A new seven-member Task Force on Theological Implications of ELCA Human Sexuality Decisions appointed by Synod President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick is being asked to develop a “theological statement that addresses issues of biblical authority, especially in matters of human sexuality, from the perspective of our own identity as LCMS Lutherans.”
In a Jan. 6 e-mail letter appointing the task force, Kieschnick noted that he has “responded in several ways to decisions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Churchwide Assembly this past summer regarding same-gender unions and ordination of homosexual pastors,” which, along with decisions of other church bodies, “have caused consternation and confusion in many Lutheran arenas around the world.”
He recalled in the letter the following, from his speech to that assembly:
“The decisions by this assembly to grant non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA and the affirmation of same-gender unions as pleasing to God will undoubtedly cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA. It will also negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies. The current division between our churches threatens to become a chasm. This grieves my heart and the hearts of all in the ELCA, the LCMS, and other Christian church bodies throughout the world who do not see these decisions as compatible with the Word of God, or in agreement with the consensus of 2,000 years of Christian theological affirmation regarding what Scripture teaches about human sexuality. Simply stated, this matter is fundamentally related to significant differences in how we [our two church bodies] understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God’s revealed and infallible Word.”
“In the midst of the stress and disharmony within the ELCA,” Kieschnick wrote to the members of the new task force, “questions are being asked by LCMS district presidents, parish pastors, Synod and congregational leaders regarding how to respond to ELCA decisions and inquiries from ELCA people, congregations, and pastors.”
He continued that such questions could be summarized as what are “the theological and practical implications of being Lutheran” when some Lutheran churches make decisions contrary to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions; how might Lutherans who disagree with such decisions “properly and pastorally” express concerns about them; how might LCMS pastors, congregations, and members respond to contacts from those in the ELCA; and “on what theological basis” can or should the LCMS continue to be involved in inter-Lutheran cooperative ministry with the ELCA.
Kieschnick wrote that such questions “and my desire to help our congregations and pastors address this very important matter have resulted in this request for the development of a theological statement that addresses issues of biblical authority, especially in matters of human sexuality, from the perspective of our own identity as LCMS Lutherans. Production of such a statement should involve those charged with providing theological leadership in our Synod. As one of such theological leaders, I’m inviting you to address this important matter as a member of the Task Force on Theological Implications of ELCA Human Sexuality Decisions.”
He also advised those appointed to the task force to “feel free and be encouraged to seek input and counsel from others in the Synod, especially those whose ministries intersect in any way with ELCA individuals or agencies.”
Kieschnick proposed that, in addition to addressing concerns about decisions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and ongoing LCMS-ELCA relationships, the task force also “collaborate in the preparation of materials,” with three purposes:
- “To address succinctly the understanding of confessional Lutheran identity at this time and ‘who we are’ as a Synod in a transparent, invitational, and appropriate manner.”
- “To offer a brief, substantive, readable, understandable identification of and response to theological issues related to recent ELCA actions.”
- “To address theological questions and issues regarding cooperative work between LCMS and ELCA entities.”
The seven members of the new Synod task force, in alphabetical order, are Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR); Dr. Dale Meyer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; Dr. Dean Nadasdy, fourth vice president of the Synod; Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, director of church relations — assistant to the president; Rev. Larry Vogel, associate executive director of the CTCR; Dr. Dean Wenthe, president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; and Dr. John Wohlrabe, LCMS third vice president.
Kieschnick asked that the task force complete its work “by March 15 or as soon thereafter as is possible … in time for publication prior to the 2010 Synod convention.” He also asked Lehenbauer to serve as the task force’s “convener and coordinator.”
Posted Jan. 13, 2010