Skip to comments.Post-Mortem: Separation, Not Divorce
Posted on 09/06/2009 6:31:57 PM PDT by lightman
Post-Mortem: Separation, Not Divorce
by Paul R. Hinlicky September 05, 2009
The shipwreck in Minneapolis has now taken place. The ELCA was organized twenty years ago with this outcome in mind, as we warned at that time at the Call to Faithfulness conferences. It took longer than the religious Left expected, indeed ten years of hard battering on the gates (with the collusion of the church bureaucracy) before exhausted and out-spent defenders collapsed. There are still some in the agonized middle of this dispute who cling to the thought that structured flexibility and bound conscience represent a workable live and let live solution. A valid sentiment, but, unhappily, wishful thinking...
The shipwreck in Minneapolis has now taken place. The ELCA was organized twenty years ago with this outcome in mind, as we warned at that time at the Call to Faithfulness conferences. It took longer than the religious Left expected, indeed ten years of hard battering on the gates (with the collusion of the church bureaucracy) before exhausted and out-spent defenders collapsed. There are still some in the agonized middle of this dispute who cling to the thought that structured flexibility and bound conscience represent a workable live and let live solution. A valid sentiment, but, unhappily, wishful thinking.
We know as a matter of fact that the religious Left regards its victory at the ELCAs churchwide assembly as the beginning of a purge. The widely reported statement of Goodsoil says it all: If our gifts are not accepted, justice demands that we burn it to the ground. Now at least we have clarity, for those with ears to hear and eyes to see. Respecting bound consciences means nothing.
The plain, inescapable truth is we have two contradictory doctrinal propositions side by side in this failed institution. The one says: God loves gays gay and God desires homoerotic desire. The other says: God mercifully accepts the broken, gays and lesbians too, just as any others who likewise suffer the disorder consequent upon humanitys universal sin. The life and mission of the church is organized in one way by the first proposition and another by the second. These two lives and missions are practically incompatible. Since we can see no further at this time, separation if not divorce becomes inevitable.
There are good Christians, good people, and good theologians who have sided with the religious Left in this controversy. I am sorry that I have not been able to persuade them of their error. That is my failure and the failure of my side. The people I am talking about believe that they can steer the religious Left back to some form of a generous Christian orthodoxy. I wish them well. I hope they succeed and prove me wrong. But I doubt it. Why?
The issue of homosexuality will not now go away. It will keep coming back more and more stridently. The revisionist religious Left will not be satisfied with the Social Statements ambiguous compromise. No one can break from the solid consensus of catholic Christianity on an issue so profound to human beings and their well-being as sexuality without also buying into a revisionist narrative of injustice and exclusion at the heart of Christianity. The dynamism of this narrative by necessity becomes ever more radical.
The assurance that LSTC professor Ralph Klein offered in response to a blog post on this website some months ago that no coercion will be involved will, therefore, almost certainly prove false. This is already clear on a moments reflection. Think of what is taught in the seminaries, who gets through candidacy committees, what pastoral candidates are made available to congregations, which pastors are considered for prestigious positions, etc. The use of such mechanisms to reinforce the blessing of same-sex unions and reception of pastors in such unions cannot but force schism, de facto already, but eventually de jure. Indeed, every single congregation in the ELCA now has to have a wrenching debate and vote about how it will respond to these changes in doctrine. One can readily imagine the shifts in membership between congregations for and against, the demoralization of those who remain, and the steady bleed of aggrieved members.
The tradition of Lutheran theology is already sufficiently eroded in the ELCA, and with the departure of conservatives and traditionalists will be all the more so. Thus the victory of the religious Left is both assured and, equally predictably, it will be a pyrrhic one. They will rule over an increasingly empty house.
So it is perhaps worth saying one last time, even if as a form of wiping the dust from our feet: the ELCA Task Force process failed to resolve the theological questions at the heart of our conflict about homosexuality. One cannot do better here than attend to Archbishop Rowan Williamss rebuke to the actions of The Episcopal Church this summer.
First of all reminding all members of his communion that no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people, questioning their human dignity and civil liberties or their place within the Body of Christ, Williams immediately added, [h]owever, the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage. This is a precise statement of the theological question also tearing us apart in the ELCA. So Williams concludes, In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.
This case has not been made. It has been forced. Now we must all live with the consequences. At the present I see the consequence for myself as something like separation, but not divorce. There are too many in the confused middle, too many trapped in synods and congregations captured by the religious Left, indeed too many good Christians on the opposing side of this issue simply to walk away. The error, serious as it is, does not rise to level of apostasy or heresy. The classical term for an erring Church is heterodoxy. The ELCA is now teaching, or sponsoring teaching, that is other than teaching true to the gospel according to the catholic consensus through the ages. In a variety of ways, individuals, congregations, and perhaps even synods will now have to redirect benevolence, reconfigure education and mission, and exercise a selective fellowship.
Out this human confusion, however, God may be raising up something new: a realignment in American Protestantism, bringing together those of catholic and orthodox tendency in all the liberal Protestant North American demonimations and uniting them with evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox. Freed by the ELCA's shipwreck from denominationalism, those in Luther's tradition who remember the ecumenical intention of the Augsburg Confession could play a catalytic role in a powerful new convergence and reassertion of Christian life and mission from the ruins. There is no going back. No ignoring the consequences. But the God who gives life to the dead may have something far better in mind.
Paul R. Hinlicky is the Tise Professor Lutheran Studies at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia.
It is too late for any to tilt at the windmill of "reforming" the ELCA.
It is time now to find those fellow refugees from the shipwrecks of the ELCA and Episcopal Church and move forward into building a confessional and catholic community--not, as with the flawed formation of the ELCA-a "new church" but one established in the great Tradition, rooted in the Word and nourished by the holy Sacraments.
* as of August 19, AD 2009, a liberal protestant SECT, not part of the holy, catholic and apostolic CHURCH.
The shipwreck in Minneapolis has now taken place. The ELCA was organized twenty years ago with this outcome in mind
When it’s over, it’s over.
Ichabod - the glory has departed. Let ELCA sink, as another hopeless reprobate apostate church.
Well put, Reverend. Unfortunately, I cannot stomach the separation and am going full-on divorce with the ELCA. I’m joining the Missouri Synod, a church that cannot, in its current form, be corrupted by the religious left.
......Out of this human confusion, however, God may be raising up something new: a realignment in American Protestantism, bringing together those of catholic and orthodox tendency in all the liberal Protestant North American demonimations and uniting them with evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox....
The only way to be united with the Orthodox is to become Orthodox. That’s what Metropolitan Jonah told the Anglicans. That is also what Patriarch Jeremias told the Tuebingen Lutheran reformers in the 16th century. This is not because of some sort of Orthodox triumphalism, but for sound ecclesiological and theological reasons. The Orthodox Church is our long-lost home.
Faithful ELCA Lutherans who are “trapped in synods and congregations captured by the religious Left” (as I was) should not wait to be rescued by some sort of “new alignment”. If you’re in an ultraliberal synod, NO RESCUE is coming from that source. (I know from personal experience.) But the Holy Spirit has provided means to rescue you and yours right now. You’re not really trapped at all.
Start attending an English-language Orthodox parish as an inquirer now, and do everything you need to do to learn about Orthodoxy. Ask God for discernment as to the right path for you. Learn and learn, grow and grow!
If you are keeping your children home from school on Tuesday to avoid Dear Leader’s indoctrination speech, why not find an English-language Orthodox parish that will be serving Divine Liturgy Tuesday morning? Tuesday is the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary’s birthday, which prepared the way for our salvation in Christ). It is one of the Twelve Great Feasts. Later that day, write a note to your child’s teacher that you gave him/her a REAL educational (and spiritual) experience!!!!
Beyond the nascent schism in the Lutheran church, this is the reason Christians and Jews of all stripe must oppose the specter of state-sanctioned homosexuality. The question of sexual conduct goes to the heart of the Judeo-Christian ethos, and a victory for homosexuality comes only at the expense of a meaningful religion.
The formation of the ELCA is what nudged Fr. Richard John Neuhaus into the Catholic Church. At the time, he said that the merger was not based on theological principle or belief, but was merely a material merger for material reasons—like a merger of Wal-Mart and K-Mart.
Neuhaus said he had always viewed the Lutheran “Church” as the Lutheran “Movement” within the universal Church. After the formation of the ELCA, he could not maintain that view—of Lutheranism as a principle-based movement within the Church.
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was exactly the kind of theological mind that showed the path back to the true Church. Hopefully others will pick up the lamp so souls will continue to trek back to Holy Mother Church.
We did the same thing about a year and a half ago. We have been very blessed by our LCMS church!
Fr. Neuhaus of blessed memory was one who understood Lutheranism as being evangelical catholic; another evangelical catholic, Rev. Dr. Robert Jenson has put it this way: That the doctrine of Justification (Augsburg Confession ¶IV) is a "proposition for dogma" being offered to the Church.
Despite the back peddaling that has taken place on both sides of the Tiber, it is unmistakeably clear that the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification on October 31, 1999, in Wittenberg by representatives of the Vatican and of the Lutheran World Federation was the "beginning of the end" for Lutheranism.
Despite the nuances and asterisks, the proposition for dogma has been accepted. The raison d'etre for a separate existence is rapidly evaporating.
I will probably be attending the CORE meeting in Indianapolis. Our congregation needs to know if they will be forming a new synod. Thanks for the updates!
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is the only Lutheran place to be. Either that or find a true Bible teaching church. My brother found one. We also have LCMS churches around here although not very many compared to the corrupted ELCA churches.
The ELCA is not a Christian church. It’s a church the same way that Tiller The Killer’s church was not a Christian church. It’s a place to meet and pretend you’re in a Christian church. Convienient for weddings, and other occassions, and so the secular types can “do” Christmas and other “fun” stuff they like.
The ELCA is evil. They state that abortion is an acceptable family planning practice right on www.elca.org. I confirmed it with an ELCA pastor face to face and also emailed the ELCA website and was told to “re-read” the webpage. They would not give me a simple yes or no. Too cowardly. The pastor though, did admit the ELCA is pro-death.
How sad. All those lost souls who attend. Very sad indeed.
The ELCA, like the liberal wing of Presbyterians -- Presbyterian - USA Church, pays for abortions for its churchworkers.
I guess they don't want people of their ilk reproducing!
Wow. They really are proud of their pro-death stance aren’t they?
Here’s the scripture I found on the day I spoke with that ELCA pastor. I of course told him God didn’t approve of His people killing His innocent Lambs. No reaction of course from the spiritually dead pastor.
The Scripture: Ezekiel 2:3 “I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against Me. They and their fathers have transgressed against Me, even unto this very day.”
How is it that a Christian woman, can discuss abortion with a man who spends his working life in the Word of God, yet he sees nothing stupendously obviously morally wrong with aborting human children? I don’t get it. I drive by that fake church all the time and wonder at it, how it is a dead church as long as it is connected to the evil ELCA.
I know the old folks there were there before the ELCA got their hooks into it. Many of them probably don’t read ELCA policy. They might not be internet connected and informed. They certainly aren’t getting told about pro-abortion policy from the pulpit. You have to look for the evil. I was there for 2 years before I found it. I felt very used and very sorry I was ever there. I do thank God that He got me out of that dead church.
“I guess they don’t want people of their ilk reproducing! “
And I guess it’s working. I read often that the so-called “mainline” (i.e. liberal) churches continue to lose membership in large numbers.
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