Sunday, August 23, 2009
Timeline of a Denomination at Drift
The following is a timeline of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, chronicling, in particular, its most controversial and troubling developments. It emphasizes three significant areas of concern: abortion, ecumenical compromise, and homosexual accommodation. The ecumenical compromise can be seen by examining the various denominations with which the ELCA has entered into "full communion," especially those of Reformed background, thus relinquishing their clear confession to the real physical presence of Christ in the Supper. These ecumenical fellowships, along with their association with the large ecumenical organizations mentioned early in the timeline (e.g. LWF), demonstrate how little this church body values the need for clear and uncompromised confession of doctrine.
Prior to 1988: The ELCA, through predecessor church bodies, is a founding member of the Lutheran World Federation, World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches USA.
These organizations are ecumencial fellowships of widely divergent theologies.
*Ordination of women to the pastoral ministry occurs in 1970 in the Lutheran Church of America.
1988: The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America officially comes into existence as a merger of the ALC (American Lutheran Church), LCA (Lutheran Church in America), AELC (Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches).
1991: ELCA adopts statement on abortion allowing for this procedure in situations where "the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse," and "circumstances of extreme fetal abnormality, which will result in severe suffering and very early death of an infant."
1995: A resolution is offered at the church wide assembly calling for a change in the ELCA health insurance plan that allows for elective abortions. The ELCA health insurance plan still allows for abortions with their called workers.
1997: By a vote of 809 to 121, the assembly endorsed a recommendation commending the church's 1991 social statement on abortion, pledging to continue "moral deliberation" on the subject and asking the ELCA Board of Pensions to provide information on "educational efforts on abortion." That action was in response to resolutions from the ELCA's South Dakota Synod, Northeastern Minnesota Synod, Central-Southern Illinois Synod and Lower Susquehanna Synod that sought to limit the plan's ability to pay for abortions. An attempt to amend the recommendation, in a way that would have limited the plan's ability to pay for abortions, failed by a vote of 651 to 271. The ELCA Board of Pensions already took steps in April of this year to limit the plan's ability to pay for late-term abortions. (From the ELCA News Service)
**ELCA enters into “full communion” with the Reformed Church in America.
(In 1990 it was officially advised to adopt as the position of the Reformed Church in America that the practicing homosexual lifestyle is contrary to scripture, while at the same encouraging love and sensitivity towards such persons as fellow human beings.) (MGS 1990: 461)
**ELCA enters into “full communion” with the United Church of Christ.
(In 2005 the UCC formally endorses same-sex marriage as a right for all.)
(In 1972 this church body became the first major denomination to ordain an outwardly practicing homosexual.)
(The UCC strongly supports legalized abortion and has opposed the ban on “partial birth abortion.”)
**ELCA enters into “full communion” with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
1999: **ELCA enters into “full communion” with the Episcopal Church of the United States.
(First openly homosexual bishop was elected in this church in 2003.)
(The 2009 General Convention affirmed that "gays and lesbians (that are) in lifelong committed relationships," should be ordained, saying that "God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church." The Convention also voted to allow bishops to decide whether or not to bless same-sex marriages. - Wikipedia)
(The EPUS adopts the ordination of women in 1976.)
**ELCA enters into “full communion” with the Moravian Church.
*The Lutheran World Federation signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Roman Catholic Church. The Declaration declared that the mutual condemnations between 16th century Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church no longer apply to today’s church bodies. They compromise their witness to the very doctrine that formed the center of the Lutheran church's confession.
2009: **ELCA enters into “full communion” with the United Methodist Church.
(From the “Social Principals” of the UMC: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church…”)
*ELCA adopts resolution allowing for people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as professional leaders of this church." The vote is split closely: 55% for, 45% against.
"*ELCA adopts a Social Statement on Sexuality ("Human Sexuality:Gift and Trust") that acknowledges the divergent views of homosexuality within the denomination, yet holds each view as equally valid: "In our Christian freedom, we therefore seek responsible actions that serve others and do so with humility and deep respect for the conscience-bound beliefs of others. We understand that, in this discernment about ethics and church practice, faithful people can and will come to different conclusions about the meaning of Scripture25 and about what constitutes responsible action. We further believe that this church, on the basis of 'the bound conscience,' will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world."