Skip to comments.And Now for Something Completely Different? Gay ELCA Bishop Presides at Revisionist Worship Service
Posted on 08/21/2013 8:21:55 AM PDT by Gamecock
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Americas (ELCA) first openly gay bishop, Guy Erwin, presided over a highly heterodox worship service on August 14, 2013, during ELCAs 2013 Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh. Erwins subsequent dismissal of the services doctrinal significance notwithstanding, the bishops presence amidst such liturgical revisionism raises disturbing questions about proper theological formation in the ELCA.
This Festival Worship took place in the Omni William Penn Hotels Grand Ballroom after the ELCA assemblys events had concluded that day in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center blocks away. For the unsuspecting churchgoer, the services liturgical program printed by the gay Lutheran groups hosting the worship,ReconcilingWorks and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, was jarring. The services Thanksgiving for Baptism, for example, invokes the triune God not under the formulation given by Jesus in the Gospels of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/Spirit, but rather Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit.
Any adherent of orthodoxy like me, accustomed to the Anglican 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), would be flabbergasted by the programs Affirmation of Faith. This apparent reworking of Christianitys basic statement of faith, the Nicene Creed invokes again a non-gendered God as opposed to the creeds Father Almighty in the 1928 BCP translation. Likewise, the God who came to us in human formJesus receives no gender designation as the only-begotten Son of God.
Completely absent from the affirmation is also any reference to Jesus being crucified under Pontius Pilate or how on the third day Jesus rose again from the dead according to the Scriptures. The closest the affirmation comes is a mention of Jesus coming to save a troubled world from sin and death with the possibility of eternal life. Avoiding God as patriarch once more, the affirmation makes no mention of how Jesus now sits on the right hand of the Father and shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead.
Along with the father of a non-gendered Jesus in the Affirmation of Faith, His mother is also absent. Nowhere does the Festival Worship mention how Jesus was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, a passage to which Anglicans kneel in reverence in the 1928 BCP liturgy. Although the Holy Spirit appears in the affirmation as God with usworking in and through us to make all things new, the affirmation, of course, never mentions this spirit in conjunction with the Father and the Son. Given the affirmations multiple deviations from the Nicaea Creed, it is perhaps just as well that the affirmation omits any common belief in one catholic and apostolic church.
Deviations continue in the Festival Worships Adaption of the Prayer that Jesus Taught Us, more traditionally known as the Lords Prayer. Here our Father predictably gives way to an Eternal Spirit who is Father and Mother of us all. Although the text incorporates the basic themes from the Lords Prayer, the formulation is hardly an improvement upon the original.
Scrutiny of the Festival Worship liturgy reveals a scrupulous absence of gender terms and other words. Father and mother never appear, except in the aforementioned divine dualism. Son similarly never occurs in the text, except where a reading fromIsaiah 56:3-8 promises from God to eunuchs who keep my Sabbath a name better than that of sons and daughters. The Festival Worship also entirely omits the word Lord, not just in the Lords Prayer.
Interviewed the following day in the convention center about the service, Erwin responded that the Festival Worships creeds and prayers were not authorized in any official way. Being very clear about this liturgy being an adaption of traditional forms, Erwin stated that in Lutheran practice there is more flexibility in form and often variety. This was unlike Anglicanism where there is an official model to follow.
Questioned about the motive behind the gender-neutral language he had not authored, Erwin was not certain, but stated that the purpose in a lot of these things is to avoid gender references. The purpose of that is to keep people from feeling excluded and to expand peoples ideas of what God can be like even as all human understandings of God are inherently limited. Erwin, though, professed to prefer the classical language of the creeds personally. He assumed as well that the Festival Worship participants accept traditional liturgy, something confirmed by ReconcilingWorks board member Phil Soucy, who had seen these individuals attend other services during the ELCA assembly.
Consideration of whether the Festival Worship drafters and others would seek to de-gender the entire Bible prompted Erwin to ask how important is it to have it a particular way. Concerning Jesus in particular, Erwin considered it a good question on whether understanding Jesus as male was significant. Jesus came presumably as male for Erwin, yet he did not expect to have completely understood Jesus long-discussed dual God-man nature this side of the Kingdom.
Mention of some congregations having created female-figured crucifixes, however, brought objection from Erwin as taking it in the wrong place. Soucy as well found this matter reduced to absurdity with a female crucifix. Asked to specify his objection, Erwin considered this a good question as well, before rejecting the idea that we have to transpose a view of Jesus as we have traditionally received. It would be much better to remove gender altogether from a literal image.
Soucy found himself disturbed by the interviews focus on gender in theology, requesting that we try another line of questioning, yet the concerns flowing from the Festival Worship are not trivial. Upon being elected ELCAs first presiding bishop in Pittsburgh, Elizabeth Eaton stated that Lutherans could withstand deep divisions over issues like human sexuality as long as we agree on the cross of Christ. The Festival Worship, however, suggests that many of its homosexual supporters cannot even do that.
Not only did the crucifixion not seem significant to the Festival Worship editors, but they apparently cannot agree on Jesus human nature. There is no indication in this liturgy of Jesus as a male son born of woman named Mary. Festival Worship does, indeed, therefore, leave open for those so inclined the possibility of a female messiah suffering death upon across for human salvation. This is a ghoulish prospect (Crucifixion as snuff film?) raising questions about whether men should ordinarily protect women.
ReconcilingWorks proclaims on the Festival Worship liturgy booklet opposition to artificial distinctions such as racism, sexism, ageism, able-ism, heterosexism, and homophobia. Nonetheless, the Bible seems to see the gender distinctions involved in opposition to homosexuality as anything but artificial. Genesis 1:27 describes God creating humanity in His image as male and female, with the woman taken from man being Gods specific solution to Adams inability to find a partner among the animals (Genesis 2:18-23).
The union of man and woman as husband and wife in turn produces one flesh (Genesis 2:24), both in the organic sexual union of male with female and in childbearing, something later invoked by Jesus in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 19:5). This natural family unit of husband, wife, and children also appears in the Fifth of the Ten Commandments with the call for children to honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12). This commandment appears on the first tablet of commandments treating the relationship between man God, as the Anglican evangelical John Stott analyzed, for Gods full image in husband and wife represents the divine to a child.
Gender plays significant roles elsewhere in the Bible. The New Testament analogizes the relationship between Jesus and the church to a husband and wife (e.g. Mark 2:19). Jesus sacrifices unto death for the church the same way the apostle Paul calls upon a husband to sacrifice for his obedient wife (Ephesians 5:22-33). Both the Old Testament narrative of God calling upon Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Genesis 22:19) and the New Testaments parable of the forgiven Prodigal Son (Luke 15:10-32), meanwhile, with their evident parallels in Gods behavior, suggest God as a father. One assembly participant in Pittsburgh insightfully explained, moreover, that the full extent of fatherly compassion towards the Prodigal Son is not understandable absent an understanding of how Jewish fathers in Jesus time would have normally behaved. The father running to receive the Prodigal Son, for example, would have revealed his legs, something deeply embarrassing in ancient Israel.
Several more orthodox Lutherans at the assembly were aghast to see the Festival Worship program with its theological liberties. For these individuals, Erwins non-canonical understanding of the service was unavailing. Along with other means of religious instruction, liturgy, however varied, should reflect sound, unitary doctrine for everyone alike. In particular, the Nicene Creeddemanded significant theological efforts, both in its formulation at the 325 Council of Nicaea in Asia Minor and later defense against challenge, while the New Testament recounts the Lords Prayer coming from Jesus Himself. In this context, Festival Worships amateur hour gay improvisation is simply not acceptable.
Elected in Pittsburgh as ELCAs first female presiding bishop,Elizabeth Eaton described her fellow ELCA clerical novelty Erwin to the Huffington Post online as one of our most faithful and also scholarly confessional theologians. Erwin is a faithful minister of the Gospel and a great voice to explain the Lutheran way of looking at things and his election in way signified an attempt to catch a wave in popular culture. Notwithstanding Erwins universally recognized erudition, Festival Worship visitors could easily have overlooked Eatons assessment.
As subsequent reporting will show, moreover, Festival Worships rejection of gender and other deviations from norms was hardly unique amidst ReconcilingWorks events throughout the assembly. Once homosexuals like Erwin reject standards for their own sexual and lifestyle behavior, they apparently will have little compunction about constructing a theology to match. Given such revisionism, the 2013 Churchwide Assemblys slogan of Always Being Made New takes on a whole new, disturbing meaning. Yet the wisdom of Luke 5:39, cited by the Festival Worship, will ultimately prove true: People never want new wine after theyve been drinking the old. They say, We like the old better.
Someone is going to Hell.
:: the bishops presence amidst such liturgical revisionism raises disturbing questions about proper theological formation in the ELCA. ::
And Jensen and Braaten keep cashing those checks, don’t they?
How many people walked out of the meeting when he rose to speak?
for as it is written “For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive if possible the elect.”Mark 13:22 The Sacred Writ teaches that these things must come to pass—that there will be a great falling away first.We are merely witness to the birth pangs.
Most assuredly. This is the epitome of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and they now CANNOT BE FORGIVEN.
Martin Luther is spinning in his grave
It is always well said—when I allow the Sacred Writ to speak for itself.Left to my own desires I somehow always end up missing the mark.
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