Monday, November 02, 2009

Lutherans in the News Lately

Lutherans aren’t known for getting a lot of attention in the news. They tend to slip under the radar more often than not—while other Christian churches make the headlines. But things changed in August, as headlines like these flashed: “Lutherans adopt more open view on gays,” “Lutherans approve gay ministers.” What’s all this about? The 4.8 million member Lutheran denomination, the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of America” (ELCA), passed recent measures in their national assembly to endorse homosexual marriage and allow the ordination of homosexual pastors in their church. (Side note: a remarkable thing occurred at the same time these measures were being passed on the convention floor in Minneapolis: without warning, a tornado briefly struck downtown Minneapolis, and caused a highly selective bit of damage…It knocked the cross off of the steeple on the ELCA church across from the convention center! You can see the picture and read one ELCA pastor’s reflections on it here: http://www.wordalone.org/nr/change-or-not.shtml ) Unfortunately, the news media typically did not make a distinction between this Lutheran church and several other Lutheran church bodies represented in America, that were not involved in and did not support this decision. Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Schools belongs to one of those church bodies not involved in the decision, the 2.4 million member church, The “Lutheran Church Missouri Synod” (LCMS).

Some have viewed this as another victory for “tolerance” and the open acceptance of gays within the church. They say the church is finally discarding “antiquated notions” that have no place in our enlightened, modern world. Others, including about a 1/3 minority within the ELCA that strongly opposed these measures, viewed these actions as a clear departure from God’s Word and 2,000 years of Christian consensus about an issue that was never “up for grabs” in the church. We do well to remember that homosexuality was not unknown at the time of the New Testament, but was widely practiced and accepted in the Greco-Roman world. So the New Testament was written under similar circumstances to what we experience today.

Sadly, the trend that lead to these actions began years ago when the ELCA was formed in a merger of three smaller Lutheran groups, around a weakened view on the authority of Holy Scripture. The LCMS, retains a high view of Scripture as inspired (God-breathed: 2 Tim. 3:16-17) and inerrant (without error and completely truthful: John 10:35b; 17:17). The Holy Bible is the authority for all our teaching and life, and is unchanging. While our own national church, The LCMS, The Lutheran Church in Canada, and other smaller groups have issued statements against these measures and are holding fast to the Bible—it’s important that we don’t assume that we would never be susceptible to similar trends and influences or question God’s Word.

Christians in the church will always face strong pressure to be conformed to the pattern of the world and wander from God’s Word, rather than to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). So watch out that we do not become like the Pharisee who prayed “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11); or say our own prayer: “Thank God we’re not like them.” Rather, we too must confess our own sin, and especially the sin of disregarding God’s Word because of the pressures of the world, and instead pray: “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). There is no place for superiority here: only grieving that our brothers and sisters have fallen away from the truth. So our call should be firm, loving, and urgent that they turn back from their error (Galatians 6:1).

The Bottom Line is that our church, The LCMS, must continue to hold the Biblical position that homosexuality is a sin, and that God’s design and intent for sexuality is between one man and one woman in marriage (see Mark 10:6-9 & 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Along with the second Bible verse referenced, we believe that homosexuality is a sin that can be repented of, forgiven, and left behind, just like any other sin. God wants redemption for every sinner, and that they would turn from their sin and live. Homosexuals need the same redemption from their sin as we do, and we cannot “relax one of the least of these commandments” of God, or teach others to do the same (Matthew 5:17-20). Giving approval to any sin—whether it is our own or that of the homosexual, is not loving—it is tempting someone to sin (Matt. 18:7). Rather, the love that Jesus showed to the sinner was to say this: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

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