Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kieschnick Statement on ELCA Action

TO: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
FROM: Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
SUBJECT: Statement regarding 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly Action
DATE: August 13, 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world and Lord of the universe, through whom alone we receive forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation!

On the final day of its 2007 Churchwide Assembly in Chicago (Saturday, August 11), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a resolution which “prays, urges, and encourages [ELCA geographical] synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship who have been called and rostered in this church.”

News of this action troubles me greatly and is causing serious concern and consternation among the members and leaders of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). We in the LCMS hold firmly to the conviction that, according to the Holy Bible, homosexual behavior is “intrinsically sinful.” We are deeply disappointed that the ELCA, by its decision, has failed to act in keeping with the historic and universal understanding of the Christian church regarding what Holy Scripture teaches about homosexual behavior as contrary to God’s will and about the biblical qualifications for holding the pastoral office.

The LCMS firmly believes that the sin of homosexual behavior, like every sin that fallen human beings commit, has been paid for in full by the life, suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The LCMS also believes that we must continue to reach out in love to all people on the basis of what God’s Word alone teaches about human sinfulness, God’s grace in Christ, and the new life empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.

It should be noted that the ELCA voted not to amend at this time its governing documents regarding the expectations of its ordained workers in this area (this matter was referred to its task force on sexuality). However, its decision “to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining” ELCA workers in “a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship” raises troubling questions about whether the expectations set forth in its governing documents will be taken seriously by the ELCA or by the task force. The potential implications of decisions such as this for future LCMS-ELCA relations have been discussed in previous meetings involving leaders of the LCMS and the ELCA. In addition, I stated in my official greetings to the 2007 ELCA Assembly on Friday, August 10, “For the sake of our mutual witness and service together, the implications of such action, should it be taken, would need to be addressed, fraternally and evangelically.”

As the LCMS noted in a resolution adopted at its 2001 Convention (Resolution 3-21A), “we of the LCMS recognize that many of our brothers and sisters of the ELCA remain faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and we resolve to reach out to them in love and support.” As President of the LCMS, it is my ongoing hope and fervent prayer—as stated in my remarks to the 2003 ELCA Assembly—that the ELCA’s continuing “study and deliberation of this matter will be made in the light of the biblical understanding of human sexuality and the qualifications for the pastoral office.” I also pray that God the Holy Spirit will lead and guide all Christians and Christian denominations everywhere to seek wisdom and truth from God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word on this and other critical issues in our contemporary church and culture.

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, PresidentThe Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod


My own comments:

I commend our LCMS President for the courage it takes to address this matter, for it would have been far easier to simply say nothing. His words are timely and well taken, as far as they go.

I question, however, whether stronger words are not in order here. It seems to me the tone of our statements to each other is always so cautious and measured, that we sometimes lack the necessary call to repentance. Was the Law applied here in proper measure? I'm not so sure. Sometimes, perhaps this is one of those times, a "John the Baptist" statement is needed.


Pastor David said...

If I am honest, I usually cringe a little when I hear that the President of the LC-MS has made a statement about something we have done in the ELCA. However, I greatly appreciate this letter. I find it to be a very pastoral response, and found myself nodding my head as I read it. Thanks for posting it.

Pastor Eric said...

I too thank you for this letter. I am very concerned at what is going to happen in 2009. Hopefully the initiative the ELCA has taken to read the Bible together will produce some reform...I can hope can't I?

Thanks again.

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

Thanks for the letter.
As an ELCA pastor I've grown tired of this debate. Unfortunately the issue is not going to go away although I might wish it away.
The hard part is that this has to be settled on a congregation by congregation basis within the ELCA. Any attempt to assert one position or another will not work. There is no one belief in this denomination, in the congregation I serve or even in many families, on this one issue.
I've seen prayerful people wrestle with this and they, like myself, balance between two very different understandings of scripture.
Dr. Kieschnick's comments remind me that the real debate is far from over and that whatever an ELCA assembly might decide in 2009 is of only minimal consequence. What matters most in comparison are the conversations that happen in Bible Studies, in fellowship in our churches, and with other Christians, most especially those who don't agree with us and are challenging us to rethink and reread the scripture.

Jeff said...

I debated whether or not to comment on this discussion. But there is nothing to debate. There are certian things in the Bible that God just hits us over the heads with so often and so hard that only the hardest of hearts would not get it. This is one of them. The Bible writers left no doubt here. I don't want to bring up the ghost of Benke past but Jesus as the only way to the Father is another. As such, Pastor Tom, your comments about the Prez needing more juice, could have used more juice, don't you think?

Sodom and Gomorrah didn't get it. The Lutheran Church regardless of the denomination ought to get it because Luther got it!