What Does Faithfulness Mean?

Hopefully, this will be my last comment on the whole ELCA thing for a while.  The fallout may be just beginning, although in the first few days, I have my doubts.  Witness this article in the Grand Forks Herald. Anyone who thought the laity was going to save the ELCA better look for another hero.  One lady in a rural North Dakota parish had this to say:

[Edith] Anderson said she’s not open to arguments about what can be said to be right or wrong based just on Scripture.

“What the Bible is is an interpretation of people. To me, it’s not God’s word. It didn’t come out of His mouth. It’s all in how you interpret it.”

That seems to be the attitude of most of the ELCA at the moment.  Who can say?  So I’ll just go from my own instincts and feelings.  Why even belong to a church, then?  Why not just go home and meditate on the gurglings in your stomach?  Of course, if you’ve been indoctrinated with “the Bible is not God’s Word” for twenty years, is such a sentiment really unexpected?

In fact, the past twenty years are really at the heart of this whole mess.  When the ELCA’s predecessor bodies ordained women, they said exactly the same things as they were saying at this CWA.  They were arguing based on their daughters’ experiences of being rejected when they felt “called.”  They were arguing based on their emotional responses to seeming injustice and inequality.  They were wielding the “gospel” against the Scriptures.  They were fighting those nasty “law” proof-texts with Galatians 3:28 (apparently, the proof-text to end all proof-texts).  And there are pastors and people in the ELCA who are surprised at how far their church body has fallen?  They have been entering full communion with any and all takers, and sharing the Lord’s Table with anyone who believes anything about Jesus in the name of “love,” and they’re surprised that people just don’t care what the Scriptures have to say?

Frankly, they made this bed before 2005 (say, circa 1970…1950?), and now they are struggling with whether to sleep in it.  Well, this is how I measure the faithfulness of those who fought this battle to the bitter end: how quickly can you pack your things and get out?  (I say that, knowing that it takes some time to figure out how to get it done.  God bless those who are working on it.)  I’m tempted to say that I know it’s difficult, and that if my church body did the same thing, I’d struggle with leaving.  But I have to say that that would be a lie.  I would feel only the slightest qualms, because I have allegiance to the LCMS only as it holds to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.  As soon as this church body leaves those, I leave it.  (That day may, of course, come at any time.)  But the LCMS has the opposite problem of the ELCA.  Whereas the ELCA has officially approved heterodoxy and officially condoned what God has condemned, there are still some congregations that bravely struggle on.  The LCMS, on the other hand, officially holds to the whole Scriptures and the whole Book of Concord, while there are congregations who have jettisoned both for the sake of numbers, relevance, and worship-tainment.  I guarantee, as soon as the LCMS officially abandons the teachings of the Scriptures or the Confessions (ultimately, to abandon the Confessions is to abandon the Scriptures), I’m done.

The clock cannot be rewound, and some in the ELCA are awakening to that fact.  Others, however, are not, and I have a hard time understanding.  Perhaps a pastor will say that he (she) is staying for the sake of the people; but is that loving, or is it selfishness?  Will they be left to the wolves when you are gone?  (And you will be gone some day.)  Is it not better to show them that their church has left them behind, along with the Scriptures, and there is no going back.  I humbly suggest that there has never been a church this far gone that has drawn back from the abyss.  It simply doesn’t work that way.  To quote someone, “God gave them over…”

So, want to be faithful?  There is only one choice: leave the ELCA.  And if you want to be Lutheran, then there’s no room in Rome.  Besides, Rome won’t be any better than the LCMS if you really think female clergy-type persons are good and closed Communion is evil.  To quote someone else, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”


The Death Knell of the ELCA

I suggest that this means the effective end of the ELCA.  The proposals from the Sexuality Task Force now only need to have a simple majority to pass.  According to some of the speakers, women’s ordination was passed by a simple majority as well.  Unless God intervenes by His grace, these proposals will be passed.  The ELCA will then join the Episcopal Church in its further apostasy.

But who is surprised?  It’s like Jenga: you can remove one or two or even a few blocks, but eventually the weight cannot be sustained.  The only thing that remains unresolved is, what will pastors and members of ELCA congregations who oppose the recommendations now do?


Whither Hence for the ELCA?

That’s the question, and, although I have my suspicions, I don’t think anyone can really call it at this point.  The two votes which most people will be watching are those on whether to accept a “social statement” (probably roughly the same thing as an LCMS CTCR document) which would effectively bless relationships between two people of the same sex (essentially making a same-sex relationship the equivalent of marriage), and whether to amend the ELCA’s constitution to explicitly allow the ordination of persons who are in open homosexual relationships.  The items up for a vote are here, with more information.  (The actual Task Force recommendation on changing the ministry standards is here.)  Probably the most important vote will be on rules and procedures, and whether to adopt the proposals with a simple majority or 2/3.

There are a number of letters going around trying to influence the vote one way or the other.  There is the Open Letter being circulated by WordAlone and CORE.  There is the dialogue/debate between Herbert Chilstrom and Carl Braaten, both ELCA pastors/professors.  There is a letter from ELCA seminarians.  And a letter from Hispanic ELCA pastors.  Again, it seems that many more prominent ELCA pastors/members are opposing the proposals than supporting them, but it all depends on the voting members of the Assembly.

Now, I respect that there are faithful members of the ELCA willing to stand up for a seemingly unpopular position contra the homosexual agenda (witness this on the ELCA website; interesting timing, don’t you think?  C’mon, practically all the clergy support the proposals!  At first, I questioned the idea of a 2-1 lay-clergy membership of the Assembly; now, I think it may be the only thing that saves the day.)  I respect them, however, as I respect brave people on a sinking ship.  It may not quite be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but the iceberg is right there, nonetheless.  And I have to agree with the former bishop Chilstrom on the CORE Open Letter, regarding ecumenical relationships.  What makes the signers of the letter think that homosexual pastors will make those relationships grow cold, if female clergy-type persons and the church insurance paying for clergy abortions didn’t?  Not to mention sharing altars and pulpits with the Episcopalians, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, and the United Church of Christ(!).  Surely, if the Lord’s Supper couldn’t persuade the ELCA to think twice about relationships with Rome and Constantinople, homosexual pastors shouldn’t either (especially if the “gospel” demands it).  I know the ELCA has been more involved in semi-official talks with Rome than, say, the LCMS (something we should remedy), but I can’t believe Rome would consider real fellowship with a church body that has priestesses.  Or a church body that does not discipline those that contravene even its modest rules.  (See here for a list of homosexuals who have been ordained and serve[d] ELCA congregations without or with little discipline.)

Whatever happens this week, know this: the homosexual lobby is as patient as they come.  If not this year, then two years from now.  If not then, then two years more.  This ain’t going away, and if the voting members know that, they might just as well show their exhaustion and say ‘to hell with it.’

I also wonder, incidentally, what a ‘yes’ vote will mean for heterosexuals who want to live with their ‘partners’ outside of marriage?  Certainly a double standard cannot exist, can it?


What Do Other Christians Believe About the Lord’s Supper?

I would have thought this would be clear by now, but I encounter people all the time who think that “we (Lutherans of the Missouri Synod variety) really believe the same things” about the Lord’s Supper as other Christians. May this post forever put that conception to rest (if only!). The reason for this post is not to bash other Christians; they are free to choose their congregations. But let’s not have any papering over of real, substantial differences–in this case, the most substantial of them. (Remember that Luther was willing to compromise with Zwingli on nearly every article of the Faith which they discussed at Marburg, but not on the Lord’s Supper. That should tell us something.)

An ELCA pastor recently told me that the United Methodists (with whom the ELCA is in altar and pulpit fellowship) had changed their stance on the Lord’s Supper, saying that they now believe that they eat Jesus’ Body and Blood. The Methodists must have missed that memo. Here’s what their website says:

The Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist)

  • The Lord’s Supper is a holy meal of bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ.
  • The Lord’s Supper recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God’s family.
  • By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry.
  • We practice “open Communion,” welcoming all who love Christ, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.

Oops. “Symbolizes” doesn’t quite rise to the standard of the Lutheran Confessional teaching on the Lord’s Supper. But one could see how people might be confused. This is from a Methodist booklet on the Lord’s Supper:

Jesus Christ, who “is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (Hebrews 1:3), is truly present in Holy Communion. Through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, God meets us at the Table. God, who has given the sacraments to the church, acts in and through Holy Communion. Christ is present through the community gathered in Jesus’ name (Matthew 18:20), through the Word proclaimed and enacted, and through the
elements of bread and wine shared (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The divine presence is a living reality and can be experienced by participants; it is not a remembrance of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion only.

This paragraph points out explicitly the problem with Lutherans talking about the “real presence” in the Sacrament. We mean that Jesus’ Body and Blood are eaten along with the bread and the wine. Methodists and others believe that Jesus meets us in Communion, even at the altar, but you will never see or hear any official statement that says “We believe that when we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are eating and drinking the same Body and Blood of Jesus that were crucified and raised from the dead.” If they can’t say that, they believe differently from Lutherans.

What about the PCUSA, with whom the ELCA is also in fellowship? From their website:

In eating the bread and drinking the cup offered by God, our memory of the promises are made present by the Holy Spirit.


This, then, is the Presbyterian understanding of Communion: Is Jesus physically present in the elements of the Eucharist–have the molecules of bread been changed into molecules of the body of Jesus? No.

Is Jesus spiritually present in the elements of the Eucharist, authentically present in the non-atom-based substance with which he is con-substantial with God–that is, is he genuinely there to be received by us, and not just in our memories? Yes.

The Presbyterian position (Calvin’s position) is not the Lutheran position. Though we don’t believe that “the molecules of bread [have] been changed into molecules of the body of Jesus,” we do believe that “Jesus [is] physically present in the elements of the Eucharist.”

How about the United Church of Christ? (Are you sensing a pattern? Yes, the ELCA is in altar and pulpit fellowship with, perhaps, the most liberal Christian–the word almost requires quotes–denomination in the United States. By the way, the ELCA pastors with whom I was discussing these things doubted that Rev. Jeremiah Wright was a member of the UCC. Think again.) From their website:

The breaking of bread and the pouring of wine reminds us of the costliness of Christ’s sacrifice and the discipleship to which we are all called. In the breaking of bread, we remember and celebrate Christ’s presence among us along with a ‘cloud of witnesses’ – our ancestors, family and friends who have gone before us. It is a great mystery; we claim it by faith.

Just not all of it.

There are also the Moravians (do you even have to ask if the ELCA is in fellowship with them?). From their website:

In respect to the sacrament of holy communion, the Moravian Church does not try to define the mystery of Christ’s presence in the communion elements, but recognizes that the believer participates in a unique act of covenant with Christ as Savior and with other believers in Christ.

That’s an nice way out of having to struggle with Christ’s words.

I’m not even going to try with the Episcopalians. Probably some of them believe what we believe. Or what Rome believes. Or what the Baptists believe. There is this, however. Hard to know how they understand the “the inward and spiritual grace.”

Please, no one tell me that we “all believe the same things.” Not true, and if people would take ten seconds to search their websites (the UCC took me a little longer; had to get past all their social justice programming), they could compare that with even the Small Catechism and realize that there is no unity. I’ll take the Episcopalian apostolic succession over false teaching and false unity in the Supper any day. “I’d rather eat the Body of Christ with the Pope than mere bread with Zwingli.”