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August 19, 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different?: Gay Lutheran Bishop Presides at Revisionist Worship Service

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) first openly gay bishop, Guy Erwin, presided over a highly heterodox worship service on August 14, 2013, during ELCA’s 2013 Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh.  Erwin’s subsequent dismissal of the service’s doctrinal significance notwithstanding, the bishop’s presence amidst such liturgical revisionism raises disturbing questions about proper theological formation in the ELCA.

This Festival Worship took place in the Omni William Penn Hotel’s Grand Ballroom after the ELCA assembly’s events had concluded that day in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center blocks away.  For the unsuspecting churchgoer, the service’s liturgical program printed by the gay Lutheran groups hosting the worship, ReconcilingWorks and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, was jarring.  The service’s “Thanksgiving for Baptism,” for example, invokes the “triune God” not under the formulation given by Jesus in the Gospels of “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/Spirit,” but rather “Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit.”

Any adherent of orthodoxy like me, accustomed to the Anglican 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), would be flabbergasted by the program’s “Affirmation of Faith.”  This apparent reworking of Christianity’s basic statement of faith, the Nicene Creed invokes again a non-gendered “God” as opposed to the creed’s “Father Almighty” in the 1928 BCP translation.  Likewise, the God who “came to us in human form—Jesus” receives no gender designation as the “only-begotten Son of God.”

Completely absent from the affirmation is also any reference to Jesus being “crucified under Pontius Pilate” or how “on the third day” Jesus “rose again from the dead according to the Scriptures.”  The closest the affirmation comes is a mention of Jesus coming “to save a troubled world from sin and death” with the “possibility of eternal life.”  Avoiding God as patriarch once more, the affirmation makes no mention of how Jesus now sits “on the right hand of the Father” and “shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead.”

Along with the father of a non-gendered Jesus in the “Affirmation of Faith,” His mother is also absent.  Nowhere does the Festival Worship mention how Jesus “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,” a passage to which Anglicans kneel in reverence in the 1928 BCP liturgy.  Although the “Holy Spirit” appears in the affirmation as “God with us—working in and through us to make all things new,” the affirmation, of course, never mentions this spirit in conjunction with the “Father and the Son.”  Given the affirmation’s multiple deviations from the Nicaea Creed, it is perhaps just as well that the affirmation omits any common belief in “one catholic and apostolic church.”

Deviations continue in the Festival Worship’s “Adaption of the Prayer that Jesus Taught Us,” more traditionally known as the Lord’s Prayer.  Here “our Father” predictably gives way to an “Eternal Spirit” who is “Father and Mother of us all.”  Although the text incorporates the basic themes from the Lord’s Prayer, the formulation is hardly an improvement upon the original.

Scrutiny of the Festival Worship liturgy reveals a scrupulous absence of gender terms and other words.  “Father” and “mother” never appear, except in the aforementioned divine dualism.  “Son” similarly never occurs in the text, except where a reading from Isaiah 56:3-8 promises from God to “eunuchs who keep my Sabbath” a “name better than that of sons and daughters.”  The Festival Worship also entirely omits the word “Lord,” not just in the Lord’s Prayer.

Interviewed the following day in the convention center about the service, Erwin responded that the Festival Worship’s creeds and prayers were “not authorized in any official way.”  Being “very clear” about this liturgy “being an adaption” of traditional forms, Erwin stated that in Lutheran practice there is “more flexibility in form” and “often variety.”  This was “unlike Anglicanism…where there is an official” model to follow.

Questioned about the motive behind the gender-neutral language he had not authored, Erwin was not certain, but stated that the “purpose in a lot of these things is to avoid gender references.”  The “purpose of that is to keep people from feeling excluded” and to “expand peoples’ ideas of what God can be like” even as all human understandings of God are “inherently limited.”  Erwin, though, professed to “prefer the classical language of the creeds personally.”  He assumed as well that the Festival Worship participants accept traditional liturgy, something confirmed by ReconcilingWorks board member Phil Soucy, who had seen these individuals attend other services during the ELCA assembly.

Consideration of whether the Festival Worship drafters and others would seek to de-gender the entire Bible prompted Erwin to ask “how important is it to have it a particular way.”  Concerning Jesus in particular, Erwin considered it a “good question” on whether understanding Jesus as male was significant.  Jesus came “presumably as male” for Erwin, yet he did not expect to have “completely understood” Jesus’ long-discussed dual God-man nature “this side of the Kingdom.”

Mention of some congregations having created female-figured crucifixes, however, brought objection from Erwin as “taking it in the wrong place.”  Soucy as well found this matter “reduced to absurdity” with a female crucifix.  Asked to specify his objection, Erwin considered this a “good question” as well, before rejecting the “idea that we have to transpose a view of Jesus as we have traditionally received.”  It would be “much better to remove” gender “altogether from a literal image.”

Soucy found himself disturbed by the interview’s focus on gender in theology, requesting that “we try another line of questioning,” yet the concerns flowing from the Festival Worship are not trivial.  Upon being elected ELCA’s first presiding bishop in Pittsburgh, Elizabeth Eaton stated that Lutherans could withstand deep divisions over issues like human sexuality “as long as we agree on the cross of Christ.”  The Festival Worship, however, suggests that many of its homosexual supporters cannot even do that.

Not only did the crucifixion not seem significant to the Festival Worship editors, but they apparently cannot agree on Jesus’ human nature.  There is no indication in this liturgy of Jesus’ as a male son “born of woman” named Mary.  Festival Worship does, indeed, therefore, leave open for those so inclined the possibility of a female messiah suffering death upon across for human salvation.  This is a ghoulish prospect (Crucifixion as snuff film?) raising questions about whether men should ordinarily protect women.

ReconcilingWorks proclaims on the Festival Worship liturgy booklet opposition to “artificial distinctions” such as “racism, sexism, ageism, able-ism, heterosexism,” and “homophobia.”  Nonetheless, the Bible seems to see the gender distinctions involved in opposition to homosexuality as anything but artificial.  Genesis 1:27 describes God creating humanity in His image as “male and female,” with the woman taken from man being God’s specific solution to Adam’s inability to find a partner among the animals (Genesis 2:18-23).

The union of man and woman as husband and wife in turn produces “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), both in the organic sexual union of male with female and in childbearing, something later invoked by Jesus in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 19:5).  This natural family unit of husband, wife, and children also appears in the Fifth of the Ten Commandments with the call for children to “honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12).  This commandment appears on the first tablet of commandments treating the relationship between man God, as the Anglican evangelical John Stott analyzed, for God’s full image in husband and wife represents the divine to a child.

Gender plays significant roles elsewhere in the Bible.  The New Testament analogizes the relationship between Jesus and the church to a husband and wife (e.g. Mark 2:19).  Jesus sacrifices unto death for the church the same way the apostle Paul calls upon a husband to sacrifice for his obedient wife (Ephesians 5:22-33).  Both the Old Testament narrative of God calling upon Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Genesis 22:19) and the New Testament’s parable of the forgiven Prodigal Son (Luke 15:10-32), meanwhile, with their evident parallels in God’s behavior, suggest God as a father.  One assembly participant in Pittsburgh insightfully explained, moreover, that the full extent of fatherly compassion towards the Prodigal Son is not understandable absent an understanding of how Jewish fathers in Jesus’ time would have normally behaved.  The father running to receive the Prodigal Son, for example, would have revealed his legs, something deeply embarrassing in ancient Israel.

Several more orthodox Lutherans at the assembly were aghast to see the Festival Worship program with its theological liberties.  For these individuals, Erwin’s non-canonical understanding of the service was unavailing.  Along with other means of religious instruction, liturgy, however varied, should reflect sound, unitary doctrine for everyone alike.  In particular, the Nicene Creed demanded significant theological efforts, both in its formulation at the 325 Council of Nicaea in Asia Minor and later defense against challenge, while the New Testament recounts the Lord’s Prayer coming from Jesus Himself.  In this context, Festival Worship’s amateur hour gay improvisation is simply not acceptable.

Elected in Pittsburgh as ELCA’s first female presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton described her fellow ELCA clerical novelty Erwin to the Huffington Post online as “one of our most faithful and also scholarly confessional theologians.”  Erwin is a “faithful minister of the Gospel and a great voice to explain the Lutheran way of looking at things” and his election in way signified an attempt “to catch a wave in popular culture.”  Notwithstanding Erwin’s universally recognized erudition, Festival Worship visitors could easily have overlooked Eaton’s assessment.

As subsequent reporting will show, moreover, Festival Worship’s rejection of gender and other deviations from norms was hardly unique amidst ReconcilingWork’s events throughout the assembly.  Once homosexuals like Erwin reject standards for their own sexual and lifestyle behavior, they apparently will have little compunction about constructing a theology to match.  Given such revisionism, the 2013 Churchwide Assembly’s slogan of “Always Being Made New” takes on a whole new, disturbing meaning.  Yet the wisdom of Luke 5:39, cited by the Festival Worship, will ultimately prove true:  “People never want new wine after they’ve been drinking the old.  They say, ‘We like the old better.’”


  • Pr. Mark Schroeder

    I am currently a pastor in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod but for 26 years I was an ELCA pastor. The heretical service described is just the fait accompli of an almost Biblical generation of gender inclusive language, inclusivity, denial of the Atonement, etc. I/we fought it all for years. I only take exception to part of your title, Now for something completely different. What is “completely different” ala John Cleese is orthodox, faithful liturgy, with the same in preaching and catechesis: has been and will be.

    • Andrew E. Harrod

      That would actually be refreshing today, I agree.

  • Ray Bannister

    How exactly can he be a “faithful minister of the gospel” when living an openly immoral life?

    Has anyone noticed how Political Correctness operates? Some group wants to prove how liberal it is, so it fills a quota – ethnic minority, woman, gay – then proceeds to laud the person to the skies – oh, he’s one of our BEST theologians! Why can’t they be honest: We’re filling a quota here. The Episcopalians have a gay bishop, now we do too. So that make us good people.

  • Pr. Thomas J. Clark

    “Elizabeth Eaton described her fellow ELCA clerical novelty Erwin to the Huffington Post online as ‘one of our most faithful and also scholarly confessional theologians.'”

    What a statement. To be confessional means that you hold to the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as found in the Book of Concord (1580). Yet by using and adulterated Nicene Creed (Affirmation of Faith) Erwin has shown that he is anything but confessional. (The three ecumenical creeds are the very first confessions in the Book of Concord.)
    The service that Erwin presided over is also in conflict with numerous articles of the Augsburg Confession (i.e. Article I [God], Article III [The Son of God], Article IV [Justification]).
    For Elizabeth Eaton to call Guy Erwin ‘Confessional’ twists the meaning of confessional beyond any recognition.

  • Dr. John Belcher Th.D.

    The recent election of the gay Bishop and now the first female Bishop have me looking for a new church close to home and FAR from an ELCA congregation…….

    Although I joined and LCA church when I was about 20 years old, a good old fashioned Missouri Synod congregation sure looks warm and fuzzy to me now !! I hate to leave my church, but it seems my congregation doesn’t agree with me about gay ministers and female leaders, I feel like the only person that doesn’t like it…………

    Reading this article about the group that butchered Holy liturgy to make it gay friendly makes me SICK…………

    The end is near for the politically correct ELCA…….

    • Lou Flessner

      Well Dr. Belcher, if warm and fuzzy is what you are looking for, you ought not be following the Lord Jesus, at least in my opinion. The Jesus of Holy Scripture won’t appeal to you at all.

      • Tim Vernon

        Sounds to me like Mr. Belcher left the ELCA precisely because he no longer found the Jesus of Scripture there. He found it impossible to share the pews with people who didn’t care that their church had been co-opted for the use of the political left, so he found something better. Many of us have made that transition and have no regrets. The left church is the left behind church.

  • Didaskalos

    The ELCA is just following the tortuous circumlocution of its previous, quintessentially PC presiding bishop. “Pastor Eric” notes: “The prize for not using a pronoun for God has to go to Bishop Mark Hanson, who recently said in a statement to the ELCA News Service, ‘You can bet your life that God will be faithful to God’s promise, because God bet the life of Jesus on God’s faithfulness…’ It seem to me that Bishop Hanson should use a pronoun when Bishop Hanson speaks about God or Bishop Hanson might confuse Bishop Hanson’s listeners.”

    Resolutions we apparently overlooked from the recently concluded ELCA national convention:

    1. Since the presiding bishop of the ELCA has written in an open letter to Muslims, Christians and Jews that they all worship one God, be it resolved that the ERSV (ELCA- Revised Standard Version) henceforth strike all references to “Jehovah” and “Yahweh” and replace them with “Allahovah.” All references to “the LORD” will henceforth be expanded in the ERSV to “the LORD Allahovah.”

    2. Since ELCA seminary professors and other ELCA feminists have discovered that Jesus is female, be it resolved that all future ERSV references to “Jesus Christ” be stricken and replaced with “Jesus Christ/a.” Be it further resolved that all masculine noun and pronoun references to Jesus in the ERSV be changed to feminine nouns and pronouns. [ http://www.exposingtheelca.com/1/post/2011/02/idolatry-in-the-elca-christ-sophia-mass.html ]

    3. Since WELCA and other ELCA feminist luminaries have discovered that the appellation “Holy Spirit” is ever-expansive, be it resolved that all future ERSV references to “Holy Spirit” be expanded to “Holy Spirit/Asherah/Sophia/[Insert name of your favorite feminist goddess here].”

    • Kay Glines

      I attended a college (supposedly “Christian”) that had a Christa sculpture in its library. The college shut down a few years ago. Lots of that type of college will shut down eventually.

  • Andrew Plath

    Thank God I am an LCMS Lutheran.

  • Warren Malach

    While I agree with the sentiments of the writer, as a Lutheran who was once Episcopalian I found it mildly irritating that the writer used the 1928 BCP as the standard by which to judge the so-called “liturgy” of the sodomite-supporting ELCA apostates from orthodox Christianity. The 1928 BCP is a mutilation of the historic Western Church liturgy by Reformed Church Protestants which, among other “revisions,” put the Gloria in Excelsis at the end of the service as a Post-Communion canticle. As for kneeling during the Nicene Creed, I defy the writer to demonstrate how that action is incorporated into either the text or rubrics of the Creed, as opposed to being a tradition among “High Church” Anglicans. The writer displays a marked ignorance of liturgical history and cannot distinguish between what are liturgical direction and what are traditions, errors which could cause some readers to dismiss the argument of the article.

    • Bart Gingerich
    • Andrew E. Harrod

      I understand that kneeling during the Marian passage in the Nicene Creed is not part of the creed itself, but is a sign of reverence for the incarnation. Disputes over the 1928 BCP aside, I use this liturgy’s incorporation of the Nicene Creed with which I am familiar as a point of reference for comparing the Festival Worship’s ad hoc adaptations.

      • Greg Paley

        Esoterica like this makes it a pleasure to be a free-church Protestant. Like C. S. Lewis (an Anglican, btw), I have zero interest in the finer points of liturgy and fail to see what any of it has to do with love of God and love of neighbor. I have a hunch that bells-n-smells people are a lot more persnickety about standing, kneeling, etc, than God is.

        • Andrew E. Harrod

          I enjoy the intricacies of the Anglican liturgy for how it involves the whole person in worship and its detailed, symbolic beauty. I do not think that, nor want, such liturgical detail to detract from love. Such liturgical detail fills me with joy and reverence. But I understand that this is not for everyone.

          • Greg Paley

            Good response. What’s the word Melanchthon used – “adiaphora”? We can disagree politely on some matters. Although I’m Protestant, I have a heck of a lot more in common with an orthodox RC than I do with any leftwing Protestant. “Many mansions,” and all that.

      • Warren Malach

        Your “point of reference” for this travesty of a “Lutheran” liturgy not being “Lutheran” only displays your ignorance of Lutheran liturgy and even of liturgy in general, since you can’t even distinguish between what is “liturgy” and what is a “tradition” which some have attached to the recitation of the Nicene Creed in the liturgy. Aren’t there any LUTHERANS who could have been consulted in the writing of this piece? I thought that journalists were supposed to be able to move BEYOND that with which they were “familiar” in order to convey information to their audience.

  • Scott Alan Johnson

    Wow, you people really need to get over yourselves. “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” Tend to your own houses. I, for one, would rather be in a church that welcomes Bishop Erwin and acknowledges his many gifts for ministry. I’m as proud to be an ELCA pastor today as I have been since I was ordained in this church in 2003.

    • Tim Vernon

      Do you have some issues with freedom of speech?

      The usual liberal way of dealing with criticism: “Why don’t you people just shut up?”

  • Don Carlson

    So, why does this bother you so much? If you don’t like this sort of thing, then don’t go. Personally, I don’t care too much for the gender neutral gymnastics either; but who appointed you grand inquisitor? Move on.

    • Greg Paley

      Does that cut both ways? Who appointed you grand inquisitor? Even an “assistant to the bishop” does not have the right to override the Bible, or mock it, or mock people who try to live by it.

  • Mark J. Goluskin

    The writer points to the 1928 BCP which means he is an Anglican/Episcopalian. So tell me, are you familiar with All Saints “Church” in Pasadena, California? I often refer to it as All Socialists. And believe me if you want a revised, and I am being kind, liturgy that is non-sensical, this is the place. I went to a service about 8 years ago because it is closer than my home parish. It was the last time and I will never go back. So this revisonism in the ELCA is not surprising. It invokes from me this. What took so long?!

    • Andrew E. Harrod

      Yes, the Episcopal Church would not surprise me either today with its “innovations.”

  • Pastor Jim

    I too was an ELCA pastor, now, happily serving in the LCMS. I wrote about my personal decision to leave in an LCMS publication…and caught a lot of flak from it (mainly from current ELCA members). My contention was that the ELCA, in ordaining and allowing same sex blessings, had taken God’s Word and put it on the bench, to be replaced by their starters.

    And who are the starters for the ELCA today? Emotion, anecdote, capitulation to the culture, sentiment and a distorted view of equality. (There may be more but to fit into my basketball metaphor I needed only 5 players.) Scripture is crystal clear on the issue of homosexuality and fornication. God’s Word forbids any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Hearing and obeying God’s Law in regard to sexuality doesn’t make us perfect, but at minimum it means that we cannot place God’s blessing on something His Word clearly condemns.

    This continual downward spiral was predictable and expected. It will continue…I just await an official proclamation from the ELCA that the literal resurrection of Jesus is not a necessary element of faith.

  • Bill Pavuk

    Wow. I expect brothers and sisters in some of the fundamentalist churches to conflate a creative re-imagining of the Trinity in one worship service with a new denominational mandate. I don’t expect it from a site that touts ecumenism in its title. Must be a slow news week, religiously speaking.

    • Adrian Croft

      Judging from several recent posts, “conflate” must be a favorite buzzword among liberal clergy.

      Since you are in charge of “evangelism” in your ELCA congregation, how is that working out? Gaining new members? Retaining old ones? It’s a serious questions. Liberal clergy like to chide the “fundamentalists,” but I’ve often found it’s rooted in envy, since the more conservative churches grow, the liberal ones shrink.

      Some of us prefer “evangelical,” but in the real sense, as in “gospel-centered,” which is not what it means for the ELCA. Their use of “E” ought to make them liable for a false advertising suit.

      • Didaskalos

        The Ersatz Lutheran Church in America has been tanking year in and year out since its inception in 1987.

        According to statistics compiled by the ELCA Office of the Secretary and available on the church’s website [ http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-Services/News/Resources/Stats.aspx ], ELCA congregations lost 483,252 members in 2010 and 2011 (the most recent year for which such figures are available**). Also in those two years, the number of ELCA congregations dropped by 710.

        **[UPDATE August 2013] Membership losses for 2012 have finally been posted and can now be found in the Secretary’s Report within the Pre-Assembly Report that is available on the ELCA website. Page 22 of that report shows the baptized membership of the ELCA at the close of 2012 to be 3,964,474 in 9,540 congregations, a loss of 95,311 members and 98 congregations for the year.

        The ELCA in 1987: 5,288,048 members and 11,133 congregations.

        The ELCA today: fewer than 4 million members and fewer than 10,000 congregations. More than 25 percent of ELCA members have bailed out of Babylon on Higgins Road

        • Greg Paley

          “Ersatz”! I like that! They can retain the E in the name, plus it’s a good German word, perfect fit to the Lutheran tradition, although that’s a tradition they seem intent on destroying.

        • Jeremy Long

          I don’t think that’s appropriate, calling the ELCA headquarters “Babylon.”

          Try “Sodom.”

  • Laura Hall-Schordje

    Are all the people of all nations now disciples, baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? They must be, if all these church folk have nothing better to do than criticize other churches. Maybe it is time to follow the imperative Christ gave us and stop gossiping about our neighbors.

  • Ray Bannister

    Your pro-gay posts have shown up on several websites. Certainly you have the right as a citizen to expression your opinions. However, as clergy in a denomination that is (in theory) Christian, you have no right to twist the clear, unequivocal teaching of the Bible AND Christian tradition on the ethics of sex. It is hardly “gossip,” as you put it, to defend the Bible and Christian tradition. However, that accusation might well fall into the category of “slander.” It is wrong for churches to condone homosexual behavior. It is also, on the more mundane level, a surefire way to hasten the decline in the ELCA’s membership. Support for the various forms of sexual vice is consistently higher among the clergy than the laity in the mainlines, which suggests that Lutheran School of Theo and other liberal seminaries seem to be churning out graduates devoted not to Christ but to the Democratic party platform. Thanks to websites like this, the word about the mainlines is getting out to the laity, and the exodus continues with no sign of stopping. Perhaps when you used the word “gossip,” you meant “telling the laity the truth about the ELCA’s abandonment of Christianity.” Liberal clergy seem to spend a great deal of time signing various manifestoes testifying to their political agenda. This is not the duty of pastors. One of your posts (direct quote here) is “our churches are focused on personal morality to the detriment of ministry.” My response: “your churches are focused on liberal politics to the detriment of the parishioners, who are precious in the eyes of God.”

    • Scott Alan Johnson

      Ray, I humbly disagree. My LGBT friends who are finally welcome to serve in this church read the Bible as faithfully as those who uphold a traditional understanding of marriage and sexuality. They are as Christian as those who interpret scripture as you do.

      There is no “clear, unequivocal teaching of the Bible AND Christian tradition on the ethics of sex.” To the contrary, within scripture there are several patterns of sexuality and marriage given implicit approval – Abraham and his maidservant Hagar, Jacob and his two wives, Solomon and his harem are three who come to mind without even needing to crack open a Bible. And unless you’re as dedicated to upholding the rest of the proscriptions listed in the holiness codes of Leviticus, I hardly think you’ve got a leg to stand on when it comes to insisting there’s a clear stand. Go ahead, put down that cheeseburger and check them out. I’ll wait.

      The fact of the matter is, membership decline and our embrace of our LGBT brothers and sisters are only tangentially related. Yes, many have left the ELCA. That’s true without a doubt. But many have joined in response to our welcome. Our local congregation gained more than it lost after 2009. As to your belief we’re all just sitting here writing political manifestos, well, I did vote for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, but beyond that I’ve just been doing my job. Preaching. Teaching. Visiting the sick. Tending to my community. Have fun trying to find a deeper truth than that in our church. I pity those of you who think this is part of an agenda – you’re going to spend a lot of time looking for what’s not there. We are a church seeking to be faithful to God’s Holy Spirit among us.

      • Greg Paley

        Campus pastors are always the first to cave in to any trend (or, more accurately, to the loudest and most obnoxious pressure groups on campus), so naturally they are always furthest left in their denominations. This is regrettable, as college kids certainly need spiritual guidance from a mature Christian, but instead the reverse happens, the spineless pastor abandons the faith and panders to the kids so as to be accepted by them. This is an occupational hazard of working with youth, the desire to appear “cool.” I suppose people in such positions think that if they talk and act like college kids, they will not age.

        Your references to Abraham, Hagar, Solomon, Leviticus are familiar dodges used by the religious left. It might work with a gang of drunk college kids, but Christian adults know better than to fall for this nonsense. Yes, polygamy and concubinage existed in OT times. There is not one hint in the NT that those practices were tolerated by Christians. To any pastor who condones sexual immorality, the obvious question is: Who is a more authoritative spiritual guide – you, or Paul? Your bevy of Politically Correct students would, naturally, opt for their cool pastor over Paul. But what Ray Banister said earlier is very true, the ethical teaching of the NT in regard to sex is quite clear. You may think the Holy Spirit guided you to some new revelation, so you can tell students to do whatever floats their boat, but somehow I can’t picture the Spirit doing that. Your student pals may get the impression that the Spirit has a voice that echoes their own sexual urges.

        As for Leviticus, it’s quite clear that the first Christians did not adhere to the kosher laws, laws on sacrifice, or the other rituals, nor have any Christians since. How did someone manage to graduate from a Lutheran seminary and not have any feel at all for the role of tradition in the church. Your snide remark about cheeseburgers is very childish, but that’s to be expected from someone who spends their days with very immature people. Yes, Christians eat cheeseburgers because there’s no precedent for Christians abiding by the food laws in the OT, but they have tried to abide by the moral teachings. By the way, since you have such deep affection for you “gay brothers and sisters,” there are larger issues than cheeseburgers. AIDS is no longer a death sentence, but it’s still being spread at an alarming rate. You don’t exactly sound like a pro-celibacy type of guy, so in condoning your gay pals’ promiscuity, you are condoning the spread of the AIDS virus to numerous partners, and some of them will end up dying from the disease, and most will end up on drug regimens for the rest of their lives, a cost borne not just by themselves but by everyone who has to pay for insurance, myself included. Sorry, but I can’t apply the tag “brother” to people who behave that selfishly, nor to any clergyman who condones it.

        I had a friend who directed one of the Wesley Foundations, until he got caught in a “situation” with two of the female members, but of course, the Methodists did the usual thing, moved him on to another post. I guess that’s the pleasure of being a mainliner, absolutely wide open about adultery, and zero risk of being disciplined by fellow clergy. Your new gay bishop is certainly in the right place.

        • Scott Alan Johnson

          Greg, if you really think and believe in the way you just described, I genuinely pity you. You really couldn’t be more wrong about me, what I believe, how I conduct my office, how I interpret scripture, how my LGBT friends live their lives and their faith, how my church would react to sexual impropriety with students (good heavens, do you really think that’s how it works? If I or a colleague had done such a thing, we wouldn’t have seen a church office ever again)…the list goes on and on.

          I should have known better. It’s been a while since I ventured into this part of the church. This dark, awful place where fear and despair allow people to believe the lie that anything goes in the ELCA. That all gay people are promiscuous and evil. That anyone whose mind and heart have been changed is simply “giving in” in an effort to be cool. I wasn’t cool ten years ago when I believed as you do. I’m not cool today after having been changed by the Holy Spirit and the faithful witness of hundreds of LGBT Christians who are now welcome to serve faithfully in my church. But I am grateful to be here.

          I’m proud to call Bishop Erwin and his partner “brothers in Christ.” Ditto R and R, good friends from seminary who have been together for over ten years and show no sign of ever breaking the covenant they’ve made with each other.

          They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. My church has made a place for them. I will stand with them. Against you, if I must. God have mercy on us all.

          • Greg Paley

            I don’t consider my faith to be a “dark awful place,” but I expect that from the left. You don’t see traditional Christians as we are, you see what the secular left tells you to see. Trying to live a decent life in an immoral world is not “dark” or “awful,” but it is challenging, especially since we get slandered not just by people with no religion, but people who wear (inappropriately) the name Christian.

            If you think your gay bishop and his “partner” are even remotely monogamous, you are unbelieably naive, and I imagine the gay activists do a lot of snickering over how the leftwing clergy get sucked in by the loving-couple propaganda. The usual setup is the “open” relationship, in which case there is no “cheating,” so your gay pals don’t mean the same thing by “committed” that most straight couples mean.

            Give your church ten years and its clergy will be beating the drum for “intergenerational relationships,” so maybe you can throw your support behind the first middle-aged bishop cohabiting with his ten-year-old “partner.” Yeah, it sounds far-fetched right now – but who, even ten years ago, could have imagined Christian ministers getting all excited to push for marrying two men or two women?

            I don’t know how people like you live with yourselves. Did it ever cross your mind, even once, that you might be wrong on this issue? Because, otherwise, you’re taking the position that every Christian who lived prior to, oh, 1970, was completely wrong. I feel very sorry for those hormone-addled students who look to you as some fount of wisdom, and all you do is approve of whatever sexual practice they care to engage in, as long as they recycle and vote Democratic.

            Maybe in time all the liberal seminaries in Chicago will go the same route as Seabury-Western: extinct. I wouldn’t count on the ELCA even existing in 20 years, except they and the Episcopagans and some of the others will probably merge into some United Church of America. Maybe they will elect themselves a pedophile archbishop and congratulate themselves for their inclusiveness. Meanwhile, the Christians will be gathering elsewhere looking for spiritual nurture that they don’t find from the churches that forgot all about God.

      • Andrew E. Harrod

        As various Jewish scholars have noted, polygamy in the Old Testament always results in problems, suggesting through a critical reading that polygamy is merely something that existed in this period, but not pleasing to God. The first mention of a polygamist in Genesis, Chapter 4, involves a murderer. This is not a good recommendation. King Solomon also became a polytheist as he became a polygamist through the adoption of his wives’ gods. This continues the Bible’s continual analogy of monotheism with monogamy. Does your acceptance of polygamy in the Old Testament suggest that you would like to revive polygamy alongside the novelty of same-sex “marriage,” as many free sex advocates have supported?

        A basic theme of the New Testament, furthermore, is that Christians are no longer subject to the religious laws of the Mosaic code completed by Jesus’ crucifixion. The moral law, though, continues, and even has its implications fully explicated by Jesus’ discussion during the Sermon on the Mount.

        • Greg Paley

          Correct. The Leviticus smoke screen has been used by the liberals so long that it’s become tiresome. I have to wonder if they even read the New Testament, because it’s quite clear that the first Christians did not abide by the ceremonial laws of the Torah. Biblical illiteracy is one of the main reasons that liberalism made any inroads into the churches. The laity simply don’t know the Bible (partly the fault of the clergy, obviously) and thus tend to believe whatever any liberal pastor says. One of the pleasures of attending my own evangelical church is that the average layman our pews knows the Bible far better than most liberal clergy do, although that probably qualifies as damning by faint praise. It appears that much of the seminarians’ time is spent not in studying how to apply the Bible but how to deconstruct it. Pull the financial plug on the seminaries.

  • Valerie Hurst

    The reason the mainline churches get so giddy over something like the appointment of a gay bishop is that there is not much else for them to celebrate. The ELCA has been in decline for decades and the clergy and bureaucrats remain committed to their political religion in spite of its obvious effect on the numbers. If you’ll pardon the analogy, it’s like the house is on fire so the owners decide if they put up new wallpaper, everything will be fine. Yes, you’ve got an openly gay bishop – but the Big Problem with the ELCA is not going away.

  • Doug

    And why not?

    We are now very, very intelligent. We can split atoms. We can sequence DNA. We can peer into the universe, travel to the moon, send robots out of the solar system, build colliders, transplant organs, build tall buildings. Who has seen God do ANY of these things? No one, I tell you.

    And so, why would ANYONE think we should be constrained by the Word of God? We are smarter! God should adhere to OUR word.

    Great call …. ELCA. Let’s just hope God can read.

  • Alex Soderberg

    As someone who visits this site frequently, I’ve noticed that this article has generated more responses from liberal clergy than any previous article on the ELCA, and some of the responses have been, to put it mildly, vehement. Working on the assumption that people get riled up about what they take seriously – or, to put it theologically, what they hold sacred – then it appears that having a gay bishop is something that the theo-left regards as a sacred cause. So I get the impression that they have serious doubts about things that used to be considered dogma – such as the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, the Last Judgment – but they are totally and unashamedly dogmatic about gay clergy. Did Jesus rise from the tomb? Umm, well, maybe. Does God want gay men to serve as bishop? Absolutely!

    Maybe it’s just me… does the theo-left honestly, truly think that Jesus Christ, if he could speak to us directly, would tell us “I want you to promote men who sleep with men to high office in the church and treat them as spiritual authorities.”

    Really??

    • Scott Alan Johnson

      In a word, Alex, yes. But I think he’d say more. I think he’d say, “I want you to promote people who are faithful to their partners to high office in the church and treat them as spiritual authorities. And I want you to stop obsessing about what they do in the bedroom. Life is about far more than sex.”

      • Greg Paley

        The only reason conservatives are “obsessing” about what goes on in the bedroom is that the left shoves it in our faces constantly. This is a pot-calls-kettle-black scenario. Every time we turn around we’re being asked to condone aberrant behavior that is clearly not Christian, so, yeah, we do have to deal with sexual issues because the left never shuts up about them. It’s pretty clear which side has sex on the brain.

    • Kevin Spencer

      Alex, you posed the rhetorical question, “Did Jesus rise from the tomb?” That’s awfully theological. Let’s try a simpler question, such as “Was Jesus a man or a woman?” “Jesus came ‘presumably as male’ for Erwin” (see article, paragraph 10). In other words, Erwin thinks Jesus was a male, but it’s just anybody’s guess. We can’t rely on the testimony of Jesus’ disciples concerning a matter so abstruse as male vs. female. And therefore we can’t rely on their testimony concerning anything else. This is the judgment of a man Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton describes as “one of our most faithful and also scholarly confessional theologians” (paragraph 18).

  • Paul Zesewitz

    I believe in gay rights just like any other person. I am not the person to judge whether that lifestyle is wrong–God is. And so I will just pose a simple question–do ELCA ministers give any authority whatsoever to Leviticus 18 and most notably verse 22? ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; this is an abomination’. Apparently not. How sad. Last time I checked, Leviticus was just as much a part of the Word of God as is the rest of the Bible, to include the New Testament! I hear lots of ministers say that Jesus came to earth to basically abolish anything written in the Old Testament, and therefore the book of Leviticus should not be taken literally. Now that’s a good one, I have to remember that and just laugh, because as many times as Jesus QUOTES the Old Testament, I know that simply isn’t true. You ELCA ministers had better wake up and smell the coffee! If you’re a more conservative one who still believes in the Word of God, all of it, then it would behoove you, too, to move to the LCMS.