Today we Americans celebrate the blessings and benefits of being an independent nation. I was thinking of the blessings of independence and the freedom that it affords. My mind turned to the Lutheran World Federation and the troubles and problems it continues to experience, particularly its continuing failure, as an entity, to confess the doctrine of our Lutheran Confessions, clearly, consistently and faithfully and to reject and condemn doctrines contrary to the Lutheran Confessions. The LWF can not even clearly insist that all members must confess the doctrines of the Small Catechism and reject all errors contrary to them. At a recent gathering of the LWF, the issue of homosexuality reared its ugly head, actually, according to the story below, its ugly head was quite vigorously pummeled by the bishop of Tanzania, and he was pointedly and promptly rebuked by the head of the LWF, Bishop Mark Hansen, in a unique form of language, which could be called, “ecclesio-admin speak.”
There are strong and active voices both within and outside of The LWF that look to The LCMS to be and remain a strong, independent voice for historic, traditional Lutheranism. Sometimes I hear talk that The LCMS should become an “associate member” of the LWF. In my opinion, we do much better to devote our time and resources to teaching and reaching as many people as possible with this message, rather than becoming enmeshed in the LWF‘s endless administrative structures, meetings and gatherings, where consistently voices advocating traditional Lutheran positions on doctrine and morality are sidelined and shunned.
I am thinking, for instance, of how Bishop Walter Obare of Kenya was thrown off the LWF Executive Council for his advocacy of a strong Lutheran presence in Sweden, while all the while advocates of homosexuality, abortion rights and the doctrines of liberal Christianity remain and are praised, hailed, advanced and promoted throughout the LWF. Here is an excerpt from Bishop Obare’s speech to the LWF Council, shortly before they voted to remove him:
. . . . So what is concealed behind the terms
“differentiated consensus,” “reconciled diversity,” and
“unity without demanding uniformity,” is something quite different from what
they [Lutheran liberals] state on the face of it. Rather, these are expressions
of the dominating will of a powerful elite who seek to enforce their ideologies
on the rest of the church. They conceal
with a thin veneer the will -to-power operative in the church today. We have watched this happen over and over in
liberal, Northern Christianity. Liberal
theological trends progressively take over, not in the congregations, but in
the leadership. They become imposed
through the will-to-power concealed in pleasant expressions like
“differentiated consensus” upon the everyday Christian through the exercise of
ecclesial dominion. Gentle sounding
phrases become the weapons of a politics of exclusion that dominate liberal
churches. The exercise of this concealed will-to-power
has crept like an assassin from church to church leaving many spiritual corpses
in its wake. It is even, through
financial enticements (a pleasantry I substitute for the term “bribe”), being
marketed to Southern churches. This is at least true in Africa where it is not
uncommon for money to be connected to the implementation of the liberal agenda.
But no more. Now is the time to say “No!” to this
development. This occupation and domination
of churches has hurt enough people. The
intellectual and theological dishonesty concealed by this doublespeak must
end. Call a thing what it is!
Let’s be, and remain, a strong, vibrant confessing movement that speaks up clearly and consistently for traditional, genuine Lutheranism: reaching out boldly and broadly with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in mission to the world, wherever God gives us the opportunity. Let’s focus on taking the Gospel of Christ, as it is so clearly and beautifully articulated in our Lutheran Confessions, to any and all wherever we can, supporting and helping those churches that also wish to be and remain genuinely Lutheran. The Lutheran Confessions, as contained in the Book of Concord, are what allow us to say clearly what it is that we believe, teach and confess, and what we reject and condemn. May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Here is the ENI report on the Tanzanian bishop’s remarks to the recent LWF gathering.
Bishop tells Lutherans how Tanzanians denounce homosexuality
27 June 2008
Arusha, Tanzania (ENI). The host bishop at a global Lutheran conference in Tanzania raised the thorny issue of homosexuality when in his opening sermon at a meeting in Arusha of the main governing body of the 68-million-strong Lutheran World Federation, he said same- sex relationships are unacceptable and go against biblical teachings.
“What is the witnessing and the stand of the LWF at the moment as [far as] the whole question of homosexuality and lesbianism is concerned,” asked Lutheran Bishop Thomas O. Laiser, from the Arusha region, at the 25 June opening service of the LWF Council. “It is an undeniable fact that this question is not even discussible, and therefore it is not acceptable,” he said.
The LWF president, Mark Hanson, who is the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said he believed the Lutheran body has mechanisms to adequately deal with debate and divergent attitudes on the issues of human sexuality. “There are some people who would love to see us fall apart on this issue,” he added.
Although Lutheran churches throughout the world hold different views about matters such as the acceptance of homosexuals in church life, and blessings for single sex relationships in some Northern countries, it has managed to avoid the type of divisions that are faced by the worldwide Anglican Communion over the issues.
Tanzanians, some of them in traditional Masai dress, danced and sang during the two-hour service, which officially opened the 25-30 June gathering of the LWF Council. The meeting is being held in Arusha, near the foot of Africa’s highest mountain, and with the theme, “Melting Snow on Mount Kilimanjaro: A Witness of a Suffering Creation”.
Bishop Laiser, who is himself from the Masai, a distinctive pastoralist tribe in East Africa, said, “I am not standing here to tell you how this matter should be in your respective churches and countries, I am only sharing with you a piece of information on our stand in the ELCT [Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania], your host.”
The Tanzanian bishop said that homosexuality, “violates all the principles of what we know about the teachings of the word of God.” He referred to St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:9), saying, “No sexual perverts will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Bishop Laiser, who studied for a master’s degree in theology at Wartburg Seminary in the United States, stated, “This matter does not only violate the teachings of the Bible, but it is also against the principles of nature.”