Et Cetera

When “Culture” Norms the Church

The so-called Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a denomination created in 1988 through the merger of three groups whose common conviction was that the Bible isn’t always reliable, has been hell-bent on affirming sodomy for over a decade.  The propaganda campaign from the home office began with Bible-class materials disseminated to the congregations, which explained away all of the relevant Bible references.  The men of Sodom were rapist libertines, not committed partnered gays; Paul was a “man of his times”; did you know that the Bible also forbids bacon and lobster?; etc., ad nauseam.  [See the ELCA’s Journey Together Faithfully, Parts One (2002) and Two (2003).]

Now the ELCA has its first “partnered gay” bishop.  (The denomination has one bishop who presides over the entire country.)  GLAAD and the Huffington Post rejoiced to see his day.  The Rev. Guy Erwin, also a member of the mighty Osage tribe, was ordained as a pastor only in 2009, the result of the ELCA’s convention vote to allow out-and-proud homosexual clergy.  This resulted in the exodus of a few hundred congregations who could not abide that result and thus formed their own synods—the LCMC and NALC.  These groups reject homosexual “marriage” and clergy, but ordain women.

The ordination of women requires the same exegetical gymnastics that leads to the blessing of sodomy—that, plus a rejection of natural law and the entire Christian tradition on marriage.  Natural distinctions are all destroyed by the Gospel, etc., etc.

If culture “norms” the Bible, which is the assumption behind women’s ordination, then gay clergy and gay marriage are inevitable.  Oh no, say some, Scripture is clear about homosexuality, whereas in Christ “there is no male and female.”  This objection is removed by several years of comfort-level adjustment.  After a few episodes of Sister Wives, polygamy doesn’t seem quite so bad.  Oh, sure, it’s not for me.  But they aren’t hurting anybody.  Suddenly Scripture feels less clear on these topics.

Dr. Albert Mohler perfectly summarized the situation in the ELCA in one concise sentence: “ELCA continues to prove it is neither Evangelical, nor Lutheran, nor a Church.”  I say “perfectly” because he used the verb “continues to prove.”  (See above.)

I knew in my gut that someone in the LCMS blogosphere would inevitably add a rejoinder about how Lutherans shouldn’t regard congregations of the Southern Baptist Convention (Mohler’s own denomination) as churches, either.  It happened.

Ecclesiology aside, now is not the time to one-up the SBC  For one, and this is hard for us Lutherans to hear, most Americans don’t know about the difference between the ELCA and the LCMS.  They find our alphabet soup funny and stupid.  What they hear is that Lutherans now have an openly gay bishop.  From this perspective alone, Dr. Mohler has done us a favor.

Also, the LCMS is very deeply divided over the issue of “engaging the culture.”  Those in Missouri who use that language are not in favor of gay marriage or gay clergy; they just want to eliminate the Lutheran liturgy, traditional hymns, our doctrine of the Holy Ministry, closed communion, and preaching that isn’t “practical.”  Why?  Comfort level with “the culture.”  More on that at a later date.

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