25 August 2009

Conscience May Not Overrule the Word of God

Statement of the president of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in response to certain actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
August 24, 2009

The two largest Lutheran church bodies in the United States are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with 4.8 million members and The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) with 2.4 million members.

On Friday, Aug. 21, the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to open the ministry of the ELCA to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in "committed relationships." In an earlier action, the assembly approved a resolution that commits the ELCA "to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships."

The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod has repeatedly affirmed as its own position the historical understanding of the Christian church that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior as "intrinsically sinful." It is therefore contrary to the will of the Creator and constitutes sin against the commandments of God (Lev. 18:22, 24,20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-20; 1 Tim 1:9-10; and Rom. 1:26, 27).

Addressing the ELCA assembly on Saturday, Aug. 22, I responded to their aforementioned actions, stating: "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 2,000 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 [our two church bodies] understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God's revealed and infallible Word."

Doctrinal decisions adopted already in 2001 led the LCMS, in sincere humility and love, to declare that we could no longer consider the ELCA "to be an orthodox Lutheran church body" (2001 Res 3-21A). Sadly, the decisions of this past week to ignore biblical teaching on human sexuality have reinforced that conclusion. We respect the desire to follow conscience in moral decision making, but conscience may not overrule the Word of God.

We recognize that many brothers and sisters within the ELCA, both clergy and lay, are committed to remaining faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, are committed to the authority of Holy Scripture, and strongly oppose these actions. To them we offer our assurance of loving encouragement together with our willingness to provide appropriate support in their efforts to remain faithful to the Word of God and the historic teachings of the Lutheran church and all other Christian churches for the past 2,000 years.

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

"Transforming lives through Christ's love ... in time ... for eternity ..." John 3:16-17


Pastor Zip said...

Dr. Kieschnick's greeting to the CWA, as in previous years, brought tears to my eyes. How -- gee, I don't know the right word; "ironic" just doesn't quite cut it -- interesting that the 2 most prophetic messages to the ELCA's Assembly were given by the President of the LCMS in person and, via video tape, a former President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

With dread I anticipate the announcement of the necessary consequences of the Assembly's actions. And yet in hope I look forward as faithful Lutherans of both synods nevertheless to find ways to witness to the Gospel, even jointly, in a world that so desperately needs it.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Zip,

Is it the case that you view the Gospel soley in terms of forgivness? If so that would make your statement about witnessing "jointly" make sense.

Holding a precise (or narrow) view of the Gospel would enable different Synods, Denominations, Traditions to jointly "witness" to Christ, even amidst futuristic divisions such as whether we can accept incest, pedophilia, or murdering others who offend us.

These scenarios may seem outrageous in 2009, but so would have allowing, moreover blessing homosexuality; even amongst clergy some thirty to forty years ago. Remember Matthew 28: Go.. Baptize..TEACH ALL THINGS WHATSOVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.

Fr Daniel Hackney

Pastor Zip said...

No, Father, I do not view the Gospel solely in terms of forgiveness.

But I do think that our common efforts in Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Disaster Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, oversight of military chaplaincy, etc. offer a joint witness to the Gospel. Same for the numerous more-local joint or co-operative efforts such as schools, care for the aged or imprisoned, Lutherans for Life, etc.

Certainly not the same kind of witness to the Gospel as the Means of Grace, but a witness nonetheless. On the other hand, I suppose there was a better way to phrase what ELCA and LCMS Lutherans have done together -- things that our Churchwide Assembly, following our leaders, have jeopardized by their actions of last week.

The Rev. Steven P. Tibbetts, STS