With the election of its first openly homosexual bishop, Rev. R. Guy Erwin, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), this country’s largest Lutheran denomination, has made clear once and for all, if there had been any doubt, that it is going to follow the tide of contemporary culture rather than following anything like what has historically resembled Christianity. In this act, it has proclaimed love toward that behavior which in the Holy Bible is termed an abomination to the Lord.
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination:
We are come a long way from Luther! And, sadly, but no less truly, this stage has only arrived after a long march driven not by a reverence for the gospel of Christ as revealed in Scripture, but by liberal theology and progressive social activism. It has not just begun. The ELCA has been on a long ride beginning with questioning the authority of Holy Scripture, and a failure to maintain the biblical qualifications for ordained ministry; and the Lutherans are not alone. They have been preceded in their embrace of homosexual conduct by the United Church of Christ, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Without a doubt there are Lutherans who have not consented to the ride. I am acquainted with ELCA members who are vibrant and sincere brothers and sisters in Christ. Those who fall into this category, that is, the remnant of true Christians left in the ELCA, must find themselves in a dilemma. They have not brought this upon themselves, but the devilish inroads of evil have taken over the machinery of the church that they have known and loved, which they have called home, slowly but surely, until now, they are here. What is a Christian who is a member of an ELCA congregation to do? There are a few possible responses.
1. Do nothing.
Be content to continue in your present congregation, with its present affiliation in the ELCA. Many make the assumption that what happens in other synods or regions will not affect them. They are satisfied with their congregation, in their neighborhood. Those in rural areas tend to believe that they are isolated from what goes on “in the city.” But is this really the case? Are you willing to give your hard-earned cash to pay dues, to support the homosexual ideology through the ELCA seminaries, special scholarships for homosexuals studying for the ministry, pensions and salaries for church executives and other clergypersons engaging in an open (flagrant) homosexual lifestyle? We would do well to consider the words of Revelation 18:4 “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Is it possible to be a contributor to such things and not partake of the guilt of the sins, and of God’s punishment of them who are committed to war against God and His word, and yet to remain personally unstained?
2. But, “I want to stay and fight.”
But what is the Church of Jesus Christ? Is the Church itself a mission field or a mission station? The question of when to separate has been a difficult one down through history, and sound Christian leaders have chosen to separate at different times, not always agreeing on when was the time to leave. Yet, how can one remain in a fellowship or denomination which is essentially anti-Christian, and which forces the faithful to pay to promote what are abominations? To take part with them is to be a partaker with them, is to partake in their guilt.
Ephesians 5:6, 7 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
And where will your congregation find pastors in the future? Of what persuasion (or lifestyle) will they be? If the history of other churches is any indication, it will soon be virtually impossible to find, or to get an ELCA synod to approve of, a pastor who believes that the Bible is the word of God and that sin is defined as God says it is. Sadly, local congregations are not as isolated from the happenings in the broader denomination as they would like to believe.
And, let’s be honest, as far as working to reverse the course by being a voice for truth in the ELCA wilderness, at this point it would probably be easier and more productive to repeatedly pound your head against a brick wall than to try and change the ELCA back to recognizing the authority of Scripture.
3. Working in your congregation to separate from the ELCA.
There are Lutheran denominations which still adhere to the inerrancy of Scripture and maintain a distinctly and historically Christian faith, such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LMCS). There may be some ELCA congregations which have come to a point where they no longer hold to historic Lutheranism, and they may decide for various reasons that another strand of fellowship, another form of Christian unity with slightly different, yet essentially Christian standards of faith is to be preferred.
I would encourage either avenue. In fact, a Christian finding himself in the situation of being a part of an ELCA congregation probably ought to pursue the road of separation as a congregation first, if possible, to maintain the unity of the local body if the majority of the congregation are genuine Christians, and they can be persuaded to separate from the ELCA. Although property and other legal or monetary issues may arise, these things are a small price to pay for the liberty to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, with a clear conscience. As the Great Reformer Luther wrote in the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also…” Alas, for many true believers within the fold of the ELCA, separation of the congregation from the ELCA will prove not to be an option simply because not enough voting members of the congregation will support it. So that brings us to the final choice.
4. Leave and join another congregation.
The solution of last resort is not far for many in the present situation. The final, and a painful option, for many, would be to leave the present ELCA congregation, and find another church, whether Lutheran or otherwise, where the gospel is clearly preached and the Bible is considered to be the definitive Word of God in written form. If you are a Lutheran, ask yourself, is it the right time? If not now, when? What would have to happen for it to be the right time to separate from an ELCA congregation? What sins would it involve?
What would I do, if I were a member of an ELCA congregation today? If I were intent on remaining a Lutheran, holding to the distinctive Lutheran expression of Christianity including its form of worship and confessional statements, (which I do not), I would attempt to do number 3. If that didn’t work, I would follow approach number 4 and join a different congregation. If I were not dead set on remaining a Lutheran, I would simply follow number 4. May God bless the Lutheran reader and may each be thoroughly convinced in his or her own mind that he or she is taking the right course of action.
Please, brothers and sisters, if you are a member of a congregation of the ELCA, immerse yourself in God’s word, reading it daily, and seek His help and direction there. I hope that what I have written may be of help to some as they think through these crucial issues.