Lutherans elect Elizabeth Eaton first female presiding bishop of ELCA

Elizabeth Eaton was elected presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

(RNS) The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Wednesday (Aug. 14) elected the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton as the denomination’s first female presiding bishop. Eaton received 600 votes against incumbent Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who received 287.

Eaton, the current ELCA bishop of the Cleveland-based Northeast Ohio Synod, is married to the Rev. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopal priest. Like Hanson, she is considered a moderate who supported the denomination’s decision to allow partnered gay clergy while allowing room for churches to disagree, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A native of Cleveland, she received a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.

Elizabeth Eaton was elected presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Elizabeth Eaton was elected presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Photo courtesy ELCA News Service

“We are a church that is overwhelmingly European in a culture that is increasingly pluralistic,” Eaton told the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh shortly after the election.

“We need to welcome the gifts of those who come from different places, that is a conversation we need to have as a church.”

The ELCA, which has lost members nearly every year since its founding in 1987, experienced a dramatic drop when it lost nearly half a million members in 2010 and 2011.

Hanson is credited with leading the nation’s largest Lutheran body — with more than 4 million members in 9,638 congregations — with a steady hand during turbulent times as the ELCA wrestled with the gay policy that Hanson favored but was hesitant to push on the larger church.

Even so, under his watch the Chicago-based ELCA saw a small but significant schism as conservatives upset with the decision to allow gay clergy defected to a new rival denomination, the North American Lutheran Church.

The election was a surprise to many, as Hanson was expected to win an unprecedented third term after 12 years in office. Hanson was the third presiding bishop in the denomination’s history; three of four finalists for the position were women.

(RNS) The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, delivers a sermon at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. Religion News Service file photo courtesy of ELCA News Service.

(RNS) The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, delivers a sermon at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. Religion News Service file photo courtesy of ELCA News Service.

“When I stood before you 12 years ago, I told you this is not an election won, this is a call received. And now this call has been extended to Bishop Eaton,” Hanson said at the assembly. “This is a humble and a holy privilege to serve the gospel as the pastor of this whole church.”

In June, Lutherans in Los Angeles elected the ELCA’s first openly gay bishop, four years after the denomination voted to allow openly gay men and lesbians to serve as clergy.

Eaton joins Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who in 2006 became the first woman to lead a church in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The two churches share a full communion agreement that allows shared clergy and joint ministry.

Eaton will serve a six-year term beginning Nov. 1.

About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • Thank you for covering this story. I am a member of the ELCA. Thanks to Bishop Hanson for his 12 years of service in this call and for Bishop Elect Eaton’s openness to and acceptance of this call. One clarification, the other candidates were not “challengers;” they were all nominated for this call. It wasn’t a competition, it was a process completely open to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

  • A thorough article would note the reason for large numbers of parishioners leaving the ELCA in 2010-11; specifically the decision to allow the ordination of openly gay pastors. The liberal media strikes again.

  • Leah chooses one cause and effect and the author chooses a different one. Either way the information is included.
    “In June, the ELCA elected its first gay bishop, four years after the denomination voted to allow openly gay men and lesbians to serve as clergy.”
    This day is not about 2009. It is about the history made today.

  • In reality, all of the mainline protestant denominations are experiencing the same demographic shifts, and at least in part over the issue of LGBTQ inclusion. So it was a generation ago with women’s ordination. So it was even earlier in history over issues of slavery and integration. Hopefully we can all be gracious to one another as people move and re-align according to their consciences. As for me, for now, I congratulate the ELCA on this moment. While Hanson was good, it is also good for new voices and a sharing of leadership among many, and of a solid candidate who also happens to be a woman.

  • Congratulations to a fine pastor, friend and Bishop. It was our privilege to be members of Messiah Lutheran church In Ashtabula with Pastor E. Eaton.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey is an exceptional religion reporter. There’s no “liberal media” bias in her writing. I’m grateful there are people like her covering religious news.

  • They mentioned the turbulent times caused by the sexuality issue a couple of different times in the article, they were hardly avoiding the issue. It just wasn’t the focus of *this* article. Believe it or not, the ELCA actually does quite a lot of things that have nothing whatsoever to do with human sexuality.

  • Leah, Again you need to be more thorough. Gay pastors have been serving the ELCA for decades. You also need to explain that it is up to each and every congregation whom they call. Not one congregation is forced to call a gay pastor if they choose not to…so there is no threat to anyone. And Leah, throwing out terms like the “liberal media” just adds fuel to a very un-Christian fire.

  • The Disciples of Christ have had a female General Minister and President for a number of years. It would have been nice if the author had done more research on that aspect.

  • Be careful who you define as closed minded. We were in an ELCA congregation from the beginning. When we chose to express our “bound conscience” in favor of previous sexuality policies we were called every name imaginable and forced to leave. We have learned to beware of those who declare themselves tolerant and others as intolerant. They are the most intolerant bullies we have ever encountered.

  • The end of the ELCA is at hand. 20 years is what I give it. People are leaving by the 100’s.

  • Don Smith’s comment that the exodus of closed minds is not a loss is representative of the exclusive mindset Bishop Hanson brought to the ELCA. I can’t believe he was called a moderate. The decisions made from the 2009 vote on have communicated this kind of hatred that Smith just shared for anyone who does not embrace the vote on gay/lesbian clergy. I have been told the same thing by others in the Synod that a dissenting voice is not welcome in the ELCA. This is poor leadership and creates a very small tent by people who love to call themselves open minded.

  • Yes, it’s not about the number of members. No matter how small the Body becomes for doing the right thing, Christ is still with us, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20) I remember that every time I go to church, which has nowhere near the membership of the Catholic parish I was once a member of.

  • This makes no history. In the 1700’s, Johann Semler introduced the idea of “higher criticism” into Lutheran theology. By the 1830’s, Samuel Schmucker was willing to throw aside major elements of doctrine in the search for fellowship with non-Lutheran churches. Schmucker was one of the leading figures in early liberal American Lutheranism; he is a foundational figure for ELCA. That was where the history was made–in the decision that Scripture means what we want it to mean. The rest follows from that.

    The groups that have separated from ELCA have done so over much more than the whole issue of homosexuality. That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  • The comment about the closed minded is the reason many of our folks are leaving. It appears that if you are not of the mind set of deviates that you are not welcome in your own church. The politically correct have taken over, and that is ok. There are plenty of folks who still have a moral base. There are plenty of folks and churches that still believe in the basic values. The Lutheran church are not the only folks in town. After fifty five years as a Lutheran and sixty for my wife we do feel it time for a change for us to be lead by moral people. Former Congregational President. Jim Tagart CTK Lutheran Church, Snohomish, Washington.

  • Before the final vote on expanding full inclusion into the elca, there was much dissent about being in full communion with the Episcopal church, inclusive language and yes full acceptance of women still existed as some congregations refused to consider a female pastor. I left the elca after being on churchwide counsel and a lay assistant to a bishop because the vote took so long and what I heard from many who did not want to fully include me and my former-pastor partner – – and what I considered to be a lack of leadership and gospel action by the leadership of the elca in not publicly standing up for lgbtq members – I guess it is all in your perspective. I applaud todays action! and wish Bishop Eaton God’s speed!

  • I love hearing some of the eonderful pastoral comments regarding Bishop Eaton. As the early church, I applaud the churches affirmation of women furthering the Gospel. May the Spirit be with her in these difficult times. Unfortunately, as many, I find myself disconnected from the ELCA body. Many have left. I belong to a congregation that God is using to reach the lost to serve those in need and to nurture the disciples in our midst. I fear the the many social decisions have been deadly distractions for the ELCA and the church united. The issue isn’t about love for gays or any group, it is for the rudderless direction we have taken disregarding the need to be salt and light to the world. We are not to be transformed by the world, but to transform the world bearing witness to the Word and the Gospel. We’ve made majors out of the minors. We are distracted. I pray that Bishop Eaton will be lead by the Spirit to focus on reaching the lost, reclaiming Luther’s solo scriptura, and helping local congregations serve those in their midst. I hope the ELCA can find its way…

    I’m reminded of Gamaliel’s comments as a Jewish leader facing the spread of Christianity in Acts 5:38-39-“And now I say to you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing: But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God.” I trust God and the instructive and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit through history. Changes have occurred in the journey of the Christian church that have developed and expanded…and some that have died out. Is the decline in membership a sign of God’s response to our changes, time will tell. I cannot condone the position of the church on the gay issue, but I’m called to love those God puts in my midst. It isn’t important that I support them; the only relevant question is whether God does.

    May God be with us…as we move forward. May he give Bishop Eaton the wisdom and discernment to lead us…

  • “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

    ― G.K. Chesterton

  • Thanks, Britt. That was in an early version that I tweaked before the final publishing. Thanks!

  • Leah, I don’t think I was hiding anything by not making that explicit connection. I include both of those facts in the piece.

  • Rachel,
    Not sure what the article looked like when you commented, but the final version reads “Cleveland-based Northeast Ohio Synod.” Thanks for reading!

  • Awesome news. The more liberal the ELCA becomes, the more people trapped inside it wake up to the fact that they are not a Christian Church by any definition. Come on ELCA; keep it up! Elect women, ordain gays, baptize animals, etc. Anything goes in today’s politically correct world! Down with god’s words and up for the “me generation!!!” Heck. let’s just take it to the final step and adopt the satanic bible as the ELCA’s guiding text (i.e. the ELCA already believes in the satanic mantra “do what thou wilt, it’s the whole of the law…”

  • apu,

    That is so mean-spirited. If somebody wants to worship satan, it is their choice, and we can’t call it wrong. The ELCA teaches that everybody will be saved no matter what they believe. It’s called universal salvation. Satanists, hindus, muslims, atheists, agnostics, etc. will all be saved regardless of what they believe. The ELCA doesn’t believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven but one of many spokes on a wheel. We believe that both Jesus and the Bible are in error and need to be disregarded in the belief in Jesus is the only way to salvation.

  • @apu – really? ‘Women,’ ‘gays,’ and ‘animals’ all in the same category. Thanks-but NO. I’ll pray for you. You sound lost and angry. As for this change of leadership, I am grateful. The Spirit is leading. Gods work, my hands. In the community Where I worship, all are welcome. That seems very much in-line with the teachings of Christ.

  • Pastor Lynn, I’m not sure why I would have included that info. I included TEC because of their relationship with ELCA.

  • Yes Apu, Laura and Susan are correct. All are welcome at the ELCA. We don’t care if you want to sing Native American chants or dance & fornicate unclothed in front of a pentagram in a graveyard. Anything is ok and in line with the teachings of Christ. How do we know this? Because we don’t read our Bibles. The Bible is for stupid people who think that God actually made rules for us fallible people. Instead of reading our Bibles, we just make up things out of thin air, and then through group-think, ostracize anybody who disagrees with us…

  • @Jennie,

    Are you saying I’m making stuff up out of thin air? That’s so judgmental. I’ll have you know I once read the Bible in Sunday School when I was a child. I also hear a lot of Biblical reference on television and in movies so I don’t have to read as much as people used to have to do. Group-think? Hmmpph. I vote that we should ban Jennie and Apu and anybody who agrees with them as they are bad-apples.

  • apu
    FYI it is ‘God’s word’. Do you even know what ‘God’s word” is?

    Your point about the satanic bible is pure irrational emotionalism. Besides I have never of it. Is there really such a thing?

  • So much sarcasm in these comments! If your position is solid, then it should stand on its on merits. Ridiculing those with whom you disagree suggests either you cannot adequately frame your position without reference to your “opponent,” or you seek to appeal to people’s baser instincts.

  • Those are rejoicing news for the church. We are call in different ways & ministries. Being a pastors husband leads me to pray all the time for the coverage of the Holly Spirit (of my wife and all called women). Let us focus on things that gather us for the glory of God.

  • Funny that Jesus was called devil-possessed, and immoral, and a drunkard by the “moral” folks of his time because he welcomed and kept community with the outcasts of his time. I guess the ELCA is following in the way of our Savior. I am a married, gay pastor of the ELCA who is daily humbled and rejoicing as I witness the Holy Spirit working through me. I am kept busy talking to the many who left the church because, in the past, it was not welcoming, loving, and merciful in Jesus’ name. May God bless and guide our new presiding bishop that she might continue to lead us in the challenging ways fo Jesus.

  • In response to Leah: All of my conservative friends dislike the mainstream media because they think it’s too liberal. All of my liberal friends dislike the mainstream media because they think it’s too conservative. That tells me that they all dislike the mainstream media because it doesn’t advocate for their causes. Perhaps that means the mainstream media is doing its job fairly well.

  • This is an exciting moment in the history of the ELCA. I am a pastor within the ELCA and am pleased to see the ongoing effort of this particular community of faith to make real the love of God in a world so filled with exclusions and restrictions that have nothing to do with God’s love. Presiding Bishop Elect Eaton now challenges the ELCA to continue the work of inclusion by breaking down the more subtle cultural barriers of being a church for Northern Europeans.
    Sarah a nice article of introduction… thank you.

  • So proud of Elizabeth Eaton and what she has accomplished. She was an amazing pastor in our hometown of Ashtabula, OH and facilitated the confirmation of our son, Ryan.

  • Leah, Ken, we’d appreciate it if you took your bigotry elsewhere. “Liberal media”, indeed. Slogans learned from Jay Seculow and the other right wing con artists do not serve God.

  • Your comment implies that God’s favor is on those congregations that are large and materially prosperous, and on the wealthy pastors at the head of them. Like, say, the paranoid and hate-crazed John Hagee.

  • Or that like Elijah (1 Kings 18:27) your opponents arguments are so patently absurd that Godly sarcasm is all you can use to move them. Remember, we are created in His image with the full range of emotions and abilities He provides. The Bible illustrates the full range of communications possibilities including humor, irony and sarcasm. But of course you have to actually read your Bible to know that.

  • Mosel tov to Bishop Eaton. But clearly Christianity is not about building communities of mutual respect and love.

  • As Episcopalians and full communion partners, we are of course thrilled at the election of Elizabeth Eaton. And…our undying gratitude to Mark Hanson who has been a great friend of our church as well as a leader in ecumenism across this nation and around the world. We love you, ELCA!

  • [from a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story] “. . . Bishop Eaton, 58, is considered a centrist, while other finalists were viewed as more theologically liberal. During a brief address before the third ballot, she was the only one of four remaining nominees to directly address concerns of theological conservatives who had remained in the denomination. She said she supported the decision to allow partnered gay clergy but that being an inclusive church meant respecting those with a different understanding of scripture and doctrine.”

    ELCAspeak translated: She’s a warm, caring, genuinely nice person who’s asking, “Can’t we all get along? All you dissenters have to do — and do it for the sake of inclusivity, the consummate good — is agree to disregard the fact that the ELCA still puts its denominational blessing on a sin that the Bible says will cause the unrepentant sinner to forfeit the kingdom of God [ ]. Oh, and please also disregard our previous presiding bishop’s preaching of universalism [ ] and our self-funded health care plan’s coverage of abortion for any reason — sex selection included — up to 20 weeks, all subsidized by your offering dollars [ ]. We in the ELCA majority won’t change our abrogations of the Bible, of course; we’ll never pass any of your Bible-honoring resolutions at our national convention. In fact, we’ll vote ’em all down at the regional synod conventions. But you’re still welcome to be minority stockholders and shore up our rapidly shrinking numbers and our alarmingly flagging revenues.”

    The bottom line: the ELCA continues to lead people toward damnation instead of salvation. As former ELCA pastor Tom Brock wrote, “An objective reading of Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Deuteronomy 22:5, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9-11, I Timothy 1:8-10, Jude 6,7 makes clear that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior is a blanket one. There is never the added caveat: But it is okay if you love each other. . . . Some liberal Lutheran bishops I know believe they are being loving by affirming homosexual behavior. The truth is they are hurting people. As one old Lutheran pastor said, ‘They are nicing people right into hell.’ ” [ ]

  • Thee is no bigotry in supporting Gods created order for sexuality and marriage. Homosexual behavior always has been and always will be a sin.

  • You can make that claim about anything, whether it is truly moral or not. Abortionists love that reasoning (you can boo-hoo me, but Jesus was an outcast too so I’m just like Jesus!). Fallacy. Claiming that I am doing something that I think is moral and other people think is immoral does not make me like Jesus. It is poor biblical hermeneutics. We could equally as much say that the lie (homosexaulity) has been accepted as truth (Romans 2).

    “Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth: this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert-himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason… The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping: not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.” – G.K. Chesterton

  • Hey Doug, who got your undies in a bunch? All Ken stated was fact, not bigotry. The ELCA has been moving from God and Scripture for years and all it takes is that last straw to push people out…

  • I’m not sure if this is the time to rejoice. American Mainline Protestanism (that includes the Episcopalians and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is looking through a glass, darkly. It’s getting to the point that Mainline Protestanism is so occupied with being politically correct that they are trading sound doctrine for heterodoxy. I can support same-sex marriage reform (I’m bisexual, after all), but rejecting the faith’s basic beliefs of the Virgin birth, the Resurrection, or even the Incarnation is heresy, anathema. Apparently, the Bible’s no longer inerrant, thus saith the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This is why I left. Rapidly, American Mainline Protestanism is getting so liberal that it’s looking more like a social club and less like a church. Anything goes now. You have the Episcopalians that include prayers to other deities in their liturgy once a year (at Saint John the Divine in New York) or doctrines like Gnosticism expressed by leaders. You have the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s HerChurch that is so new age and caught up with finding the inner light and connecting with the Divine Mother that Jesus is now a woman and God the Father is now God the Mother. The Church has never ever taught that. The whole principle of Confessional Lutheranism and apostolic succession is that the same doctrine is taught throughout the ages. We’re sitting here expecting it to get better and less heterodox, and all we see is more heresy. Twilight of American Protestanism, I think we can call it.

  • This is a good news article. Thanks for that. The comments tended to showcase the haters position re homosexuality in the church which I thought was interesting re how vitriolic the comments were. Even in God’s Kingdom on Earth it seems there can be no respect. How can this possibly square with the two greatest commandments or Paul’s letters to the Galatians wherein he presents the fruit of the Spirit? I wonder if the same animosities were present when the issue of slavery was debated by those holding opposing biblical positions/theology? I’m thinking yes, definitely yes. Neither our nation, nor the Church was dissolved over that much more hideous dispute than homosexuality. Perhaps we all need to get a grip and allow for peaceful differences. God’s Kingdom is expansive enough to allow for many distinctives. We can make our arguments for and against, but in the end it is God who will judge, not us. That’s not our role or calling.

  • I don’t believe Saint Paul was denouncing homosexuality and bisexuality when he commented on it. Various words were used on those vice lists, like words signifying prostitution, for example. In the time of Paul, homosexuality was a side thing that married men practiced, and it was abusive and normally with young servants.

    I recently met a gay Christian couple at a yard sale. They were wonderful and kind people, and oddly enough, were close friends of my mother’s best friend. I saw the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, in in those of their children. They were clearly good, God-fearing people.

  • Actually, dissolving was the dominant reality of the slavery debates and the Civil War Era. The nation was brought to its knees by the slaver aristocrats with their perverted “states’ rights” and biblical interpretations. A couple of bad battles, some British intervention, or an early assassination of Pres. Lincoln could well have finished the dissolution job started by the slaver secessionists.

    Furthermore, many church bodies separated by geography over the slavery issue, and many of those geographical and political divisions carry on to our time, 150 years later. The Norwegian Lutheran Church continued to fight over the biblical aspects of slavery, even in the decade following the end of the Civil War. In addition, there were Norwegian Lutherans in the Confederacy who were slave owners, and some of those Norwegian Lutherans fought with the Confederate army against the Union.

    Anyone, thinking the current theological struggles are going to ultimately fade off and go quietly into the digital archives, has failed to comprehend the historical depths of any number of issues, all of which now seem to converge on the ELCA and other church bodies. Among those issues are biblical literalism; “big box” church mentalities; racial or ethnic hatreds; homophobia; disdain for women, the poor, the working poor; and exclusion of anyone who is “different.”

    Those issues play out in political environments with the choosing of leaders or the taking of stances on issues. Such political environments include churches, communities, corporations, and various elections, including that of the Presidential variety.

    I’d be very interested in a professional study of just how comfortable some of the ELCA separatists are with some of the people with whom I ride the bus every single day. Urban, low and mid-income, often of color, gay and straight, often young, university students at public institutions, of various groups and faiths, etc. I would guess not so comfortable. Yet they are all children of God.

    That last fact seems to be lost on tons and tons of people, including people I know personally with their fancy doctorates and their dripping disdain for the gay communities. I suppose Mr. Putin looks good to them. He does not look good to me, and so where then are the answers? Certainly not in further perpetrating more disdain and hatred of “others.”

  • Forgive my omission of thanks for Ms. Bailey’s solid job of reporting on the current election of a new presiding Bishop. It was good work in what must have been trying and untoward circumstances.

  • I long for the day when those who defame the ELCA (who sadly are typically other Lutherans) take to heart Luther’s explanation of the 8th commandment.

    For those not familiar with our *actual* beliefs, check out You will find the lies above are unfounded. It breaks my heart when Christians devour each other this way. Come, Holy Spirit.

  • The story struck me as fair. My thoughts were more along the lines of how those who oppose Christian Tradition on issues of ordination practices
    and morality are so absolutely sure that their opposition is the product of the workings of the Holy Spirit and not of the Evil One.
    The fact that so many of those in the media who hate Christianity are among the biggest cheerleaders for mainstream churches to adopt what are really radical changes should be a warning. They don’t want Christian adaptation to the times–they want Christianity destroyed. And then the drastic loss in membership of so many mainstream churches should be a second warning. Maybe the Holy Spirit isn’t quite “the Spirit of the times” some in this article seem to believe it is.
    In fact, some historians claim that what is going on in the mainstream Protestant churches is the last gasp of the Reformation. The big question in the 21st Century is whether the Catholic Church can maintain itself as the Church of the Bible and Tradition with the collapse of so many other Western churches .

  • I’m getting less optimistic that the Catholic Church will stand firm against heresy. The percent of liberal Catholics is growing by the day. And most Catholics don’t know their doctrine. I’m getting more and more convinced that Eastern Orthodoxy is Christianity’s last hope to not become heterodox.

    I admire the Anglican Church of North America and the Church of England, which remain conservative and stand against heresy, or the Lutheran Missouri Synod Church, which also stands for real confessional Lutheranism.

    I admire the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, which seems to know the limits of liberalism. But the Reformation is quickly dying. Those rich doctrines and orthodox beliefs are being traded for political correctness, and American Protestanism, specifically the rich Mainline version, is dying out quickly. Twilight of American Protestanism and certainly American Orthodoxy (right belief).

  • Sorry, Jules, any classicist worth his or her salt can tell you that both men and women were in same sex unions at the time of Paul viz. It was not a “side thing” meaning totally different than what is proposed today. So Paul ‘s relevance can’t be written off so easily as if he were talking about something else.

  • Like the “me generation” of willfully condemning other believers because you disagree and wish to prove yourself more holy or more Godly. I think that your time and energy would be better spent serving others and serving God in a way that is not demeaning to others looking to be faithful members of Christ’s body.

  • Thank you for the misrepresentation. You know that lying and bearing false witness against your neighbor are not very becoming. Over the course of the difficult issues facing the ELCA and other denominations in the way they respond to worldly issues, there has been a great deal of hyperbole, conspiracy, animosity, and misinformation. Some injury has occurred on both sides, with neither one wanting to give ground. However, I am finding that the remarks made by those who have left the ELCA and the accusations made of the church do NOT actually reflect the tenor of the congregations to which I have belonged, the messages and positions taken by the denomination, and the work of the church in the community and the larger world. I begin to wonder about the real motives behind those whose energy is spent denigrating a church body and its members rather than working in service and the health of their own spiritual life and that of their neighbors. Now more than ever, we need to be in the mission I think best expressed by St. Francis: a mission to see not to be understood as to understand, not to be consoled, but to console, and not to be loved, but to love.

  • That is an absolute misrepresentation and you ought to know better. Unbelievable how easy it is to bear false witness against your neighbor.

  • Actually, none of the things you claim are basic tenets in the ELCA. The things you claim have never once come up in my congregation or in any congregation or worship with which I have had contact. There are some places, particularly in missions to women who have been victims of abuse, where references to God as caring like a mother have occurred, mostly to be sensitive to the level of trust that these victims have towards their male abusers. The Bible is treated as inerrant but also as a text that requires critical thought and a certain amount of interpretation that takes historical context and culture into account when one is considering the reasons behind the laws and the specific audience for whom and by whom the text was written. Those are important considerations. I think you’d find that the type of accusations you make are more the exception than the rule.

  • Thank you for this post. I too am disheartened by the willingness people have to believe all manner of rumors and conspiracies and the use that to justify their condemnation of a church body. In many congregations that have taken painful votes to leave the ELCA, the misinformation spread on the part of those most insistent on leaving was surprising and disappointing. I long for reconciliation, but I also feel wounded and betrayed by my brothers and sisters in Christ. At any rate, I am thankful that I am part of a community of faith that upholds the liturgy and Biblical teaching, that takes its mission to be of service to others in the world, and that welcomes all in our midst to worship, fellowship, and service. I hope that peace and reconciliation can be found.

  • Lois, I pray for understanding and love, for affirmation, reconciliation, and that we can live in a world that doesn’t celebrate animosity and division among members of God’s creation, but one that looks for unity, understanding, and peace. I pray to be a witness of God’s work through my life, through my labor, through my service, and through my words. I’m looking for a bit of humility, gentleness, kindness, and love from you, but I’m coming up a little short. I’m sorry if I’m missing that from you.

  • It is now official. ELCA Lutherans are not Christians. They are Rotary Club members who just happen to meet on Sunday mornings under the guise of Jesus. Admit it ELCA Lutherans, you don’t believe in Jesus anymore than you believe in Julius Ceasar or George Washington.

    If you are stuck in the ELCA, I urge you to read Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus in John 3 andto ask yourself: AM I really born again (in spirit)? Or do I just attend the ELCA Lutheran Church because it tickles my ears and makes me feel good?

  • Fran, thank you. Reading John 3 really made me realize that I’ve just been going through religious motions at my church. Now that you mention it, our sermons are pretty shallow – normally dealing with social issues or sports – never the pressing questions that torment my soul (like is there really a heaven/hell?)

  • John,

    Don’t listen to Fran. Anybody who takes John 3 seriously is some kind of zealot. Jesus doesn’t really want you to be spiritually born again. That’s all an allegory. ELCA Lutherans can trust in their water baptism as a baby for salvation. As long as a pastor sprinkled water on your head, you have the golden ticket to heaven. Water baptism will save you from anything – murder, theft, adultery, you name it. Once baptized by the ELCA, you are invincible from consequences.

  • Doug, sincerely held Bionically beliefs can hardly be called “bigotry”.
    Get your facts straight.

  • “Father, we want to prayerfully consider Timothy’s warning and realize that evil will escalate in the last days where the wicked and impostors will worsen and deception will be rampant even in the church. This happens when the Holy Bible is not the supreme authority, and is replaced by the popular teaching of those who seek to sway believers as they “spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” We want to be wise, discerning, and careful to line up that which we hear with the ancient words of Scripture. For You are coming to judge the earth. You will judge the world with righteousness and all the nations with Your truth. Therefore we want to be fully devoted to following Your commandments, contend faithfully to the truth, and guard the deposit You entrusted to us. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.”

  • I can’t say I have ever heard the term “Godly sarcasm” before! “Righteous indignation” is a familiar expression. “Godly sarcasm” is a new one on me.

    Can you name an example of a time when Godly sarcasm succeeded in moving an opponent? I can’t think of any, but would be interested in hearing of something. From my observation, sarcasm seems much more likely to harden the opponent against you.

  • I did not say it moved them did I? I just stated it was a form of communication practiced in the Bible by the prophets of God. What you fail to realize is that people can become so hardened in their own viewpoints that they can no longer repent. At such times all you can do is what Elijah did and also exactly what Jesus did when He cleansed the temple with a whip and when He pronounced “woes” on the wayward religious leaders of Jerusalem in Matt. 23. sometimes the intended audience is not the one in sin but the righteous remnant who may be wavering. Again, open the book and start reading and you’ll figure this out. The God of Joshua and the Christ of Revelation are the same Guy. The plumb line of Amos is still in His hand and the standards of righteousness and justice have not changed. He will judge those who oppress the poor AND those who reject His truth for their own wisdom. Accept Him as such or find some other “savior.” (Of which there are none, of course.)

  • Jon, God bless you, but things like “Her church” are out there for all to see and claim to be in full communion with your group. Everything on their website is a celebration of paganism and perverted theology. In a group with such a highly developed government structure no such movement could continue to exist without some kind of sanction. If it hasn’t happened in the pew next to you great, you have been blessed, but note that the new bishop is called a moderate for taking a Biblically radical stance and yet allowing folks who disagree to stay in the denomination. That isn’t moderate anything.

  • Jules you championed orthodoxy in your earlier post and now you abandon it? Homosexuality has been homosexuality for thousands of years. Some societies saw it as “normal” others did not. The Law of Moses condemned it in the strongest terms. Jesus said the “Law and the prophets” would not be changed till all was fulfilled, thereby adopting the same viewpoint. (In the sermon on the mount he gives His improvements and adopting same sex relationships wasn’t among them.) Paul was writing to Greeks who preferred such relationships and condemned them in no uncertain terms. The teaching of the Church on this point has been the same for 2,000 years, the same as the resurrection, the virgin birth, the incarnation and the coming judgment. Orthodoxy is a package. Heresy is the buffet plan.

  • There are many who are coming along and marginalizing the Scriptures for their own gain. But one thing is for sure: they may take over the buildings, they may take over the denominations, but they will never take over the hearts of those who belong to God. Sin (in this case, opposing God and the true Gospel) never delivers what it promises. James 1:15 says, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” In other words, it is still-born.

  • 1 Corinthians 11:3

    But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. (NRSV)

    This is just one more step toward the dissolution of a Biblically based Lutheran Church. What did Luther say, oh yeah, “On these truths I stand.” Oh well, he didn’t understand; the Bible didn’t understand because after all, it was written by men. The road the ELCA leaves no justification for the ELCA as a Christian Church. It will be a watered lemonade church made for people who don’t care one little bit about the Church or Christianity.

  • Last I checked, bearing false witness against your neighbor and lying were both among the basic 10 commandments.

  • The same quote can be applied to you. Instead of celebrating the work of this pastor, who even through his doubts about his place has persevered in his call to serve in the leadership of the Church, spurred on by the assurance of God’s love and grace in spite of his frailties, you try to put a nail in his boot, to assure him that his work isn’t welcome that his efforts in vain and his call nothing but a fallacy. You have no authority to make this determination. You don’t get to decide who gets a nail and who gets a spur.

  • An objective reading of verses taken out of their context within the larger text, removed from the intended audience and culture from which the text emerged, is a dangerous way to treat the Bible which can lead to any number of distortions and positions that would support the judgement of others, the division of creation, and used to determine the relative worth of some people in relation to others. Such comparisons are not productive. All are unworthy of the glory of God, and it is only through Gods gift of Grace freely given to us if we are willing to accept it that we are able to enter the Kingdom. If you read Leviticus and do not understand that the issue at hand is the treatment of strangers and hospitality, then you miss what it objectively has to say. The idea of forcing themselves on the visitors was not about being gay, but about having dominion over the other and failing utterly to show hospitality. The reason they rejected the women was not because they were gay, but to demonstrate that it wasn’t about sex at all, but about domination and defiling. This has very little to say about gay people in today’s society. In Deuteronomy, the admonition against homosexuality had to do with setting the people of Israel apart from the dominant culture, which utilized ritual homosexual acts in its worship. In all of Paul’s letters, references are mainly directed at MARRIED men who maintained sexual relationships with apprentices or other young boys. Now, I suppose that it’s fine if you want to exclude members of creation from the Kingdom, that you judge their failure to be worse than yours. I would also say in response to other verses of the bible that in no place is there a statement that condones divorce. There are many places where the Bible objectively condemns or condones behaviors that we as a society and even as a Church do not adhere to. It’s convenient if you are looking for a scapegoat population of people you can target as being somehow objectively unworthy even as you claim your own worthiness. That is wonderful for you….and not very Christian.

  • I have little respect for any denomination or sect which maintains a closed communion, that has so little regard for its neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ and such high regard for their own orthodoxy, that they would restrict the meal only to those who profess their own specific version of the faith. That to me is the height of arrogance, demonstrating a lack of humility and a lack of hospitality and welcome, and a lack of understanding what it means to show love for ones neighbor.

  • Stating a fact is less than Christlike? More and more congregations will leave the ELCA regardless of who is elected bishop.

  • That is patently untrue. I visit the website often. I also think you misunderstand the amount of control the governing body has over each individual congregation, which have a great deal of latitude. You can throw around “paganism” and “perversion” all you want, but bearing false witness against your neighbor is still against the ten commandments. I have had the privilege to worship in a llarge number of ELCA congregations in my life (more than 100, which I realize represents only 1 percent of the congregations), and I have never experienced anything that remotely resembles the accusations that you would have for the denomination as a whole. I am aware that there are some fringe exceptions to this, and my experience of the ELCA is exclusively Midwestern, mainly Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. However, I find your comments to be insulting and untruthful.

  • We continue to pray for all Christians everywhere…and the Lutheran church at large…as well as our church in Snohomish, Washington. Thanks for caring enough to write Jim. May God’s grace and love shine on all of us…and in all of us. Love you Jim and Marilyn!

  • Fran, I have found in the ELCA a congregation that takes seriously its call to be in mission to the world, to read and study the Bible, to treat the sacraments with due reverence, and to enter worship with a repentant and humble heart. It saddens me that so many speak out in disdain for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Now, you apparently have determined for yourself that the ELCA doesn’t meet your standards for what it means to be a Christian. I would say that the evidence that I have seen from you doesn’t particularly make a very good case for you either. However, I do appreciate the opportunity to read over one of my favorite chapters in the Gospels, and to reflect and pray on the passage. Thanks be to God for the gift of our Savior Jesus Christ, whose life, death and resurrection offer us the gift of Grace and the path to salvation for all who believe. It is also my hope that my words and actions and my heart bear good fruit. Grace and peace to you, Fran. May you think better of the people in the ELCA, and may your own walk of faith be blessed.
    33 “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” I often reflect on this passage when I think about the words I might have for those with whom I disagree. I do not offer words of condemnation or judgement, words that ultimately do nothing to prosper and produce good fruit, but only serve to further divide and create animosity between others when we ought to seek understanding through our faith.

  • The people of the ELCA care deeply for what it means to be Christian and for what it means to live in the faith. I’m sorry you feel the way you do, and I’m certainly glad that you have all the answers and authority and hubris that you can judge others so harshly. I long for the day when we are one in Christ Jesus and when those who confess their faith and belief in our triune God can look beyond the earthly things that divide us and the Pharisaic attitude that looks for an opportunity to condemn, as they did to Jesus himself for healing on the Sabbath, so that our attention can be devoted to demonstrating our love of God and our love of neighbor through our thoughts, words, and deeds.

  • I like how the article calls the split in the ELCA after ‘the vote’ a small schism. SMALL?????!!!!! It has been the largest church divide in modern recorded history! And we didn’t lose just members here in the U.S. to the North American Lutheran Church it also gave rise the LCMC. Not to mention the numerous international organizations that have dropped their affiliations with the ELCA. I WOULD NOT CALL THAT SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT! It must have been that idiot Hanson who wrote the article. Here are my prayers for the ELCA: I pray this lady will bring back sanity to an otherwise out-of-control and quickly diminishing denomination before the last nail in the coffin is in place. I pray she will actually ‘lead’ the denomination and not worry so much about photo ops, tv appearances and her dance routine for national youth conventions. I pray she will be a true servant of God and lead the denomination back towards true biblical practices and NOT conformance with a corrupt and broken society. I pray she will lead the denomination back towards spending all day serving those who need it, and not endlessly debating the God-given truths of the Bible. I pray that she will have the nerve to speak the name of Jesus with confidence and love, and not under her breath. Most of all I pray she will end the divisions and bring unity – unity not only within the denomination, but with God. I pray her actions, unlike her predecessor, will bring God’s favor upon our church, and not heartache.

  • Sorry George, but water sprinkled on your head is not a golden ticket to heaven. You have to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation…you can technically turn your back on Him and forget His ways and lose that gift. Of course, you and I both know He will gladly give it back with no question when (that’s the key word) you give your life back to Him. I’m sorry but not everybody will end up in heaven…it’s the truth, sad as it may be!

  • It appears to me that you miss the while point of Christianity which not to just save yourself and be smug about it but carry the message of Christ to the world. Many of you appear to quite happy to sit around feeling holier than thou and feel secure in the knowledge that Christ is with you simply because you espouse a theology that condones Homosexuality and are”welcoming”. That does not sound like any Christianity I know of. Christians are enjoined to feed the poor, visit the sick, visit the prisoners, to become like Christ and, most important of all, to carry the word to the world. I do not think Christians are supposed to be content to be part of a dying church that see itself as perfect because it has molded itself to modern cultural norms.

    If the early Christians had conformed to the cultural norms of Late Antiquity in an effort to be relevant, there would have been no difference between the classical pagan religions and Christianity. Given this, Christianity would have been just another pagan cult and very likely would not have survived the advent of Islam.

    Welcoming and loving does not imply implicit or explicit approval of behaviors, even by Christ who certainly welcomed all but but did not approve of everyone’s actions.

    Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well sets his out very succinctly. He accepts the woman but not her sin and tells her to go forth and sin no more. That it how the Church should treat all sinners — adulterers, thieves, fornicators and, yes, homosexuals, among others. Accept the sinner but not their sin.

    I do not any longer believe believe there is any hope for the western theology to remain true to anything but the expediency of political correctness as dictated by shifting cultural norms.

    Many of the western Churches, as they say among the people of my mother, are like a hound dog chasing its own tail.

    I am surprised how many of say good riddance when you loose believers when should weep to loose believers as shepherds weep for lost sheep. But I suppose that the sheep flock thing does not work with modern, empowered, think for themselves noo one can tell me anything types.

    I am a sheep in the flock and I have become, and will remain, a Byzantine.

    My the Lord our God keep you all in his heart.

    Iñigo de Oña
    On the Feast of the Koimesis of the Theotokos

  • You said “your opponents arguments are so patently absurd that Godly sarcasm is all you can use to move them.” But I take it now that the sarcasm is instead intended to move those who might be “wavering,” which seems more realistic. Even more than that, however, when you are being sarcastic, you are reinforcing the bond between yourself and those who agree with you.

  • I continue to pray for clarity on the matter, and conviction via the Holy Spirit if such is necessary. I have not received it yet. Perhaps I have sealed my conscience with a hot iron, and if I have, Lord have mercy, I pray for my saving from that.

    My main point was about those who used young slaves for sexual gratification, but I do see the point as well about same-sex marriages in the ancient world.

    My past before Eastern Orthodoxy includes Reform Judaism and Confessional Lutheranism. Reform Judaism is supportive of same-sex unions, giving the reasons that the Law prohibited such unions because of the use of homosexuality as a fertility rite or some type of worship of false deities.

  • Actually, it is lose believers not loose believers even many are indeed loose believers.

    Iñigo de Oña

  • If the the ELCA, its God, and its Holy Book are seriously flawed and in error, why should anyone want to be part of your Church? If all will be saved no matter what, why should I not do whatever I wish, answer to all of my desire no matter what they are, no matter whom they hurt? Why should I strive to be come like Jesus if He is an Imperfect God and in error?

    If this is truly what the ELCA believes then it is no wonder it is a dying Church. I would better off keeping my money for myself, reading New Age self help books and playing golf on Sundays and Holy days than attending an ELCA liturgy.

    Iñigo de Oña

  • These are certainly interesting interpretations of Biblical passages on Sodom and Gomorrah and the teachings of Paul. What is their provenance? I am fairly well read in the Early Fathers and the Desert Fathers and Mothers and I not aware of any Orthodox interpretations or writings remotely similar to these. Are they modern (since 1900)?

    Iñigo de Oña

  • — “JUST CHRISTIANS: On Homosexuality and Christian Identity”
    [ . . .]
    “The Apostolic Answer

    “In 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul gives vital clarification on a subject where there is much foggy thinking among those who ask questions like, “What should the Church’s approach to homosexual Christians be?” The apostolic answer is that there is no such thing as a homosexual Christian. There are brethren who struggle with various temptations, to be sure, and may on occasion fall to them before rising again. But believers who resist homosexual lust are not “homosexuals.” They are just Christians, as are the rest of us with our own besetting sins.

    “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? [Then comes a list of sinners, including “sexual perverts.”] And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of
    our God.”

    “Such WERE some of you. The apostle is writing to the baptized saints in the church of Corinth who ARE NO LONGER these things. He does not say they are no longer susceptible to their old sins, nor that these old sins mustn’t be dealt with: addressing the problems old sins create is a large part of the epistle’s burden. Given this apostolic definition, however, we cannot—we dare not—say there is any such thing as a “gay (or lesbian, etc.) Christian,” for the Christian by definition has been cleansed of his homosexuality. He cannot regard himself as a homosexual—or idolater, or thief, or drunkard—nor can the Church affirm him, or the various acts associated with the old vice, as such.

    “There is no “homosexual voice within the Church,” for the homosexual’s conversion entails a choice—This, or That—the sin, or the Faith. He cannot have both, nor can the Church in any way accommodate the sin from which he has been cleansed. It is wholly and actively and vehemently against it as a destroyer of the souls it has been called to save. It labors among the saints only in the accomplishment of what has already been done in Christ: cleansing, sanctification, and justification in the Name of the Lord. . . .

    “. . .Christian authorities need to stop thinking and writing as though the categories of homosexual and Christian can be joined—as though the Church could tolerate or accommodate, or speak gently of, much less bless or sanctify, anything peculiar to the garment stained by the flesh that those who come to Christ throw off in their baptism.

    “In that baptism we become penitents, and as such divided from our sins. St. Paul tells us here that no penitent is to be named by, identified by, what he has abjured. Those injured people who have put on Christ have put on, in him, life, hope, healing of their diseases, and resurrection of their bodies in the image and likeness of the one who has saved them.

    “The Church never can and never will give satisfaction—and the homosexualist knows it, for he knows the words against him are ineradicable—to the declared and impenitent homosexual, the person who, through an act of the vermiculate will, has identified his person with a sin, whether he demands acceptance of his sin through “love,” or vindication through identification of his perceived enemies as bigots. Whether he presents himself as an object of love or indignation, what he demands in either case is acceptance not of the person, but of the sin-bound and sin-defined person. He demands the declaration of spiritual authority that there is nothing objectively disordered about this binding of man to sin, and assurance that this monstrous amalgam can indeed enter the kingdom of heaven. This can never happen among Christians until they abandon Christianity, which is at war with every sin, and whose indelible constitution places all perversions of the perfect man at the muzzle of its canons.”

  • The hemorrhaging continues apace.

    According to statistics compiled by the ELCA Office of the Secretary and available on the church’s website [ ], ELCA congregations lost 483,252 members in 2010 and 2011 (the most recent year for which such figures are available**). Also in those two years, the number of ELCA congregations dropped by 710.

    **UPDATE [August 2013] Membership losses for 2012 have finally been posted and can now be found in the Secretary’s Report within the Pre-Assembly Report that is available on the ELCA website. Page 22 of that report shows the baptized membership of the ELCA at the close of 2012 to be 3,964,474 in 9,540 congregations, a loss of 95,311 members and 98 congregations for the year.

    The ELCA started in 1987 with 5,288,048 members and 11,133 congregations.

    It’s been on the skids ever since.

  • When my Norwegian gggfather, a son of Hans, settled in Iowa, he signed up for the Union army, but was turned down for health reasons. His commitment caused such a stir in his Lutheran congregation that he joined the newly-formed Congregational Church. Growing up 75 years later in the house he built and the church he joined, I was acutely aware of the vitriol among the five Lutheran congregations in that town of 3,000. Today I am ordained in the United Church of Christ and serving a Lutheran congregation.

    After painfully reading 111 vitriolic comments this morning, I feel as I believe he felt, and I would take the same course of action as did he. But tell me, is it something in the water?

  • I would say that I could say the exact same thing about members of a neighboring congregation who were determined to leave the ELCA. When appeals against gay people didn’t work, they resorted to distortions and outright lies about the ELCA to create fear and suspicion in order to strong-arm people into voting out of the denomination. This carried over into conversations with members of our congregation, straining the relationship between the churches and our members. In the end, our congregation remained, and theirs left due to their campaign of intimidation and distortion.

  • Too bad that is not what the ELCA believes, just a simple-minded interpretation that supports a biased and unfounded estimation of the people and the leadership in the denomination. You can believe authentically, you can believe in the authority of scriptures while you wrestle with the challenges it poses both within the text and as it relates to the world around us. There are points of tension, and we are called to find where this tension pulls us. Do we believe that other faith traditions are not to be respected because ours is the one true way? Do we not still reach out to our neighbors in love even if we do not ascribe to their ways? Do we not have a duty to have a full understanding of others’ beliefs in conversation or do we simply dismiss them and pass judgment because of their “otherness.” The world is messy, and Scripture gives us the tools to guide our lives. However, it doesn’t always provide easy answers, and we have a duty to wrestle with our convictions and with the text. We have a devotion to learning and discerning, to critical thought. This means inherently that we treat Scripture with its due deference while understanding that the text is complex. We are called to be separate from the world but to be in the world (not of the world, though…that is a distinction), and how we act in relation to the world around us is important. Is the goal to be separated and aloof, looking at others in judgment, or are we to be on a level plane with other members of creation? Are we bound by texts that designate a gender to who may serve and who must be silent? Or is that on the periphery of the true message and a distraction from it? Do we really do better work if women are silent and women are not in leadership positions? Are we really better equipped? Is the key to passages from Timothy the gender of the bishop/teacher, or is the code of conduct that should take priority? Many denominations say no. Others do not. I am thankful for my friends who have become pastors, both male and female. They are following their calling to a noble profession. Thanks be to God for all of them.

  • Anyone who claims to be Lutheran must also have a well-developed sense of critical thinking skills and an academic thirst for knowledge. Your position is utterly ridiculous. Baptism is a sacrament that is symbolic of the gift of Grace received, but we are called to atonement, to confession and absolution, for we are all sinners who utterly fail to be deserving of God’s grace. That is where John 3 becomes important. That we are constantly being made new in our walk of faith. The goal is to not only acknowledge God’s love for us and for all people, but to admit the ways in which we fail to reflect that love ourselves. Acts of faith follow from an acceptance of Grace and a desire to show that love and grace to others.

  • What a loving and Christ-like response. Grace and peace to you. I am saddened by the schism in the ELCA and the decidedly poor behavior exhibited by those in their passion to either remain in the denomination or to leave it. The amount of defamation against the actual positions against the ELCA, the repugnant misinformation that spread fear and suspicion in order to convince people to leave was particularly ugly. Now, I do think that there has been an insensitivity and intolerance on the part of more liberal spokespeople that have exacerbated this problem where members may have felt marginalized or demonized. I suppose it’s time for revenge. As for me and my congregation, we worship God, we study the Bible, we ask for forgiveness and we seek his grace. We work in mission in our community, among our neighbors, and out into the larger church and the world. We don’t get distracted by messages that are divisive but ultimately not fundamental to what it means to believe, what it means to demonstrate love of neighbor and welcoming the stranger, and what it means to love God.

  • I would suggest that the number of divisive comments on here are the result of great emotional turmoil that has come about within this church body. It’s interesting that you jump on the comments of those whose response is “good riddance” in the denomination (which is lamentable), but you give those who simply dismiss the ELCA as a whole as no longer Christian, which is the exact same disdainful dismissal, just couched in different words. It is always lamentable when issues facing mankind and society serve to divide believers and result in an arrogant and fundamentally un-Christian behavior towards others. You are right, we are called to feed the poor, to be in service to others in the world. “We are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.” All of us who believe have a mission to love one another and to love god without bearing false witness against each other, without prejudice, without judgment, with an attitude of humility and repentance, for we all fall short of the glory of God, as I think this message board clearly demonstrates. I hope that we can move beyond our myopic focus on finding faults in others so that we can find a faith that truly demonstrates that we understand what it means to receive God’s grace.

  • Christianity is not a take what you want and leave the rest and still be Christian, Since Luther’s disavowal of the book of James and removing it (and other inconvenient things) from his Bible there has been a tendency among some Lutherans to do the same other inconvenient beliefs.

    Iñigo de Oña

  • A lot of what I read here from the supporters of the ELCA sounds like New Age brand Gnosticism flavored with Pelagianism. Lot of talk of acceptance, respect, love, and affirmation of each other exactly as you are and very little talk of sin, repentance and becoming like Christ unless it is a Christ that demands nothing of you other than be exactly as you wish. This is certainly not the Christ that said let the dead bury the dead and follow Me or told the Samaritan woman to go forth and sin no more. As matter of a fact, the biggest among many here appears to be thinking that there is sin unless it is the sin of hating sin or that someone is sinning. For those of you who judge not lest you also be judge, read the next line that says ot judge yourself first. A thorough examination of conscious with an open Bible and some prayer can work wonders in the clearing the mind, seeing yourself as you really are, and then finding the correct path to follow. That, however, would make you feel bad about yourselves and not be affirming. That, apparently, is a no-no.

    May God keep you all in his heart.

    Iñigo de Oña

  • There are indeed Homosexual Christians in good standing as there are Heterosexuals Christians in good standing. There are some in my Byzantine Parish. They, like the unmarried heterosexuals, remain chaste and celibate unless they wish to fall into sin. It is not what you are but rather what you do with it that determines who you are

    I am am no longer married so I do not have sex with women (or anyone else for that matter) until such as I remarry lest I fall into sin. Should I never remarry, my sex life is over, a sacrifice for my salvation.

    Homosexuals have a tougher path to follow in that they cannot marry so their sex lives become a permanent offering for their salvation.

    It is not who you are that determines if you are a Christian and are saved but what you believe plus how you live your life that determines your status of being Christian and whether you are on the path to Theosis and to Salvation.

    We are all born with a propensity to sin; it is what we do with this
    propensity that determine who we are, what we become, and where we go.

    We will all one day be weighed in the balance and found wanting

    Iñigo de Oña

  • There always seem to be a re-shuffling among Christians. In the 1970’s several thousand left the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. These thousands became one of the three Lutheran groups that became the ELCA.

    A very conservative denomination with headquarters in Nashville has been losing members for six years. Even very conservative groups lose members.

  • Jon —
    The ELCA my indeed be no longer Christian if it does follow scripture and the traditions that formed it. It may have indeed morphed into something else.

    God’s grace is not cheap. Christ called on us to deny ourselves, to follow him, to become like him as much as we can. Remember what Christ told the young man who wanted to bury his father.

    That does not sound like the program the ELCA espouses these days. Loving, welcoming, and respecting people no matter what is your program. No call to change, to deny your basic natures, no Theosis.

    I do find it interesting that suddenly in the modern Euro-centric world two thousand years of scriptural interpretation has been overturned and scriptural passages given completely new meanings and what was once sin is considered normal or even desirable and calling sin sin has become, well, sinful.

    Iñigo de Oña

  • Jon —

    You can take what you want and leave the rest but then you do not get the complete message. If you may indeed leave so much that you are no longer Christian.

    Be cautious.

    Iñigo de Oña

  • Jon —

    Who is lying and bearing false witness? How are the doing this? In what way?

    Iñigo de Oña

  • Point of order. Luther never removed James or anything other books from his bible. in fact, he published the entire bible, including the Apocrypha. If you read Luther’s writings, you would find very little in common with the tenets of the ELCA today.


  • These comments are all very interesting.

    Who would report something like: “IBM has appointed a woman as CEO. She is married to a man who is a senior civil servant. IBM has long hired gay people without discriminating against them.”

    The connection, please? Other than that all good Christians are supposed to know that both women and gay people (of all genders) are slightly less than human and really shouldn’t be allowed access to God or positions of influence in the church?

    My comment is not directed at Sarah, but rather at some of the other comments here. In what other walk of life do we revile women and gay people as categories?

  • Please beloved,

    In making your commentaries, remember we are christians, we are all part of one body – and Paul himself makes many allowances for the many motivations that exist amongst sinful people that the gospel is still preached – the work of the church, and the great commission, all still advances with us and in spite of us.

    It is not for us to take the place of our Lord as judge – who even on the cross, spoke in love to sinners. Nor am I claiming to dub anyone hereinbefore mentioned as a “sinner” – indeed God will judge all.

    It would be best, I think rather than to use this article as a platform – or as a place to claim yourself as a judge through the use of pith and recalcitrant prose, we should instead seek to do the work of the gospel and preach that Christ’s grace is for all whom he has called. The rest is for God to judge, sanctify, and redeem as he sees fit.

    Did not Luther himself say as much throughout his “Tischreden”?!? I think so. Let us confess our own sin rather than profess what we believe to be sinful in others.

    Might someone in this thread of comments above who is condemning same – sex attraction also be at fault for something else? Perhaps someone who is overweight, or once broke the speed limit. Are our bodies not also temples? Are we not also to obey local laws in view of the common good of all as Christians? No one here is so perfect that they may cast a stone – nor observe the speck in someone else’s eyes, while neglecting the plank in their own.

    Drawing these issues out into the light will only make the church stronger. Cease the judgement. Enough.

    In other words – when it comes to the work of the gospel (in colloquial terms) “Get back to work”!

  • Wasn’t Bishop Hanson elected because he was a man? My wife was a voting member and she will tell you that your comment is false and foolish. Oh, my wife voted for men up to the final ballot (because she felt those particular persons would make a good Presiding Bishop) so do not say anything about her voting for a woman because she is a woman. According to her, in the end, Bishop Eaton was simply the most impressive of the candidates.

  • Well said Jon. I would add, because you used the metaphor, that the name “Israel” means “one who wrestles with God.”

  • I find it “fascinating” that often it’s the DIVORCED who criticize people who are gays/lesbians. Somehow most Christians have been able to accept divorced people even though divorce is condemned. Everyone has his/her “favorite sins to commit” and “favorite sins to condemn in others.”

  • Our leadership ought to be letting their theology inform their world view.
    Instead, they are letting their world view inform their theology.

  • This debate is leaving me cold. It is one of the reasons going to church on Sunday is becoming such a chore. You have a small church, gradually dwindling, merging, cutting back, going nowhere, and I think that direction is perpetuated by the churchwide debate. You essentially have an “elite” group of clergy and bishops taking direction from the churchwide on all the politically correct issues, and you have a local church body just trying to survive, and nobody is talking, except at meetings and assemblies. Sorry, no way to run a church! It is getting exhausting. As an increasingly backsliding, late-sleeping, formerly active member I have to say the political correctness is stultifying.

  • You’re right, Grace is not cheap, and the wages of sin is death. I take very seriously a call to demonstrate God’s love through the way I conduct my life and the way in which I interact with others and the choices I make regarding my work, my leisure, and my resources. I also know that I fail utterly in my attempts to work for the glory of God to deserve the gift of God’s grace. I also take very seriously a real analysis and picture of the history of the texts and the cultures out of which our Holy Scriptures have been written and interpreted. Not one that naively makes a claim that they have been interpreted in exactly the same way for 2000 years, or that denies that even the Gospels themselves reveal differences in the authors and the evolution of theological thought in reaction to the life, death and resurrection of our Savior and what it means for the community of faith. Human society, and that includes religious interpretation of how we are to live as believers in society that are a part of the world but separated from the world, has indeed evolved over these 2000 years in not insignificant ways. This doesn’t mean that we are necessarily creating a self-serving religion of the world that is disconnected from God. To claim to know the mind of God is not healthy, and to insist that the complexities of Scripture can be simplified so that humankind can be certain who must be left out, what sin is worse than another, and who is falling away from God and therefore subject to rejection and who is being “faithful,” giving over to a certain population of the “faithful” the judgment that is God’s, is as reprehensible a distortion as it would be if we simply accept that anything goes, which is a patently absurd assertion that you use to willfully use to bear false witness against your neighbor. It is interesting that Jesus often had the harshest words for those who were the most religious, the most indoctrinated, and the most willing to point out the faults of others in their failings. We accomplish NOTHING by dismissing and judging others. Your philosophizing reflects an unfamiliarity with those who you accuse of falling away from the faith, and your dismissal of members of God’s creation as believers does nothing to win people to your cause. I wish you all the best, that God works in and through you, and that you are blessed. Peace be with you.

  • I leave nothing out, but also understand that Scripture is complex and cannot be reduced to simple statements devoid of context, both within scripture itself as well as its relationship to the cultures from which these texts emerged. Among the complexities are the ability to appropriately translate texts from languages that are notoriously nuanced.

  • And thus Jesus’ prophecy from Luke 12:51-53 is fulfilled. Note this was today’s gospel lesson.

  • Your comments and judgments regarding your estimation of the comments of supporters of the ELCA are bearing false witness against your neighbor and demonstrating an utter lack of understanding of the beliefs of people in the denomination. That, and your condescension (no matter how well intended) that ELCA Lutherans somehow are lacking in the capacity for self reflection and examination, that we are somehow magically looking for the pill that will make us feel good about ourselves and to make excuses for our shortcomings. That is not at the essence of the faith of ELCA Lutherans any more than it is of any other Christian denominations. I might suggest that before you look to remove the speck from they eye of your neighbor, you might address the log in your own eye.

  • Well said. Thank you. I must also apologize for the ways in which I have failed to abide in the way as you propose as evidenced by my contributions to this message board. When tensions and emotions run high, we often become bound and captive to them and lack the consideration and ability to rise above petty injurious behavior that we are victim to or that we do to others. It is better to use our energies to confess our sins, to be engaged in mission, and to conduct our lives in a way that is truly acceptable in His sight. We have to overcome our human tendency to believe that we are right, that we possess the authority to speak for God, and that we possess the ability to stand in for God. We are incapable of this, and are all unworthy of His forgiveness, we are hopelessly bound to sin. Our hope is the gift of Grace given by confessing our sins and accepting this greatest gift of Grace. How we live, how we treat others, and how we reflect Christ in our lives is determined by our willingness to let go of our sinful ways and follow the way of Christ. Petty arguments get us nowhere. Condescending comments and judgmental attitudes are reflective of our sinful nature and our attempts to elevate us to be more like God. We should walk humbly, seeking truth, goodness, and mercy at all times. I regret that I have failed to do this. Peace.

  • Scott: Of course, Jesus was referencing his own impending arrest and death that would pave the way for his resurrection. In Luke, the division literally represented the difference of opinion after Christ’s death and resurrection regarding the significance of Jesus and his interpretation as Messiah…the beginnings of divisions between Jews and the development of Christianity as its own faith separate from Judaism. I suppose you might apply it today. There are serious divisions going on. I would urge you to read further to the end of the chapter for guidance in this matter of division: Try hard to be reconciled, or you will end up in prison, and you will pay the entirety of the penalty due to you.

    49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

    Interpreting the Times

    54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

    57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

  • Here is the father of the Lutheran’s Church has to say about the lifestyles!
    Martin Luther correctly identifies homosexuality with the sin of Sodom. Commenting on Genesis 19:4-5 he writes:
    I for my part do not enjoy dealing with this passage, because so far the ears of the Germans are innocent of and uncontaminated by this monstrous depravity; for even though disgrace, like other sins, has crept in through an ungodly soldier and a lewd merchant, still the rest of the people are unaware of what is being done in secret. The Carthusian monks deserve to be hated because they were the first to bring this terrible pollution into Germany from the monasteries of Italy. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 3, 251-252)

  • I’m just grateful that both these churches (ELCA and Episcopal) are both dying out. In a few more generations, they’ll be just memories. Luther and the English reformers were twin sets of cancer on the Christian body and the sooner their heresies fade away, the better this world will be.

  • I’m a retired ELCA pastor, ordained 49 years. Yes all I preach about these days is God’s love and grace. Reading all that is hateful in the above, I am glad to be a part of a church that accepts a person like me.

  • Thanks to Jay Seculow government schools cannot discriminate against christian kids who want to profess their faith. Also the “Lutheran Church” did not vote into office a female bishop as so many of the news agency’s headlines have stated. The ELCA voted in a female bishop.

  • Sarah, In the future, please do not use the broad term “Lutheran” to refer only to one specific Lutheran church body. As a member of the LCMS, it grieves me greatly that some may confuse the actions and positions of the ELCA for those of all Lutherans. Churches with common history and descent can hold vastly different theology and philosophies, as is the case of the ELCA and the LCMS (as well as WELS/ELS, and other theologically conservative synods). To characterize the actions and positions of the ELCA as representative of Lutherans as a whole is to be gravely mistaken and factually incorrect. Thanks.

  • Sorry, John. I don’t think there’s any way of getting around that. They are still Lutheran, but I identify in the headline and in the story that they are part of the ELCA denomination. I grew up Presbyterian, but I know very well that you have to specific which kind to be more specific. But LCMS/WELS/ELCA all include Lutherans.

  • I have been a lifelong member of the Lutheran church – now a part of ELCA. As someone said there has always been gay clergy and now it is out in the open who is and isn’t – and that is a good thing. Churches can choose if they want gay or not clergy.

    Also, as people seek a “perfect” church they will continue to fragment as there is no “perfect” church. As I have said many times – if I wanted to live in a perfect country where would I live. I certainly do not agree with everything in the United States but I would never leave it as that accomplishes nothing.

  • I am sure Martin Luther is rolling over in his grave today… and crying in his pillow. SHAME ON MARK HANSON AND THE ELCA! SHAME!

  • The other denominations no longer regard the ELCA membership as Lutherans. More like simple sinners after the hijacking of the American Lutheran Church which was the foundation conservative majority of the ELCA back in 1988.

  • Christianity is not a take what you want and leave the rest and still be Christian, Since Luther’s disavowal of the book of James and removing it (and other inconvenient things) from his Bible there has been a tendency among some Lutherans to do the same other inconvenient beliefs.