I mentioned in an earlier post that I did not think that I would get much time for examination of the ELCA convention this week but as it turns out I did get time to watch the convention in the late afternoon and early evening. My time was a little tight today because I had an elders meeting to prepare for this evening. As it turned out I was able to use some of the material from the ELCA Assembly for our elders Bible study and have some time before bed to get the material on the site tonight.
(By the way, as usual we had a wonderful elders meeting. One of our bits of business was to review the vitas of Matt Harrison and Herb Mueller. Our elders have decided to recommend that our voters nominate these two gentlemen for president and vice president of the synod at our own synod convention next summer. We recommend that your congregation do the same. This website will provide some help to that end.)
There are two major teaching documents that the ELCA is considering this week. The first is on Sexuality in general and the second one is about allowing actively homosexual clergy to be accepted in the ELCA. Debate on the second one begins tomorrow afternoon. Debate on the first one concluded today with the assembly passing the statement by a two to one margin.
The statement adopted today included several positive things, such as condemnation of pornography and child abuse and support for traditional marriage. However, digging into the statement reveals the true character of the ELCA. The ELCA is a post-modern denomination that embraces qualified “truth” based on community dialogue and is not an orthodox church that finds truth revealed in Scripture. Below are a few quotes from the document that will give you an idea how heterodox and even heretical this denomination has become. It should also give us in the LCMS pause as we consider how our own synod has slipped into a non-doctrinally based approach to church. The approach in the LCMS has yet to produce such shocking results but the basic method is similar. These sorts of changes did not happen overnight in the ELCA. The fundamentalism of Jerry Kieschnick and his merry band of church growthers will hold this sort of antinomianism at bay in the LCMS for a while but their pragmatist orientation will in the long-run erode the orthodoxy of moral doctrine in the LCMS.
The first quote demonstrates how the ELCA has changed the question from “What is right or wrong in sexual matters according to Scripture?” to “How should we respond to others sexual choices based on the love of God?” This is a shift away from discovering what the text of the Bible says to limiting what the Bible says based on the extra-Biblical principles of tolerance and “love trumps all,” even the moral facts of the Bible. (To view the entire ELCA statement click here.)
(line 53) This social statement addresses the question: how do we understand human sexuality within the context of Jesus’ invitation to love God and love our neighbor (Romans 13:9–10; Galatians 5:14)?
This is antinomianism (opposed to laws) and Gospel-reductionism (reducing the law out Scripture leaving only the Gospel).
This next quote shows that the ELCA does theology on the basis of consensus and not on the basis of scripture and the confessions.
(line 623) This church also acknowledges that consensus does not exist concerning how to regard same gender committed relationships, even after many years of thoughtful, respectful, and faithful study and conversation. We do not have agreement on whether this church should honor these relationships, uplift, shelter and protect them, or on precisely how it is appropriate to do so.
The ELCA has now admitted that they do not have consensus on sexual morality. So, what do they do? They simply endorse multiple and contradictory views. In true post-modern tolerance the statement endorses those who think that homosexuality is a sin but then it also goes on to endorse those who approve of homosexuality.
(line 638) On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law. They believe same-gender sexual behavior carries the grave danger of unrepentant sin. They therefore conclude that the neighbor and the community are best served by calling people in same-gender sexual relationships to repentance for that behavior and to a celibate lifestyle. Such decisions are intended to be accompanied by pastoral response and community support.
A few lines later they contradict themselves and say this.
(line 660) On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that the scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and committed relationships that we experience today. They believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same-gender relationships are lived out with lifelong and monogamous commitments that are held to the same rigorous standards, sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual marriage. They surround such couples and their lifelong commitments with prayer to live in ways that glorify God, find strength for the challenges that will be faced, and serve others. They believe same gender couples should avail themselves of social and legal support for themselves, their children and other dependents, and seek the highest legal accountability available for their relationships.
In the end this statement of the ELCA allows both approaches. This is just another example of what happens when a denomination stops basing doctrine and practice on Scripture and instead turns to public opinion, or more specifically, “community dilogue,” as the foundation of thier teaching.
Notice also that the ELCA bases morality on one’s conscience. They actually think they are being Lutheran by doing this since Luther based his stand against Rome on the binding of his conscience. What they are missing though is that Luther’s conscience was not bound by some sort of post-modern, existentialist, ELCA bold act of courage. No, Luther states clearly that his conscience was bound by Scripture.
It has taken time but the ELCA has now nearly entirely forsaken their grandfather’s church. President Kieschnick likewise wants to forsake his grandfather’s church. He has not gone as far as the ELCA but the reasoning is the same – change for the sake of being more pleasing to the culture. That is why the elders at my congregation are recommending that our voters nominate Matt Harrison for synodical president and we hope your voters will as well. It is time to clarify that doctrine and practice are to be based on the revealed word of God and not on making a church that is pleasing to the culture. The ELCA convention is a wake-up call for the LCMS.