ELCA Misstep leading to Division

8 10 2009

Many of you have asked about the latest in the earlier “ELCA Misstep” blog that I wrote several weeks ago. Here’s the latest from the OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, and The Associated Press, as used by permission from my dear friend and Vice President of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, H.B. London.

Conservative Lutherans Gather

More than 1,200 biblically orthodox members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, spent last weekend in suburban Indianapolis praying and discussing what can be done about the left-leaning policies of their denomination. Just last month, for example, the ELCA dropped a long-held ban on partnered homosexual clergy. Delegates eventually approved a resolution directing its steering committee to report back in one year on whether these conservative churches should stay within the ELCA, form their own denomination or join another.

The meeting was sponsored by Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform, but changed over the weekend to Coalition for Renewal). Mark Chavez, president of Lutheran CORE, explained the need for the weekend meeting: “It’s primarily about gathering those who have had their denomination, namely the ELCA, withdraw from the Christian faith and pull away from most other Christian churches in the world.”

Chavez also commented on a letter written to denominational leaders by the presiding bishop of the ELCA, which warned of a disaster if conservative church members withhold funds: “It’s clearly an attempt to shift the responsibility for the crisis in the ELCA to those who continue to practice and believe what the ELCA says it believes — that the inspired Word of God in the Old and New Testaments [is] the authoritative source and norm for our faith.”

Lutheran CORE’s chairman, 71-year-old Rev. Paull Spring, a pastor for 44 years, received a standing ovation Friday night when he said, “God is calling us to do something. The ELCA has fallen into heresy. It is a time for confession and a time to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and transformation and for mission.”

“We are not dividing the church. The church is already divided,” said Rev. Paul Ulring, a member of the Lutheran CORE steering committee. “We’re just mopping up what the church did.”

“We now have two churches within one organizational structure. One church emphasizes Bible and theology; the other culture and experience,” said Rev. Kenneth Sauer in his opening remarks to the weekend convocation. “There are deep divisions over the fundamental meaning of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture and the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit. The division reaches into congregations, synods, and seminaries and agencies.” [OneNewsNow.com, TheChurchReport.com, The Associated Press]

Let’s keep the ELCA in our prayers. As predicted by many who have watched such theological charades for many years, chances are strong that this will be one of those divisively defining issues within a denomination.

There are wonderful pastors on both sides of the issue, and the breaking of fellowship will be very painful and frustrating. It’s a denominational divorce that will hurt the children more than the parents. Having grown up in the ELCA, my heart breaks for what I believe breaks the heart of God.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve


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8 10 2009
Jeff

Although it is devastating to see Christian fellowships go through such painstaking and damaging trials, it is simultaneously encouraging to see Christians standing up for the important core values, such as the authority of Scripture.

There will undoubtedly be brokenness surrounding the entire denomination, but God’s power is perfected in weakness (c.f. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10). I think God will often use times of difficulty to ‘sift’ us; that is, God must often shake us up before we will return to Him. Just as it took a terrifying storm and a large fish before Jonah would repent and return to God, perhaps God is engineering difficulties in America that we might return to Him?

Again, such divisions among Christians are devastating, but I think Rev. Paull Spring had it right when he said “God is calling us to do something…. It is a time for confession and a time to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and transformation and for mission.”

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