Saturday, December 18, 2010

International Response

Saturday after Advent 3
December 18, 2010

The Lord be with you

Anyone who is even slightly aware of what has happen in Lutheranism in America is aware that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) decided in convention to receive into their ordained ministry active homosexual individuals. Such “aware” people would also know that the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) has rejected this decision for numerous reasons.

With this decision the ELCA has turned its back on the vast majority of Christians, not just Lutherans. They have also turned their back on the ecumenical process, not only moving unilaterally but actually making a decision in spite of how it would impact others in the Christian community. Because they bear the name “Lutheran,” their decision has special impact on others who bear this same name, including the many in their own denomination that, agreeing with the Bible, reject their own denominations decision.

I thought the readers of this blog might be interested in how the ELCA’s decision has been received by Lutherans around the world. The following two statements reflect the international response. The first one is from Africa and the second one is from the Baltic area of the world. Each document represents groups of self-identified Lutherans.

Advent Blessings,
Pastor John Rickert

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya's Statement on the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's
Resolution on Same Sex Marriage

The General Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya issued their statement on September 25, 2009, in Kapenguria, on the decision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to roster among her clergy those who are in same sex marital unions.

We, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, have received with shock, dismay and disappointment, the news that the ELCA, in her Churchwide Assembly held on 21 August 2009, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, resolved officially to open the door of the office of the public ministry to those who are in “committed” same gender sexual relations. We, therefore, would like the general public, particularly the Church of Christ here in Kenya and elsewhere in the world, to take note of the following:

1. that the church body involved in this act (ELCA) is not associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya;

2. that we condemn in the strongest terms possible this unfortunate and anti-scriptural development in a church body that bears the name of the great reformer, Dr. Martin Luther;
that we condemn sexual perversion in all its manifestations;

3. that we condemn sexual perversion in all its manifestations;

4. that same sex marital union is not only contrary to God’s will as clearly expressed in the Holy Scripture, but also repugnant to the natural created social order;

5. that God's plan and purpose of marriage is fulfilled only in heterosexual (one man-one woman) lifelong commitment;

6. that this act by the ELCA constitutes a loveless and callous disregard of the spiritual condition of those caught in homosexual bondage; and

7. that, most seriously of all, it is nothing less than a denial of the transformative power of the love we know in our Savior Jesus Christ, Who seeks all sinners in order to restore them to communion with the Father through the ministrations of His Holy Spirit in Word and sacrament.

Therefore, we must confess the Word of God and be faithful to it. In the name of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to repent of its apostasy from the truth. We feel compassion for those among us who are caught in homosexual bondage and want them to know the transforming power of God’s forgiveness and love. Thus we hereby dedicate ourselves anew into the service of Him Who came to serve, us sinners, including those caught in homosexual bondage, and Who by the power of His cross and resurrection creates in us a new will to please Him in patterns of living that are chaste and pure. In saying these things, we are standing with our fellow redeemed in the great consensus of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, particularly with those church bodies in the International Lutheran Council. We acknowledge there are many Christians within the ELCA itself who are offended by the action of their church body, and we want them to be assured of our prayers and support.

Signed this 25th day of September 2009:

Rev. Bishop William Lopeta, North West Diocese
Rev. Bishop Richard Amayo, Lake Diocese
Rev. Bishop Thomas Asiago, South West Diocese
Most Rev. Dr. Walter Obare, Archbishop
Rev. John Halakhe, General Secretary

Message from the Meeting of the Baltic Lutheran Bishops

The leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania met in Tallinn on the 3rd and 4th of November, 2009 to strengthen the long experience of unity of the Lutheran churches in the Baltic countries and to pray for the fellowship among Christians of the whole world, recognizing that in our time the ties among and with Christian communities in many places are put to the test. Bishops also discussed tasks and responsibilities of their churches looking for better ways of co-operation in the future. Christian faith means living with Christ and serving one another.

Especially at times of economic difficulties when so many people have lost their external foothold and inner peace, we invite our compatriots to extend their appreciation of their Christian roots and to utilize all the spiritual wealth that is revealed in Holy Scripture and offered to everyone who turns to God and puts their trust in Christ. The present crisis of the world economy is a fruit of a long term failure to act accordingly to the principles which God has laid in the foundations of His creation. Consumerism and individualism of the modern society have taken their toll. To look for a solution only by means of mending the economy would mean to repeat the same mistake. A spiritual renewal must come first, a renewed sense of balance between rights and obligations, communion empathy, solidarity, and mutual support. We believe that the most convincing inner motivation for that change is found in an encounter of a person with the living Christ. To facilitate that encounter by word and deed is the first and foremost calling of the Christian church. Jesus Christ said: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:19-20).

The Christian community as a part of the society is not separated from issues related to the natural and human environment both locally and globally. Justice in the society, life quality of the people, or protection of our Baltic Sea against the state negligence and corporate exploitation are some of the critical examples of this area of concern. As communities gathered around the Word of God and the keepers of the Christian ethos, our churches must address the spiritual root-causes of the contemporary problems. The churches must remember that the main instrument entrusted to them by God is His word — the law and the gospel — and the service to the neighbor in charity.

We also invite our political powers to realize more clearly the spiritual dimension of the human life and the good fruits of a positive co-operation between state, municipalities, schools, and the church. Teaching and implementing Christian principles strengthen the family as well as the whole community. Liberty of conscience and freedom of speech belong to the values of society defining religious life not only as private but also as a public social right which has to be fostered. Religious education and religious studies form an inseparable part of this right.

At the present time, a common witness of churches is vitally important. Therefore, we express our deepest concern about modern tendencies that weaken the fellowship among Christians and cause divisions among churches. The recent decisions made by some member churches of the Lutheran World Federation to approve of religious matrimony for couples of the same gender and to equate such conjugal life with marriage or to ordain non-celibate homosexual persons for pastoral or episcopal office epitomize these tendencies that are tearing apart fellowship among Christians. We affirm that marriage is the conjugal life between a man and a woman and that homosexual activity is incompatible with the discipleship of Christ. We believe that in following the modern trends, churches are departing from the apostolic doctrine of human sexuality and marriage. We see the Lutheran communion and ecumenical efforts endangered by such decisions and actions because they lead to a situation where the Lutheran churches, members of the Lutheran World Federation, are not able to fully recognize each other's ecclesiastical offices, to exchange ministries and participate together in preaching the Word and celebrating the sacraments.

We call upon our Lutheran sisters and brothers to unity and co-operation based on the foundation of Holy Scripture and loyalty to the Lutheran confessions. Contemporary challenges demand a firm stand based upon timeless truths and values. The common understanding of the Gospel by churches is ^treasure we cannot afford to lose and it needs to be passed on to the current and future generations. Our mission is to be faithful in that which we have received, God's mercy. We are to serve our Lord and our neighbors thus until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph 4:13).

Archbishop of Riga, Janis Vangas, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia
Bishop of Daugavpils, Einars Alpe, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia
Bishop of Liepaja, Pavils Bruvers, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia
Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania
Archbishop Andres Poder, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
Archbishop emeritus Kuno Pajula, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
Bishop Einar Soone, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church

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