First, this tidbit from KXMB CBS, in Bismarck, ND (with video?): “Update on the latest in religion news:”
“Kieschnick said that decision will hurt relations between the nation’s two largest Lutheran denominations and “cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA.” Conservative Evangelical Lutheran congregations won’t be forced to hire gay clergy, but opponents nevertheless warned that straying from Scripture could result in a loss of members and finances.
“Lutheran CORE, a conservative group within the ELCA that fought the gay clergy policy, will hold a convention in Indianapolis next month to review its next steps.” Sound: CUT ..235 (08/23/09)
“His was a serious message of rebuke, delivered somberly and, as he said, ‘…in deep humility with a heavy heart and no desire whatsoever to offend. The decisions by this assembly to grant non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA and the affirmation of same-gender unions as pleasing to God will undoubtedly cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA. It will also negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies. The current division between our churches threatens to become a chasm…’”
Kieschnick’s remarks, and the severe quotation from the Formula of Concord – which he obviously chose to lift out of its 16th century context and attempt to apply it in the 21st century – has all the marks of Missouri’s obsession about sin and evil, lockstep doctrinal conformity, and dire consequences for difference of opinion. Not only is he and his officialdom—to which the LC-MS churchbody has remained captive since J.A.O. Preus’ take-over of the LC-MS in the 1970s—unwilling to have any honest dialogue about where Christians disagree in matters of faith, he has chosen not to respect the deeply-held convictions of other fellow-Lutherans/fellow Christians who hold to those convictions by reason of their own conscience.
In other words, Kieschnick’s and LC–MS’s official interpretation of tough contemporary issues and matters of faith are the only ones which may have validity anywhere in Christendom. Any other point of view, according to his rough application of the quote from a document written in A.D. 1580, “should not be tolerated in the church of God.”
Has Kieschnick forgotten that the dispute back then which the Reformers could not tolerate were disputes with the Roman Catholic Church, not with fellow evangelicals? And has he not noticed that Pope Benedict XVI himself has basically said that all of us — all Lutherans and all Protestants and everybody else who are not under his personal authority are not even a “church” in the proper sense? In effect Kieschnick’s rebuke of the ELCA, a churchbody nearly twice the size of the LC–MS parallels Benedict’s rebuke of all other Christians. In Kieschnick’s case it is utter arrogance masquerading as doctrinal purity. In Benedict’s case it is utter arrogance masquerading as divine authority.
But Kieschnick’s quote is wrong for a more fundamental reason. Read this again, carefully: “Therefore necessity demands explanation of these disputed articles on the basis of God’s word and reliable writings so that those with a proper Christian understanding could recognize which position regarding the points under dispute is in accord with God’s word and the Christian Augsburg confession and which is not.”
Why I find this to be a deeply flawed application of a 440 year old document is that it refers to “these disputed articles”, meaning articles of faith. Do we need to remind Rev. Dr. Kieschnick that the Augsburg Confession (published in 1530) does not even contain an “article of faith” on human sexuality, let alone homosexuality? Should it not be pointed out to him that articles of faith are about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, justification by grace through faith, etc., and not about anthropology, sociology, biology or psychology. Christians do not put our faith in these matters or in our current understandings of any of them, even if we are influenced by them because they change. And when matters of anthropology, sociology, biology or psychology change, our opinions and attitudes change with them.
Strictly speaking, our faith is never in ourselves (gay or straight, Catholic or Lutheran, woman or man, married or single, sinner or saint). But the LC-MS obsession, like other fundamentalist religious obsessions, is that they get to define with exactitude what is sinful and against the will of God and therefore cannot be tolerated in the church of God.
As. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:36, “Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached?” Yes, it’s kind of funny that Paul said that as a rebuke of one congregation with whom he disagreed over allowing women to speak in church, a real issue of faith that also has divided the ELCA and the LC–MS since the 1970s. (Missouri Synod does not ordain women to the ministry, and tries to keep them out of all authoritative positions over men in the church from the local congregation on up.) Their reasoning is as fundamentalist as you can get: they can point to some verses in the Bible that they say with vehement certainty applies to the present times, and because of their own certainty they will not even grant the civility to talk with a sister or brother in Christ who differs in discernment of what applies or doesn’t apply. In doing so they completely bypass and ignore a lot of other Holy Writ that reminds us to listen to one another, to pray for one another, to bear one another’s burdens, and to draw near to Christ rather than searching the scriptures for a proof text. They ignore the divine permission which Christians are given to “bind and loose” even matters which are covered in the Scriptures.
Maybe we will, sadly, look back on 2009 as the year when Christianity definitely began to crack into two irreconcilable camps. Each of us believes that we are reconciled to God, but not by our own achievements, conformity, certainty or doctrinal purity, but purely and solely by grace. Think about that, Rev. Dr.
—Pastor Dan Hooper