Response from Rev Gary Bertels, Theology Department Head, to LGBT advocacy event

Thanks to BJS commentator Jim, for this email from Pastor Gary Bertels, Chair, Department of Theology/Languages at Concordia University Chicago:


From: CUC Faculty distribution list On Behalf Of Bertels, Gary L.
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2011 1:27 PM
To: CUC Faculty
Subject: Re: STOP Educational Event

David – greetings on this sunny afternoon, spring must be around the corner.

Received your invitation to the educational opportunity Straight But Not Narrow later this week and have a few questions and concerns.

Happy to hear that there is a committee on campus dedicated to overcoming prejudice. Is this a committee of the faculty or a group of individuals sharing a common concern? I would hope that all faculty and staff are dedicated to overcoming prejudice, attempting to create a community in which everyone is treated with respect and dignity. How does one join this group? Are there any plans to encourage individuals to report prejudice to the appropriate campus officials so the offending individual(s) might be evangelically admonished? My perspective is that it is more beneficial to confront the offender than forming a support group for the offended. Matthew 18 provides good guidance for a Christian community in addressing the giving and taking of offense.

Does the committee have additional educational opportunities planned?

The major concern I have about the opportunity this Friday is that the Safe Zone Program sticker that will be available includes the word “affirmed.” I support educational opportunities to learn about the issues relative to LGBT persons, and I want to be welcoming. However, I cannot in good conscience be affirming, for a few reasons. First, as a public minister of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, I have taken a vow not to teach contrary to the Synod’s position and practices. Affirming relationships that the LC-MS understands to be contrary to God’s design for life would place my integrity into question as I seek to be a teacher of the Church. I have the opportunity to attempt to change the Church’s position through our resolution process if I am of the opinion that it is not in agreement with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, but until then I have agreed not to advocate another position. By not declaring my office to be a Safe Zone I fear that I will be perceived by the community as being prejudice and unwelcoming. I am concerned that the Safe Zone Program will divide our community rather than make it welcoming.

A related reason is the academic freedom policy of Concordia. As a faculty member of a university of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod I have pledged not to advocate a position contrary to the teachings of the Synod. I need to inform students of issues and perspectives, but I am limited in what I can advocate, although in my personal life I may hold differing views. I would understand the affirming of LGBT lifestyles to be contrary to the public teachings of the Synod, so even if I were not a public minister, as a member of the faculty my integrity would be in question, and correctly so.

If I declare my office to be a Safe Zone and do not resign, I am lying to my Church and University. If I do not declare my office to be a Safe Zone I am communicating to the community that I do not treat all community members with respect and dignity, and that I am unwelcoming.

Out of respect for me and others in the community who may share my concerns, I would ask that the committee not institute the Safe Zone Program on our campus. I am in favor of learning as much as possible about the related issues, but I fear that the Safe Zone Program will divide our community. So I guess that I am asking the STOP Committee to stop the promotion of the Safe Zone Program, for fear it will promote prejudice.

Thanks for reading this epistle, see you Friday if not before.



Response from Rev Gary Bertels, Theology Department Head, to LGBT advocacy event — 15 Comments

  1. Rev. Gary Bertels. That’s my man! I miss him so much from my student days at CURF! It will be interesting to see what, if any, response he gets.

  2. That is a good letter because Rev Bertels gives the bases for his position:

    1. Scripture (Mt 18)
    2. Vow (as LCMS public minister)
    3. Pledge (as faculty of LCMS school)

    That allows for discussion with as much light as heat. It allows for an assessment whether the position is steadfastly Lutheran.

    I hope he gets a response on the same plane of quality, and I will be curious to see how promoters of the event answer Scripture, Vow, and Pledge.

  3. This is a beautfully crafted letter. It’s neither “in your face” nor mushy in its tone. Rev. Bertels has clearly defined the issues, expressed his concerns with objective and appropriate back-up, has not engaged in ad hominae (sic) attacks, and displayed a respectful attitude toward his audience, while still maintaining an unequivocal stance.
    Messrs. Strunk and White would be proud of him.

    This is a model correspondence for all of us to read, mark, learn, and perhaps even inwardly digest for future reference.

    Thank you, Rev. Bertels. You have done us a great service, and—You may be eligible for SJC status.

    Johannes (SJC)

  4. I certainly hope we are able to be made aware of the response of the STOP Committee to Dr. Bartels’ well reasoned letter, which is a good example of the “koinonia” Project being implemented.

  5. This is where tolerance for LGBT ‘lifestyles’ begins and grows so that in time you cannot receive ordination or teach in the church unless you agree that God created and approves all of these ‘lifestyles’.

    First Portland and now Chicago, who’s next?

  6. At the reunion at the beginning of the CUC school year in August the following became noticeable:

    1. President Johnson’s speech to the alumni was about success in numbers and money. Hardly anything about how the truth of God’s Word was being taught. This is strange for one who was the President of the seminary.

    2. The campus pastor and his services were awesome and totally liturgical. The sermons were Biblical, Law and Gospel, and relevant. Closed communion was taken seriously.

    3. The Sunday morning service was packed with students who sang the hymns and liturgy lustily.

    4. The student religious life committee members we were in contact with were obviously well taught and well grounded in the Word.

    We need to pray for and support our stalwart Lutheran Pastor and theologians and students, instead of making blanket condemnations. The Lutheran theologians and students do make a difference on the campus. The purpose given for expanding beyond church work students was to train solid Lutheran servants to serve in all vocations of life and the church and to bring solid Lutheran teachings to even non-Lutherans. This is still a valid and God pleasing goal. We need to use our influence at all of our Concordias to strive for that goal. In their PR materials CUC hardly mentions them at all. Austin’s materials ( at least the last magazine) is almost totally dedicated to Christian goals. Seward seems to be striving to be a trainer of Lutheran servant leaders in all walks of life. Selma seems to be getting back on track. The theology department at Mequon is sound. Don’t no much about the rest, except that Portand does not even seem to want to be part of Synod. Our universities can be a great blessing in raising up truly sound laypeople for our church. We need to encourage them to reach their potential.

    The graduate programs have become the “cash cow” of the university and have become separated even more than other departments from the purpose of the University.

  7. @Richard Lewer #9

    Richard Lewer :
    The graduate programs have become the “cash cow” of the university and have become separated even more than other departments from the purpose of the University.

    Depends on the graduate program. At CUC the M.A.R. (Master of Arts in Religion) and M.C.M. (Master of Church Music) programs were both geared toward training church workers (or at the least LCMS laymen). Of course, the graduate programs in education were almost exclusively for area educators. I don’t recall seeing most of the students in those programs except at graduation!

  8. @Richard Lewer #9

    It is great to hear most things ar egoing well at CUC. The troubling comment is that Pres. Johnson appears to not be on the same page, chasing numbers instead of concern for Lutheraness. that is a big problem because he is charged with oversight of activities on the campus, and a pattern seems to be appearing that he may not be serious about proper doctrine. And he is the public face of the university. Therefore, his bully pulpit will attract groups like SBNN, and maybe others.It will set up an appearance of anything goes. So even though Pr. Gary Bertels is rightfully concerned, is Pres. Johnson going to hear correct admonishment, or still go through with allowing (enabling? supporting?) this gay advocacy group?

  9. Pr Bartels wrote a good letter regarding being in an awkward place. Many of us are in that bind– to believe in the Gospel is for all and able to reach out to those outside the Church without endorsing their sin.

    On that note, I noticed something. When a gay man or a lesbian hears the Christian message, does s/he hear this: “God loves you but in order to be accepted you have to act like an American Heterosexual and adopt the social protocols of a ‘typical’ straight”? This is like saying to me: “In order to gain God’s love, I must become neurotypical and try not to be autistic.” This is why I’m very wary of Christian bootcamps/reprogramming sessions. One can act “straight” and even marry a “beard” but he’s still homosexually inclined. I am hoping for achieving best Confessional practices when engaging with LGBT folk.

  10. The language of the collegiate slogan is most ambiguous. The Way of God is straight, according to the prophet Isaiah, not crooked; and the Way is also narrow, not broad, as stated by the very Man of whom Isaiah prophesied.

    The way to travel is straight and narrow. Now, the intellectuals may wish to proclaim that their aim is to be broad-minded … but perhaps that is the problem.

    The aim of the Christian college should be to teach us to speak softly, and carry a big Cross. To walk on the straight and narrow, and not talk like a garbling Claudius.

  11. God loves you but in order to be accepted you have to act like an American Heterosexual and adopt the social protocols of a ‘typical’ straight”? This is like saying to me: “In order to gain God’s love, I must become neurotypical and try not to be autistic. — Ms. Ruiz

    No one has to gain God’s love, if His self-sacrificial crucifixion has any meaning at all. The opposing understanding is one error, for sure. And it’s probably best not to demand, or even expect to gain the approval of the entire world … for if that occurs you have indeed lost your soul. That desire or wish is no less of an error. It helps to remember that a God who says the outside stuff does not make us unclean, will not look unkindly on tattooed skin, purple lipstick, nose-rings, or what have you. There is no Law, against these things. The Law still stands, though, as valid as ever. Jesus fulfills it (thank God); but He does not destroy it, which keeps repentance … real repentance … on the front burner.

    But the comparison brought to our attention, by Ms. Ruiz above, is not entirely valid. There is no insisting movement which declares that the clinical presentation of autism spectrum disorder is not problematical, or that society must view the presentation as but an alternative “neurotypical.”

    The times are perilous. When even Lutheran groves of knowledge begin to snap … when the concern is more for coin, than for confession … expect that the whirlwind coming to test the house, cannot be too far off.

  12. Dr. Bertels-

    Your response could not have been stated better. I completely agree with you on this manner, and feel that this issue has been addressed to an extent that is far greater than it should be on this campus. I am glad that someone stood up and proclaimed the truth on this manner as it relates to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. As an LCMS member, I commend you for your expert, polite response to this controvercial topic. Many blessings as you continue in your ministry to our campus!

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