Letter to the Editor: ELCA’s ordination of openly gay persons

“Letters to the Editor” is probably my favorite section of the opinion page. To me, it’s exciting to see what people in certain regions are passionate enough about that they feel they need to write to the paper. Sometimes, it’s simply congratulating area participants in whatever huge event took place recently, but every once in a while, there is an issue that isn’t covered in the paper that people feel they need to address.

I was reading my local paper (The Daily Globe) on the morning of 6 January 2010, and I saw a letter to the editor that irked me. The topic of the letter was about the August vote in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to allow openly gay persons in monogamous relationships to be ordained as clergy, something that appears relatively harmless to me. However, the writers of this letter thought otherwise.

The entire letter can be found here, but just in case you cannot access the link, the letter in its entirety is as follows:

Members, the ELCA has left us.

The leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) turned its back on members of ELCA churches and threatens the very existence of the church by allowing non-celibate pastors in homosexual relationships to be ordained into the ELCA. The ELCA has acted contrary to “the inspired Word of God — the authoritative source and norm of — proclamation, faith and life” (ELCA Constitution Section 2.03). Most members were caught off-guard when just a few hundred people at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis made this decision last August.

There were 4.6 million members of ELCA congregations, and those members did not have a voice in this critical decision. In fact, the ELCA Articles of Incorporation (Article VIII) prevent us from voting. “Members of Congregations of the Church shall not, as, such, have any voting rights with respect to this corporation.” Congregations fund the ELCA from members’ offerings, but members have no voice.

The ELCA leadership certainly did not want congregational members voting on this controversial and unprecedented proposal because the vast majority of us would have opposed the decision. Last September, 91 percent of the members surveyed at a congregational meeting of Hosanna! Lutheran Church of Lakeville, one of Minnesota’s largest ELCA congregations, supported separation from the ELCA. Also, the two largest ELCA congregations in North Dakota, Hope Lutheran and First Lutheran of Fargo, voted to stop funding the ELCA.

Not only were the members of the ELCA denied a vote on this controversial proposal, those members do not have the opportunity to directly elect the presiding bishop nor the national church council that theoretically runs the ELCA. No one represents all the laity.

What should ELCA members do? Think about our youth. The ELCA decision is a travesty upon our youth. Hold a congregational vote on whether the ELCA should permit non-celibate homosexuals to be ordained as pastors. Stop all funding to the ELCA. Contact Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal) at http://www.lutherancore.org. It is up to us lay people.

At first glance, the letter appears to be about how the writers were upset at the topic of the decision. But as you read, it looks like they’re not only mad at the decision, but also mad that they, nor any of the other congregational members of the ELCA, were not allowed to vote. I can understand not being accurately represented in a major vote; it happens all the time in Congress.

But what I don’t get is how someone can reference the Bible, yet not use it to help reason their argument. Of course, I had to reply, so I decided to write a rebuttal, using the Bible as my source.

After reading the letter from Bob Lee and Al Quie (1/6) about the ELCA’s vote this summer for letting openly gay persons be ordained, I have to admit that I was ashamed, not for the ELCA vote, but for the blatant and inconsiderate opposition to it, and browsing through the comments section on the online version of the letter only added fuel to the fires of my disappointment.

Lee and Quie made mention of the ELCA constitution, saying that the Church has “acted contrary to the inspired Word of God,” yet, curiously enough, made no mention of said inspired Word. Many people quote the Old Testament because of the rules and regulations of the faith, and Leviticus 18:22 spells out exactly how God feels about homosexuality: “Do not lie with a man as you lie with a woman; this is detestable.” But if you read ahead to chapter 19 of the same book, you’ll find a list of rules that are no longer followed today, among them: do not mate different kinds of animals, plant two different types of crops in one field, wear clothing woven with two different materials, eat meat with the blood still in it, cut your hair, trim your beard, or get tattoos. I shave every day as part of my morning routine. My shirt is made of 50% cotton and 50% polyester. Am I going to Hell?

Thankfully, God said in Jeremiah that he was going to create a new covenant, since his people “did not remain faithful” to the old one. Our new covenant is in the birth and death of Jesus Christ, who came to replace the old covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Paul writes in Hebrew 8:13, “By calling this covenant “new,” [God] has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” This means that the simple act of the birth of Jesus has completely negated the Old Testament. The rules and regulations of Leviticus and other books like it are gone, and have been replaced by two commandments: Love your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. And do we really love our neighbors if we continue to oppress them?

People use (and in many cases abuse) the Bible to preach a certain message. The Bible was used against the civil rights movement of the 1960s because in Genesis 4 it says, “The LORD put a mark on Cain,” which many interpreted as the dark skin of African-Americans. The Bible was used against the women’s liberation movement because 1 Timothy 2:12 says, “Do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” But in very recent history, a woman had a very real shot of being both Vice President and President, and we have elected an African-American as President. The gay rights movement of today will have a very similar outcome: opposition until the culture shifts. We can either embrace it now, or we can play the waiting game, and I, for one, am tired of waiting.

Now, doesn’t that just make sense? Guaranteed, more entries on this topic to come.

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