Saturday, November 24, 2007

Schism and Heresy

Background: Last Tuesday, Zion's Parish Secretary brought me Page B3 of the Peoria Journal-Star page to show me the rather prominent placing of the AP's report of Jen Rude's ordination. And during our Romans Bible Sudy, a couple of people commented on the photo from that ordination (also from the AP) that was in this morning's PJS "Faith & Values" section.

Near the end of my Wednesday entry, I quoted an ELCA News Release on Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson report to the ELCA Church Council:
Hanson identified four challenges for the ELCA: building trust throughout the church, creating awareness by telling the ELCA's "story," raising expectations for what the Holy Spirit is doing, and lowering anxiety about sexuality as the church prepares a social statement on human sexuality for consideration at the 2009 ELCA assembly.

"We cannot let that social statement define solely the life and work of this church or our leadership," Hanson told the council. "That's going to take shared leadership. If we become so preoccupied with 2009, we are conveying a message that sexuality defines this church, and (because of) sexuality, this church could potentially be divided. Frankly, that's heresy. That's absolute heresy. The gospel of Jesus Christ defines this church."
It appears that the Presiding Bishop is accusing those who would "divide" the ELCA over matters of sexuality of heresy. Exactly who those potential heretics are is not clear, however. Is he speaking of those associated with, say, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, who are are arranging for ELCA congregations to call persons ineligible to serve under call in ELCA congregations? Is it those associated with, for instance, Lutheran CORE who object to the apparent non-enforcement of ELCA standards when it comes to homosexual relationships?

Bishop Hanson doesn't exactly say. He has said, however, that he favors the so-called "full inclusion" of gay and lesbian people in the ELCA, following a definition that "full inclusion" means no bar blessing homosexual relationship or ordaining those in them. And a look at those he has placed in positions of authority both in the Churchwide ELCA and (before that) in the Synod he was Bishop clearly showed that long before he finally said so in public during the 2006 Hein-Fry Lectures. Suggesting to me and others with whom I am associated that we who call the ELCA to faithfulness are the more likely target of his accusation.

This would parallel what has been happening in the Episcopal Church, whose leaders have committed the that church to "full inclusion" of gay and lesbians. More and more faithful members, priests, congregations, and now dioceses are preparing to depart, and they are regularly being accused of schism. And in this thread on Canon Kendall Harmon's TitusOneNine, a correspondent called "The Gordian" made this important observation:
Once again you confuse schism with heresy. Once again you tar the opponents of false teaching - even blasphemous and immoral teaching that endagers the souls of men and women - as ‘heretics’. And you don’t even recognize how much these Christians have suffered at the hands of putative bishops, in the loss of buildings, jobs and homes, in maintaining this faithful witness for the gospel. If that makes you feel superior and above the fray, well bully for you. But the rest of us are not really concerned with keeping a liturgical choral society going. There’s too much of real importance at stake.
A couple of years ago, I observed that in this debate the schismatics are not the people who will leave the ELCA should it vote to ordain practicing gays and approve blessing gay unions. Rather, those who would (like the Anglican Communion Network) leave would merely be recognizing what had been true for some time, that the church is already in schism. Those who depart the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality and cause the ELCA to formally embrace false teaching will be the schismatics.

We continue to pray that it doesn't even go that far.

1 comment:

William Weedon said...


It seems to be the sad and inevitable result of first ignoring the Scriptural mandate about ordaining women. Once the Word of God can be set aside on that, where can it not be set aside? May the Lord strengthen and preserve those who still wish to be Lutherans in the ELCA!