Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A new Reformation?

At the ELCA Churchwide Assembly August 8-12, 2022, in Columbus, OH, Presiding Bishop Eaton mused Is it time for another Reformation?  Perhaps she is correct but the reformation she envisions is not a true reformation of the faith, a return to the sources, a new commitment to orthodoxy.  No, what she is talking about is restructuring the way the ELCA governs itself.  In other words, shuffling the deck chairs on a sinking ship.  The root problems of the ELCA have ended up being expressed in a strange structure but that is not where they started.  The reformation that matters will not happen by tinkering with bylaws and a constitutional amended here and there.  It requires nothing less that a review of all that has been said and done since 1988 and squaring that with Scripture, repenting where it has violated Scripture's clear Word.  If that were to happen, there just might be hope for the ELCA.  But it won't.

The ELCA has structured itself not simply with synods and bishops and assemblies and rules.  It has structured itself so that it no longer lives by the Word of the Lord as the sword of truth and life.  Instead, the ELCA has time and time again replaced the clear Word of God with positions that accord with the prevailing views of liberal Christianity and a progressive culture embarrassed about talk of sin and redemption.  So what will happen?  The structure designed for a church body nearly twice its current size will be thinned out and flattened but you can be sure that the sacred minorities will retain both their influence and their bureaucracy while the rest of the church's mission will be rearranged around these essential causes (sex, gender, race, social justice, and climate change).  And the bleeding will continue until another reformation is required because even that structure is too cumbersome for those who will be left in a graying and white church body that so desperately wants to be seen as relevant by everyone except the God whose judgment matters.

Lessons learned here about but chief among them is that the renewal of the faith begins with the Word of God, with creeds and confessions faithfully written, and with an urgent commitment to uphold them when unpopular and rejected by the world around them.  The Church is not failing for lack of accommodation but precisely because the causes du jour of culture and society have replaced the Gospel as the beating heart of Christian truth and life.  Jesus is not an idea and love is not a concept and this life is not our primary focus.  Learn that and any apostate church just may have a future but cling to these ideas and there is no tomorrow except a continual downsizing and reformation of form instead of faith.   If you embody the Word, you don't need to listen to it, apparently.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The ELCA speaks of itself as a Lutheran movement in the sense of acknowledging the reality of its primarily Midwestern Norwegian and Pennsylvania German pietist heritage, but with an emphasis on “movement” as a transformation of the Gospel as the good news of the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation of the world through Christ received by repentance and faith alone into simply the gospel of God’s reconciliation of the world that liberates us to pursue progressive social causes. It’s a false gospel, of course, but brilliantly marketed as church for those who listen to NPR and are too enlightened to believe all that Christian stuff. While we in the LCMS take orthodoxy for granted and often scoff at the ELCA, it is sobering to realize that global Lutherans overwhelmingly tend to align themselves with the views of the ELCA, and not the LCMS. One wonders why this is so: that a vast majority of self-professed Lutherans are comfortable with half the gospel. There must be something deficient in orthodox Lutheranism to contemporary Lutherans. No wonder, then, that there are many in the LCMS who would desire to make us a “movement” as well, albeit an evangelical movement within the one, catholic, orthodox church. This group is very concerned with the Mass and the Augustana’s “nearly all the usual ceremonies are preserved” (but conveniently omitting that Phillip follows this assertion with a lengthy laundry list of all the ways in which the Lutherans had indeed already changed the Mass). Bishops, apostolic succession, and a threefold ministry are often looked upon enviously as real marks of the visible orthodox church. This is its own conservative version of a new Reformation, a rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The visible Evangelical Lutheran Church is the visible Church of God on earth. Those influential voices within Missouri who tacitly eschew this fact as sectarian and instead view the Western Catholic Church as the true visible Church of God of which we are but a temporarily separated evangelical movement whose existence is a “tragedy” (real views from real intellectual Lutherans) politically misunderstand and pervert our confessions mightily.