Sunday, August 23, 2009

An intereting (and very sad) week in Lutheranism

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest "Lutheran" church body in North America, this week voted in their body-wide convention to approve a document called a "Social Statement" in which they give approval to same-sex relationships. In a subsequent vote, they also approved the ordination of homosexual clergy who are in committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships.

This is only the latest step in a journey which has taken the ELCA further away from the Word of God. The ELCA in its colleges and seminaries teaches that Bible is a document which was written by men under the influence of God, and that the hand of man in the Bible means that certain things that the Bible contains are not actually God's Word, and so it is their responsibility to decide what God actually said and what was written because of the patriarchal, misogynistic bigotry of men. With this method, sometimes called "historical criticism", the first determination the ELCA made was that the Biblical prohibition against the ordination of women must be abolished. Then they determined that they should be in fellowship--meaning that they share pastors, altars and pulpits--with church bodies with which there are doctrinal disagreements, even when these disagreements concern matters of vital imporance and were matters over which Luther himself could not bring himself to declare fellowship with those who held these beliefs. (This includes but is not limited to the understanding of what the Lord's Supper is and what it means.)

And now they have further stepped away from God's Word by choosing to accept homosexual relationships and to ordain actively homosexual clergy. This is not a surprising step, but it is a disappointing one. When a church body allows itself to pick and choose what from the Bible to believe and what from the Bible to discard, it is usually the least popular teachings which fall by the wayside. Notice what they have already excluded:
1. Denying ordination to women means that the Bible discriminates against half of the world's population! Surely God wouldn't mean to do that, so that must be the influence of the patriarchal society in which the men who wrote the Bible lived.
2. Forming fellowship with church bodies based on an agreement in doctrine means that we are discriminating against everyone who doesn't believe exactly as we do. Surely God does not desire the Church to be divided, so for the sake of love we will declare fellowship with bodies with whom our historical statements of confession do not agree.
3. And what about homosexuals? Sure, God talks about homosexuality, but he does so in the same book in which he declares menstruating women to be unclean! Those laws aren't taken serisously today by anyone, so we can do away with the whole lot--including the outdated thought that homosexuality is sinful. It doesn't matter that this prohibition was repeated again in the New Testament through Paul. Paul was just a homophobe.
These Biblical doctrines were eliminated in the name of love. The problem is, by affirming people in these errors, they are literally loving people to eternal death.

I say none of this in a boastful manner. The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS), the church body to which I belong, has its own problems right now, and our problems are not small ones. Nonetheless, we are duty-bound to "test the spirits" (I John 4), to examine what is taught concerning God's Word. And when someone so obviously steps away from the Word of God, we are duty bound to say so.

Paul tells us in II Timothy 4, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." The ELCA as a body has chosen to turn away from the truth. Instead of clinging to what is right, they have turned to what is popular. Kyrie, eleison!

Please keep these wayward brethren in your prayers. And keep in your prayers all who would hold to the truth of Scripture in spite of its unpopular teachings. This is a difficult time for all of us.

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