graphic website title banner

Marriage, family, sexuality:
Ruled by the Creator or by humankind??

by Betsy Carlson, editor

June 10, 2009

A proposed social statement on human sexuality and a game plan to allow practicing homosexuals to become ministers show that God’s authority is being hijacked in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

So said the WordAlone Network Convention in Golden Valley, Minn., this spring when it agreed that the ELCA is moving toward schism with proposals to change definitions of marriage and sexuality and ministry standards that are to be considered at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis, Minn.

The convention accepted "The Necessity of Resistance," a document from the reconstituted WordAlone Theological Advisory Board and passed a resolution entitled, "Usurped Authority."

The usurped authority resolution criticizes the ELCA for voting on matters governed by Divine Law when it has no legitimate authority to do so and for sending proposals that "explicitly reject Scripture's clear, consistent witness concerning marriage and sexuality" to the churchwide assembly.

The resolution also states that the proposed ELCA sexuality documents wrongly define "bound conscience" to mean something other than captive to the Word of God. The resolution calls for the assembly to refrain from voting on the sexuality documents and to defeat them if the assembly does vote on them.

In accepting "The Necessity of Resistance" the convention voted that a "state of confession" or "in statu confessionis" be declared if the social statement on sexuality is adopted and changes are made in ordination and ministry standards at the churchwide assembly. Retired Luther Seminary (St. Paul, Minn.) Prof. James Nestingen presented "The Necessity of Resistance" on behalf of the WA Theological Advisory Board, he said.

The biblical witness about marriage, family and sexual practices has established a historic consensus that has held ecumenically throughout the church's history, according to the document. This consensus of interpretation shows that the biblical word has functioned clearly and authoritatively on the issues for centuries.

The theological board's paper also stated that those who wish to change the accepted guidelines have yet to justify the reconsideration of these issues, which have been settled by Scripture and "accepted by all but a minuscule minority of Christians."

The paper explained that "in statu confessionis" means that the proposed actions must be resisted on biblical grounds, which can mean withholding support from the church and its officers. The convention agreed to send the document on resistance to Lutheran CORE for consultation.

Nestingen told the convention that a "state of confession" is a temporary measure and must be done with care and discernment and in a patient and deliberative way. He said the theological board was suggesting "selective fellowship" and not a "one size fits all" synods approach.