ORLANDO, Fla.– Synod President Gerald B. Kieschnick told the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s 2005 Churchwide Assembly here Aug. 12 that “all too often” the two church bodies “do not come to the same conclusions regarding what we understand the Scriptures and Confessions to say.”
“It is clear we have reached different conclusions in a number of areas of faith and life, church and ministry, internal and external relationships,” he said.
“Decisions made by LCMS national conventions and decisions made by ELCA churchwide assemblies are apparently reflective of different exegetical principles and hermeneutical conclusions at work in our respective church bodies.”
“It is imperative that we always strive to adhere to the Word of God in all aspects of faith and life, also in times of discord and discontent,” Kieschnick said in his greetings to the assembly. “To that end,” he continued, “we in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod sincerely desire to be faithful to the Word of God in our life and work, both internally and externally. This includes our working relationships with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We will continue to strive to be faithful, by the grace of God and under the authority of God’s Word as the rule and norm of the Christian faith and life. We encourage you and we pray for you in your efforts to do the same.”
“We humbly and respectfully pray that we will be able to come to harmonious conclusions regarding the authority and interpretation of the Word of God, so that the distance between us will not be widened, but will be bridged,” Kieschnick told the assembly.
As Kieschnick stepped to the podium to give his greeting from the Synod, the assembly had just finished acting on three proposals from the ELCA Church Council that dealt with homosexuality — clearly its most controversial business. Those proposals grew out of recommendations from the ELCA’s Studies on Sexuality Task Force.
The assembly adopted the first recommendation, 851-127. It urges the ELCA to “concentrate on finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements.”
Voting members passed (670-323) the second recommendation that asks the church body to “continue to respect the guidance of the 1993 statement of the [ELCA] Conference of Bishops” opposing “establishment of an official ceremony” for blessing a homosexual relationship. Earlier, the assembly amended the proposal, removing a reference that the ELCA “trust pastors and congregations to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care to same-sex couples.” Although the final motion reiterated the church’s welcome to gay and lesbian people, the amendment referred to the church’s trust in pastors and congregations “as they discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care for all to whom they minister.”
The assembly defeated the third recommendation by a vote of 490-503. Requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, it would have set up a process for a person living in a committed long-term homosexual relationship to pursue an exception to current ELCA policy on rostered church leaders.
Earlier this year — after the ELCA task force issued its report and recommendations to the church council — Kieschnick signed a statement along with other Missouri Synod leaders stressing that Scriptural authority is the basic issue in dealing with the blessing of same-sex unions and qualifications for professional ministries.
The Synod statement said that the Bible clearly identifies homosexual behavior as sinful and that the authority of Scriptures also guides consideration of other moral and ethical questions.
Among other actions during the Aug. 8-14 assembly, voting members approved initiating “Interim Eucharistic Sharing” with the United Methodist Church, by a vote of 877-60.
The ELCA, with 4.9 million members, and the Missouri Synod, with 2.4 million members, are North America’s largest Lutheran church bodies.
To read the text of Kieschnick’s greeting to the 2005 ELCA Church-wide Assembly, go to www.lcms.org/ ?8623 on the Web. To download the Synod’s statement in response to the ELCA’s Studies on Sexuality Task Force and a March 30 “pastoral letter” from Kieschnick about that response, go to www.lcms.org/?7847.
Posted Sept. 2, 2005