A statement released by the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) — critical of the Swedish church whose missionaries helped start his own church — has drawn a letter of support from the president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) approved altar-and-pulpit fellowship with the ELCK at its 2004 convention.
In early November, ELCK Bishop Walter Obare Omwanza was in Sweden to sign agreements with mission partners in Scandinavia. His visit coincided with a decision by the Assembly of the Church of Sweden to approve “same-sex blessings.” By taking this action, Obare said in a statement, the Church of Sweden “has put aside the Authority of the Church (Bible) and instead turned to human rationale in the name of democracy.”
In a letter to Obare, LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick wrote: “We thank God for your faithful witness, and I want you to know that your brothers and sisters in Christ in the LCMS stand together with you in defense of what the Bible teaches about human sexuality.” Citing Bible passages condemning homosexual behavior, Kieschnick emphasized the LCMS stance that marriage is a lifelong union of one man and one woman.
Kieschnick said he prays that Obare’s witness will help bring many around the world to the truth of God’s Word and will regarding sexuality. He wrote: “May your witness also lead those who have been misled regarding the use of His good gift of sex to return with repentant hearts to the Gospel of forgiveness for all sin through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.”
Both the ELCK and the Church of Sweden are members of the Lutheran World Federation.
In the past, Obare has criticized Lutherans for failing to adhere to the Bible on other issues. Acknowledging that the Lutheran church in Kenya was particularly indebted to Swedish missionaries, he has admonished the Church of Sweden for its decision to ordain women.
In his speech to the 2004 LCMS convention, Obare said, “Western liberalism has shown how intolerant it can be in dealing with those who cling, like Doctor Martin Luther, to the truth of the Bible.”
Ordination is being denied in Scandinavia and Germany to those who believe and act in accordance with the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions, according to Obare. He also told the LCMS convention, “The biblical voice of the church concerning various contemporary issues, such as abortion, marriage, euthanasia, and homosexuality, is hardly being tolerated in the media anymore.”
In late October, the Swedish Church Assembly authorized special “church blessing” ceremonies for same-sex partners, although the ceremonies will not be traditional weddings, according to Associated Press reports. The Swedish church has debated the issue since Sweden recognized civil unions for same-sex couples in 1994.
According to other news services, several hundred Swedish Lutheran priests have posted an Internet message distancing themselves from the assembly’s decision.
Posted Nov. 16, 2005