Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dr. Kieschnick's Statement on the CWA Actions

As in the previous two Churchwide Assemblies, The Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, brought greetings to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. This cannot be an easy task, especially since the 2001 LCMS Convention questioned whether the ELCA can genuinely be described as Lutheran, but his greetings have been honest about our differences while spoken graciously. At the close of his 2005 greeting, tears were welling in my eyes (really, that almost never happens) and close to half of that Assembly stood in their applause afterwards.

Dr. Kieshnick was briefer this year and was graciously received, though I didn't notice much standing. What I did note was that he concluded "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"—notable because the new ELCA liturgies used at the CWA rarely speak this Name of God, preferring "Triune God." As you read (if you looked at the ELCA News release), the continued discussion on gay pastors is one of the matters that divide the two largest Lutheran Churches in the US. Now Dr. Kieschnick has written his church about the Assembly's action. Here's his entire statement:
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, President
The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod

"Transforming lives through Christ's love ... in time ... for eternity ..." John 3:16-17
Thank you, Dr. Kieschnick.

Presiding Bishop Hanson, Secretary Almen, and other ELCA leaders made particular note throughout the CWA of those ways our two churches are able to work together. But I am baffled as to how it is that we in the ELCA seem so willing to throw that away for a dubious theological stance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a voting member who saw Rev. Lieshnick's address at this year's Churchwide Assembly, I, too, would like to say "Thank you, Dr. Kieschnick."

Thank you for highlighting some of the differences between the ELCA and the LC-MS. His use of exclusively masculinist language when referring to God was quite jarring to my ears.

Rev. Kieschnick's thinly veiled threat to the Assembly regarding the upcoming votes on sexuality ("we are watching you" or words to that effect) was not well received by many in attendance. The tension it sparked was palpable. Regardless of whether you agreed with Rev. Kieschnick's views on sexuality (I did not), perhaps his tone is the reason he did not receive a standing ovation.

But thank you, I say, because Rev. Kieschnick's address reminds me why I am an ELCA Lutheran. (Perhaps we can distribute copies of his address, because it would be a useful recruiting tool for people within the LC-MS who think differerently than Rev. Kieschnick on sexuality issues.) And when I hear concerns about whether the ELCA is throwing it all away for the sake of "those people," I think about what, and who, we have been throwing away for many, many years.