The Spring 2004 issue of Let’s Talk stimulated a number of responses from our readers. Many of the comments referred to an article by Robert Benne, which was itself a “Reader’s Response.”
We appreciate the thoughtful responses printed below, which have a variety of points of view.
Thanks so much for allowing us to see Robert Benne’s defense for upholding traditional sexual values for the ELCA. His logic overrides all aspects of dissenting arguments, I feel. My only criticism was that Mr. Benne’s description of being “gracious” toward those who are currently living in same-sex relationships may prove to be a loophole for some pastors. While we are all sinners saved by grace, and all Believers are at level ground at the foot of His cross, I am reminded of God’s stern action to remove improper relationships under Nehe-miah. God asked the entirety of Jewish residents to sever improper sexual/marital (!) ties — immediately.
When one adds up Nehemiah’s stringent orders alongside of Paul, Peter and James’ stern rebukes for who forward heretical doctrines, we can see the Biblical mandate is to “cease and desist.” Because of the extent to which we have pandered to pro-gay voices, we have now the arduous task of giving special ministry to those individuals who have been taught — by ELCA clergy — to disregard God’s rules of conduct.
Too much of ELCA leadership is awash in its fascination with anti-Biblical theologies. The world has evangelized the church, and the ELCA leadership has lost its “saltiness” . Mr. Benne’s article is a great an exposé of the fallacious doctrinal error our ELCA leaders approve. Between him and Merton Strommen, we see that not all of our confessing ELCA family are bowing their knees to Baal.
Request for Extra Copies
I would like to share several items from the Spring 2004 issue of Let’s Talk with a number of people, both Greg Singleton’s article on Christian vocation and Robert Benne’s on Christian sexual ethics. Would it be possible to receive as many as a dozen copies of the issue or to have permission to reproduce these articles? I would prefer to pass copies of the entire publication to folks, for I think they would wish to “subscribe” to the periodical.
A Change of Heart on a Controversial Issue
I have been one of the many Lutheran Christians who do not know how they feel — for sure — about the ordination of practicing homosexual people. We know that God loves all people, and we know that God can call anyone God chooses to ordained ministry. But we have not been able to understand the ordination of practicing homosexual people. Though we are basically loving and accepting people, it would seem strange indeed to have a gay or lesbian couple as our pastoral couple. It’s not that we are judgmental — we at least try not to be — but years of cultural and religious conditioning have had a profound influence on us.
Many of ushave been faithful to the call of our church and have thought about, studied, prayed, and wrestled with the issue, as the ELCA has asked us to. While doing so, an article came across my desk that influenced my decision in the affirmative. I was quite prepared to think that it was wrong, so my decision to the contrary surprised me. God surprised me. I’d like to share that surprise with you.
I did not attend the Word Alone conference on the issue of the ordination of homosexual persons, but I did receive the Word Alone Network News sent out after the conference.Although the Word Alone movement came out squarely against the ordination of practicing homosexuals, it was this publication (Volume 5, issue 3, May-June 2003) that influenced me to make up my mind in the affirmative.
After reading and rereading the issue, the words of Professor David Balch struck me. He states, “all people are equals in receiving the sacraments and should be so in administering them.” After thinking about that statement for a long time, God lifted a burden from my heart. I asked myself, “Has the church used God’s Word as support for exclusionary practices and divisive thinking?” When I read the Bible, God’s intent as expressed in Jesus’ prayer is by all means to unite us. “I pray…that all of them may be one, Father…that they may be one as we are one… May they he brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me …” (John 17.21ff). Our Lord prays for the unity of believers. Have our practices prevented the unity of God’s church?
I began to see that God’s call can rest on anyone God chooses. Those whom God calls we dare not exclude. Rather, we try to let God’s Spirit carry us along as we discern each person’s call to ministry as best we can. Their sexuality is a matter between them and God. Otherwise we risk keeping out of ministry someone whom God has called for God’s own purposes — purposes we are not privy to. I fear that we may risk prolonging the pain of exclusion experienced in so much of Christian history. If our Lord’s prayer is that we all be one, let us be that — and allow the church discernment process to weed out who is fit and who is unfit for ordained ministry. As the church has trusted God for two thousand years to call, ordain, and form people for ministry, can we not trust God to continue to do so?
As I came to this conclusion, I felt very proud to be part of a Christian church that is wrestling with what it means to be the people of God. I am proud to be a part of a church that has her arms wide open to all God’s people. The arms of God’s mercy are so wide, they include sinners like me. How can any of us presume to restrict God’s merciful invitation by excluding a whole group of people from ordained ministry?
I feel about the ELCA a little like I do about marriage: it’s not the best — but it’s the best we’ve got. In my view, the ELCA is the best we’ve got. It’s open. It’s learning. It’s struggling with what it means to be the new creation, faithful to the Gospel.And I am very proud of that.
Whatever we decide in 2005, I urge members of our church not to bolt. I consider it a joy to be part of a church that is willing to wrestle with issues and learn from each other. I applaud the Word Alone movement for remaining within the church to act as a corrective to the misdirection they believe the church took in Call to Common Mission. Will a similar thing be possible after we have decided the sexuality issue? I pray that Robert Benne’s prediction that a large number of congregations will leave the ELCA if it adopts the policy of ordination of homosexuals will not come to pass.
To split down the middle and walk away from each other seems contrary to Jesus’ prayer. I have been tempted at times to walk away from the ELCA for a variety of reasons — but it has always turned out to be just a temptation.As I look more closely, I see a church with its arms wide open, struggling to be the church and live the Gospel. Let’s pray for it and support it. The ELCA is only 17 years old. Let’s not walk away from this adolescent church. As the ELCa matures, it will continue to live to the glory of God. I trust the faithful people of the ELCA to be a part of that.