Repeating the LCMS position that the Bible condemns homosexual activity, Synod President Gerald Kieschnick issued a statement Aug. 24 that also offers “loving encouragement” and “our willingness to provide appropriate support” to like-minded pastors and lay people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
As Kieschnick pointed out early in his statement to Synod leaders and congregations, the statement came on the heels of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which on Aug. 21 “voted to open the ministry of the ELCA to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in ‘committed relationships.’ In an earlier action, the assembly approved a resolution 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 assembly met Aug. 17-22 at the Minneapolis (Minn.) Convention Center.
“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,’ ” Kieschnick continued in his statement, adding, “It is therefore contrary to the will of the Creator and constitutes sin against the commandments of God.”
Kieschnick then quoted from greetings he delivered Aug. 22 to the ELCA assembly, as follows:
“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 [our two church bodies] understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God’s revealed and infallible Word.”
As Kieschnick also pointed out in his Aug. 24 statement, “Doctrinal decisions adopted already in 2001 led the LCMS, in sincere humility and love, to declare that we could no longer consider the ELCA ‘to be an orthodox Lutheran church body’ (2001 Res 3-21A). Sadly, the decisions this past week to ignore biblical teaching on human sexuality have reinforced that conclusion. We respect the desire to follow conscience in moral decision making, but conscience may not overrule the Word of God.
“We recognize that many brothers and sisters within the ELCA, both clergy and lay, are committed to remaining faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, are committed to the authority of Holy Scripture, and strongly oppose these actions,” the statement continued. “To them we offer our assurances of loving encouragement, together with our willingness to provide appropriate support, in their efforts to remain faithful to the Word of God and the historic teachings of the Lutheran church and all other Christian churches for the past 2,000 years.”
Among other actions, the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted:
- a “full communion” agreement with the United Methodist Church. This is the ELCA’s sixth full communion relationship and the first for the United Methodists.
- “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” the church body’s 10th social statement. Requiring a two-thirds vote for approval, it passed by a vote of 676-338 — precisely two-thirds.
- development of a social statement on justice for women in church and society for consideration by the 2015 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
- continued development of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, a shared effort with the LCMS, Lutheran World Relief, and the United Nations Foundation — to fight malaria, especially in Africa.
- raising $10 million over the next three years to support the ELCA HIV and AIDS strategy.
- urging comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policies and processes, and calling for suspension of immigration raids until such reform is enacted.
Voting members at the assembly also re-elected on the fourth ballot ELCA Vice President Carlos Peña of Galveston, Texas.
The next ELCA Churchwide Assembly is set for Orlando, Fla., in 2011.
With 4.6 million members and 2.4 million members, respectively, the ELCA and the LCMS are the largest Lutheran church bodies in the United States.
For the complete text of Kieschnick’s Aug. 24 statement, go to http://www.lcms.org/?15620 on the Web. For the text of his Aug. 22 remarks to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, go to http://www.lcms.org/?15618. For more information about actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, go to the ELCA Web site, http://www.elca.org.
Posted Aug. 26, 2009