This past week, it was with profound sadness that I read the proposed "social statement" from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) "Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality". Entitled, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," this proposed social statement, along with its companion document, "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies", has the potential to take the ELCA far outside of the boundaries of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Christian Church. And it will most certainly do so if adopted by a Churchwide Assembly (CWA) to be held in Minneapolis in August 2009. What is being proposed is nothing less than idolatry, placing human desires and deviant currents in modern society in the place of God. A reading by any informed laity in any orthodox Christian church exposes the utter bankruptcy of the ELCA - intellectual, scholarly, theological, and moral bankruptcy.
Though hardly the first of the so-called 'mainline protestant churches' to go down this path, for me this step by the ELCA is especially tragic, since I was for many years a member of various ELCA congregations. However, when the ELCA abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ by deciding that it could re-interpret the Holy Bible whenever it seemed convenient to do so, and by entering into full altar and pulpit fellowship with denominations that do not stand on the firm foundation of the plain Word of God as revealed in Holy Scripture, I was forced to recognize that what I had for so long thought of as "my church" had left me. I diligently sought out a church that affirms God's plan of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. There remain many wonderful Christians in ELCA congregations. However, they must now think seriously, as I did several years ago, about this very important question: by continuing their relationship with the ELCA, will they be denying the the Lord Jesus Christ and entering into idolatry?
What is in the documents released by the ELCA on February 19, 2009? A denial of the plain meaning of God's Word as received by his church through Holy Scripture, and a substitution of human reason and personal preferences over the Word of God. This is a violation of the First Commandment - ignoring God in favor of following after human desires. The ELCA proposes to allow homosexual marriages to be blessed within its congregations, to allow practicing homosexuals to be admitted to its rostered ministry positions, including that of called pastors and bishops, and to condone sex outside of marriage. This is only a partial list of what is implied by the proposals that have been offered to the ELCA by its Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality. Rather than calling sinners to repentance and dealing with sin pastorally, the ELCA proposes to reject God's Word and tell sinners that they should remain in their sin and celebrate it as a gift from God. One must be especially concerned for the generations of youth who will be confused and led into sin and error by the very people who should be leading them to trust God. These ELCA leaders are promoting their manipulative social and political agendas over God's Word!
The reasoning and biblical interpretation tricks used by the Task Force logically lead to condoning and celebrating plural marriage, incest, bestiality, and a host of other sinful perversions. Though strenuously denied in the proposals they put forward, the same logic and techniques of biblical interpretation that allowed the Task Force to recommend celebrating homosexuality and fornication, if followed to their inevitable conclusions, would essentially destroy the doctrine and concept of sin. Whatever an individual feels necessary to "experience one's sexuality" becomes permissible. "Bodies do not suddenly become sexual at puberty..." - what logically follows from this? Some sort of elementary school classroom instruction in masturbation and intercourse along the lines of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"? The Task Force appears to envision a continuum of sexual activity for adolescent (and pre-pubescent?) children, beginning with casual touching and moving on toward sexual intercourse as "trust and commitment develop"... between how many people or people of what gender is rather vague. Developing and maintaining a healthy body image, promoted by being sexually active, appears to trump the Ten Commandments.
If you take the time to read the documents presented by the Task Force, and the supplemental documents available on the ELCA website (www.elca.org/faithfuljourney), the duplicity and selective use of resources in order to achieve a pre-determined conclusion will be readily apparent. Among approximately 100 pages attempting to justify the "politically correct" conclusion, only one page is provided for the dissenting opinion, and that is followed immediately by a one and a half page dissent calling for even more radical and unbiblical actions to promote the homosexual agenda in the ELCA. (See the the "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies") An excellent resource that refutes the conclusions reached by the ELCA Task Force, and which is based on sound and faithful biblical interpretation, can be found at following site: http://www.lcms.org/ca/worldrelief/resources/insights/The_Contemporary_Debate_on_Homosexual_Clergy.pdf
It is almost impossible to overstate the damage already done by the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality. However, its recommendations have several hurdles to clear before it becomes the official policy of the ELCA. The ELCA Conference of Bishops will review it during thier March 5-10 meeting. The ELCA Church in Society program committee will review it during their meeting on March 13-14. Their comments and recommendations will be considered by the ELCA Church Council, which meets from March 27 through March 29. After that, the next step will be consideration by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly during its August 17-23, 2009, meeting. The ELCA has been working up to this point for decades. But that should not stop all faithful Christians from being in prayer during the coming weeks and months, asking that God would send the Holy Spirit to change the hearts and minds of the heterodox leadership of the ELCA and call them to repentance and a rejection of these sinful and idolatrous proposals.
If the worst happens and the ELCA adopts the proposals, or amended proposals that accomplish substantially the same ends, Christians then must view the ELCA in the same manner that they view the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) - as pretenders to the name "Christian" - wolves in sheeps' clothing that are leading many to eternal damnation. In introducing its proposed new social statement and ministry policies, the ELCA of course recognizes that the risk of schism is enormous. Faithful Christians will realize that they must separate themselves from the apostasy of their leaders. Thus the numerous pleas for ELCA members not to leave over this issue. Such pleas are likely to be in vain. True Christians cannot remain in a church that is no longer Christian. Using pretty phrases such as, "respect for the bound consciences of others", the Task Force would have the ELCA toss an anchor rather than a life preserver to their drowning neighbors. As Christians, we are called to hate the sin, but love the sinner. When we encourage our neighbor to remain in their sin, rather than to repent and be forgiven, we are acting hatefully toward them. It is not the "conscience bound belief of the neighbor" that determines what is sin - it is the Word of God that tells us plainly what sin is, and calls us to repentance. A church that places its opinions and current fads over the Word of God is no Christian church.
It appears that the ELCA has entered its death spiral, and this is truly a tragedy for all of Christendom. However, God is greater than the egos of all of those who are perverting his Word. Perhaps a reinvigorated church will rise out of the ashes of the ELCA. Jesus Christ, who went willingly to the cross to pay for the sins of all the world, and who rose from the dead triumphant on the third day, loves our Christian brothers and sisters of the ELCA, and desires that all would repent and be saved. This must be our prayer, as well.
Cross-posted By Owen Davis at Owen's World