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Churchwide Assembly 2005 — Observations

by Stephanie Olson (WordAlone board member)

September 30, 2005


photo of Stephanie OlsonI am amazed that [so many in the ELCA are] so quickly deserting Him who called [them] by the grace of Christ for a different gospel; which is really not another; only thereare some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ ... For [are we] now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or [are we] striving to please men? If [we are] still trying to please men, [we] would not be bond-servant[s] of Christ. [Galatians 1:6,10]

It was a wild, wild ride at the 2005 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America churchwide assembly. I know I appreciated all the prayers, pray-ers and the power of the Holy Spirit amid the parliamentary chaos. Thanks be to God who is faithful. In this light, I would like to share some observations that I hope may be helpful as we move forward:

1. There are many faithful Christians in the ELCA who have not bowed knee to compromise. I appreciated great conversations with many of you at the assembly. These faithful are spread across the ELCA in all areas and regions, even areas that some assume to be totally supportive of change.

2. Who is crying for Unity? At the assembly (and since) “the Some who want change” are beating this “drum,” loudly, saying, “I don’t see why this needs to be church dividing.” Or “I don’t see why we can’t just agree to disagree and let everyone do what they want.” What they are really admitting is these issues concerning homosexual behavior are church dividing, but “The Some” who want change, want change without cost to themselves or the ELCA. They hope that “unity” can be lifted up high enough to obscure how significant these changes really are and “others who do not support change” will not notice the idol that the noble concept of “unity” becomes by doing so.

3. I saw misuse of Scripture. The Some who want change cannot support their ideas without significantly changing the core of the Bible, both Old and New Testament. What was amazing was how blithely this has been done and how seldom it has been publicly challenged in the ECLA. The arguments for change require taking significant texts out of context, something which Christians ought not do.

4. Who is in retreat now? I perceive The Some who want change are on the defensive now. "GoodSoil," a pro-homosexual agenda group, which so heavily lobbied the 2005 CWA, spent a lot of money on the ELCA without gaining much. I thought their distribution of fliers asking people to defy the current rules and expectations of the ELCA on ordination was very telling.

5. The leadership of the ELCA is under a great deal of pressure. The Some, who want change, are continuing to push for change and for ignoring offenses in the meantime.

What I think we can do now

1. Write letters to the leaders of the ELCA. Let them know we care about them and the church. Let them know there is significant resistance to the convoluted use of Scripture, which is required to justify such changes. Be brief. Be bold. Be a counter–pressure. Our leaders need our support, now. The address in Chicago is:

  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • 8765 W. Higgins Road
  • Chicago, IL 60631

2. Get notices out and gather the faithful together in conversation and support so they know they are not alone in the ELCA. Don’t assume because someone lives in a “liberal” area that they are supportive of the same. Sadly, the attitude of many in the ELCA has become one of fear and distrust. Many of us have been taken aback when we have spoken in the past and because of this, have become more timid about taking a stand for fear of “causing trouble.” The Some who want change count on this Lutheran “niceness.”

3. Prayerfully consider nominees now for 2007 Churchwide Assembly voting members, Church Council and other national offices. Find out when the nominations are opened in your area and be ready with names.

4. Be ready to defend the Gospel. Do not be intimidated when you hear someone taking Scripture out on context, even clergy. Rather, speak up, gently and with patience as Paul reminded Timothy: “You however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that lead to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. . . .preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” [2 Timothy 3:14-15, 4:3-4.]

Remember, there is nothing new about any of this. Contrary to statements asserting there is a “new revelation” or a “new reformation,” by The Some who want change, there isn’t. God has dealt with all of this before. We need to remember to be open to experiencing His presence in all we do each day and trust that He will act, most likely in ways we do not expect. We need to be ready and to expect God to act.