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WordAlone Book
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A compilation of essays and comments by concerned pastors, theologians and laypersons, challenging denominations who are denying Christ’s resurrection, ‘demythologizing’ Scripture, blessing same-sex relationships, ordaining non-celibate homosexuals.

Initiated by the WordAlone Network, written in plain English. Cost is $14.95. Non Minnesota orders, add $3.50 postage or $5.90 Priority Mail. Outstate Minnesota orders, add $4.70 for postage and sales tax or $7.25 for Priority Mail and sales tax Minnesota Twin Cities metro area orders, add $4.75 for postage and sales tax or $7.30 for Priority Mail and sales tax. To order call WordAlone at 1-888-551-7254 or
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Notable Lutheran

—theologians unite in opposing task force teport

by Betsy Carlson (Editor, WordAlone Network)

News: March 3, 2005

(Editor’s note: The full text of the theologians statement is posted as a service to readers.

In response to the mid-January “Report and Recommendations” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Task Force on Sexuality, several Lutheran theologians have issued a statement opposing and critiquing the recommendations.

One telling aspect is that the task force recommendations have brought unity among theologians who disagreed vigorously about a requirement that new pastors be ordained by bishops under “Called to Common Mission,” the full communion agreement between the ELCA and American Episcopalians.

The sexuality task force recommendations urged unity in “mission and communion” and named it “at least as important as” divisions in the ELCA over ordaining gays in same-sex relationships or blessing such relationships. The recommendations suggested the ELCA continue to follow 1993 Conference of Bishops pastoral guidelines in ministering to gays and didn’t directly address the questions of blessing same-sex relationships.

A third recommendation said there should be no changes in the church’s policies and standards on ordination of and ministry by homosexuals but also said persons and congregations who, in good conscience, violate current policies should not be disciplined. Current policies require celibacy of gays and unmarried heterosexuals.

The theologian’s response called all the recommendations objectionable and said they would lead to structural dissolution of the ELCA and to intense division and disunity at the local levels in the denomination.

“The task force imposes a subjective understanding of ‘conscience,’ one bound only by private judgment, upon Scripture and Luther, thus misrepresenting both,” the theologians wrote. “Whenever conscience severs itself from faith in Christ and fidelity to the Word it is no longer conscience in a true sense.”

Well-known proponents of CCM and the mandatory episcopal ordination clause, who signed the statement opposing the task force recommendations, include: Michael Root, dean of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C.; Carl Braaten, executive director of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology and professor emeritus of systematic theology at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Also: David Yeago, systematic theologian at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary; and Robert Jenson, co-editor of “Pro Ecclesia” with Braaten and taught theology at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Oxford University.

Opponents of mandatory episcopal ordination and supporters of the WordAlone Network include: Marc Kolden, systematic theologian, and James Nestingen, church historian, are professors at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; Gerhard Forde, systematic theologian, and Roy Harrisville, New Testament theologian, are professors emeriti at Luther Seminary; Hans Hillerbrand, professor of religion at Duke University, Durham, N.C. He is also president of the American Academy of Religion, a guild for theologians. George Forell, is professor emeritus and former head of the religion department at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

In conclusion, the theologians wrote: “Neither Scripture not the Confessions entrust the theological or ethical teaching of the church to pastoral ‘discretion.’ In listening to the contemporary ‘voices of the baptized children of God,’ we cannot and must not disregard the voices of the church universal over the past two millennia; Scripture can never address us independently from that communal history.”