By Adriane Dorr
During its April 26-27 meeting in St. Louis, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) adopted a formal response to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) social statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” (HSGT).
The ELCA’s document, approved by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, addresses such issues as sexuality and cohabitation on the basis of the concept of “bound conscience.”
The concept became the rationale for the ELCA decision to allow the blessing of same-sex relationships and the ordination of practicing homosexuals despite the denomination’s lack of consensus on these matters.
Because the content of HSGT “renders the Scriptures unclear and uncertain” with regard to God’s design for the sexes, the CTCR’s response clarifies the scriptural and historical evidence that “confessional Lutheranism bears witness to the truth of the Holy Scriptures teaching on God’s creation of humanity as male and female designed by Him to live within the fidelity of the one flesh union He has established in marriage.”
Requested by the 2010 LCMS convention, the CTCR’s response, which will be made available on the LCMS website (www.lcms.org/ctcr), notes that the language used in HSGT “has been disconnected from its historical origin in Scripture, in Luther, and in the Lutheran Confessions.” Instead, theology “has been rendered symbolic,” becoming a tool to support previously-determined conclusions. In this way, HSGT became the basis for the ELCA to change its teachings and practices regarding human sexuality, according to the CTCR.
Also during the April meeting, the CTCR discussed plans for an upcoming international conference — requested by the Synod at its 2010 convention — to be sponsored by the CTCR and the LCMS Office of the President. The conference will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2012, in Atlanta, and will involve about 125 specially-invited Lutheran leaders from around the world.
“Participants will consider the future of Lutheranism,” said the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the CTCR. “The conference will be particularly interesting because the majority attending will be from churches outside the U.S., representing both LCMS partner and non-partner churches.”
Alister McGrath of King’s College London is scheduled as the conference’s keynote speaker, offering a “friendly outsider’s” view on Lutheranism’s future. Also planned for the conference are other major addresses by LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison; the Rev. Dr. Jobst Schöne, bishop emeritus of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (in Germany); and the Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba, mission director for the North American Lutheran Church. Another 20 Lutheran leaders from throughout the world will give brief presentations.
“We want to focus on our history, on Scripture, on our Lutheran Confessions, and we also want to look forward to the future,” noted the Rev. Larry Vogel, associate director of the CTCR. “Right now, Lutheranism is growing most quickly in the Southern Hemisphere. We’re anxious to learn more about that from our international guests.”
Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted May 3, 2012 / Updated May 22, 2012