|LCMC and BTRA 2010 Gatherings|
|The first annual BTRA gathering took place on Friday and Saturday (0ct. 1 & 2) prior to the LCMC annual gathering. It was a smashing success with many of our current students attending. We were treated to two days of well-planned music, worship, and fellowship. It was great to put faces to names and get to know each other on a personal level.
Pastor Kent Wallace planned and coordinated all the acitivities including a very special musical treat. Pastor Wallace twisted the arms of a couple friends who are very talented and they led our worship and provided gathering music which we all enjoyed participating in.
We hope this will be the first of many such get-togethers and look forward to meeting all our students in the future.
August 26, 2010
Note: The following opinion piece appeared in the Mankato [MN] Free Press on August 26, 2010. It is written by Herbert W. Chilstrom, who was the first Bishop of the ELCA. It is followed by my reply. I have answered him because his piece is so revealing of what is at the bottom of the present crisis in the ELCA. Jon Sorum
|Questions for those leaving ELCA|
By Herbert W. Chilstrom
the end of 2010 several hundred congregations (an estimated 2 to 3 percent of
more than 10,300) will have left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to
form other Lutheran church bodies. I have three questions for those leaving:
|Reply to Bishop Chilstrom|
By Jonathan Sorum
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Parkers Prairie, MN
Bishop Chilstrom, you have asked three questions of us. I suspect that you intend them as rhetorical questions, but I will take them as real questions and reply to them, one by one.
“First,” you ask, “what is it about sex that pushed you over the edge?” Bishop Chilstrom, we aren’t the ones who kept bringing up sex throughout the lifetime of the ELCA. When you kept bringing it up, we were willing enough to talk about it—even though you stacked the numbers so that only one traditionalist was on the first sex task force and three on the second. But as soon as the conversation started, you changed the subject. Instead of talking about sex, suddenly you insisted on talking about identity. And identity is not discussable. If someone’s sexual feelings give them a God-given “sexual identity,” then even to say that expressing that identity is a sin is an act of oppression. So your side made sure that there never was a conversation in this church about sex. And then, when you ram through a change in church teaching and policy (not, as you claim, a mere declaration of non-binding opinion) that overturns the clear teachings of the Scriptures and the entire tradition of the church and we object, you have the gall to turn around and accuse us of being obsessed by sex!
Bishop Chilstrom, let me turn the question back on you: What is it about sex that pushed you over the edge? Sometime in the past you decided that the final authority that defines who a person is and what a person ought to do comes from within. Especially in matters of sex, you decided that you would set aside God’s own gracious and life-giving word in favor of each individual’s self-definition of their “sexual identity.” Why? You have vowed to preach Christ alone. What is it about sex that led you to abandon Christ and deliver people over to be slaves to their own desires?
For us it’s not about sex. It’s about Jesus Christ. You accuse us of persecuting people in same-sex relationships who “live peacefully, go to their jobs every morning, pay their taxes, volunteer for good causes and, in many cases, worship with us.” But we are not judging people. We know the log in our own eye and have no standing to judge others. But since Jesus alone has saved us from bondage to sin and death, we do insist that he alone, as he speaks clearly and reliably in the whole Bible, has the authority to determine the shape of our lives. I repeat: it’s about Jesus Christ. People are leaving the ELCA because it has officially renounced the lordship of Christ as he speaks in Holy Scripture. All of us in resistance to the ELCA have been saying this, constantly, in many forums. If the only reason you have heard for people leaving the ELCA is that the homosexuality vote was ‘the last straw,” then you have not been listening.
“Second,” you ask, “why are you organizing new churches?” The answer is simple: As congregations and individuals, we need to be connected to the larger church, which will both support our proclamation of the Word of God and hold us accountable to the Word of God. The ELCA no longer does either. The larger church supports our proclamation of the Word by providing us with such things as educational and worship materials that are faithful to the Word, by training and certifying pastors and ministers who will faithfully proclaim the Word, and by providing ways to extend our ministry beyond our communities. But the education, worship and other materials provided by the ELCA for use in congregations are shot through with an alien agenda, most of the pastors and ministers it now trains are not competent to preach the gospel, and its home and global missions are in captivity to a false gospel. The larger church holds us accountable to the Word by providing teaching that is in accord with the Word and by disciplining pastors and congregations that veer from the Word in their preaching or actions. But the ELCA itself is committed to false teaching and immorality, so it cannot be trusted anymore to hold us accountable to God’s Word. Far from supporting us in our ministry, the ELCA undermines us at every turn. So we have been forced to turn elsewhere for support and to create new church institutions that will hold us accountable to God’s Word.
In doing so, we are deeply aware of the support and prayers of many members of the other Lutheran bodies you mention. But for the most part, we have not found it possible to join them and you know very well why. We represent the center of Lutheranism in North America. We would gladly join with other Lutherans who have maintained the substance of the faith, but they won’t have us except on condition that we subscribe to a view of biblical inspiration at odds with the Lutheran Confessions and the Bible itself. So now that you and others have hijacked our denomination for your agenda, we in the Lutheran center have been rendered institutionally homeless. If we want to continue the Lutheran traditions that carried the gospel to us, we have no choice but to start over with new denominational institutions. You mock our efforts, but your jibe about the ordination of women inadvertently reveals what we used to have in our churches and have now lost. You remind us that Lutherans “fought intensely” over this issue. Yes, we used to be able to engage one another on the basis of the Scriptures, in the light of Christian tradition. We even “fought” each other “intensely” because we used to believe that what the Scriptures said really mattered and was worth fighting for. Would that such a thing could happen in the ELCA now! Perhaps it will surprise you to know that we who are in resistance to the ELCA don’t agree on everything. However, among us truly theological discussion can proceed because we all stand on the same foundation of Jesus Christ and confession of the Triune God and all acknowledge that the Holy Scriptures are the one source and norm of our faith and life. Among us, you will find the true freedom of the gospel and real diversity, not the soul-numbing ideological conformity that is now the norm in the ELCA.
Finally, you ask us, “[W]hat will you say to your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and others in your church when they tell you that they are homosexual?” To begin with, moral truth isn’t determined by majority votes, even by a 95 percent majority of “professionals in the field.” Nor will we accept anyone’s verdict that they “are” homosexual. Who they “are” is not determined by what is within them, but by what God’s Word says to them. According to God’s Word, they are, like all of us, human beings, created in God’s image but turned in on themselves in sin. They are among those for whom Christ died and for whom he broke the grave and they are destined for life with him in God’s eternal kingdom. It may also be true that, in our present fallen condition, they experience sexual desire primarily toward those of the same sex and that this is not something they have chosen. But these feelings do not constitute an identity, to which they must conform. Instead, Jesus gives them their true identity as children of his Father and shows them the way of life in his Word. Perhaps that way will include sufficient healing for marriage to be possible. But if they must go the single way, then Jesus will be enough and more than enough for them and will fill their lives with love and every good gift. Sex, after all, is not the end-all and be-all of life.
Which brings me back to your first and last question: What is it about sex that pushed you over the edge? Why this virtual worship of sex, as if our sexual desires (of all things!) were a pure and unadulterated revelation of God’s will for our lives, trumping even the Word of God, and having the kind of sex we want with the kind of partner we want were the ultimate fulfillment of life, for which everything that stands in the way—spouse, children, parents, society, friends, even the Bible, even Christ himself—must be sacrificed? Why, Bishop Chilstrom, have you fallen for one of the oldest idols in the Book?
You are glad to get rid of us. Now, you say, you can get on with your “primary mission of telling everyone—everyone--`Jesus loves you. You are welcome in this church.’” Precisely! This is the false gospel you have chosen for yourself. In this gospel there is no repentance or new birth. We don’t need Jesus (to use your word, he is one of the “non-essentials”), because we are basically good and don’t need a Savior. We only need to accept ourselves, as God accepts us. And we don’t need to receive the Holy Spirit, because we all already have the Holy Spirit within us, speaking through our own deepest sense of who we are. Nor do we need preaching, because once we know we are welcome, that’s all we need to know. The church, too, is dispensable because everyone is in principle already included and people don’t really have any reason to gather except to celebrate themselves and they can do that in many contexts using many different symbols and images—the goddess, the Buddha, the divine that is within us, whatever. Yes, in the so-called church that you have helped fashion, everybody is included.
Except us. You have no room in your new church for self-confessed sinners who want to listen to Jesus Christ alone. So we have no choice but to go on, grieving for the wreck of our church, but joyful because we have Jesus and filled with hope because his Spirit always goes before us and creates a new future for his people. We can admit that we, too, have a feeling of relief when we find ourselves in God’s church, where we feel ourselves supported in confessing the gospel and not undermined at every turn. But that you and so many others have turned aside to go your own way is in no way a relief. It is an unmitigated sorrow. We will never release you. We will continue to call you to Christ and to pray for you, urgently beseeching God that you may turn and live.
|Pastor Ron Fisher, BTRA student ordained!|
as a layperson with the gift to ministry. He has been actively preaching, given duties calling on
those in the nursing homes, visiting the sick and teaching confirmation, and now administering
the sacraments. Ron also works with the church’s AA group.
Ron came to Beyond the River Academy (BTRA) in 2008. Though he has not yet completed all
of the courses for a BTRA Certificate, the congregation chose to ordain him at this time. This was
their choice, they have this right, they have this authority, they are the holy people of God and
members of the Body of Christ—The Church. Ron is continuing his studies with BTRA in order
to equip him-self for the challenges of his new calling.
I was honored to participate in this event and with great joy welcoming Pastor Ron into the
ministry of Jesus Christ. May God richly bless his ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Glory be to God! ♦