Flat contradiction

by Brad Jenson (Kenwood Lutheran Church, Duluth, Minn.)

Date Unknown

The bishops' resolution stands in flat contradiction to the text of CCM itself as regards the Joint Commission.

It is well known by now that the Conference of Bishop's statement has been declared to be "a correct interpretation of CCM." It is also well known that, contrary to the bishops' statement, CCM itself states that, if approved, "Each church promises to issue no official commentary on this text [CCM] that has not been accepted by the joint commission as a legitimate interpretation thereof." (section 24).

So for the time being, we have "a correct interpretation of CCM" as we await "legitimate" interpretations of CCM from the Joint Commission, should CCM pass. In both cases the indefinite article is used: "a correct". . ."and "a legitimate. . ." interpretation rather than "THE correct. . . " and "THE legitimate . . ." interpreation. One wonders whether this is laudable humility or calculated word-smithing.

For example, it is our Word Alone contention that CCM is both a change in and violation of Augsburg 7. By contrast, the COB's statement declares that "the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is not in any way changing its confessional stance that, "For the true unity of the church . . ." If the COB's statement is just "a correct" interpretation---not THE correct interpretation---of CCM, it must also be said that, even when using the indefinite article, the COB's statement puts our point of view out of bounds. By declaring the COB's statement to be true, the ELCA's Church Council is, in effect, declaring our perspective to be false and misleading.

What is new is not that a profound difference of perspective on such matters as Augsburg 7, but there is an attempt to do an end-run around the theolological issues by declaring "from above" what is correct by means of (1) assertion (the COB statement) and (2) fiat (Church Council action).

If the CCM passes, the COB statement claims that "the Joint Commission will have no authority over the appropriate decision-making bodies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or The Episcopal Church." But the sole power to establish "official commentary" on the CCM is, in fact, quite a bit of authority and, by one binding vote, this authority to interpret CCM is ceded to the Joint Commission. I suppose, in theory, a "decision-making body" in the ELCA could make a decision against what may be established by the Joint Commision as "official commentary," but in practice one has to wonder if it will ever happen.

The Conference of Bishops, the ELCA Church Council, and the text of CCM itself in reference to the Joint Commission, in it's attempt to fix what is "correct" and "official" apart from theological debate, harkens back to Luther's complaint in the "Babylonian Captivity of the Church" about the pope as the sole interpretor of scripture.

It appears, as we get closer to Denver, that the Churchwide organization, as it moves in one direction of more openess (e.g., posting opposing viewpoints on the ELCA's web site), is also on a curious path which preempts debate by declaring incorrect---by fiat---that which ought to be debated (e.g., whether or not Augsburg 7 is being changed and compromised by CCM). Thankfully, some synods such a Western Iowa and Northeastern Minnesota are not buying into the COB's understanding of Augsburg 7 and therefore not buying in to what the the ELCA Church Council has attempted to fix as "correct."