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Monday, August 22, 2005

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Convention News

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest Lutheran body in the United States with something near 5 million members. I am a pastor with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) with about 2.5 million.

The ELCA recently concluded their biennial convention at which several controversial resoltuions were under consideration. I'd like to do my best to give a brief summary of two items of interest with some links for further information.

  • A New Hymnal. I subscribe to the notion that the manner of one's worship is symbiotically related to the content of one's beliefs. In Latin, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. Worship forms matter. The LCMS, at its convention last summer, adopted a new hymnal which will come out in 06. From what I've seen, it has some weaknesses and many strengths.

  • This summer, the ELCA adopted a new hymnal as well. According to reports, their new worship book contains some very serious theological flaws. The chief concern I have read about is the increasing use of gender neutral language in reference to the Deity. I am understanding of the desire to use gender-sensitive language in many situations and forms of communication. But I think it is intolerable to go out of one's way to neuter God. God has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And that was not arbitrary or his attempt to be culturally sensitive to patriarchal ancient near easterners. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Of course, that is not the only manner in which God is named in the Scripture, but it is a highly significant one. The hubris it requires to reject God's name - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - in favor of something that won't offend Gloria Steinem is astonishing.

    The formula for performing baptisms given to us by our Lord is "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." I wonder what this new worship book will do in its baptismal rites. Probably make this traditional name an option, among others.

    I will go so far as to say that I would not consider a baptism done with any other formulation for God's name than "Father, Son, Spirit" to be a Christian baptism.
  • The second, and more widely publicized, issue has to do with homosexuality. I am not familiar with all of the history of this particular question in the ELCA. And what I have read has been byzantine in its complexity, at least to me.

  • Basically, there has been a movement to ordain practicing homosexuals and bless homosexual unions. Many in the grassroots, naturally, have not been as supportive of this drive as the members of the various task forces, special committees, etc.

    As I understand the matter, this was debated extensively at their convention and the final decisions are seen as something as a compromise. I have read varying interpretations of what was finally passed, so it seems likely that even many of the delegates may be unclear on the remifications of what they've done. It looks to me as if they've created their own version of don't ask / don't tell, giving local ministries and bishops leeway to do what they believe pastorally responsible. If you ask me, this is going to result in further chaos. As it says in Judges, each man does what is right in his own eyes.
Here are some links for more:

Dr. Gene Veith, Culture Editor for World magazine writes this about the inclusive language hymnal.

Rev. Dr. Holger Sonntag is an LCMS pastor who'd formerly attended an ELCA seminary. He has his doctorate in New Testament studies from a German university. He writes this incisive article, posted on Rev. Paul McCain's cyber-brethren blog.

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1 comment:

C.R.B. said...

Also, the ELCA approving joint communion with the Methodists. Well, what does that really say about the Meth's "clergy"? Has not the ELCA basically approved the stuff on hmosexual "clergy", then?!

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