Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Not good news from Down Under. . .

For some time now there has been a movement for the Lutheran Church in Australia to reconsider its stance against the ordination of women.  There has been a not so subtle movement on the part of some to advocate both officially and unofficially to review the articles of agreement and its provision not to ordain women -- something that many believe would divide the Lutheran Church in Australia.  As I reported here before, the last formal attempt to make a change did not succeed -- not because it did not have a majority in favor of the ordination of women but because it was not the super majority required to make the change.

For many, the ordination of women is one of the first steps in the rejection of what the Scriptures teach and leads, inevitably it seems, to other deafness to the Word of God, namely, the acceptance of same sex marriage, the recognition that GLBTQ orientations are as legitimate and pleasing to God as the male/female pattern of creation, and the opening of the office of the pastor to GLBTQ folks actively pursuing their sexual choices.  We saw in the ELCA how many years of acceptance of the ordination of women was followed, almost overnight, by the 2009 changes which fully embraced the GLBTQ agenda and marked a breach with Lutheranism and the catholic history that preceded it.

Now the November 2016 issue of the Australian Lutheran magazine has taken up the cause of homosexuality.  It is not the kind of stance that one would have hoped.  First of all, a couple of articles written from the vantage points of parents of gay children place the issue in the emotional tension of love for your child and acceptance of that child in every aspect of their being and what they do.  One parent ends with this:
Is it right to grant homosexual couples a sanctioned relationship, recognised as legitimate by society? Would that be sufficient? Isn't that the best we can or should do? But what if homosexual people are not a deviance from the norm, whom we feel sorry for and  compensate for as best we can? Could homosexuality in fact be one of the infinite varieties in God's created world? Is that what homosexuality is? Are we to celebrate that as a gift of God?
For now these are still questions for my family, as well as many congregational families, and the LCA. We continue to search the Scriptures for what they do say and don't say  and we listen to the best available scientific research.
As for me and my family, we believe we are called to live by faith and walk with risk in love. We would rather err on the side of helping hurting people than on hurting helpless people. And I pray to God that my son - a gentle and loving soul - won't allow the ungodly treatment he has received from some of God's misguided children to keep him from seeing the God who suffers all to seek after him.
 A second article has the same tone:

Whenever we realise that, through our actions or inactions, we are perpetrating injustice, we must work to create a better world. My hope is for Christian gay people to be free to live in the kingdom of God into which they were baptised and be active members of our church.
 The parental perspectives are placed between a brief article restating LCA beliefs:
Marriage is a divine order created by God for the good of humanity. The gift of marriage has three main parts: lifelong love and fidelity between husband and wife, the enjoyment of sexual intimacy within the context sanctioned by God, and the potential privilege and challenge of bearing and raising children. When a society, perhaps with the best of intentions, legalises committed same-sex relationships as marriage, it diminishes the
uniqueness of the life-giving male female relationship which we believe a marriage properly is. The church acknowledges the right of the state to recognise civil unions between people of the same sex and to accord them full legal recognition and rights. . . 
All Christians need to seek God-pleasing choices about the way they live their lives. Homosexual Christians will seek God's guidance for their life choices.

Some are convinced that God's will is that homosexuals live a celibate life and seek their life fulfilment without a life partner. They may see the celibate life as an opportunity to offer another form of Christian service. Others believe that God's will allows them
to express their sexual feelings in some form of intimacy, and may form a friendship in which they can do so.

It is important to remember that there are many dimensions to intimacy and commitment,
including care and support. There is spiritual and mental, emotional and social intimacy, as well as physical intimacy, and there are different expressions of physical intimacy. All of us should make responsible judgements about our sexuality, and be careful about making judgements regarding each other.
So what is wrong?  Where is the voice of Scripture?  We have heard about what some think and others see as right and wrong within the whole GLBTQ debate but the article fails to state what Scripture says.  As interesting as it might be to know what some think or others believe, we are bound not to opinion or feelings or even the painful sentiment of a parent of a gay son or daughter.  We are bound to the Word of God.  That is one perspective severely missing in this magazine and in most debates over the subject but it is the only one that really counts.  The first step to distancing yourself from Scripture is to replace the Word of God with the thoughts and feelings of people -- on any issue!  Finally, where is the voice of Luther and the Catechism?  Whatever happened to the memorized explanation of the sixth commandment?  One translation says:  We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.  An older edition says it even more clearly and bluntly to both gay and straight:  We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his wife.  Or consider from the Large Catechism: 

These commandments now [that follow] are easily understood from [the explanation of] the preceding; for they are all to the effect that we [be careful to] avoid doing any kind of injury to  our neighbor. But they are arranged in fine [elegant] order. In the firs t place, they treat of his  own person. Then they proceed to the person nearest him, or the closest possession next after his  body, namely, his wife, who is one flesh and blood with him, so that we cannot inflict a higher  injury upon him in any good that is his. Therefore it is explicitly forbidden here to bring any  disgrace upon him in respect to his wife.  201] And it really aims at adultery, because among the  Jews it was ordaine d and commanded that every one must be married. Therefore also the young  were early provided for [married], so that the virgin state was held in small esteem, neither were  public prostitution and lewdness tolerated (as now). Therefore adultery was the most common  form of unchastity among them.  202] But because among us there is such a shameful mess and the very dregs of all vice and  lewdness, this commandment is directed also ag ainst all manner of unchastity, whatever it may  be called;  203] and not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause,  incitement, and means, so that the hear t, the lips, and the whole body may be chaste and afford  no opportunity, help, or persuasion to inchastity.  204] And not only this, but that we also make  resistance, afford prot ection and rescue wherever there is danger and need; and again, that we  give help and counsel, so as to maintain our neighbor's honor. For whenever you omit this when  you could make resistance, or connive at it as if it did not concern you, you are as trul y guilty as  the one perpetrating the deed.  205] Thus, to state it in the briefest manner, there is required this  much, that every one both live chastely himself and help his nei ghbor do the same, so that God  by this commandment wishes to hedge round about and protect [as with a rampart] every spouse  that no one trespass against them.
In any case, the cause for truth and faithfulness is not yet fully won in Australia or anywhere.  Pray for our Lutheran brothers and sisters there and throughout the world that we do not cave into the pressure from culture to disregard the Scriptures and the great tradition of orthodox and faithful Christianity on this topic but remain steadfast.  We do so not with as those who judge but as those who are called to keep the judgments of God, not to harm any but to call all to repentance and faith, not to elevate our own righteousness but to proclaim the righteousness of Christ which we wear by baptism and faith and in which we are called to live.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

The Australian Lutheran church is rationalizing reasons against biblical teachings and constructing a narrative and a foundation for departing from orthodoxy. Beyond the words and euphemisms lies Satanic assault, and it is evidently working. The true believers in the world will often choose to leave such churches forever, preferring to be counted among the obscure, among the remnant, among the despised, than to live one day in an apostate church.

Christian P.J. Bahnerth said...

Our Article 2 in our AU Lutheran Constitution says clearly that the Word of God is the ONLY rule and norm for all decisions we make. Women's Ordination IS against the Word of God, it is a flagrant disobedience of the Commandments of our Lord. Sexual confusion [rather deviations] are a result of disobeying God's Holy Word. Those who disregard Article 2 are only nominal Lutherans at best and do not resonate with the practice of the True Faith. I encourage all readers to check their Constitution against the practice in their Congregation. May God have mercy on us all.

Wayne Lentsment said...

Surely, sharing God's Word, is far more important in our evangelism, than stoically arguing a "man-made" argument about the 'authority of God'. There are more important aspects in life for us as Christians to share and shout out about, including the way we honour our being made in the image of God, than tearing into one another's position on theology. I have no issues with receiving blessings, communion, pulpit communion or other service performed by any person who has their heart and mind right with their Lord and Saviour, male or female. Please consider building up our church by sharing Christ's message of love and acceptance.

Unknown said...

Dear Pastor Peters,

As a pastor of the Lutheran Church of Australia I would say that your analysis is accurate, but more needs to be said. The LCA is an institution that used to be orthodox, and is still orthodox on paper (i.e. if you look at our official, synodically endorsed teachings). At the same time, heterodox teaching is making such deep inroads into our church that it is difficult to stem the flood, and from a human perspective it is hard to see how things can turn around. Yet Christ is still Lord of the Church, and has brought about renewal within it many times before. Furthermore, the cause of biblically-faithful Lutheranism has not yet died within the LCA, and many (including many of the younger pastors) are striving to uphold it. So more than anything we need your prayers right now in difficult times.


Michael Lockwood

Joel Klein said...

Thankuou for adding your voice Pastor Peters. Michael is correct we are, on paper, confessional, and the rising tide of heterodoxy is at a head. It is also true that this latest press to remove truth and faith from the core of th LCA has been particularly strong. We are at a crossroad here, either this death throw of the boomers destroys the LCA or we return to the truth and strengthen. Pray the latter is the case!

Anonymous said...

Why are Britain and Oz such rabidly politically correct countries?