a few days before the synod in the Vatican Gardens there was this things described as an “indigenous ecological ritual.” The “ritual” included a male fertility totem with a distinctively male and erotic profile. In attendance was what appeared to be a surprised Pope Francis. Though he watched at a distance, it was rather obvious that he was uncomfortable. This was only confirmed when he decided to skip his prepared remarks and left the whole affair abruptly after the Lord’s Prayer.
Why was Francis surprised? He had given every indication that this Synod was wide open to consider that may be considered emergency measures but which will diverge from the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. These are things such as allowing married men to be priests, perhaps instituting a female diaconate, and giving precedence to the indigenous culture over the culture of the faith itself. Now you can argue these points and that is not my point but rather I have a question. Why was Francis surprised by all of this? After all, was it not Francis who opened the door in the first place?
Let me move another direction. There are many, some of them I count as friends, who are in distress over the direction of the ELCA. But why are they surprised? After all, the door to these changes was opened long ago, was it not? When in a somewhat backdoor method, the Lutherans in the old ALC and LCA began ordaining women in 1970, they did so without a compelling defense of this action that could be substantiated from Scripture, the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the larger catholic tradition. It was, by all accounts, a distinct breach from the historic and nearly universal understanding and practice of the Lutheran Church prior to that day. Yet it was determined that a larger purpose was at work than fidelity to the doctrine and practice of the faith that went before them.
So when in 2009 the Church Wide Assembly broke with historic doctrine and practice again to open the ELCA to same sex marriage, to the full incorporation of the GLBTQ+ agenda, and to the radical altering of the requirements for ordination and practice of pastors, should anyone have been surprised? It is my opinion that this did not represent a serious detour from the direction charted first generation after generation before this action took place. Indeed, the seeds were laid a long time ago when the Gospel was lifted from its basis in fact and history, when the Gospel became a principle more than a message of Christ and Him crucified and risen, when culture became a voice and a prominent voice in what the Church says and does, and when it was determined that creativity was more important than fidelity. Why were people surprised by this in 2009? That remains my question to those who are uncomfortable with these decisions and those who left to form new church bodies that rolled back time to an ELCA just prior to 2009.
The liberal or progressive direction was long ago set when these seeds were sown and to be surprised at where it has led is to be blind to the consequences and implications of those choices. So Pope or Lutheran or whatever kind of Christian you might be, do not cry out with surprise when liberalism and progressivism refuses to be bound and limited by any artificial constraints. The genie is out of the bottle, folks. You may not have wanted to see this coming but that does not mean you should be surprised that there is no limit to where these things will lead. Any, by the way, we have not seen the end of it all. Change is even now being fomented which will make even the things mentioned here seem moderate.