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Lutheran Dissidents Mull a Separate Future

posted by mconsoli

(UNDATED) The dilemma for conservatives in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America could be summed up in the familiar refrain from The Clash’s punk-rock tune: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
The answer seems to be: Yes — and no.
Many conservatives are deeply unhappy that the ELCA, the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, voted in August to lift its ban on noncelibate gay and lesbian clergy. The 4.8 million-member church also voted to allow congregations to “recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”
Conservatives say the ELCA’s confessions — or statements of faith — clearly call for fidelity to Scripture, which clearly condemns homosexuality.
So, next week (Sept. 25-26), a conservative network of clergy and lay Lutherans plans to gather and hatch plans to “reconfigure” Lutheranism in North America.
The leaders of Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) are not encouraging fellow believers to bolt from the ELCA for a more conservative denomination, but neither do they want to remain part of one that has “fallen into heresy,” they say.
Thus, CORE is laying plans for a “free-standing synod” that would include current members of the ELCA along with others that have exited, or plan to exit, from the denomination.
“There are lots of congregations that are going to leave, lots of traditionalist congregations that are going to stay, and lots that have already left,” said Ryan Schwarz of Washington, a member of CORE’s steering committee. “We want to create a churchly structure that gathers all those categories.”
About 1,200 people have registered for CORE’s summit in Indianapolis, according to organizers. The guest list grew so large, in fact, that the venue was changed from a Lutheran church to a bigger Roman Catholic parish nearby.
“It is wonderfully ironic that Lutherans who started 500 years ago as a movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church would now return to a Catholic church to re-form themselves,” said CORE’s director, the Rev.
Mark Chavez of Landisville, Pa.
Participants at the Indiana meeting are expected to draft bylaws for their new organization, develop fiscal plans and begin reaching out to other “compatible” denominations.
The free-standing synod, should the idea be accepted, would hire and train its own clergy, redirect donations from ELCA headquarters to CORE, plant churches and support missionaries, Chavez said. Some members will disassociate from their local (geographic) synods and stop participating in the ELCA’s biennial assemblies. But others who are part of conservative synods that are not expected to hire gay and lesbian clergy may choose to remain part of the ELCA, he added.
Chavez compared the proposed free-standing synod to a Venn diagram in which two circles intersect and partly overlap. In this case, the two circles are CORE and the ELCA, with plenty of Lutherans in the overlap who are members of both.
There is some precedent for a free-standing synod; one of the ELCA’s synods is home to Lutherans of Slovakian descent, not regional like the other 64. There was similar talk of creating a free-standing synod about a decade ago, when the ELCA approved a full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church, said the Rev. Michael Cooper-White, dean of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. The issue at that time was differing views on the authority of bishops, he added.
In some ways, CORE’s proposal mirrors an attempt by conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians last year to create a new North American province based on theological compatibility rather than geographic proximity. Those conservatives, too, were upset at their denomination’s changing acceptance of homosexuality.
But ELCA leaders don’t foresee their denomination facing the rancorous — and expensive — splits Episcopalians have endured. For now, they are taking a “wait and see” approach to the new synod, said ELCA spokesman John Brooks, and still consider CORE members part of the national church.
“We’re interested in seeing how a free-standing synod takes shape, it’s really hard to know,” he said. “We’ve had groups formed within the ELCA gathered around certain topics or issues as long as the church has been around. We’re hoping that people will recognize that (the ELCA) is much more than one topic, one issue, one decision.”
Meanwhile, some conservative Lutherans think a free-standing synod plan doesn’t go far enough. Robert Benne, director of the Center for Religion and Society at ELCA-affiliated Roanoke College in Virginia, said conservatives should strike out on their own.
“If we could generate enough enthusiasm and momentum about this vision… I could see it becoming a separate church in due time,” Benne said. “But we’re all cautious about starting a new splinter group.”
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



  • http://www.chnetwork.org TerminalNewEnglander

    Please consider the Catholic Church!

  • nnmns

    If they want a religious country that doesn’t countenance homosexuality they should consider moving to the Vatican or Iran. And, indeed, they could become Catholics or perhaps Muslims; I’m not sure how dead set they are against homosexuality.

  • Chall8987

    If they’re that upset over the church determining that 4 questionable verses of scripture are just that, then maybe they should just get out of the ELCA. After all, look how well the splinter episcopals are doing. They’re 100,000 strong, which sounds nice until you see the numbers of the actual Episcopal Church standing at over 2 million. A good chunk of the bigots will be dead in 20 years or less anyway.

  • Russ

    Should I STAY or Should I GO?
    The answer is simple.
    Stay if you wish to disregard what the Bible says about sin and its effect on eternal life.
    2 Timothy 4:3
    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
    GO immediately if you believe the Bible to be the word of God, know Jesus died for our sins, is God’s only Son and is the truth.
    JOHN 18:37
    Jesus answered, ” You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
    Hebrews 4:12
    For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
    1 John 1:6
    If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth

  • pagansister

    Yet more discontent among the Christians…this time the Lutherans. What’s one more splinter group? It is amazing that the Christians can’t come to an agreement on what I would think was simple…who does their divine being love and accept? Just heterosexuals or all of his/her creations? Guess that depends on yet again…interpretation on the one book that they all claim is their guide…one Holy Bible…2000 years of “divine” rules, history, and translations.
    I won’t be losing any sleep over it, but I guess some Lutherans will. I’ll have to ask my best friend, who is a Luthern, just what her stance is on this problem of faith.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    Hey, Russ,
    What about a person who trusts the teachings of Jesus but doesn’t think the Bible is the word of God? Should that person stay or go?

  • cknuck

    H4C Jesus’ teachings were all about the bible.
    Nice post Russ.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    cknuck,
    When Jesus said “You have read… But I say to you…” I think he wanted his followers to look at the spiritual meaning beneath the written letter of the Jewish law (obviously, the Hebrew scriptures were the only scriptures that existed in his lifetime). I have never considered Jesus to be a scriptural literalist.

  • cknuck

    H4C he also commented on not changing the law and most of want He taught was Torah, but you are correct He did want the people to see the spirit of the law. I do not get the feeling He was advocating ignore the letter of the law but balance between the two.

  • cknuck

    sorry I mis-spelled what should be “most of what He taught.” My grammar is really bad when I rush and I’ve got so much to do today.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    We are in agreement here, cknuck! Jesus taught the spirit of the law as a means of understanding the letter of the law, not as replacement for the law.

  • nnmns

    I worry about all those people eating shell fish, and about the churches that accept members and preachers who do so. I presume they are all bound for Hell, no?

  • dfg

    nnmns – I think it’s clear we should allow those who love shellfish to be pastors but require them to refrain from eating if they want to be on the clergy roster.

  • cknuck

    nnmns read the whole book, get informed don’t rely on cliff notes or your point is just silly instead of a dig.

  • nnmns

    cknuck I have so many, many better things to do with my time than read that whole book. Now tell me why my post is “just silly”. I believe the clear admonition against eating shellfish is right next to one of the murky admonitions used to attack homosexuality.

  • Russ

    There seems to be some confusion about what the Bible says…
    If one does not study it seriously, it can be confusing.
    For a useful study tool on the Bible, try http://www.biblegateway.com
    One may search by word, phrase or verse. It returns lists of where things are located and is easily searched.
    DON’T TAKE ANYONE ELSE’S WORD FOR IT, CHECK IT OUT YOURSELF. You may be suprised the depth of information you find. This is a book that you can glean more from every time you read it. Even reading the same chapter twice gives one more insight each time.
    A general overview is this: The Old Testament contains history, poetry and prophecy. The New Testament contains the life of Jesus, the history of the early church, letters to churches in Paul’s time and prophecy of what will happen in the near future.
    One thing the Bible will do: it makes one see the gulf between an imperfect man and a Perfect, Righteous, Holy and Just God.
    Before you say there is no God, read the book of John and determine if what Jesus claimed is true. He is either a lunatic or God in the flesh who came to earth to let us know He loves us and wants us to know Him better. You should decide for yourself, but only after a careful reading. If the King James translation is difficult to get through, try the NIV or NASB.

  • nnmns

    I think he’s talking to you, cknuck. I already said I wasn’t going to read it.

  • pagansister

    Thanks, Russ. I’m with nnmns on this. I’ve read enough through the years, to know better than believe in it to guide my life. Great read, however…sex, violence, love, revenge, wars, death, miracles,and every once in a while, advice. Has some rather nice poetry in the Psalms. Song of Solomon isn’t bad.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    Well, I HAVE read the Bible, studied it in the years I went to churches, and I never considered it to be the inerrant word of God. Even if I believed that God inspired it, that inspiration had to be filtered through fallible human minds and hands through countless oral retellings before the first written accounts were made, and then through countless copying until the earliest extant version was made, and then through translations. If you start with pure water but pour it through a corroded, moldy pipe, does it come out pure at the other end?
    Yeah, I know, that’s God’s miracle… Except that the Bible is not pure and perfect. It is remarkable in many ways, but not the word of God. If it were, there would be no debate, no uncertainty, no need for an army of apologists to keep explaining away inconsistencies and self-contradiction, and no history of warfare between Christian denominations over issues of scriptural interpretation and doctrine. Look, when I purchase an appliance, it comes with a set of instructions, and those instructions, written by fallible human beings, are absolutely clear–there is no self-contradiction, nothing vague, nothing that can be misunderstood (the manufacturers take pains to ensure clarity, lest they be sued if misuse leads to injury). So I would think that a book written by God would be at least as clear as the instructions that come with a toaster oven.
    The Bible is not worthless; it contains much that is of value. But it is a human work.
    As for what Jesus said, rather we should say, what Jesus is depicted as having said. Several decades ago, I came across a book by an evangelical named Josh McDowell, and I still remember the challenge he posed: If you read the words of Jesus, there are only 3 possible interpretations: that he was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. But of course, that list omits an important fourth possibility–that the words attributed to Jesus, written by people who never met him in person, are not what he said–maybe he said something like it or maybe he never said anything remotely like it. In either case, I do not have to classify him into any one of McDowell’s categories. As always, the debate is NEVER about God; it is ALWAYS about the Bible.

  • cknuck

    It’s hardly worth commenting on nnmns and pagan’s posts since they have not even read the book they insist on critiquing.
    H4C quote, “If you start with pure water but pour it through a corroded, moldy pipe, does it come out pure at the other end?”
    H4C, I couldn’t have put it better that is the gospel, why is it often so difficult for you highbrow intellectual type to concede I do not know. But for those of us broken corroded, moldy pipe type that the Living Water has flowed through and has healed and changed on inexplicable levels it make all the sense in the world. There miracles happening in some of the most remote parts of the world that many of my colleagues are trying to facilitate and replicate here in the state with very little success and they don’t know why God would move in such a awesome and mighty way in those seemingly lost areas but to me attitudes like yours kind of explains it to me. Jesus said “I have not come for….” I suspect you know where I’m going with this huh or is this one of the quotes you have chose not to believe?

  • pagansister

    Just to set the record straight, yes, ck, I’ve read the bible…from cover to cover? No. Have you? But am not ignorant of the contents. Sorry to disappoint. Yet another wrong “assumption” on your part.

  • pagansister

    H4C: Well said…meant to put in the above!

  • nnmns

    Well cknuck I’ve read some about the Bible by people who have studied it and they point out errors and inconsistencies that make it clear it’s not infallible, and the more scholarly ones point out the process H4C outlined as to why some of those errors and inconsistencies exist.
    I’m afraid your testimonials, coming from you and your fellows who make their living from pushing the Bible, and even from people who don’t but say they have amazing experiences in their minds don’t provide any evidence I’d consider useful.
    Your god, back in OT days, was constantly doing this miracle or that according to the OT. “He” needs to get back in the saddle and do an easy miracle or two. I’ve suggested skywriting all over they sky at once that he(?) exists and what her(?) requirements are, and do it in all the languages at once. That should be an easy miracle for your universe-creating god and it would sell a whole lot of us atheists, not to mention people in wrong religions, all at once.
    I’ve suggested one or two other things it(?) might do instead, such as instantly creating world peace (without killing all the people but one) or instantly providing clean safe energy sources for us (that one might just be within the capability of scientifically advanced aliens so it needs to be done with a lot of godly panache).
    Anyway my point is, the Bible is absolutely no proof of its own value or of the existence of your god and is absolutely no foundation on which to justify complicating or ruining other peoples’ lives.

  • Russ

    The Bible speaks to who made the universe and to those who say there is no God.
    To quote the Psalms, both the positive and the pointed:
    1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
    And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
    7The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
    The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
    8The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
    The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
    9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
    The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
    The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God ”

  • pagansister

    The above is no proof of anything, Russ.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    Russ,
    Self-referencing is NEVER acceptable as evidence. It is to you only because you start with the assumption that the Bible is the word of God. But if you want to reach people who do not start with any such assumption, you need to offer objective evidence. Else it would be like listening to a schizophrenic who claims to be God and saying, “Well, that person must really be God, because he says he is.”

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    cknuck,
    No secret that we have wildly different views about the Bible. But while you PROCLAIM that gospel does, miraculously, remain intact even when “transmitted” through fallible human hands, you did not address the issue I raised. If it is the pure and uncorrupted word of God, why is there any dispute about its meaning, especially among believers? How can it be that God created such a confusing document while technical writers today can craft perfectly clear user manuals for appliances?
    You also asked me whether I accept Matthew 9:12-13, wherein Jesus says that he has come to call on sinners, not the righteous (that is, those who know their failings and not those who imagine themselves perfect). As a matter of fact, that IS one of the quotations attributed to Jesus that I accept as credible, but my reading of it is probably different from yours. People who are smugly self-satisfied have no need or desire to reflect seriously on the meaning and use of their lives; thus, preaching to them is futile. Those who recognize some longing or lacking within themselves are more apt to be open to a spiritual message. But what is that message? The usual Christian interpretation is that sinners who confess and accept Jesus as lord and savior are forgiven for their sin; my heretical understanding is that the Kingdom of God is within us, and we therefore have the capacity to act in a manner befitting the God’s presence.
    So now let me offer you a passage. Romans 2:1-16. Doesn’t the emphasis on what we do show that our acts (elsewhere called the fruits by which we are known) are what count? That people who have no knowledge of the written law but show mercy by their nature will find mercy, whereas those who proclaim the law but violate it will find no mercy? As an honest person, cknuck, what do you think when you read this? Do Christians ever sound judgmental and overly devoted to doctrine and proclamations of faith, rather than to acts?

  • cknuck

    nnmns quote, “Well cknuck I’ve read some about the Bible by people who have studied it and they point out errors and inconsistencies”
    nnmns you make me laugh, sure you don’t believe me because I am a paid minister yet you believe the writers of the books you read but only the ones that you agree with and you won’t read the bible for your self. HA!
    H4C you are just as bad as nnmns you asked “Do Christians ever sound judgmental and overly devoted to doctrine and proclamations of faith, rather than to acts?” They are not as bad as you my friend, read yourself.

  • pagansister

    CK, you’re a paid minister?? So you HAVE read the Bible from cover to cover?

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    cknuck,
    Your response to my posting was simply an accusation that I am judgmental. Well, sometimes I am. I try to direct my criticism to doctrines that I think are wrong rather than to the people who hold those doctrines, but sometimes I do indeed get annoyed at individuals.
    But what of all the rest I posted? You had asked me directly about a verse from Matthew 9, which I addressed in some detail. Then I asked you about the opening of Romans 2, which deals IN PART with judgmental individuals but ALSO with the idea that how we act is more important than what doctrine we proclaim. And all you respond with is an accusation that I am more judgmental than Christians. I think you can do better than the schoolyard retort, “So are you!”

  • cknuck

    pagan I am a minister but that is not what my work is in the strictest sense of my job description, I am a counselor also but I do supervisory work.
    H4C my apologizes I’m not sure what you want me to say about the passages in question or even if I have the elegance to say it. I like to use this verse when some of our more street wise gang types in our program accuse others of snitching. It talks about judging folk that do the same things that you do, but as I tell my guys ”if you are living a responsible life and you see someone doing something unsavory then by all means holding them accountable is not snitching or judging. People get into wrong territory when they use these scriptures to shut other’s up. Like people use Matthew 7:1 while ignoring Matt. 7:24 a few verses away. I am aggravated when people don’t read the bible then try to use it in their agendas like nnmns and pagan I think I read GC say something about that and regardless to how GC said it or how it annoyed folk, it was true.

  • nnmns

    cknuck if the Bible, of which some people say every word is true, can be used in my agendas doesn’t that say something about either the truth of the Bible or my agendas. And since most people have not read the whole Bible isn’t it dangerous to tell them to consult their Bible since they are probably as likely to misread it as you say I am?

  • cknuck

    To answer your question truthfullu nnmns most folk’s hearts aren’t as dark as yours toward God.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    cknuck,
    The passage I cited, from the beginning of Romans 2, does speak of judgment, and especially in criticism of those who breaking the same law that they accuse others of breaking. It really amounts to hypocrisy, doesn’t it? But the passage then goes on to talk about those who obey the law–even if they have never read the law. To me, this passage is very clear: what we do, how we act, is how we are known–not the fact that we can quote the law (or, in today’s world, quote the Bible). Paul is saying that people who live in a decent manner that reflects the law will find favor in the eyes of God.
    And so I asked you how that passages squares with the doctrinal notion that personal acceptance of Jesus as lord and savior is what counts.

  • nnmns

    cknuck the good news is, most folks don’t believe in your god. Many believe in other gods, several believe in no god. Relatively few believe in your god; depending on how you count, very few.

  • pagansister

    Where did you get your religious training to become a minister, cknuck?

  • cknuck

    nnmns I see you. You don’t care if people believe in other gods as long as they don’t believe in the Living God.

  • nnmns

    I only care when peoples’ belief causes them to harm people. Then sometimes I point out the fallacies behind their beliefs. And of course I’m more immediately aware of the harm caused by widespread belief in some Christianities than I am in, e.g. the harm caused by widespread belief in some Islams. And here we get more articles about it. But the Islamic harm and the Judaic harm concern me, I promise.

  • Russ

    nnmns,
    I took some time to re-read some of the posts here. Your last one talks about pointing out errors in people’s beliefs.
    That is precisely what my pastor has been preaching on the past few weeks. Of course, he comes at it from a Biblical direction.
    I just thought I’d let you know…
    It’s too bad all of us couldn’t just sit down for a cup of coffee and talk at length. I think it would be time well spent.
    We don’t agree on much, but I respect your ability to take a stand.
    Perhaps one day you’ll meet a Christian in person who lives as he or she should.

  • nnmns

    Russ, thanks. I probably have. But the ones I hear about on tv and in the news almost never do.

  • cknuck

    there are day to day lives the live out their faith surely you must realize you can’t keep tract of them all. Being drawn to the negative like most folks in life gives the tendency not to even look for the positive. In this world you don’t have to look far to find the bad but you have to purposely look for the good. I know so many Christians that do random secretive acts of good that no one will ever know about, that’s what keeps the world going.

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