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Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Response to ELCA's Letter Concerning the Recent Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

A Response to the ELCA’s Letter Concerning the Recent Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

By Sean Killackey
July 2, 2015

I decided that I would see what a “progressive” church says about the recent ruling. The ELCA (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) has long been known for not condemning same-sex relations, even allowing practicing homosexuals to be ordained as such. Their Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton wrote a letter on June 30th, 2015 to fellow Evangelical Lutherans. I will reproduce it along with my comments from the Bible on the matter. Their words are indented, mine have the usual margins.

June 30, 2015
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Here we get the first hint at their view of God’s love, that it is (for all purposes here) all accepting. However it is clear that Paul didn’t intend this in the text, for it is clear that Paul shows that Love, “does not rejoice over unrighteousness,” and (as I will show) homosexuality is, when practices, unrighteous and any marriages based in such a fashion are not such in God’s eyes.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Grace and peace to you in the name of the crucified and risen Christ.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision announcing the right of same-gender couples to have equal access to marriage. For many members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, this decision is a welcome sign of hope and a time for celebration. Other members of this church do not agree with the court’s decision and remain deeply concerned because of their understanding of Scripture.

The phrase I appreciated is “their understanding of Scripture.” I appreciate it for two reasons, for any moral debate much be rooted in the scriptures, for it is the word of God and “by his light we see light,” and this matter is rooted in understanding.

This decision affects each of us, some profoundly, and we are not of one mind. Let us continue to accompany one another with prayer, love and mutual respect as we reflect on this new reality and remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians about the enduring power of God’s love.

Here the ELCA seems to be stressing “mutual respect” as toleration or even tentative approval of homosexual relations or marriage. The scriptures do not show this to be the case. Further they seem to suppose that “this new reality” is something Christians must adopt. Paul, at 1 Corinthians 7:31 notes that “the scene of the world is changing,” yet he never urges us to adopt such ways. Instead we are warned to remain without spot from the world, does not the scriptures say, “do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4) And while Paul tells about the enduring nature of God’s love, the Bible taken as a whole shows that sins can separate us from our God. – Isaiah 59:2

The ELCA social statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” (2009) neither endorses nor forbids same-gender marriages and recognizes that we have differing understandings and convictions on this matter. In its decision, the court stated that “the First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

I currently have not read this ELCA statement (but I plan to soon). However I have read about similar claims no doubt expressed in it. The scriptures show that marriage is between a man and a women – never saying it can be between man and a man. In fact Paul condemns homosexual acts (for more on that see here and here).

Further the scriptures recognize that people “have differing understanding and convictions on this matter,” yet they never entertain debate in the way the ELCA does. The scriptures are full of statements, such as “What do you not know that such and such a people will inherit the kingdom!” Further in “conscience matters” the black and white rule is if in doubt, don’t do it; if it could stumble someone, don’t do it.

According to this church’s social statement on human sexuality, all decisions about recognizing, supporting and holding publicly accountable same-gender relationships are entrusted to congregations. Recognizing that the church is not of one mind on this subject, our 2009 actions provide that congregations and clergy should discern together whether to recognize such relationships and to what degree.

The early congregation strove for unity, and when such matters that threaten unity they looked toward the older men and apostle at Jerusalem, the “governing body,” to decide a ruling binding on all Christians. From a practical stand point you would not want such a deceive issue left up to individual congregations.

Pastors are to engage in conversation, discernment and partnership with the congregations who have called them prior to solemnizing or presiding over a same-gender marriage. On the other hand, no pastor is obligated to solemnize the marriage of any couple, same-gender or different-gender, whom the pastor cannot in good conscience marry.

1 Timothy 6:20 says, “Guard what has been entrusted to you, turning away from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called “knowledge.”” Now, if as I said, the scriptures condemn homosexual acts then any debate is bound to violate what is holy under the appearance of “knowledge.”

As Lutheran Christians, we continue to be a church that engages in conversation and discernment in all aspects of our faith and life. Creating space for respectful conversation and dialogue continues to be an important part of our life together. A helpful resource for engaging in difficult conversations is “Talking Together as Christians about Tough Social Issues.”

How far do they take ‘we engage in conversation?’ Do they ponder over the explicit statement, “abstain from blood,” or, “abstain from fornication?” I do look forward to reading there social statement.

In addition, the ELCA Ministry to and with Same-Gender Couples and their Families Working Group remains in the process of completing its work. A report of the group’s findings and possible recommendations will be presented to the ELCA Church Council at its November meeting.

We seek to see our differences as a gift to be celebrated as we live out that which unites us: the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ who leads us into mission and ministry in the world. In the midst of this change, we are first and foremost church – a church that proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ. May God bless, guide and strengthen you each day as you go in peace and serve the Lord.

Here they assume that homosexuality is a gift, if anything it is a sinful disposition (we all have sinful dispositions). Further if Christians change with the world, what will be? We are told to be spotless!

            Your Sister in Christ,
            Elizabeth A. Eaton
            Presiding Bishop

If she was in Christ she would keep in mind the saying of Christ, ‘for that reason a man will leave his father and mother and stick to his wife.’

P.S. I don't mean to imply that homosexuals are bad because they have such desires. For when it comes down to it they are no worse than heterosexuals, for homosexuality is unnatural, but so is pride, both are a result of wrong thinking. Remember that Jehovah is kind.

1 comment:

  1. I read the social statement and have a few things to say in reply to it. I will read it again and take further notes on it and probably make a post replying to it.

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