Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A New Identity Comes At Enormous Cost

The Bible tells us that our new identity in Christ was purchased by his death. Because he died, we are made new. New identity costs big time.

I’m contemplating the whole topic of new identity for our congregation now that we are leaving the ELCA. So far, I am very thankful to our bishop for not trying to stop us and for not putting up bureaucratic obstacles. Now that our course seems clear, such obstacles would only make the angry people in our congregation angrier and the sad people sadder. We’re healing and we’re holding together after having a lot of very difficult conversations.

It’s interesting to me that most of the churches leaving the ELCA seem to be finding their new identities in mission. In other words, having taken a stand on the word of God, they now seem more committed than every before to go out and make disciples and be salt and light. It’s exciting to see. All of these departing congregations will be forming new relationships with congregations and denominations and associations that share their scriptural worldview.

It also looks to me that the ELCA will be getting a new identity of sorts. Also termed mission, it seems as if those remaining in the ELCA will be finding new unity in having taken a stand on social justice issues like gay marriage. Now, without the rest of us to raise a ruckus, the gospel of inclusion without transformation and salvation without the cross can be preached across the denomination and the trend toward universalism can continue unabated. Now there will be no one left to point out the inconsistency in preaching the Old Testament prophet’s hatred of the oppressor without preaching the Old Testament prophet’s hatred of sexual immorality.

From what I’ve seen and heard during the last couple of weeks, it looks as if measures are underway to be sure that there is no resistance to the new unified missional identity within the ELCA. From my vantage point, it appears as if efforts are underway to silence any remaining resistance within the ELCA. I site the following:

In a recent conversation with a certified and trained interim pastor, I found out that he was prohibited from even interviewing for any vacant interim position in our Synod. The only explanation is that the Synod office doesn’t approve of his stand against the actions of the Churchwide Assembly.

This from a friend whom I trust: Two clergy reported a bishop said to a group of clergy: "I will not do this, but every ELCA official who comes after me will.
If you do not agree with the resolutions of the CWA on sexuality in August, 
you will be set aside."

From a Facebook post on Nov 6:
“My godfather, a 50 year Lutheran pastor, was forced out of his church this weekend for taking a stand against the ELCA decision. He delivered a sermon regarding the gospel (little g) of acceptance replacing the Gospel (big G) of redemption. Most of the congregation agreed with the sermon, but a small number found it "intolerant", including the Sr. Pastor, and he was asked to resign...and not allowed to clarify his comments. I have a copy of the's quite tame. Anyway, thought you'd find that interesting. He's quite hurt.”

Apparently respecting “bound consciences” does not apply to bishops or Synods, who must carry out the policies enacted at the August CWA. This from the Lutheran Core November, 2009 newsletter:
“ELCA synods will not have the option of upholding traditional Christian
teaching on marriage and homosexuality in their standards for pastors and other rostered leaders according to a draft of candidacy rules released Oct. 10 by the ELCA
churchwide organization. No synod or bishop may make decisions on ministry standards that differ from the new policies of the ELCA churchwide organization as defined by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, the policy draft explains.” See the full article and explanation at


  1. "From my vantage point, it appears as if efforts are underway to silence any remaining resistance within the ELCA."

    Let me give you another vantage point -- that of a public statement from Lutherans Concerned/North America.

    Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) responded with sadness to yesterday's announcement proposing a new church body to be formed by and for former ELCA members and congregations opposing the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the church.

    Responding to yesterday's announcement, Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of LC/NA, said, "You might think we would be happy that those who oppose the full inclusion of LGBT people and their families would be leaving the ELCA. Well, we're not.

    "We know first hand what happens within families when a member comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Often there is a period of denial, fear and anger, sometimes sadly resulting in temporary or life-long estrangement. In August the ELCA finally came out about its LGBT members and ministers and the congregations who accept and advocate for them. It seems with yesterday's announcement that some ELCA Lutherans cannot even tolerate being in the same church family with congregations who accept us. Anger and fear have overtaken the great commandments from Jesus himself: to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

    "For 35 years LC/NA has never isolated itself from those who disagree with us. Nor have we threatened to lead an exodus from the denomination by those congregations who found the wait too long or the social statement well short of the advocacy needed for LGBT people in church and society. We have never called for congregations to withhold giving to the ELCA; in fact, we encourage additional stewardship, especially in times like these.

    "Since 2007, the leadership of LC/NA has requested dialogue with the leadership of Lutheran groups vocally opposing full inclusion. To date, only one such leader has responded to our requests for engagement. We know that families stay together out of love even when they disagree on some subjects. Reconciliation takes time, respect and relentless care. LC/NA stands ready for that reconciling work. We believe that wherever and whenever two or more are gathered in Christ's name, the Holy Spirit will be present, stirring our hearts and minds to greater love of God and the neighbor."

    Since the August decisions, LC/NA has responded to requests for information, education, and pastoral care for members of congregations and synods where vocal groups opposing the apparent and growing tolerance within the ELCA have sought to divide, to withhold giving to the denomination, to force accepting pastors to resign, or ultimately to leave the ELCA. LC/NA has called its members to reach out to those disaffected by the August decisions with love and respect.

  2. During the last day that Jesus taught in the temple, he said to his disciples and to all the people, "Beware of the scribes (who are only self motivated). They will receive the greater condemnation." (Luke 20:45-7)