Summary: I believe the ELCA congregations who are in rage over our Chruch’s assembly decision to endorse homosexuality, need to take time beofore acting - but act we must.
24th Sunday after Pentecost, November 15, 2009
Grace be into you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for all your many blessings upon us, especially the gift of your Son, Jesus the Christ, your incarnate and living Word, who came among us to reveal your will and grace for our lives. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, enable us to receive your Word with joy, and to conform our lives to your will. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Since Pastor Blair will be utilizing our Gospel lesson for this morning in his sermon that he will deliver in a couple of weeks when I am on vacation, I have chose to take a different approach with my sermon this morning. This past Tuesday evening, I shared with council that I continue to find a number of persons in our congregation to be troubled over the decisions reached at our church-wide assembly in regard to human sexuality. I also shared with council that I would like to utilize this time to share with you some perspectives that I have gained through recent mailings and email, in regard to options that are unfolding.
First, I would continue to stress the need for patience. Like so many of you who have spoken to me about the assembly action, I do not agree with the decision. For me, it is not simply an issue of what the church views as permissible sexual behavior, but more importantly an issue of the interpretation of the sacred Scriptures to direct the life and norm of the church. With this in mind, I must admit that the church’s decision has presented me with a crisis of faith. Can I continue to serve a church that takes such a philosophical view toward Scripture, as to totally ignore the role of tradition in discerning meaning.
As David S. Yeago, a professor of Biblical studies at Lutheran Southern Seminary points out on his blog on his web page, “According to the Formula of Concord, which is one of our confessional writings included in the Book of Concord, the “Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments” are “the pure clear fountain of Israel, which is the only true norm by which all teachers and teaching are to be judged.”
But that is not where Dr. Yeago ended his lecture. He also went on to state that in order to truly interpret the Scriptures and to do so in a true and faithful manner, we must also come to wrestle with the context of when they were written, and the context of interpretive tradition throughout the years. I can with Ralph, state that I have not left the Church, the church has left me. But I am not ready to bolt, or to lead you, these people whom I love, into something we might later regret.
Thus, that adage that, “Patience is a virtue,” has some legitimacy in this situation. I would like to share with you thoughts that were expressed in the November issue of Forum Letter, published by The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. In his opening article, entitled “At the foot of the cross,” Richard O Johnson, editor of Forum Letter reported that the site of the September 25 convocation of the Lutheran Coalition for Reform, or Lutheran CORE, had to be moved. Normally, Lutheran CORE would have 200 to 300 delegates in attendance at their convocation. Following our church’s national assembly, the number of registrations were shut off at 1200, the largest venue able to be secured at that time.
According to Johnson, “There were lots of speeches, and lots of emotion. The speeches came from retired bishops Ken Sauer and Paull Spring, Pr. Challa Baro (representing African immigrant churches), Pr. Eddie Perez (representing Hispanic pastors from Florida), and Mark Chavez, vice-president of Word Alone Network, to name a few. Passionate ovations followed each presentation.
Lutheran CORE’s plan, as it was presented, is to form what they are calling a “free-standing synod.” This synod would be open to any of the congregations who have already chosen to leave the ELCA, as well as Lutheran congregations who have, (at least for now), have chosen to stay with the ELCA.
Johnson then reported a few pertinent excerpts Bishop Spring’s speech. “We’re not forming a new church body,” he said. “We’re forming a new synod.” The idea is that this “free-standing synod” would assume, for its members, many of the current responsibilities of the geographical synods of the ELCA. Not only would this free-standing synod provide a sense of refuge for maintaining a solid confessional and theological stance, It would also provide resources, support global mission, provide theological education, foster new congregations, assist in the call process, etc.