A recent Religion Service News interview, conducted by Emily McFarlan Miller, with six new female ELCA bishops shows that they are far from the center of Lutheranism or even perhaps the ELCA. They signal the tone and direction for the ELCA and it suggests that the decline suffered over the last 25 years will not be abated but even exacerbated by this path. In truth, if the ELCA continues its current rate of decline, it will cease to exist in 30 years. Yet the cost of such liberalism seems unknown to those who have been chosen its newest crop of leaders.
Lutheran laity are undoubtedly more conservative politically and theologically than their leaders, especially nationally. However, as these ELCA note, this church body's future is tied firmly to the Religious Left. Bishop Briner does admit that this future is not without conflict, or, as she put it, “We’re becoming bolder with our public witness, and I really appreciate that. And it’s not without a cost. If you look at our synods, we have a variety of political persuasions that sit in our pews, and so we recognize every time something like this happens, there’s going to be conversation about it, and it may not always be pleasant conversation.” Apparently not unpleasant enough to slow the pace of decline!
Bishop Susan Briner of Southwestern Texas Synod declared: “Because I’m telling you what, the Spirit is up to something …”
And the other bishops responded: “Amen. Yes, she is.”
And Briner said: “… if we would just let her out.”
The bishops then responded: “Let her out. Get out of her way.”
Then Briner said: “Open the doors and let her out.”
And her fellow bishops concluded: “She’s out! She is loose!”The feminine pronoun for the Holy Spirit is certainly troubling but even more shocking is the whole idea that the future lies with a radical disconnect from the past, not only in method but in doctrine and theology. In this respect, the ELCA is no different than any of the mainline Protestant liberal bodies also facing distance between pew and pulpit, decline in numbers, and an unfeigned alignment with the progressive and liberal wing of nearly everything.