Lutherans in the Twilight Zone<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
When I was growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was the Twilight Zone. Weird and Wacky to the core but almost plausible at the same time. For that hour you were suspended somewhere between reality and science fiction. If they resurrect this old TV classic, I have a wild idea for an episode. Here it is:
You're driving into a major city taking in all the sights and sounds. It looks like any other major metropolitan area when suddenly you see a large sign suspended above the highway. It monstrous letters it say, "Please make every effort to ignore our laws!" You're taken back for a moment as you continue your drive into the city. Certainly they can't mean that but soon you find they do. Everyone you encounter is doing whatever they desire and totally ignoring all laws. Stop signs mean nothing, speed limits are ignored and people take whatever they want from local merchants without paying. You have found yourself in the city of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Evangelical Lutherans. Cue theme music and closing credits.
The above scenario is no more bizarre than what happened at the recently concluded annual General Conference of the Evangelical Lutherans Church of America. On the closing day of the Conference a resolution was passed by 538-431 vote pleading with the leadership of the denomination to ignore their own church law. Oh, and this was immediately following passing another resolution upholding their church law. Confused? Welcome to the Lutheran Twilight Zone!
The most contentious issue before the ELCA for several years now has been the issue of the ordination of practicing homosexuals. Church law is clear it's a No No. The denomination tried to head off the controversy by forming a "Committee on Human Sexuality" that result in a denominational statement in 2009. That process began in 2001! It takes eight years to read Romans chapter one? It was obvious to most that this was just a stalling tactic while the denominational leaders desperately prayed the whole thing would blow over. Well, it didn't. At this year's General Conference more than eighty ELCA pastors decided to "come out" and force the issue to a vote and here's where I begin to hear the Twilight Zone music.
First the denomination voted to NOT overturn the current prohibition on the ordination of practicing homosexuals. Next, they voted to encourage the Bishops of the church to please ignore the church law that they just upheld. Confused? Yeah, me too. In fact, that's the purpose. The 2nd resolution pleaded with the leadership of the Church to "refrain from or demonstrate restraint" in disciplining gay clergy in committed relationships"
Both sides of the battle claimed victory. The Conservatives were boasting that the current prohibition was not overturned while the Liberals were boasting that "the gospel of inclusion has won, and we're going to keep winning." Two sides one trying desperately to cling to Biblical Truth, the other trying desperately to destroy Biblical authority both declaring victory. Cue Rod Serling.
We are fortunate, however, that the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA came forward immediately to straighten out all the confusion and Twilight Zonesque happenings of the Conference. Addressing the media Mark Hanson said, "I interpret that as a way to reflect this journey of conversation, discussion, decision, seeking to be faithful to the authority of scripture, the interpretation of our confession and mindful of the very context in which we are engaged in God's mission." Now, understand, you have to go to seminary to make and understand statements like that; so allow me to interpret. In lay language the good Bishop was saying, "Man did we dodge a bullet this time. Now, if we can only stall for another 7 years!"
Sadly and unfortunately, the ELCA has taken a cowardly and unbiblical approach to this volatile issue. They, obviously, need to make up their minds as to whether they are going to obey God and His Word or plant their feet firmly in mid-air of post-modern rationalism.
A wise man told me years ago that, "when you try to appease everyone you will please no one." The TV show began each episode with the famous, "You're traveling through another dimension. A dimension, not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!" At that "next stop" I'm confident you will find much of the leadership of the ELCA.
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