IT SHOULD NOT SURPRISE ANYONE
It should not surprise anyone that a movement is developing to get the ELCA to commit a massive breach of trust and to eliminate any provision for traditional views and those who hold them.
In my August letter from the director I told about some of the more significant actions that were taken by the 2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. One of the most alarming was the overwhelming approval of a resolution “to authorize a possible revision of the social statement on Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” which “reconsiders the church’s current concept of the four positions of bound conscience.” (These four positions can be found on pages 19-21 of the 2009 social statement. They provide a way for there to be a place of respect for traditional views and those who hold them. A link to the document can be found here.)
At least there were a few people who spoke against this resolution, and 12% voted against it, but still it should be obvious to all that the days of the ELCA’s claiming to honor bound conscience and to provide a place for those who hold traditional views are over.
In my August letter I wrote that I am certain that the ELCA actually never intended to honor traditional views. The language regarding bound conscience and the four positions was placed within the 2009 social statement only to obtain enough votes to get the social statement approved, and even then it was barely approved. One needs to look no further than the ELCA’s total embrace of ReconcilingWorks and its choice of keynote speakers for the 2018 youth gathering to realize that confessional Lutherans with traditional views are not welcome.
But how will it happen? A recent statement from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) suggests a possible path. This organization describes its mission in this way.
“Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries organizes queer seminarians and rostered ministers, confronts barriers and systemic oppression, and activates queer ideas and movements within the Lutheran Church.”
On September 7 this organization released a document entitled “ELM Churchwide Assembly and Bound Conscience Statement.” A link to the full statement can be found here.
In this document they say, “The ELCA must address our sins of racism and ‘bound conscience.’” It then says, “As Lutherans, we confess our participation in these systems, yet we continually fall short in the ways to overcome these systems of oppression.” “Sin” and part of the “systems of oppression” – that is what Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is challenging the ELCA to join with them in calling traditional views of human sexuality.
I am sure that no one who had been paying attention thought that bound conscience was anything more than temporary. In some places it was ignored right from the beginning. What is new here is explicit language with which bound conscience might be repudiated and the means by which it might be done – through a public apology by the Churchwide Assembly and the Presiding Bishop.
The statement from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries describes recent times when the ELCA has made a formal apology.
- “In 2019, the Churchwide Assembly adopted a formal letter of repentance to commit to examine the church’s complicity in slavery, and to acknowledge ‘the ELCA’s perpetuation of racism.’”
- Also in 2019 the ELCA made a formal apology to the African Descent community.
- “At the 2022 Churchwide Assembly, Bishop Eaton formally apologized to the worshipping community of Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria Peregrina for both individual and institutional racist harm done to the congregation & the Latine community.”
And now Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is calling upon the ELCA to make a similar apology to the LGBTQ+ community. Their document states, “Queer people in the ELCA deserve an apology and behavior consistent with repentance for the harm caused by ‘bound conscience’ and policies like ‘Visions and Expectations.’” “Vision and Expectations” is a document that was approved by the ELCA Church Council in 1990 to describe what the church expected of its leaders but then removed from use by the ELCA Church Council in March 2020 because its more traditional views and expectations were “a source of great pain for many in the ELCA.”
Bound conscience and traditional views are now a sin – on the same level as racism and other forms of systemic oppression. What should alarm every Lutheran with traditional views is the fact that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries always gets what it wants. They wanted the ELCA to remove the word “chastity” from its revised version of Definitions and Guidelines so that ELCA public theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber would be able to remain on the clergy roster while bragging about her sex life with her boyfriend (to whom she is not married), and they got what they wanted. If Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries gets its way (which they always do) sooner or later – maybe in 2025, maybe in 2028 – the ELCA will officially repent and apologize for permitting pastors and congregations to teach and live according to what the Church has been teaching for two thousand years.
But while the ELCA grovels and repents as Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries tells them to, do not expect them to repent for breaking their promises to honor and provide a place for traditional views and those who hold them.
In my August letter I also wrote about another resolution that was approved by the Churchwide Assembly which should cause great alarm for confessional, traditionally minded Lutherans. The assembly voted to direct the Church Council “to establish a Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church” which would be “particularly attentive to our shared commitment to dismantle racism” and would “present its findings and recommendations to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a possible reconstituting convention.”
The question naturally arises, Who will develop this revised version of the 2009 human sexuality social statement and possible reconsideration (rejection) of the four positions of bound conscience? Also, who will be appointed to this “Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church”? You can be sure that those who have been driving the process to get things to where they are today have been busy, working to make themselves the dominant factor in the process. Many of these people have said that they do not believe that any “white male over the age of sixty” should be allowed to have anything to do with the process, and the Statement from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries urges “the committee tasked with reconsidering ‘bound conscience’ to include ‘new, young, and diverse’ voices and those that have been most harmed by ‘bound conscience.’” The ELCA has made it very clear that high on its list of priorities for the coming years is to reach “one million new, young, and diverse people.”
The ELCA Church Council is scheduled to meet November 10-13. We assume that among the actions taken will be the appointment of people to the Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church and the task force to review and revise the human sexuality social statement. We all know that once you know who is on the committee, you know the outcome. We will keep you posted.
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Each month we feature two videos – the most recent addition to our video book reviews, and a recent addition to our CORE Convictions videos. The CORE Convictions series is being designed particularly for those who wish to grow in their knowledge of Biblical teaching and Christian living as well as for those who want to know more about how Lutherans understand the Bible. We also want to provide this resource for those who do not have the opportunity or the option of attending a church where the preaching and teaching is Biblical, orthodox, and confessional.
Here is a link to our You Tube channel. In the top row you will find recordings from both sets of videos – in the order in which they were posted, beginning with the most recent. In the second row you will find links to the Playlists for both sets of videos. We now have five videos in our CORE Convictions series. Many thanks to retired AALC pastor James Hoefer for his video on “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.” His video will be featured in December.
This month we want to feature a video book review by Pastor Chris Johnson and a CORE Convictions video by Pastor James Lehmann.
“LIVES AND WRITINGS OF THE GREAT FATHERS OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”
Many thanks to Chris Johnson, LCMC pastor and secretary of the board of Lutheran CORE, for his review of this book, which is edited by Timothy Schmeling and Robert Kolb. A link to his video can be found here.
Pastor Johnson begins by reminding us of the phrase, “If we can see farther, it is because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.” He sees this statement as true in many areas of life, including theology, and as well illustrated in the biographies and writings of twenty-one theologians who came after Luther from the 1550’s to the late 1600’s.
Some of these men were educators, some were brilliant systematic theologians, some were preachers. Some were known for their poetry, their hymnody, or their devotional literature. They served in many different ways, but they were all very gifted and dedicated to the Christian faith as understood by the Lutheran Confessions.
Some were known for their polemical style, which is quite understandable since they lived during tumultuous times. They faced many challenges and endured great suffering, such as during the Thirty Years War and from the plague. Many experienced deep pain and sorrow from the death of several family members.
They fought hard battles, were attacked on many sides, and suffered great losses. They lived during a period of Lutheran history that we often ignore. But according to Pastor Johnson, it is a great gift to us to get to know them and what they did. They were men of faith who were dedicated to the Lutheran Confessions. We would do well to learn from them as to how they persevered and remained true to the faith no matter what.
TEACHING THE FAITH TO CHILDREN OF ALL AGES
Many thanks to NALC pastor Jim Lehmann for his video, a link to which can be found here. According to Pastor Lehmann, teaching the faith to children of all ages “may be easier than you think. It does take discipline to make disciples. It starts before a person can understand the language of faith and continues when language may be lost. Join me for some ideas.”
The temperatures are cooler here in Arizona, and the Sonoran desert is lush and green from the summer rains. No wonder the Snowbirds are returning. We are constantly being reminded of God’s goodness. May you also experience His blessings.
Dennis D. Nelson
Executive Director of Lutheran CORE