This Blog's purpose is to offer information about congregations voting to leave the ELCA. Pastor Barnhart's other Blog offers information about current news events relating to the Church and the nation. It may be found here: http://livinginthetimes.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
BISHOP HERBERT CHILSTROM’S LETTER TO THOSE LEAVING THE ELCA
PASTOR DAVID R. BARNHART RESPONDS
In an open letter to those withdrawing from the ELCA, Bishop Herbert Chilstrom, first bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), asked three questions:
1. What is it about sex that pushed you over the edge?
2. Why are you organizing new churches?
3. What will you say to your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and others in your churches when they tell you they are homosexual?
Even though Bishop Chilstrom’s questions are uncharacteristically sarcastic in tone and obviously intended to ridicule those who do not agree with him, I will attempt to answer his questions with the hope of generating more light than heat on an issue that has already caused immeasurable heartache for so many members and former members of the ELCA.
“WHAT IS IT ABOUT SEX THAT PUSHED YOU OVER THE EDGE?”
Bishop Chilstrom, it is not “sex” that has caused over 800,000 members and at least 1000 congregations to leave the ELCA since its establishment in 1988; it is the ELCA’s ongoing denial of the Bible as the inspired Word of God and its blatant attack on the teachings of Scripture. Those who have left and those who are still in the process of leaving the ELCA, including some of your own most respected theologians and former bishops, have explained this repeatedly, but you and ELCA leaders apparently are not listening. Instead, you have chosen to ridicule and insult them by suggesting some warped attitude about “sex” has prompted their leaving.
The people of the ELCA were not the ones who raised the issue of promoting homosexuality as being virtuous, nor did they raise the issue of ordaining practicing homosexuals as pastors. You, Bishop Chilstrom, and the ELCA leadership were responsible for relentlessly driving this agenda in the ELCA over the past 22 years. It was you and liberal ELCA leaders who initiated studies, costing millions of benevolence dollars, in order to reeducate ELCA members that homosexuality should be fully accepted by the church, in total contradiction to the teachings of Scripture.
Because the Bible clearly identifies homosexuality as sin and an abomination before God, (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-28; Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Jude 1:7), ELCA leaders gathered theologians and teachers to write books, papers and articles that would “prove” numerous biblical passages that identify homosexual acts as sin do not really mean what the text declares. This is clearly reminiscent of the first false teacher, Satan, who used the same tactic with Eve when he asked her: “Did God really say? (Genesis 3:1). Paul described such deceitful teachers when he wrote:
“But the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…” (1 Timothy 4:1).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and will turn from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Bishop, you and the ELCA leadership permitted the pro-homosexual lobby to bring their political agenda before the Churchwide Assembly year after year, even though it was repeatedly rejected. Your persistence paid off when the 2009 Churchwide Assembly approved a resolution that officially allows practicing homosexuals to serve as pastors. The fact is—the ELCA leadership had permitted practicing homosexuals to serve in the ELCA for years with little or no discipline being imposed on them or the congregations they served.
The resolution to sanction the ordination of practicing homosexuals was passed at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly only because ELCA Church Council drafted and backed a provision that permitted its passage by a simple majority vote instead of the customary two-thirds plurality. Had the people in the pews of the ELCA been given the opportunity to vote on ordaining practicing homosexuals as pastors, the measure would not have passed. No, Bishop Chilstrom, the issue that has “pushed” literally hundreds of thousands of former ELCA members “over the edge,” to use your words, is not sex; the issue was, is, and continues to remain the ELCA’s low view and arrogant rejection of the Scriptures.
“WHY ARE YOU ORGANIZING NEW CHURCHES?”
In answer to your second question, Bishop Chilstrom, former ELCA members have organized new church bodies and joined existing Bible-believing Lutheran churches in order to preserve our rich heritage as Lutherans. Those who have withdrawn from the ELCA have done so with heavy hearts and agonizing grief. The pain of leaving a congregation, friends and a church body in which one has worshipped, loved and labored for so many years is beyond describing. But the Scripture’s call to “obey God rather than man” supersedes loyalty to a congregation or a denomination. Once we recognized the ELCA had been hijacked by those who substitute the teachings of Scripture for socially accepted values and man-made opinions, there was no other choice. God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions instruct us to pass on to our posterity the pure Word of God and doctrines that agree with the Scriptures.
The ELCA’s low view of Scripture has not only brought about the endorsement of homosexual perversions, it has opened the door to goddess worship and a host of other false doctrines and practices. For example, the liturgy used in the Reception Service in San Francisco last August to welcome practicing homosexual pastors into the ELCA contained pagan prayers and goddess worship. Several ELCA bishops participated in the service.
You may be right, Bishop Chilstrom, that the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and the North America Lutheran Church (NALC) were established in some measure because other existing Lutheran bodies do not ordain women. The ordination of women marks a clear distinction between the LCMC, the NALC and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod, the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, the American Association of Lutheran Churches and other smaller Lutheran bodies. Even so, the LCMC and the NALC are more in agreement with established conservative Lutheran bodies than they are with the ELCA which has deliberately chosen to abandon biblical and confessional Lutheranism. Have you ever stopped to consider why it is that the ELCA has no official fellowship with any of these Lutheran bodies? Perhaps it is the ELCA’s hubris that you are altogether right, while all other Lutherans are wrong. Lutheranism does not begin and end with the ELCA.
You cannot imagine the freedom those who left the ELCA have found in any and all of these Lutheran bodies and newly established congregations. It is such a blessing not to have to spend your life fighting your own church over the authority of Scripture and correct doctrine, especially in times like these, when our nation needs churches that will stand on the solid foundation of God’s truth.
Perhaps, Bishop, there are too many Lutheran bodies in the United States today, as your question implies, but as long as the ELCA persists in departing from Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, there can never be too many Lutheran churches to lift high the banner of the truth contained in God’s Word.
WHAT WILL YOU SAY TO YOUR SONS, DAUGHTERS, SISTERS, BROTHERS AND OTHERS WHEN THEY TELL YOU THEY ARE HOMOSEXUAL?
Your question implies only you and those who agree with you have anything meaningful to say to homosexuals, while those who disagree with you do not. But let me assure you when it comes to offering help and hope to homosexuals, we have more to offer them than you and your liberal supporters.
Unlike you, we do not tell them God approves their behavior. We continue to compassionately tell our sons, daughters, sisters and brothers— We love you with all of our hearts and nothing will change that, but we can not and will not accept the lifestyle you have chosen.
To those within our churches who tell us they are homosexuals, we say—You are welcome in our congregations. But our welcome does not mean we condone your sinful behavior, nor does it mean we will permit you to serve as a pastors or as leaders in our churches. We love you enough to tell you homosexual practices are contrary to the Word of God. If you continue to embrace homosexuality or other deviant behaviors, you will bring endless grief into your life and shut yourself off from God’s grace. We love you enough to remind you that your chosen lifestyle could cause you to acquire AIDS and shorten your life. The life expectancy of a homosexual man is age 42, while the life expectancy of a heterosexual man is 75.
To all homosexuals, we say—We love you enough to tell you there is a Savior who is able to redeem, forgive and totally transform your life, if you turn to Him in faith and repentance. Don’t listen to those who tell you that you can’t change or be changed. Come to the Savior and be made whole.
YOU ARE RELIEVED TO SEE US GO
Finally Bishop, you state: “I am both sad and relieved that you are leaving. Sad, because this was not what we hoped for when the ELCA was formed 22 years ago. We believed we could be a church where we held to the essentials and allowed for differences on non-essentials. But I am also relieved. Now those of us who remain in the ELCA can get on with our primary mission of telling everyone — ‘Jesus loves you. You are welcome in this church.’”
Let me assure you Bishop, denying the teachings of the Bible and lifting up homosexuality as a virtue are not non-essentials. The Bible is clear, those who do such things “will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Yes, Bishop, we know these verses include other sinners. But thankfully, all who come to Christ by faith and repent of their sins will be washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. This truth is the very heart and soul of the gospel of salvation.
You say you are sadden but relieved to see us go, so the ELCA can get on with its primary mission—to tell everyone “Jesus loves you. You are welcome in this church.” But that is not the mission of the Church. According to the Bible the mission of the church is to teach “all things Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:20). Telling homosexuals or any other sinner “Jesus loves you,” while failing to proclaim their need of faith and repentance is to love them into hell, which is no love at all.
Our prayer Bishop Chilstrom, is that our leaving may cause you and others in the ELCA to reexamine the Scriptures and return to the pure teaching of God’s Word.