaking truth in the face of such ungodly opposition.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

welcome to the 21st century, morons!

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lars, I'm with you!!!
Secondly, some of you people on here frighten me with your anger and rhetoric. What kind of Christian has the authority AND the audacity to speak as if they know God's intent? Hateful Christians should be ashamed. Wow.....

12:15 AM  
Anonymous gary said...

More importantly, what kind of Christian bows down to other religious leaders? That junk has got to stop!

The Arch Bishop of Canterbury needs to stop catering to the Muslims who are threatening to dismantle the culture of Euro-Britainia.
And the Roman Catholic Pope needs to stop catering to the Jews of Israel. What good does that do for us? Nothing. We do not need to answer to either one of them.

Lets just focus on Christ. There is no salvation outside of him. ok?

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whoa Gary! You crazy.....

11:51 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

I am guessing Anonymous believes that Christian priests and Bishops should file in rank "beneath" rabbis and muslim clerics??

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Lars; very well said.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Lars; very well said.

8:01 PM  

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