President Kieschnick addressed the ELCA Churchwide Assembly this morning and spoke clearly and firmly against their decisions this week to endorse homosexuality. We have reproduced the text of the address at the end of this post.
First let it be said that this address will need to be digested and discussed over time before we will be able to understand it more completely. These are some initial comments intended to spark a part of that digestion and discussion.
President Kieschnick quoted the Formula of Concord and was quite clear that there is a path toward concord among Lutherans and that path is through agreement on Scripture. He then prefaced his criticism of the actions of the ELCA this past week by saying that he speaks out of humility and with a heavy heart. He made it clear that the decisions of the ELCA were unscriptural.
Last night we suggested that these actions should bring and end to any cooperation with the ELCA. President Kieschnick did not go that far but he did make it clear that this action of the ELCA may create a chasm between the ELCA and the LCMS.
President Kieschnick was clear and firm. However, he chose to cast the entire presentation in the context of striving toward harmony. For instance, early on he mentioned that Lutherans have known discourse from the very beginning. We were born out of discord with the Roman Church. He also said that we have had disagreements with the ELCA in the past and even have disagreements in our own synod.
This is all true but casting the address in this form weakened the message. For an entire week we have listened to ELCA members address the assembly from the delegate microphones using the notion that we live under the cross of Christ as an excuse for a lack of consensus on doctrine and practice. President Kieschnick’s address softened his rebuke of the assembly by making it appear as though discord is the norm. He also gave the impression that we will continue to dialogue on these matters. For sure, it is fine for us to keep sitting across from the table from the ELCA in hopes that our true confession of Scripture will finally sink in but it is now time to cut any other ties with this sinful “communion.” There can be no more room for us to sit on high school associations, immigration boards, and various other committees with practicing homosexuals who claim to be Christian or those who commune with those who allow practicing homosexuals at their communion rail. Maybe even more so, we can no longer sit on “Christian” boards with those who are in full communion with the United Methodist Church. (President Kieschnick did not address this concern.)
As always your comments are appreciated.
The Text of the Address
(Thanks to BJS reader “Carl Vehse” for providing the text of the address.)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Over the years in my life in ministry, these words from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 [19-21] have become especially meaningful:
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting mankind’s sins against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you, on behalf of Christ; be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
What a blessing it is to know that our sin is forgiven, removed from us as far as the east is from the west because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ on Calvary’s cross. And what a humbling privilege and huge responsibility it is to know that God is making his appeal through people like you and like me, people with feet of clay, that the world might be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.
I bring you these greetings on behalf of the 2.4 million members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at a difficult time in the world and in the church. Economic pressures bring great burdens. Strife finds its way into the LCMS, the ELCA, worldwide Lutheranism and the Christian Church as a whole. Mankind’s inhumanity to mankind manifests itself Satan continue to rear their ugly heads in both venues.
Lutherans are no strangers to discord and divisiveness. The Lutheran Church was born under such conditions. Yet we also know the path to concord expressed in these rather straightforward words in the Formula of Concord, written during a notable time of doctrinal controversy and discord in the church. Hear these words from the Kolb-Wengert translation [Note: pp. 525-6]:
“For these controversies are not merely misunderstandings or semantic arguments where someone might think that one group had not sufficiently grasped what the other group was trying to say or that the tensions were based upon only a few specific words of relatively little consequence. Rather, these controversies deal with important and significant matters, and they are of such a nature that the positions of the erring party, neither could nor should be tolerated in the church of god, much less be excused or defended.
“Therefore necessity demands explanation of these disputed articles on the basis of God’s word and reliable writings so that those with a proper Christian understanding could recognize which position regarding the points under dispute is in accord with God’s Word and the Christian Augsburg Confession and which is not, and so the Christians of good will, who are concerned about the truth, might protect and guard themselves from the errors and corruptions that have appeared among us.”
As writers of this Formula pledged themselves, and I quote, “to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments as to the pure and clear fountain of Israel, which alone is the one true guiding principle according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated.”
Discord can become concord when Christian individuals and Christian church bodies are faithful to the Holy Scriptures, which reveal the gospel of God’s grace, forgiveness, and salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The very fact that I represent a denomination known as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at an assembly of a denomination known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America bears witness to the fact that, sadly, and regrettably, in spite of the Holy Word and mercy of our God, the confessions affirmed by the constitutions of both our church bodies, and the faithful example of those who have gone before us, schisms exist, not only in the Christian Church but also in the Lutheran Church.
We have doctrinal differences that separate us. That is no secret.
I speak these next words in deep humility with a heavy heart and no desire whatsoever to offend.
The decisions by this assembly to grant non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA and the affirmation of same-gender unions as pleasing to god will undoubtedly cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA.
It will also negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies. The current division between our churches threatens to become a chasm.
This grieves my heart and the hearts of all in the ELCA, the LCMS and other Christian church bodies throughout the world who do not see these decisions as compatible with the Word of God or in agreement with the consensus of 2,000 years of Christian theological affirmation regarding what scripture teaches about human sexuality.
Simply stated, this matter is fundamentally related to significant differences in how we understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God’s revealed and infallible Word.
Only by the mercy of our almighty god does hope remain for us poor, miserable sinners.
By his grace, through word and sacraments, the evangelical witness and authentic message of sin and grace, law and gospel must resound to a troubled world so desperately in need of his love in Christ.
May God grant each of us sensitivity, humility, boldness, courage, faithfulness and forgiveness as we continue to strive toward god-pleasing harmony and concord in what we believe, teach, and confess.
We have much to accomplish in the mission our Lord Jesus has entrusted to us. May God have mercy upon us all and grant us his peace in Christ.
[CV Note: I took this from the convention video caption and converted it to paragraph form; please identify any remaining spelling or grammatical errors I missed or made.]