Fox News is reporting that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest branch of the Lutheran church in the U.S., is considering allowing gay clergy in committed relationships to serve as pastors in the denomination. At present, the church allows only heterosexuals or celebate homosexuals to be ministers. A decision will be made at the ELCA’s convention this August.
The confessional Lutherans at Beggars All are understandably upset at the ELCA’s seeming departure from traditional Christian sexual ethics, and wonders whether it is time for confessional Lutherans to drop the name “Lutheran” and take up some other moniker (suggesting Church of the Augsburg Confession) so as to not be confused with their wayward brothers. As for me, I’m less outraged for two reasons. First is that we should expect stuff like this from the ELCA. They’ve been selling out Christian ethics to liberal modernism for a while now. Second, those who follow the ELCA know that they can’t agree on anything anyway, so the debate is not likely to come to much. See my post’s title for the standard ELCA position on most controversial issues. What’s the ELCA’s take on creation v. evolution? ummmm…We Don’t Have a Position on That. Same-sex partnerships? ummmm…We Don’t Have a Position on That. That’s what happens when your church body was not the creation of doctrinal agreement between Christians, but rather from the more secular theology of “let’s all just get along.” Ecumenism is easy if you don’t have any opinions.
Now, I’ve heard from those who are more in the know that the gay issue could be the one that breaks the camel’s back in the ELCA, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Sure, the more conservative churches could threaten to leave, but where would they go? If they have women pastors, they couldn’t join any of the other Lutheran synods in the U.S. Would they form another synod somewhere in the six inches between the most liberal LCMS churches and the most conservative ELCA churches? I don’t know, but I doubt it. In my opinion, the most likely outcome of this August’s meeting will be another “ummmm…We Don’t Have a Position on That” position on committed gay clergy, not satisfying anybody, but not disappointing enough to get anybody to leave.
Anyway, it’s not wise to be bullish on the long-term future of the ELCA. To that end, maybe the Beggars All guys are right. Maybe we confessional Lutherans (how I’ve come to describe myself when people ask me what kind of Christian I am) need to adopt a new name, so that when the pieces of the ELCA finally fall apart, we aren’t taken down with them.