Monday, August 24, 2009

For me God's Word is clear on the issue of marriage, and God was clear at creation. I also understand we are all sinners and fall short of God's glory and are in need of forgiveness and salvation. I am taught by my Lord Jesus Christ to love the sinner and condem the sin. My perspective on Godly living comes from what God speaks to me in His Word.

Please know... in sharing this post, I am not judging a person or a denomination or branch... I want to address what is happening in our world and in our church, and also share that there is a difference in the Lutheran Church. The press has a way of not sharing the difference. Go figure.

I also ask each of you to pray for the Body of Christ.

My heart is burdened by what is happening not just in the Lutheran Church, but the Christian Church as a whole. Please know this...what I am sharing below are not my words but the resolutions that were passed (and taken from the ELCA website) as well the LCMS president's words as he was able to address the ELCA Churchwide Assembly this past Friday.

This past week I have been asked more than once "What is up with your denomination?"
Prior to discussing what the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) has passed this last week at their Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, I have had to address that I am a Christian worshipping in a LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) congregation. I know, confusing to those who are not as familiar with the differences in the Lutheran Church. LCMS and ELCA have many differences and I will not address them here, however I would like to share key resolutions that were made this past week and also the LCMS response addressing same-gender relationships as this is the best way I can explain what has transpired:

From ELCA's website

Churchwide Assembly Update
from Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson
Resolution 1: “RESOLVED, that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.” (Adopted 619-402)

Resolution 2: “RESOLVED, that the ELCA commit itself to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.” (Adopted 559-451)

Resolution 4: This resolution called upon members to respect the bound consciences of those with whom they disagree; declared intent to allow structured flexibility in decision-making about candidacy and the call process; eliminated the prohibition of rostered service by members in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships; recognized and committed to respect the conviction of members who believe that the ELCA should not call or roster people in committed same-gender relationships; called for development of accountability guidelines; directed that amendments to ministry policy documents be drafted and approved; and stated that this church continue to trust congregations, bishops, synods and others responsible for determining who should be called into public ministry. (Adopted 667-307 as amended)

The president of the LCMS had the opportunity to address the Churchwide Assembly and here it he LCMS President's response as pulled from the LCMS webiste.

Address to ELCA Churchwide Assembly, August 22, 2009 (President: Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick)

Presiding Bishop Hanson, Members of the Assembly, Special Guests, Friends in Christ,

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over the years of my life and ministry, these words from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 have become especially meaningful:

God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting mankind’s sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:19-21, ESV)

What a blessing it is to know that our sin is forgiven, removed from us as far as the east is from the west, because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ on Calvary’s cross. And what a humbling privilege and huge responsibility it is to know that God is making his appeal, through people like you and like me, people with feet of clay, that the world might be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.

I bring you these greetings on behalf of the 2.4 million members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at a difficult time in the world and in the church. Economic pressures bring great burdens. Strife finds its way into the LCMS, the ELCA, worldwide Lutheranism, and the Christian Church as a whole. Mankind’s inhumanity to mankind manifests itself in global unrest and worldwide terrorism. Peace is often elusive, both in the world and in the church, as sin and Satan continue to rear their ugly heads in both venues.

Lutherans are no strangers to discord and divisiveness. The Lutheran church was born under such conditions. Yet we also know the path to concord, expressed in these rather straight forward words in The Formula of Concord, written during a notable time of doctrinal controversy and discord in the church. Hear these words from the Kolb-Wengert translation:

"For these controversies are not merely misunderstandings or semantic arguments, where someone might think that one group had not sufficiently grasped what the other group was trying to say or that the tensions were based upon only a few specific words of relatively little consequence. Rather, these controversies deal with important and significant matters, and they are of such a nature that the positions of the erring party neither could nor should be tolerated in the church of God, much less be excused or defended.

"Therefore, necessity demands explanation of these disputed articles on the basis of God’s Word and reliable writings, so that those with a proper Christian understanding could recognize which position regarding the points under dispute is in accord with God’s Word and the Christian Augsburg Confession and which is not, and so that Christians of good will, who are concerned about the truth, might protect and guard themselves from the errors and corruptions that have appeared among us."

The writers of this Formula pledged themselves, and I quote, "to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments, as to the pure, clear fountain of Israel, which alone is the one true guiding principle, according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated." Discord can become concord when Christian individuals and Christian church bodies are faithful to the Holy Scriptures, which reveal the Gospel of God’s grace, forgiveness, and salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

The very fact that I represent a denomination known as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at an assembly of a denomination known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America bears witness to the fact that, sadly and regrettably, in spite of the holy Word and mercy of our God, the Confessions affirmed by the constitutions of both our church bodies, and the faithful example of those who have gone before us, schisms remain, not only in the Christian church, but also in the Lutheran church. We have doctrinal differences that separate us. That is no secret.

I speak these next words in deep humility, with a heavy heart and no desire whatsoever to offend. 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 2000 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 understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God’s revealed and infallible Word.

Only by the mercy of our Almighty God does hope remain for us poor, miserable sinners. By His grace, through Word and Sacraments, the evangelical witness and authentic message of sin and grace, Law and Gospel, must resound to a troubled world so desperately in need of His love in Christ.

May God grant each of us sensitivity, humility, boldness, courage, faithfulness, and forgiveness as we continue to strive toward God-pleasing harmony and concord in what we believe, teach, and confess. We have much to accomplish in the mission our Lord Jesus has entrusted to us.

May God have mercy upon us all, and grant us His peace in Christ. "

Again, I pray that each of you know I am not condemning a person or the body... I wanted to address a serious issue that is affecting more than just Lutherans. I am praying dear friends. God's Word stands forever!


Smelling Coffee said...

Hi Kristen~ That was a great summary and I, for one, am glad to have read and heard both sides. I do pray for the body of Christ - and feel such an urgency to do so even more. Thanks for your post. Blessings to you today...

On Purpose said...

Please know Kristen as I read this post today...I am hearing God say this is another thing that breaks His heart...I am joining in praying for you and Gods church that we all seek Him and His intended purposes. This very topic will be covered during the sex series on my blog...and I consider this another confirmation of the need God has to tell His people His view!

Letters From Midlife said...

I've been following this, along with other things happening in various denominations. What keeps coming to mind is Galatians 6:7 - "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Wonderful explanation and thus, dialogue here. I can only imagine the questions you're getting; I'm sorry for any denomination (even though this isn't the Lutheran branch you attend) that chooses to change the truth of Scripture. Us Methodist aren't immune. We're hanging on by a thread over here as it pertains to ordaining homosexual ministers. We've often wondered what we'll do should things go this direction.

Thanks for checking in with me friend and for offering your voice in the matter. I appreciate your work here...


Donna's Book Nook said...

I am so saddened by this. It is not just in the Lutheran Church--other denominations are dealing with this also. I believe our Lord is grieved by the decisions being made; it seems that God's Word is so clear in this matter. Thank you for the very well written description of these decisions.

joy! said...

Thank you for your thoughtful presentation of this issue. I stand with you, as do millions of Christians around the world who are orthodox in their faith.

I think sexual sin is one of the greatest issues facing the Church today. The Biblical picture of Christ and His bride, the Church, is one of purity, holiness, and faithfulness. So, I believe that ALL sexual sin is an affront to the Holy One.

The orthodox Church rightly holds firm to the Biblical standard on the issue of homosexuality while wavering on other aspects of sexual sin. How many bishops, priest, pastors, overseers, or deacons are divorced and remarried -- ignoring the Biblical mandate to be the husband of one wife? How many serving in positions of leadership have practiced serial monogamy -- divorce, remarriage, divorce, remarriage? I think this grieves the Holy Spirit and weakens His Church.