Kieschnick advises COP on inter-Lutheran work

In a Sept. 10 memo to the LCMS Council of Presidents (COP), Synod President Gerald B. Kieschnick advises COP members to “consider and heed counsel” on five points “as you approach and engage in joint work with members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America … when matters related to the action of the ELCA [2009] Churchwide Assembly arise.”

Such work includes “social ministry organization, school, campus ministry, and chaplaincy,” he suggests.

Early in the memo, Kieschnick addresses the ELCA assembly’s approval of “open[ing] the ministry of the ELCA to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in ‘committed relationships,'” as well as an earlier assembly action that “commits the ELCA ‘to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.’ “

“The [LCMS] has repeatedly affirmed as its own position the historical understanding of the Christian church that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior as ‘intrinsically sinful,’ ” he states in the memo. “Such behavior is therefore contrary to the will of the Creator and constitutes sin against the commandments of God.”

The five points of “counsel” Kieschnick advises in his memo to the COP are:

    “1. Evangelically, yet unequivocally, bear witness to the truth of Holy Scripture regarding homosexual behavior.

    “2. Indicate, as I did in my remarks to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, that the action of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly threatens to deepen the division between our church bodies.

    “3. Communicate that any action taken by the group or organization in which you are participating that is contrary to the position of the LCMS will be taken seriously and will be cause for evaluation of continued LCMS participation in that group or organization.

    “4. Maintain ministry practices that are in accord with Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions and are consistent with the position of the [Synod].

    “5. Seek ecclesiastical supervision from the president of the Synod for questions that may arise in case-by-case situations.”

Kieschnick restates in the Sept. 10 memo words from his Aug. 22 address to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly:

    “The decisions by this assembly to grant non-celebate 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.”

Kieschnick’s memo explains that the relationships to which he referred “have been addressed by resolutions adopted at the last three LCMS national Synod conventions.”

He lays out those actions and subsequent developments, as follows:

  • Resolution 3-21A of the 2001 convention, which resolved “that we cannot consider the ELCA ‘to be an orthodox Lutheran church body,’ [while recognizing] that ‘many of our brothers and sisters of the ELCA remain faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’ [and] … ‘to reach out to them in love and support.’ ”

    The 2001 action also resolved that “current cooperative pastoral working arrangements with the ELCA be evaluated by the Praesidium (Synod president and vice presidents) with the results and recommendations reported to the next synodical convention.”

  • Resolution 3-07 of the 2004 convention, which, “in response to the report of the Praesidium, resolved to ‘authorize the Praesidium to continue to monitor current concerns and potential directions of the ELCA’ and that ‘the President of the Synod report to the next synodical convention any recommendations concerning changes in joint activity with the ELCA.'”

    In his report to the 2007 convention, Kieschnick stated that the Praesidium believed that along with the president, the Praesidium needed to “continue to assess pastoral working relationships with the ELCA … during the next triennium.”

  • Resolution 1-11 of the 2007 convention, which resolved that “the Praesidium continue to assess the LCMS campus ministries and their association with the ELCA and report to the next convention of the Synod (2010) any suggested changes.”

    “Obviously, no LCMS convention action in response to the actions of this year’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly has yet been taken,” Kieschnick tells the COP in his memo. He adds that following the direction specified in the 2004 Synod convention resolution, the Praesdium will continue “in its monitoring role.”

“These matters are very serious and need to be handled carefully and evangelically, always endeavoring to speak the truth in love,” Kieschnick writes at the end of his memo. “In the process of so doing,” he adds, “we remain committed to ‘reach out in love and support’ to the ‘many of our brothers and sisters of the ELCA [who] remain faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ “

Posted Sept. 30, 2009

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