In 2009 the ELCA adopted their statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” which allowed for them to now ordain practicing homosexuals into the pastoral office as well as be militant voices in support of the homosexual agenda sweeping across the United States.
The 2010 Convention of the LCMS asked for the CTCR to respond to the statement (Resolution 3-01A found at the end of the CTCR document) and that response is now publicly available. One of the things that this response shows is how the ELCA has consistently misused Luther and Lutheran theology to justify its own progressive agenda. It is a good reminder to all of us to use our fathers as they intended to be used (remembering context in using the fathers).
Here are some notable quotes from the document:
Justification by grace through faith alone is essential for a Lutheran ethic, but it can never be used as a principle that negates ethical discernment. The doctrine is misused when it is taken as a justification for sin rather than the justification of the sinner. Lacking Luther’s clarity that God’s who walks before God in righteousness and holiness, HSGT diminishes the dynamic of Lutheran teaching, providing a way for a sexual ethic that is elastic and ultimately undefined. Faith in Christ becomes permission for the Christian to determine his or her course of action when it comes to a sexual ethic within the nebulous bounds of self-designated love for the neighbor. (pages 4-5 always good to remember what Justification is meant for)
Here HSGT is suggesting that, perhaps, contemporary scientific research might alter traditional readings of Scripture on homosexuality. From the standpoint of theological ethics, however, it is irrelevant whether homosexuality is a result of a genetic order, environment, or personal choice, since Christians recognize that all of creation after the fall is subject to bondage, disorder, and death. (page 10 dealing with the enthusiasm of trying to use the new revelations of “science” to change the meaning of Scripture)
The definitions of sexuality given in HSGT are largely shaped by the vocabulary of contemporary social and psychological sciences with eclectic references to God. (page 10 again, I quote this one to remind us of a growing trend in LCMS circles to use the vocabulary of contemporary social and psychological sciences)
The redefinition of marriage suggested by HSGT discounts the heart of Luther’s definition. More importantly, the document represents a radical departure from what God has instituted and it opens the way for the church to bless what God condemns. (page 16, firm language)
Another one related to the ELCA using “bound conscience” to excuse heresy:
In a crucial move HSGT does two things. First, it identifies the question of same-gendered relationships as falling into the arena of ethics and church practice, suggesting that this not an issue of doctrine which should divide the church. Second, HSGT argues that committed Christians engaged in moral deliberation and discernment may indeed arrive at conflicting conclusions. These varying conclusions could be protected by an appeal to “the bound conscience;” (page 16 again, quoted again to show the tactic of liberals to demote things into the realm of ethics or practice when in fact doctrine is involved and also the relativism involved in coming to such “conclusions”)
Another one on the conscience:
HSGT, however, gives wide berth to the function of conscience, neglecting its limitations and unreliability.57 For Luther conscience is not bound to itself. Bound to itself, the conscience will either be captivated by the terror of the law’s accusations or driven by impulses toward self-justification. The conscience is alternately accusing or excusing (see Romans 2:15-16).58 This aspect of conscience is ignored in HSGT. (page 19)
One of the best statements made in the response:
In spite of many thoughtful and critical voices within the ELCA,64 HSGT became the theological foundation for a devastating departure from Holy Scriptures in regard to the blessing of same sex couples and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. In an essay written in 1936, Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse observed that “Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie.”65 Sasse then goes on to describe forms that the lie takes on: the pious lie, the edifying lie, the dogmatic lie, and finally the institutional lie. We must frankly conclude that each of these aspects of the lie finds its way into HSGT. Most pertinent for our response is the fact that what Sasse called the dogmatic lie—the notion that our age has greater understanding than our ancestors and so we have reached a “doctrinal maturity” that enables us to modify dogma— has now been made concrete in the ELCA by means of “the institutional lie” as that church body has officially adopted a heretical position on human sexuality. This is not merely a case of misapplied ethics but a dogmatic decision that is, in fact, schismatic. The evaluation of Wolfhart Pannenberg rings true: “If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”66 The ELCA has now taken this step, embodying apostasy from the faith once delivered to the saints.67 (page 21, emphasis added)
Another great statement:
In what is intended to be compassionate and pastoral, there is a deep cruelty in HSGT for it is incapable of finally speaking either law or Gospel. Failing to do this, tolerance and affirmation of freedom for choice within the bounds of a community of love and trust take the place of absolution. Our deepest disappointment with HSGT is not only that it is a revised ethic that only mimics our decadent culture but that it undercuts the church’s proper work of absolving sinners in the name of Jesus Christ. (page 22)
A final quote of encouragement to Confessional Lutherans:
It is imperative that confessional Lutheran church bodies continue to develop theologically responsible ways to provide authentic pastoral care to individuals whose lives have been marred by sexual sin of whatever kind. Our unflinching rejection of current attempts to provide theological justification for homosexual behavior is not born out of a Pharisaical stance of self-righteousness or a squeamish homophobia but from a commitment to God’s truth revealed in Holy Scripture. We are equally committed to showing appropriate compassion to those who struggle with this sin. Sin is never to be addressed with hateful attitudes, words, or actions. The truth of God’s law must be spoken with clarity but it must be articulated with kindness and care for those to whom it is addressed. Bigotry and disdain will only deepen the resistance of those who are secure in their sin. Ministry to people who are enticed with same gender attractions or who have committed homosexual sins will require patient and consistent speaking of both God’s law and Gospel, even as congregations support them in the struggle to live as sons and daughters of the Father in the freedom that comes only in the forgiveness of sins. Given the climate of our culture this is a daunting work. Yet we have the promise that the Word of the Lord will not return to Him empty. Clothed with the deep compassion of Christ for sinners, we will seek to undertake this work with both truth and mercy.72 (page 23)
Thank you to the CTCR for this document which deals with the ELCA statement quite well.