Thursday, April 3, 2014

Immanuel Lutheran Church Q and A

1. WHY IS OUR CONGREGATION CONSIDERING LEAVING THE ELCA?  Over the past several years it feels like the ELCA has actually left Lutheranism.  Slowly but surely the ELCA has drifted from its Biblical, confessional, traditional grounding to a point of compromising some of the most basic and important Lutheran Christian understandings, teachings, interpretations and practices about the authority of Scripture, law and gospel, original sin, grace, ordination, and human relationships (See #2,3,4,5,6,7). These theological changes have created confusion about what is the correct Lutheran interpretation on these matters. With diverse doctrines in place, what then shall we teach our children and each other about God’s truth?  Your leadership believes that these multiple teachings cannot rightfully co-exist in the same denomination. In addition, there has been an erosion of trust between the ELCA churchwide leadership and local congregations which has created relationship disconnect.   
2. WHAT IS THE CONCERN ABOUT THE ELCA’S TEACHING ON THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE?   The ELCA has moved to a view of Scripture that allows human reason, personal experience and contemporary social attitudes to interpret what the Bible says. The ELCA has departed from the teaching of the Bible as understood by Christians for 2,000 years. The actions of the 2009 ELCA churchwide assembly have been seen by many as evidence that the Bible no longer functions as the ultimate norm for the faith and life of the ELCA. The traditional view of interpretation is known as Sola Scriptura which says that Scripture stands alone on its own authority as the divinely inspired Word of God, as a source, norm and guide for our daily lives. The Scriptures must be read, interpreted, and applied foremost through the Gospel of Christ, not primarily through the lenses of human reason, personal experience, and contemporary culture and mores  
3. WHAT IS THE CONCERN ABOUT THE ELCA’S TEACHING ON LAW AND GOSPEL?  Gradually, the ELCA has lost focus on our five-hundred year old Law/Gospel balance by over-focusing on the Gospel (Saved by Grace - Eph. 2:8) at the expense of the Law (The 10 Commandments).  The Law convicts us of our sin and the Gospel is the good news that saves us from the punishment we deserve by the sacrifice of Christ.  As a result of the Gospel, Christians seek to follow the Law of God’s Will, not in order to be saved, but because we have been saved!  An over-emphasis on the Gospel in the ELCA leads one to believe that because Jesus forgives sins, all one needs to do is ask for forgiveness, which then basically frees us to keep doing the sinful things humans do.  This is a false Gospel.      
4. WHAT IS THE CONCERN ABOUT THE ELCA’S TEACHING ON ORIGINAL SIN?   With its decision to bless homosexual behavior, the ELCA has reconfigured original sin for Lutherans who have always taught that human beings are born as broken creatures.  Those who are promoting committed same sex unions are teaching that God created some people to be homosexual and some to be heterosexual and that each should live out their God-given identity.  This is in direct opposition to the traditional understanding which teaches that homosexual behavior is one of the ways that original sin manifests itself in human brokenness and is not God-ordained.   Much like a person who is born with a chemical disposition to alcohol, it is not to be celebrated.  Therefore, that person is not encouraged in their behavior, but to refrain from it.  
5. WHAT IS THE CONCERN ABOUT THE ELCA’S TEACHING ON GRACE?   Grace is defined as “undeserved love.” Over the last several decades the Lutheran Church and most mainline denominations have gravitated beyond the Biblical truth that “God is Love” to a point of proclaiming that “God is only Love.”  While it is true that God is Love, grace is being twisted to project that God is accepting and loving, and nothing else (God is also Holy, Mighty, Merciful, Judge, Perfect, etc.).  Further, a “love ethic” has developed out of this that insists that Jesus was solely about love; therefore, if the church calls for anything more than love, such as transformation, repentance, or new life—it is being judgmental.  This newer focus on grace is what is traditionally called “cheap grace.”  
6. WHAT IS THE CONCERN ABOUT THE ELCA’S PRACTICE OF ORDINATION?  Traditionally, Lutherans have defined “Apostolic Succession” as the faithful passing down of the original teachings of the early church from one generation to the next.  With the ELCA’s full communion relationship with the Episcopal Church in the 1990s, the ELCA conceded its traditional understanding of ministry by creating a new norm for ordination—one in which Bishops are to be present for the “laying on of hands” so that the faith may be properly passed on to the next generation of pastors.  This practice elevates the office of Bishop to a higher point in comparison to what Lutherans have long held.  This new adoption of the “Episcopal” ritual makes a mockery of the Lutheran understanding of what it means to be in the “priesthood of all believers”.  
7. WHAT IS THE CONCERN ABOUT THE ELCA’S TEACHING ON HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS?   With the decision to bless same-sex relationships, the ELCA has re-written Holy Scripture and redefined a 2000 year old understanding on human relationships. In the beginning, before humanity’s fall into sin, God designed humans to share intimacy within the relationship of one man and one woman (Adam and Eve – Genesis 2 & 3). This was God’s intention for humans. Yet ever since the fall into sin, humans have been making up their own rules by which to live. Redefining human relationships with same-sex intimacy as being God-ordained is a gross error in the ELCA.  We cannot agree to bless and call right that which God’s Word says is wrong.

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