The formal adoption of "Called To Common Mission" (CCM), an action taken by the voting members of the 1999 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), occasions this statement of confessional protest.
At issue, we believe, is, not only the relationship between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), but, even more importantly, the continuing commitment of the ELCA to be a denomination faithful to its own "Confession of Faith" as stated in its constitution and faithful to the Lutheran Confessions as found in The Book of Concord. At stake is the ELCA's continuing commitment to a Lutheran understanding of the nature of the church, of authority for ministry and ultimately of the sufficiency of Christ alone to create and to sustain Christian unity. At stake is the very way in which we deal with one another under the Gospel.
Because these are the issues, we find it necessary to state in as clear a way as possible the following reasons for opposing the adoption and implementation of CCM and for taking a stand of confessional protest against it.
The First Reason: Agreement in ceremonies should not be required for Christian Unity.
In accord with the Holy Scriptures and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lutheran Confessions teach that "it is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places." (Augsburg Confession, Art. VII). But CCM contradicts this teaching by requiring the ceremony and observance of the "historic episcopate"* and by imposing this human tradition upon all future bishops and pastors of the ELCA (cf. CCM, C, 18). For this reason we stand in confessional protest against the implementation of CCM. Moving beyond the sufficiency of the Gospel and the sacraments as signs of the "true unity of the Christian Church" (AC, Art. VII), CCM requires the human tradition of the "historic episcopate" as something necessary for a "full-communion" expression of Christian unity.
* Within the ECUSA, the "historic episcopate" is seen as an unbroken succession of ordinations going back all the way to the first apostles. While the claim of this unbroken succession is unsubstantiated and disputed by many, the ECUSA regards the continuance of this line of ordinations to be necessary for the unity of the church. ____
The Second Reason: The authority to ordain does not reside with bishops alone.
In accord with the Holy Scriptures and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lutheran Confessions teach that ordination is a "right to administer the Gospel" which is given "wherever the church exists," and that "ordination administered by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine right" (Treatise, "The Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops," Par. 65ff). But CCM contradicts this teaching by denying pastors the right to ordain and by mandating "constitutional and liturgical provisions that bishops shall preside and participate in the laying-on-of-hands at the ordination of all clergy" (C, 20). For this reason we stand in confessional protest againstthe implementation of CCM. CCM takes the right to ordain away from the whole church (the universal priesthood of all believers) and its pastors and reserves this right for bishops alone.
The Third Reason: The "historic episcopate" is not necessary for salvation.
In accord with the Holy Scriptures and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lutheran Confessions teach that Jesus Christ alone is the necessary cause of salvation, for "He alone is 'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world'" (Smalcald Articles, "Christ and Faith," Art. I, Par. 2). But CCM assails this teaching by requiring the adoption of the "historic episcopate" from the ECUSA, whose highest ecclesiastical court has ruled that the "historic episcopate" is a "core doctrine" ..."necessary for salvation, binding on all who are baptized" and "supplying a basis for reckoning a Church to be a true Church" (May, 15, 1996 bishops' ruling on the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral). For this reason we stand in confessional protest against the implementation of CCM. CCM assails the sufficiency of Christ by requiring the acceptance of a human rite from the ECUSA which has been defined by the ECUSA as something "necessary for salvation."
The Fourth Reason: Legalism is not appropriate for an Evangelical church.
In accord with the Holy Scriptures and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lutheran Confessions teach that "as soon as ... human commandments are forcibly imposed on the church as necessary ... the door has been opened to idolatry ..." (Solid Declaration, "Church Usages," Art. X, par. 16). But CCM does just that by imposing the "historic episcopate." Under the provisions of CCM -- assuming that these provisions are also adopted by the ECUSA -- what will be imposed on all future ELCA bishops and ELCA candidates for pastoral ministry is an acceptance of the "historic episcopate." Disregarded under this legalistic imposition are, not ony some important Lutheran confessional teachings, as noted above, but also any personal conscientious objections which might arise on the part of those who must accept it. For this reason we stand in confessional protest against the implementation of CCM. CCM initiates a new kind of legalism in the ELCA by imposing the "historic episcopate" as the gateway to Lutheran pastoral ministry, and by allowing for no conscientious objection to that impostion.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Authored for use in Regional Meetings by Pastor Gerald Miller, St. Martin's Lutheran Church, Annapolis, MD.