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Statement from Missouri Synod regarding ELCA Homosexuality Decision

August 14th, 2007
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TO:                 The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod 
FROM:           Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President 
SUBJECT:      Statement regarding 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly Action
DATE:            August 13, 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings
in the Name of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world and Lord of the
universe, through whom alone we receive forgiveness of sin, life, and
salvation!

On the final day of its 2007 Churchwide
Assembly in Chicago (Saturday, August 11), the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) adopted a resolution which “prays, urges, and
encourages [ELCA geographical] synods, synodical bishops, and the
presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in
disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful
committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in
this church.” 

News of this action troubles me
greatly and is causing serious concern and consternation among the
members and leaders of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). We in
the LCMS hold firmly to the conviction that, according to the Holy
Bible, homosexual behavior is “intrinsically sinful.” We are deeply
disappointed that the ELCA, by its decision, has failed to act in
keeping with the historic and universal understanding of the Christian
church regarding what Holy Scripture teaches about homosexual behavior
as contrary to God’s will and about the biblical qualifications for
holding the pastoral office. 

The LCMS firmly
believes that the sin of homosexual behavior, like every sin that
fallen human beings commit, has been paid for in full by the life,
suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The LCMS also believes that we must continue to reach out in love to
all people on the basis of what God’s Word alone teaches about human
sinfulness, God’s grace in Christ, and the new life empowered by God’s
Holy Spirit. 

It should be noted that the ELCA voted
not to amend at this time its governing documents regarding the
expectations of its ordained workers in this area (this matter was
referred to its task force on sexuality). However, its decision “to
refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining” ELCA workers in
“a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship”
raises troubling questions about whether the expectations set forth in
its governing documents will be taken seriously by the ELCA or by the
task force. The potential implications of decisions such as this for
future LCMS-ELCA relations have been discussed in previous meetings
involving leaders of the LCMS and the ELCA. In addition, I stated in my
official greetings to the 2007 ELCA Assembly on Friday, August 10, “For
the sake of our mutual witness and service together, the implications
of such action, should it be taken, would need to be addressed,
fraternally and evangelically.” 

As the LCMS noted in
a resolution adopted at its 2001 Convention (Resolution 3-21A), “we of
the LCMS recognize that many of our brothers and sisters of the ELCA
remain faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and we resolve
to reach out to them in love and support.” As President of the LCMS, it
is my ongoing hope and fervent prayer—as stated in my remarks to the
2003 ELCA Assembly—that the ELCA’s continuing “study and deliberation
of this matter will be made in the light of the biblical understanding
of human sexuality and the qualifications for the pastoral office.” I
also pray that God the Holy Spirit will lead and guide all Christians
and Christian denominations everywhere to seek wisdom and truth from
God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word on this and other critical
issues in our contemporary church and culture.

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

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  1. August 14th, 2007 at 08:55 | #1

    Kudos to President Kieschnick for addressing this. It would have been easy to ignore, I suppose, but cowardly. The statement is well taken as far as it goes.
    I wonder, however, whether stronger words are not in order here. After all, when an individual brother sins, do we not apply the law and call him to repentance? Can not the same be done here? The tone of our statements regarding such things always seems to be “concern, concern”. So cautious and measured. But is there ever a time for a “John the Baptist” type statement?

  2. Eraj
    August 14th, 2007 at 12:40 | #2

    What does this sentence mean in the last paragraph…
    As President of the LCMS, it is my ongoing hope and fervent prayer—as stated in my remarks to the 2003 ELCA Assembly—that the ELCA’s continuing “study and deliberation of this matter will be made in the light of the biblical understanding of human sexuality and the qualifications for the pastoral office.”
    …when we know that the ELCA uses historical (higher) criticism as their method of biblical interpretation? They ARE following their biblical understanding, by placing man’s intellect above God’s!
    I have to say I think this response is very weak. We should break off all dialogue with the ELCA until they repent and return to biblical morality and, let’s face it, Christ. The ELCA’s path has been in the exact opposite direction from Christ throughout its short history. Many pastors do not even believe in the resurrection (I know this for a fact…I’ve spoken with some). This denomination is just a big social-minded group, reaching out to people to “help” them while not convicting them of their sin and need for Christ’s forgiveness. Instead, they’re off worshipping “the goddess” somewhere, and promoting same-sex relationships. How can we expect to get anywhere with these people considering their present belief system? The truth is, we can’t. The bottom line is, we shouldn’t be dealing with the ELCA until they change. The ball is in their court, so to speak. If we have contact with the ELCA at all, it should be with the Word Alone group, striving to change the ELCA from the inside out.

  3. Ted
    August 14th, 2007 at 14:16 | #3

    Please don’t paint all ELCA Lutherans with the same brush. There are many many faithful Christians among us who are working from within to preserve a faithful witness to the authority of Scripture.

  4. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    August 14th, 2007 at 14:28 | #4

    The sentence that caught my eye was;
    “However, its decision “to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining” ELCA workers in “a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship” raises troubling questions about whether the expectations set forth in its governing documents will be taken seriously by the ELCA or by the task force.”
    Perhaps the LC-MS could set an example for the ELCA in this regard by following the ‘expectations’ of our own governing documents first (rather than paying lip service to them). Sounds like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.
    McCain: OK, I’m going to step in here and offer an observation. Let’s be careful we do not let our emotions get the best of us. I believe Pres. Kieschnick’s statement was very well done. It proclaimed clear Law and Gospel and made it abundantly clear why we disagree with these actions and why. I think it is more than a little unfair to attack it based on other issues and concerns. I’m not sure what purpose would have been served for him to say much more at this point. His *point* is more than abundantly clear to the ELCA leadership. I watched the whole debate over sexuality issues at the CWA and I can tell you that at no point did anyone in that discussion speak such clear Law and Gospel and so clearly reject homosexual behavior as the sin that is, as you find it in Pres. Kieschnick’s statement. That’s my .02 worth.

  5. Mike Baker
    August 14th, 2007 at 16:29 | #5

    The key word here is “the”. THE biblical understanding… and THE qualifications for the pastoral office.
    If THEIR “understanding” is not THE biblical understanding, then it is wrong. That has been the LCMS point for decades. This statement is a clear retelling of that repeated warning to get back on track with Scripture and the historic, universal understanding of the Christian church.
    I think that as long as the ELCA calls itself Lutheran, the LCMS and other confessional Lutheran bodies must officially address every error that spills forth in order to make the distinction clear for everyone.
    We already have to qualify words like “catholic”, “orthodox”, and “evangelical” in our churches today so that people do not confuse our intent when we try to dust off the archaic meanings of those words. “When we say this is the catholic faith, we do not mean Roman Catholic”, “When Walther writes the word orthodox here, he is not talking about Eastern Orthodox”, etc….
    Forty years from now, I do not want to have to explain to my grandchildren that the word “lutheran” here in America used to mean something other than a belief that embraces homosexual pastors and higher criticism. Our confessions are important and I do not think that they are something that we can afford to declare sparingly through doctrinal triage.

  6. Chi Chi
    August 14th, 2007 at 21:59 | #6

    A couple of thoughts. First, I think the president is to be commended for presenting a statement that offers the LCMS position on this issue. Second, the president, I believe, acted wisely in waiting a few days before offering the statement.
    That being said, I would hope that that in future statements of such magnitude the president would simply say, “God says in His Word that,” or “God makes clear in this passage that,” or even “The Bible says,” etc., then follow by quoting the Bible.
    Our people and the world want clarity. The Bible offers that.
    Saying, “We in the LCMS hold firmly to the conviction that, according to the Holy Bible,” is one step removed from a simple, declarative statement either of Law or Gospel. It requires that the receptive reader appreciate the writer’s faithful adherence to an authoritative document.
    Since the majority of dele-persons at the CWA deny that the Bible is the authoritative document in these matters, our firm hold on our convictions amounts only to prejudicial language (an “appeal to motive”) that doesn’t logically support our argument.
    Futher, I do not understand why homosexual sin is limited to “behavior.” According to Matthew 5:28, lust of the eyes is equally as sinful in the eyes of the Lord. Unless, that is, the LCMS no longer considers concupiscence as “intrinsically sinful.”
    Which, if that were the case, would mean that we are in real, big trouble.

  7. Andrew Grams
    August 15th, 2007 at 06:13 | #7

    Ted,
    I keep you in my prayers, and offer you my support.
    Chi Chi,
    I agree to a certain extent that the statement might have been more effective with biblical references or a reference to the CTCR report on Human Sexuality. However, we are given clear direction from Christ Himself of what to do when a brother sins and remains in sin — first go to him and confront him about his sin. This is something that is done privately, not publicly unless and until the brother fails to repent after being confronted with witnesses. Then he is brought to bear before the congregation and called to repentance.
    The ELCA made a public statement regarding the matter with their bishop in Atlanta. It required a public statement in response. President Kieschnick’s statement did a wonderful job in pointing out something that is sorely lacking in any statements issued by ELCA on this matter — that we are to conform to God’s will rather than conform the church and God to man, and that there is no biblical foundation for the doctrine being advanced. I am sure that President Kieschnick addressed the doctrinal issues with Bishop Hanson in any meetings he had after his speech at the general assembly.

  8. Chi Chi
    August 15th, 2007 at 18:29 | #8

    Andrew, President Kieschnick very clearly and very publicly addressed doctrinal issues in the ELCA just by issuing this statement, for which he is to be highly commended. Private meetings with ecclesial dignitaries or situations of interpersonal conflict are not the only occasions for quoting Scripture, however.

  9. Amy Surburg
    August 15th, 2007 at 22:01 | #9

    I think that Chi Chi is right. We do ELCA and the public a disservice by not using the Word, by which the Holy Spirit will work to change the hearts and minds of the historical critics. No other arguments will bring about change.
    On a note about the confrontation of sin. It seems to me that this passage is widely misused. I keep hearing it quoted in situations in which the sin was more than just an individual person against another. I keep thinking of Jesus in the temple overturning the money changers tables – he didn’t go to each money changer individually and ask them to stop, then get a few friends to ask them…etc. He also didn’t privately ask the Pharisees to stop being hypocrites. Why do we keep saying that public sins should be treated in a private manner?

  10. Pr. D. Bestul
    August 15th, 2007 at 23:47 | #10

    To commend an LCMS president –or pastor, for that matter– for publicly stating what is popular in Missouri to state is like commending a pastor for teaching his catechumens “thou shalt not commit adultery.” I certainly agree with the statement, but I’m reserving my commendations for pastors and presidents who speak unambiguously and publicly to the equally unbiblical teachings of the ELCA which have far more proponents in the LCMS than homosexuality has; namely, open communion, ordination of women, syncretism/unionism, scriptural errancy, doctrinally dangerous and deficient hymnody, etc. Perhaps public presidential statements have been made on such issues. If so, my commendations!

  11. fw sonnek
    September 6th, 2007 at 00:52 | #11

    GK Chesterton said somewhere that to disagree with someone we first have to agree… on what we disagree with…
    We talk past our ELCA bretheren and others by not agreeing with them as to what we both mean by the word homosexual.
    so THEY make it about love… “gee is it wrong for two men to be in love or to love each other?“ which to them is a big part of what the word “homosexual“ means. to THEM.
    We answer in the LCMS: as yucky as it may seem to some, the answer is “ok it´s not sinful for two men to be in love or to love each other. “
    Is homosexual SEX in thought word in deed wrong?
    We answer in the LCMS: Yes for EXACTLY the same reason that ANY sex outside of marriage is wrong. Not because it is homosexual sex exactly , but because it is NOT sex within the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman.
    In short, WE mean sex and sex acts and the thoughts and words that accompany that when WE hear “homosexual“. We ONLY hear that part. THEY hear something immensely broader when THEY hear the word “homosexual.“
    Think of the sexuality of boys and girls BEFORE they reach puberty and THAT is what THEY include in the definition of “homosexual.“
    You can reflect on this to understand their thinking better by reflecting on how your own personal sexuality was manifest in you before puberty and how you came to know before puberty that you were a sexual being. It IS about sex in THIS sense that is the main idea for them behind the word homosexual.
    It therefore makes referring to “homosexuality“ broadly as sin seem extra-biblical.
    I hope this helps somehow.
    frank

  12. Sandy
    September 7th, 2007 at 17:48 | #12

    I am an LCMS member in Cincinnati. Recently there was an article in the editorial section of the Cincinnati Enquirer from a woman in the ELCA explaining what happened at the Convention in regards to homosexual leaders in their church. Then, a few weeks later there was a rebuttal in the Cincinnati Enquirer from a member of LCMS. If interested in reading both editorials you may go to the Cincinnati Enquirer website and look at archived editorials. I’m sure ELCA members are hurting over this division in their church and need LCMS prayers for them more than anything!

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