An Open letter to: The Rev. Drs. Kieschnick, Hartwig, Nafzger, Diekelman, Lehenbauer; Rev. Matthew Harrison; Mr. Ron Schultz, by David Berger

(Editor’s Note: The account that is being referenced is the ELCA press release we posted the other day. You can find it here.)

I read with great interest and concern the account of the recent meeting between LCMS and ELCA officials regarding “cooperative ministries.” Realizing that a press report of a meeting is not the same as a transcript, I submit the following points on the basis of the content of the press release, which is copied below. If it is not an accurate representation of what was said and done at the meeting, please feel free to correct the record.

1. “The mission of the cooperative ministries is bigger than both church bodies…” (M. W. Bullock, ELCA executive). Whatever Ms. Bullock means by “bigger,” cooperative social ministries are not more important than remaining true to scriptural doctrine and practice. Indeed, the oft-used, ill-defined expression, “cooperation in externals,” is misleading. What witness do we give when we are linked in any way to a church body that has thrown Scripture overboard in its key teachings and practices? (See also 3. below.) Can we even say that we engage in God-pleasing works of mercy when we cooperate knowingly and on a regular, formal basis with a heterodox church body? What is the message to the world? To the church? That remaining true to Scripture is of secondary importance?

2. “We believe that working together with other partners can enhance the ministry that’s delivered to the recipients…” (G. B. Kieschnick) It depends on the partners. See 1. and 3.

3. “We believe, teach and confess some things that bind us together such as our common understanding of Baptism,” (S. Nafzger) Really? Baptism creates faith and “signifies that the Old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts” (Small Catechism). Does a church body that officially condones unregenerate sinful practices have a right understanding of Baptism? The ELCA no longer has a scriptural, i.e., Christ-centered, understanding of the Scriptures. Two representative examples from the new ELCA “Lutheran” Study Bible (AF,2009) will suffice. The notes for Psalm 22 make but one reference to Christ’s Passion (v.1: the words spoken by Christ on the cross). Not a single other verse in this rich Messianic Psalm is cited as relating to the Passion, e.g., pierced my hands and my feet, cast lots for my garments. The note for Isaiah 7:14 claims that the Septuagint translation of almah (Heb.) as parthenos (Gr. for virgin) enabled Matthew to link the prophecy to Christ ¹s birth. In quoting Isaiah, Matthew 1:23 (mistakenly? naïvely?) uses the word for “virgin,” while Isaiah allegedly refers only to a “young woman.” Why would a church body that strives to minimize the Christ-content of Scripture have any regard for “time-bound” scriptural strictures that contradict 21st-century social and sexual mores? Thus, in the ELCA we now have ordination of both women and practicing homosexuals. The latter is but the most recent manifestation of the underlying cancer, the ELCA’s heterodox approach to God’s Word. To use President Kieschnick’s words: “[There are] significant differences in how we [our two church bodies] understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God’s revealed and infallible Word.” Is there anything more fundamental? Who expects this to change?

4. “Attending on behalf of the LCMS were Hartwig, Kieschnick, Nafzger, plus the Rev. William R. Diekelman, first vice president; the Rev. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director, Commission on Theology and Church Relations; and Ronald Schulz, chief administrative officer. One can only wonder at the decision (whose? why?) not to include the Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive director of Lutheran World Relief and Human Care, in the CLC gathering. Surely, a theologian with much experience in synodical works of mercy would have brought both practical and scriptural perspectives to the discussion.

Finally, the press report of the meeting suggests that LCMS officialdom is likely to fall into the ELCA trap of eternal talk. The policy changes at the recent ELCA convention could not have taken LCMS officials by surprise.

There has been time aplenty to anticipate and prepare for this action. The past 8-10 years (and even longer) have seen a steady stream of ELCA meetings, discussions, and documents leading to a foregone conclusion. In the end, the penultimate step in the path to permit ordination of homosexuals in “committed relationships” (the discussion and approval of a study document on sexuality) took place during a freak, unpredicted wind storm that dislodged the cross from the steeple of the convention worship site. That should, at the very least, give us pause.

While LCMS expressions of concern for the recent ELCA actions were frankly stated at the meeting and in a subsequent letter of President Kieschnick, where is the call for repentance? Are we not well past the time for more talk? Is it not time to act? Can we delay any longer the breaking off of relationships that give false witness of unity? What greater danger is there to the weaker brethren than to continue to give the appearance of unity in the faith when it is lacking? It is our loving obligation to witness in a concrete way to the remaining scripturally faithful congregations and members in the ELCA that, judging by its official actions and practices, their church body is heterodox. It is equally important to clear up the confusion among the general public that the ELCA speaks for all Lutherans.

Merely not implementing a sinful decision in the context of inter-Lutheran ministries is no solution. We have seen that official expressions of grief, dismay, and concern, however sincere, have no effect. It is time for firm actions, coupled with a call to genuine repentance.

No institutions or working agreements are more important than witness to the truth.

Together in His service,

David O. Berger
Olivette, MO

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

An Open letter to: The Rev. Drs. Kieschnick, Hartwig, Nafzger, Diekelman, Lehenbauer; Rev. Matthew Harrison; Mr. Ron Schultz, by David Berger — 13 Comments

  1. Great points brought up by David Berger. The internally driven Prussian Union that is the ELCA is ignored as a theological issue even among so-called “conservative” groups within the ELCA.

  2. The devil is in the details. Berger’s letter does a nice job of asking general questions and making general observations, but there are also specifics which need to be addressed — and those could be rather telling.

    For example, in what specific “ministries” are the LCMS and ELCA conjointly participating? How many are there? What are their budgets, geographical locations, and spheres of influence? What are the histories of these “ministries” in terms of origins, length and effect?

    What would happen to those “ministries” if the LCMS pulled out?

    What would happen to those “ministries” if the ELCA pulled out?

    I find it rather interesting that the behemoth ELCA should care one whit about any LCMS participation with anything. What could they possibly stand to lose if the LCMS pulled out?

    Kieschnick’s Ablaze!/Fanning the Flame program has extremely exacerbated an already difficult financial trend in synodical budgeting, in some cases one might guess, seriously jeopardizing all kinds of missions and ministries.

    I think it is GOOD that Harrison was not invited. It shows that HE STANDS APART.

    And it’s not just that Harrison was not included — it’s also that Hartwig WAS included. Perhaps in due time others will be able to ascertain the extent to which Hartwig has equivocated on many crucial issues quietly behind the scenes. Yes, he has helped in certain situations, but he has also pulled the rug out from other efforts to confront and curtail the Kieschnick machine.

  3. Truly the DEVIL is in the details. We should completely remove ourselves from any/all joint activity. We don’t do joint activities with the Mormons or the JWs do we?

  4. Dr. Berger had better watch his backside. He may find himself going the way of Todd Wilken and Martin Noland, this time in the interests of “economy.”

    His comments are spot-on, as usual. “Eternal talk” almost always results in erosion of doctrine. Right now, in the LCMS, we are “eternally talking” about the service of women, and, as Ken Schurb has brilliantly shown, the trend is away from the church’s historical stance. The latest casualty is the Order of Creation. The “eternal talk” continutes apace, as convention after convention takes up the issue, and the CTCR continues to adopt a more and more watered down position.

    What these theologian-politicians fail to recognize is that the Gospel, rather than being affirmed by their continuing assocation with heterodoxy, is clearly at risk, as the law (the Gospel’s servant) lays gasping in the dust of accomodation

  5. Not inviting Rev. Matt Harrison shows that church politics and the SP’s agenda has the winning hand — for now. I believe they didn’t want to hear from a faithful scholar and pastor whose work in Mercy ministry is beyond compare. They didn NOT want to hear how, for example, the fathers of the Missouri Synod thought and acted in similar circumstances.
    The time for separation has fully come.

  6. I think that failure to invite Rev. Harrison reflects the President’s view that he is going to run Synod as if his proposed changes to the Constitution have already been adopted. His proposed changes would place LCMS World Relief and Human Care directly under his authority. As of now it is not – Rev. Harrison currently reports to the BOD.

  7. Pastor Brondos noted: “I find it rather interesting that the behemoth ELCA should care one whit about any LCMS participation with anything. What could they possibly stand to lose if the LCMS pulled out?” If the LCMS were to pull out, the ELCA would lose a useful tool – the apparent tacit approval of the ELCA agenda as witnessed by LCMS willingness to cooperate with them in what they are doing, in spite of their heterodoxy.

    Johannes noted that “Dr. Berger had better watch his backside. He may find himself going the way of Todd Wilken and Martin Noland, this time in the interests of “economy.” Dr. Berger is being a faithful steward of the Word. I thank him for doing what he has been called to do – CONFESS! I pray the rest of us will be as bold.

  8. As one who sees the seeds of evil in the LCMS in its handling of invasive evangelicalism, homosexual advoactes tolerated, advocation of women pastors in NW DIstrict without censur or consequences, narcissists in the pulpit …. I am not sure a turn around is possible. WELS may be our only opportunity to retain Cofessional Lutheranism and they do not partner with anyone who is not also in altar and pulpit fellowship. The LCMS is in serious trouble when it breaks bread with a heathen organization like the ELCA. What’s next partnerships with the JWs, Mormons, Romans? And what would be the difference given the historical critical and heathen approach to Scripture practriced and professed by the ELCA?

  9. For 25 years I was an active member of a large Episcopal Church in St. Louis. Five years ago I resigned my membership because I realized my presence in the Narthex and my work with the congregation certainly implied that I could accept the apostasy that has now been confirmed in ELCA. I was fortunate to have been led to the LCMS and am now an active and very satisfied member of the same congregation as Dave Berger. I fear that the LCMS is falling prey to the same doctrinal errors that have led to the fall of both The Episcopal Church and ELCA. You cannot sleep with your enemies and survive. The exclusion of Matt Harrison from the meeting David referenced is very telling. We need to stand firm and fight the forces in the LCMS that want us to become more like the world. Thanks, David, for the great letter.

  10. WELS has a few things going for it but lets not ignore reality. WELS has its problems too; commissioned Pastors (i.e. never went to seminary), all kinds of Contemporary Worship, etc.

  11. Dear Brothers of John the Steadfast,

    I think that the letter by David Berger sends a clear warning to our LCMS officials about having too much “external talk” with a church body that no longer should be deemed as being orthodox and Lutheran. Afterall, the ELCA is now in fellowship with the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Methodist Church and the U.C.C. church. Churches whose confessions of faith are far different from what our Lutheran Doctrines of the Christian faith are founded upon. These churches that the ELCA are in fellowship with, have differing views on the Lord’s Supper, Holy Baptism, the doctrine of Creation (dealing especially with the doctrine of man), and even the authority of Scripture to name just a few.

    In fact, I use the word authority of Scripture loosely, since they have allowed historical criticism etc. to reek havoc on the interpretation of God’s Word as the “only source and norm for our docrine and life.” In fact, the ELCA uses a “quatenus” view of the Lutheran Confessions and the Word of God, as opposed to a “quia” view. We in the LCMS believe in Scripture Alone as the only source and norm for our doctrine and life, because (quia) that is, because it is the Word of God. The same can be said for the Lutheran Confessions. We hold to the teachings of the Confessions, because they have been normed by Holy Scripture. But, the ELCA believes in the Scriptures only “insofar as” they are the Word of God and they do the same thing with the Lutheran Confessions not holding to all the doctrines therein. That means that they “cut” and “paste” what they want to believe from God’s Word and leave out the parts that they don’t like.

    David Berger’s comments from the “ELCA Lutheran Study Bible” have already shown us that. It is obvious that man’s authority, philosophies and worldviews are usurping the authority of God and His Word as the “only source and norm” for our doctrine and life as Christians. Lutherans have believed that the material principle of our faith is: Scripture alone and the formal principle is: justification by grace through faith on account of Christ and Him crucified for our sins. But, a church body that no longer can call sin a sin (i.e. homosexuality, going against the Order of Creation that God has given to male and female etc…) has gone the way of the world, rather than living and walking in the narrow way that Christ has called His Church to live in. The ELCA’s decisions on homosexuality and practicing homosexual clergy have caused me to remember Rev. Paul McCain’s words on “Issues Etc.” speaking to Rev. Todd Wilken earlier in 2009 when he said, “The Church that cannot curse is the church that cannot bless.”

    If the ELCA will no longer call sin a sin, then it no longer deserves to be treated as a national church body by our LCMS officials. As Paul says in Corinthians (speaking to a congregation that had large amounts of immorality within it), “1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? 3 Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. 4 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast– as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:1-13). I believe that the best thing our LCMS officials can do right now is to treat the ELCA as the immoral brother that the Apostle Paul is talking about. Because if we continue treating them as a church body and hearing them out at this point, to some extent we may be appearing to condoning their present behavior and doctrinal stances. I have enclosed a document on the differences between the LCMS & the ELCA.

    Comparison of the ELCA and the LCMS:
    The following is meant to be a primer to some of the differences that exist between the ELCA and the LCMS in regards to what we believe, teach, and confess. It is not an exhaustive list, but touches upon some major differences.

    On the Bible:
    ELCA— “We also find in the Bible human emotion, testimony, opinion, cultural limitation and bias.”
    “Because Biblical writers, editors and compilers were limited by their times and world views, even as we are, the Bible contains material wedded to those times and places. It also means that writers sometimes provide differing and even contradictory views of God’s word, ways and will.”
    “we sometimes conclude either that the writer’s culture or personal experience (e.g., subordination of women or keeping of slaves) seems to have prompted his missing what God was saying or doing, or that God now is saying or doing something new.”
    Cited from: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/The-Bible.aspx

    LCMS— “It is the inspired and inerrant Word of God”
    Cited from http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=563

    Trinity
    ELCA – The ELCA affirms belief in the Triune God, but allows for some strange views of it. From their website:
    “ELCA Lutherans believe that God reveals who God really is to us. Therefore the Christian church must confess its faith in the essential Trinity. God is one God, revealed in three persons.”
    Cited from: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/The-Holy-Trinity.aspx

    “Do I have to believe in the Trinity to be Christian?
    Question: Should I renounce my membership? I’m a committed follower of God, Christ and the Spirit, but I don’t believe the Trinity theory. I’ve been told, “If you don’t believe in the Trinity doctrine you can’t be a Christian.”

    How does one prove this doctrine?

    Answer: You need not renounce your membership in the Christian church. Even Paul didn’t ascribe to the doctrine of the Trinity since it wasn’t defined until hundreds of years later. But I believe he would confess the truth of the revelation of God to which this doctrine bears witness. The Trinity isn’t meant to explain God. In fact, saying God is One but three persons proves that God can’t be explained — only witnessed to. The Trinity isn’t some litmus test of intellectual assent to a doctrine. Rather, it calls us to trust and commit to the God revealed as Father, Son and Spirit, which is precisely how you spoke of your faith. We can’t prove the Trinity, but based on Scripture, church tradition and experience, the doctrine of the Trinity expresses the faith that we hold to be true and life-giving. We don’t need to prove God. We only need to worship and obey God. This we can do!”
    Cited from: http://www2.elca.org/questions/Results.asp?recid=58

    Another problem in the ELCA is the allowing for radical feminism to rob the church of the revealed names of God. Instead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, other formulas are being developed and used instead: “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier”, “Parent, Child,
    Spirit” or “Holy eternal Majesty, holy incarnate Word, holy abiding Spirit”. For greater examples of this, go to:
    http://www.herchurch.org/ which is the website of a congregation that belongs to the ELCA.

    LCMS – The LCMS believes in the Triune God.
    “On the basis of the Holy Scriptures we teach the sublime article of the Holy Trinity; that is, we teach that the one true God, Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4, is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, three distinct persons, but of one and the same divine essence, equal in power, equal in eternity, equal in majesty, because each person possesses the one divine essence entire, Col. 2:9, Matt. 28:19. We hold that all teachers and communions that deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity are outside the pale of the Christian Church. The Triune God is the God who is gracious to man, John 3:16-18, 1 Cor. 12:3. Since the Fall, no man can believe in the “fatherhood” of God except he believe in the
    eternal Son of God, who became man and reconciled us to God by His vicarious satisfaction, 1 John 2:23; John 14:6. Hence we warn against Unitarianism, which in our country has to a great extent impenetrated the sects and is being spread particularly also through the influence of the lodges.”
    Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=564

    “The Synod believes and teaches that “the three persons of the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal, one God” because this is what we find taught in the Holy Scriptures, God’s inspired and errorless Word. Both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, together with God the Father, are named in Scripture with divine names (“God,” “Lord”), are described as having divine attributes (eternal existence, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc.), are depicted as carrying out divine works (creating, forgiving, judging, preserving) and are accorded glory, honor and worship which are worthy of God alone.”
    Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2682

    Holy Spirit:
    ELCA – The ELCA while affirming the Triune God speaks of the Holy Spirit as a face of God. From their website: “For ELCA Lutherans, the Holy Spirit — as person — might be said to be one of God’s “three faces.””
    Cited from: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/The-Holy-
    Spirit.aspx

    This way of speaking about the person of the Holy Spirit is actually heretical. It is a mark of the ancient heresy of Modalism. This speaks not of three persons, but three faces of the same, or three modes of the same being. One of the chief promoters of this heresy was a man named Sabellius. From the Christian Cyclopedia: “Sabellius.* Modalistic Monarchianism as developed under him is known as Sabellianism: God, the absolute monad, reveals Himself successively in 3 prosopa (Gk. “faces”), each representing the entire monad (Father: Creator and Lawgiver; Son: Redeemer; Holy Spirit: Lifegiver).”
    Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=m&word=MONARCHIANISM

    LCMS – The LCMS teaches the biblical doctrine that the Holy Spirit is a unique person of the Triune God. From their website:

    “The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Holy Trinity, true God with the Father and the Son–therefore not a “power” or an “energy” of God. We read of God the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19 where Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The only true God is the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons in one divine being (the Holy Trinity). The Father has begotten the Son from eternity; the Son is begotten of the Father from eternity; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. To the Father especially is ascribed the work of creation; to the Son, the work of redemption; to the Holy Spirit, the work of sanctification.

    How do we know the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Trinity and, therefore, truly God? Because the Bible clearly calls Him God. Acts 5:3-4 equates the Holy Spirit with God. Jesus promised, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me” (John 15:26).”
    Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2677

    Creation:
    ELCA – The ELCA allows for the view that God used evolution to create things. This means that the account in Genesis 1 and 2 do not have to be true for the member of the ELCA. The ELCA teaches the historical critical method of interpretation of Scripture, which discounts the accounts as history and treats them more as poetry.

    From their website: “The ELCA does not have an official position on creation vs. evolution, but we subscribe to the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation, so we believe God created the universe and all that is therein, only not necessarily in six 24-hour days, and that God actually may have used evolution in the process of creation. In fact, to deny the possibility that evolutionary processes were used is seen by some as an attempt to limit God’s power. “Historical criticism” is an understanding that the Bible must be understood in the cultural context of the times in which it was written.”
    Cited from: http://www2.elca.org/questions/Results.asp?recid=4

    LCMS – The LCMS believes that God created all things out of nothing in exactly the way that the Scriptures teach.

    From their website: “We teach that God has created heaven and earth, and that in the manner and in the space of time recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially Gen. 1 and 2, namely, by His almighty creative word, and in six days. We reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture. In our days it is denied or limited by those who assert, ostensibly in deference to science, that the world came into existence through a process of evolution; that is, that it has, in immense periods of time, developed more or less of itself. Since no man was present when it pleased God to create the world, we must look for a reliable account of creation to God’s own record, found in God’s own book, the Bible. We accept God’s own record with full confidence and confess with Luther’s Catechism: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures.””
    Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=565

    Salvation:
    ELCA – The ELCA teaches that non-Christians can go to heaven.

    From their website: “”The Christian hope for salvation, whether for the believing few or the unbelieving many, is grounded in the person and meaning of Christ alone, not in the potential of the world’s religions to save, nor in the moral seriousness of humanists and people of good will, not even in the good works of pious Christians and church people…. There is a universalist thrust in the New Testament, particularly in Paul’s theology. How else can we read passages such as ‘for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ’”

    Again: “If Jesus is the Lord and Savior, he is the universal Lord and Savior, not merely my personal Lord and Savior. Because Jesus is the unique and universal Savior, there is a large hope for salvation, not only for me and others with the proper credentials of believing and belonging to the church, but for all people whenever or wherever they might have lived and no matter how religious or irreligious they may have proved to be themselves.”
    Cited from: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/Salvation.aspx

    LCMS – The LCMS believes that faith alone saves. Jesus is the only way to salvation, He is the only door. From their website:

    “Since God has reconciled the whole world unto Himself through the vicarious life and death of His Son and has commanded that the reconciliation effected by Christ be proclaimed to men in the Gospel, to the end that they may believe it, 2 Cor. 5:18, 19; Rom. 1:5, therefore faith in Christ is the only way for men to obtain personal reconciliation with God, that is, forgiveness of sins, as both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures testify, Acts 10:43; John 3:16-18, 36. By this faith in Christ, through which men obtain the forgiveness of sins, is not meant any human effort to fulfill the Law of God after the example of Christ, but faith in the Gospel, that is, in the forgiveness of sins, or justification, which was fully earned for us by Christ and is offered by the Gospel. This faith justifies, not inasmuch as it is a work of man, but inasmuch as it lays hold of the grace offered, the forgiveness of sins, Rom. 4:16”
    Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=568
    .
    Justification
    The article of doctrine known by the name “Justification” was called by Luther the chief article of the Christian Faith. It is the Article by which the Church stands or falls. That means that when the article on Justification is given up, then the Church will soon fall into all sorts of heresies. The Augsburg Confession of 1530, confesses:

    Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3 and 4 [3:21–26; 4:5]. (from Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions,
    Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 33.)

    In 1999 the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church signed the 1997 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ). The ELCA approved the JDDJ in 1997 by 97%, and is a major part of the LWF. The LCMS is not a member of the LWF.
    In JDDJ, the Lutheran theologians say that agreement on the basic points of Justification has been achieved, and yet Lutheran theologians from around the world have criticized the document for giving up the Lutheran definitions for the Roman Catholic ones. JDDJ showed the problem with the ecumenical ideology of the ELCA that has led to so many “Full Communion” agreements with church bodies that do not agree even on the Lord’s Supper. Statements like JDDJ craft specific words and phrases which make agreement possible without yielding any previous statements (The Augsburg Confession, or the Decrees and Canons of the Council of Trent for example). Everything is done in the name of “diversity”, as it we all agree, but just express it differently. JDDJ declares that differences still exist in language, theological elaboration, and emphasis, and yet claims that some sort of agreement has been made. The Roman Catholic Church still believes the same things that brought on the Reformation, and some even harsher as the Council of Trent condemned Lutheran beliefs. Lutherans should hold to their reformation beliefs too, but JDDJ showed a willingness by theologians of the ELCA for the sake of getting along to give up that article by which the Church stands or falls.

    For an excellent evaluation of JDDJ which includes the text of JDDJ go to:
    http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/justclp.pdf

    For another great resource on the LCMS response to JDDJ go to:
    http://www.lifeoftheworld.com/believe/statements/statementdoc.pdf

    The Resurrection of Jesus:
    ELCA – The resurrection for the ELCA does not necessarily have to be a historic event, but something of faith. From their website: “All of this has led some scholars to write that the risen Jesus (and apparitions of the risen Jesus) is a supernatural reality which does not belong to this world and cannot be the object of historic investigation. Rather, Jesus’ resurrection is an object of faith.
    Accordingly, ELCA members believe that what history does is to demonstrate the disciples’ faith in the resurrection. Their witness and testimony to Jesus’ post-death appearances make it abundantly clear that the resurrection was a primary object of the apostolic proclamation from Christianity’s very beginning.”

    This view then means that it is not important whether Jesus is still dead in a tomb or not, just that you believe that He rose.
    Cited from: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/The- Resurrection.aspx

    LCMS – The LCMS affirms a real, historic, personal, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. It is as the Bible says.

    The Virgin Birth of Jesus:
    ELCA – The ELCA, while affirming the historic and biblical doctrine of the Virgin Birth, also allows for someone to not believe in it.

    From their website: “This statement, written in the 16th Century, supports the Western Church’s traditional understanding of the doctrine referred to as The Virgin Birth. While it remains official and normative for the Evangelical Lutheran Church today, it has not closed the doctrinal debate over Jesus’ conception for many Lutherans, and by inference that includes ELCA members. It is a doctrine debated by many other Protestant Christians, scholars and those who inquire about the Christian faith and its tenets.”
    Cited from: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/Virgin-Birth.aspx

    LCMS – The LCMS believes in the Virgin Birth. From their website: “The LCMS believes, together with historic and orthodox Christendom of all ages, that Jesus was true God, begotten of his Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary. Mary was truly Jesus’ mother and he was truly her son, while at the same time God was truly Jesus’ Father, and he was truly God’s Son. The suggestion that Mary merely “carried Jesus in her womb and gave birth to Him but He was not her biological son,” therefore, is in direct conflict with what the Bible clearly teaches. Attempts to “explain” how the virgin birth and the incarnation of the Son of God is were/are possible
    from a purely “biological” point of view are, of course, misguided, since we are dealing here with a miracle and mystery that transcends human reason or scientific investigation.”
    Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2676

    The Devil:
    ELCA – The ELCA allows for belief in a real Devil or a more generic “evil”.

    From their website: “We must begin by saying that there are ELCA Lutherans who understand Satan (or the Devil) to be a very real being, author of evil, prompter of sin, destroyer of humankind. Other ELCA Lutherans view Satan metaphorically — as the personification of evil forces in this world that oppose and obstruct God’s will in every age, be they human or spiritual.”
    Cited from: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/Satan.aspx

    LCMS – The LCMS teaches as the Scriptures do, that the Devil is a personal being, a fallen angel.
    See: http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=D&word=DEVIL

    Church Fellowship:
    ELCA – The ELCA has entered into “full communion” with many church bodies of varying confessions of Faith. These church bodies do not even agree on whether the Body and Blood of Jesus are present in the Lord’s Supper. There are other differences in belief as well.
    From this, it is clear that the ELCA does not believe that full agreement in doctrine is necessary for full communion. The church bodies which the ELCA are in full communion with are: Moravian Church (1999), The Episcopal Church (1999), Reformed Church in
    America (1997), United Church of Christ (1997), Presbyterian Church USA (1997), and the United Methodist Church (2009). None of these church bodies believe in the real presence of Christ during the Lord’s Supper.

    LCMS – The LCMS is active in discussions with many groups and has established “pulpit and altar fellowship” with many church bodies throughout the world. The LCMS believes that communing together, sharing pulpits and clergy, and holding joint worship services are the highest form of expressing unity. That is why any attempt to join with other church bodies involves a serious, honest, and thorough review of the doctrines that are confessed by each church body. This is in keeping with the Lutheran tradition set by Martin Luther in 1529 at a place called Marburg (for more information look up the Marburg Colloquy).

    On Abortion:
    ELCA – The ELCA is Pro-Choice. Their social statement made in 1991 allowed for all views. Pro-Life people are allowed in their fellowship, but even their health insurance plans for church workers covers abortion procedures. The only exclusion in the health plan is for an abortion after 20 weeks. All others would be covered. See page 16 of the following from the ELCA health plan:
    https://www.elcabop.org/Home/UnderstandMyBenefits/Health/ELCAPrimary/HospMed/~/media/documents /100_05.ashx

    LCMS – The LCMS is Pro-Life. This again is the stance of Scripture. All life is precious in God’s eyes.

    The LCMS believes that abortion is contrary to God’s Word and “is not a moral option except, except as a tragically unavoidable byproduct of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of another human being, viz., the mother” (1979 Res. 3-02A).
    Cited from http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2120

    On Homosexuality:
    ELCA—“The 1991 Churchwide Assembly (CWA) — the highest legislative body of the ELCA — affirmed “… that gay and lesbian people, as individuals created by God, are welcome to participate fully in the life of the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.” This policy was reaffirmed by the 1995 CWA, and the 1999 CWA further encouraged discerning conversation about homosexuality and the inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in our common life and mission.”

    Cited from:
    http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/Homosexuality-and-the-
    ELCA.aspx

    ELCA – The 2009 Churchwide Assembly voted to support same-gender relationships, and allowed for practicing homosexuals to be pastors.

    LCMS—“The Missouri Synod believes that the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is contrary to God’s Word and will, and seeks to minister to those who are struggling with homosexual inclinations.”

    “The Word of God clearly condemns homophile behavior in Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:26-27, and 1 Cor. 6:9” Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2724

    Women’s Ordination:
    ELCA – The ELCA has ordained women since its founding.

    LCMS – The LCMS does not ordain women in keeping with the Scriptures. “The LCMS believes that those Scripture passages which say that women should not “teach” or “have authority” in the church (see, for example, 1 Cor. 11 and 14; 1 Timothy 2) mean that women ought not hold the authoritative teaching office in the church–that is, the office of pastor.”
    Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2702

    Homosexual Ordination:
    ELCA – The ELCA as of August 2009 allows for homosexual ordination.

    LCMS – The LCMS believes that homosexuality is intrinsically sinful. Practicing homosexuals are not allowed to be pastors.

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