By Many Hands
(ABOVE: Current ELCA presiding bishop Elizabeth Eaton December 5, 2013.)
(ABOVE: Matthew C. Harrison, August 29, 2009, commenting on the ECLA vote. “We must be willing to confess our dogma. We must be willing to confess Scripture, no matter what the world presses upon us.” Harrison is co-editor of the book Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Lutheran Perspective. He became LCMS president July 13, 2010.)
Although OrdinationTruth.com is especially focused on the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in order to keep church members informed, from time to time we share notes on the historical development of current Adventist problems as seen in other Christian groups. Often certain challenges that find their way to the front in the Adventist Church are seen in other groups many years beforehand.
The Lutheran Church is “ahead” of us on the questions of women’s ordination and homosexuality. Here’s a short sketch.
The whole sequence of events proceeded thus. In the 1960’s the evolutionary approach to creation was adopted by the LCA (Lutheran Church of America). In 1970 the denomination voted to ordain women pastors.
The actual step in the LCA permitting the ordination of women was quite simple. At the biennial convention at Minneapolis, as part of the report of the Commission on the Comprehensive Study of the Doctrine of the Ministry, it was recommended that in church bylaws the word ‘man’ in defining ‘a minister of this church’ be changed to ‘person.’ Shortly after 10 P.M. on June 29, 1970, the item was adopted ‘with a resounding voice vote,’ one delegate (a woman) asking to have her negative recorded. Appropriate changes were made in other church documents, and the first woman ordained, a campus pastor, on November 22, 1970″ (John H.P. Reumann, Ministries Examined (1987), p. 122).
No doubt the whole purpose behind the Comprehensive Study document was to introduce the change in wording from “male” to “person.” From the vote in June until the first female ordination on November 22, just 116 days passed.
In 1971 J.A.O. Preuss II was elected president of LCMS (Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod) which had been friendly with LCA. Controversy within LCMS exploded in the mid-1970s resulting in the removal from Concordia Theological Seminary of professors who practiced the Historical-critical method of biblical interpretation. The LCMS is the largest Lutheran body rejecting the ordination of women.
Reumann’s book quoted above advocates women’s ordination. Reumann was full-on historical-critical. He admits,
To begin with the Old Testament, with 1 Corinthians 14, or 1 Timothy 2, can lead only to the exclusion of women from ordained ministry. . . On the other hand, if one begins with Galatians 3:27-28, a case is possible that women should share equally with men in the church’s Ministry (Ibid., p. 117).
The LCA agreed to unite with the ALC and the AELC (which withdrawn from Missouri Synod in 1982) and the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) was thus formed in 1988. Twenty-one years later the ELCA assembly voted to approve same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. That action was taken on the basis of a ten year “sociological study” of human sexuality, not on the basis of a biblical study. It was all possible because of a gradual erosion of sola scriptura and the inevitable hermeneutic that followed—most of which had developed virtually unperceived by the laity.
On August 21, 2009, the ELCA Assembly in Minneapolis voted to permit congregations to call and ordain gays and lesbians “in committed monogamous relationships” to serve as clergy. Voting 559 to 451, delegates declared that persons in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships” could serve as ministers. The decision was not made binding for all ELCA Congregations.
Since then, the ELCA has lost more than 1000 congregations and at least a half-million members—approximately a fifth of its total membership. According to public figures, the ELCA budget stood at 88 million in 2005. The budget of the ELCA in 2011 was 48 million dollars.
(ABOVE: Then ELCA presiding bishop Mark Hanson announces ELCA downsizing October 15, 2010. The is the same person who officiates at the installation of practicing homosexual Guy Erwin in the video link later in this article.)
These links show ELCA membership trends both before and after the 2009 decision:
While some 1000 congregations have left the ELCA, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod have benefited from new members and congregations. Additionally, two newer groups have sprung up including many former ELCA congregations. The LCMC is the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ have gained some 500 new congregations in America since the 2009 ELCA decision. The NALC (North American Lutheran Church) was formed in 2010, and now numbers more than 350 congregations. Several other ELCA Lutherans have left it because of these developments and, almost unbelievably, joined the Roman Catholic Church (which rejects the ordination of women and homosexuals). A cursory search across the internet reveals that many ELCA members have left and joined the Roman Catholic Church as well.
But nothing stands still. The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin on May 31, 2013 became the first practicing homosexual man to be chosen bishop in the ELCA. He was elected to a six year term as bishop of Southwest California Synod. (Video of Erwin’s “installation.”)
On August 14, 2013 the ELCA elected its first female world church leader, the Elizabeth Eaton. Eaton appeals to her church in the short 1:14 minute message linked above.
One last item. The ELCA is also part of the 70 million member Lutheran World Federation. The LWF offers a remarkable 44 page book for free download entitled Gender Justice Policy, which focuses on quotas for women in leadership in the church, enforcement, and well as hermeneutical approaches. The book is fairly slow in the early pages, but eventually begins to read somewhat similarly to the hermeneutics section of the NAD Report. For a hint on what’s planned, see the LWF Gender Justice Policy introduction video.
We would like to make it clear that LCMS, WELS, and the newer Lutheran bodies mentioned above have chosen not to ordain women, nor do they accept same-sex marriages nor ordain practicing homosexual clergy. The key difference between the two groups of Lutheran bodies is exactly in their systems of biblical interpretation. The Lutheran bodies which do not ordain women or favor homosexuality, employ the historical-grammatical method; those Lutheran bodies which ordain women and which accept the practice of homosexuality, favor critically-based methods.