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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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WordAlone’s recommendation

to ELCA 2005 Churchwide Assembly

April 19, 2005

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ [Matt. 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Martin Luther, Thesis One of the Ninety-five Theses.

The main question

This is the fundamental question before the ELCA: Is all sexual activity outside of a marriage of one man and woman sinful behavior or not? The answer to this question will address all other questions concerning sexual relationships. The ELCA task force for sexuality studies did not answer that question, nor have the bishops nor the national church council.

As has been true for most believers in the history of the Church, we believe that in the Scriptures Christ sets clear boundaries for sexual relationships limiting them to marriage and consistently proscribing all homosexual sexual relationships. As much as sinners do not want to hear it, God forbids all sexual relationships outside marriage.

Therefore, Jesus Christ confronts all believers, regardless of our sexual inclinations, with his command, “Repent.”

WordAlone’s recommendation to the 2005 churchwide assembly

The WordAlone Network calls for the churchwide assembly to reject all three of the church council’s proposed resolutions on homosexuality, and to adopt in their place the following statement, which is dissenting position one from the report of the ELCA task force for sexuality studies:

  1. Affirm and uphold current policy and practices consistent with past understandings of Vision and Expectations, Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline, and the social statements of the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church.
  2. Admonish individuals, communities, congregations, and synods that any discipline that may result in response to actions contrary to those policies be undertaken with all humility in the knowledge that we see through the glass darkly. May we forgive as we wish to be forgiven. Remembering the log in our own eye, may Christian charity guide our ways; and
  3. Beseech individuals, communities, congregations, and synods, who for reasons of conscience will act contrary to the aforementioned policies, to graciously accept and endure the discipline of the church for the sake of peace, secure in the knowledge “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

No unity apart from truth revealed in Christ

Some have asserted that with regard to the homosexuality questions there are two “valid and irreconcilable” approaches to Scripture (ELCA news release, March 11, 2005), as though some believers may rightly believe that homosexual activity is sin and others may rightly believe it is not sin. Both beliefs cannot be true. Either homosexual activity is sin or it is not. Jesus is not saying to some, “Repent,” and to others, “You are okay just the way you are.”

The Conference of Bishops’ and the church council’s endorsements of the task force’s first recommendation, exalts organizational unity above scriptural truth. When confronted with the near certainty that his theological positions would lead to division within the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther persevered because the truth of the Gospel could not be sacrificed for the unity of an institution. Likewise, the truth must not be sacrificed in our time.

In its ecclesiology, or view of itself as church, the ELCA churchwide organization has unfortunately put itself into the role of Church with a capital “C.” When Jesus promised to be with his Church until the end of time, he spoke to Church as gatherings of believers, not as denominational institutions. The unity of the ELCA, merely a denomination, is not as important as the truth of the Gospel being preached or as the Sacraments being administered rightly. The unity of a denomination does not supersede the truth of the Word! When a denomination pursues unity first, it puts truth in peril and invites disaster.

No authority to bless sin

The task force, the Conference of Bishops and the church council interpret the language in the 1993 bishops’ statement on “Blessing of Homosexual Relationships” to mean that appropriate pastoral care for people engaged in homosexual relationships can be to bless same-sex unions. However, the Scriptures do not authorize us to bless that which is sin. There should be respect for the truth of the Scriptures, in addition to the bishops’ statement. This would result only in pastoral care that welcomes all sinners, regardless of their sexual inclinations—and speaking the truth in love—speaks Christ’s word, “Repent,” to all sinners.

No authority to make exceptions for sin

The church council’s affirmation of the standards in Vision and Expectations and its proposal for bylaws for exceptions from the ELCA’s “normative policies” are incompatible. Either a sexual relationship outside of marriage disqualifies one for service as a pastor in the ELCA or it does not. Trying to have it both ways is hypocritical. Approval of a sexual relationship outside of marriage in one situation opens the door to approval in every situation.

Most believers, including our Lutheran sisters and brothers around the world, will perceive approval of the council’s recommendations as approval of sin.

The council’s comparison of its proposed exceptions to divorce and remarriage is invalid. No believer is asserting that divorce is not sin.

The council’s proposed exception process is entirely different than the 2001 ELCA bylaw on ordination in unusual circumstances. The latter provides exceptions to deviate from a human rite, and allows for a practice commonly used by many Lutheran traditions—any pastor may ordain. The former provides exceptions to deviate publicly from divine law and to be ordained or rostered while disobeying divine law.

A disconnected churchwide organization

The churchwide organization has ignored repeatedly the negative responses from churches, synod councils and a majority of ELCA members to these questions on homosexuality. The vote by the task force was lopsided, with 12 of 14 members seeming to approve of homosexual sexual relationships. The church council voted 32 for the recommendations, and only two voted against, one of whom wants complete approval for blessing of same-sex unions and ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. These are an indication of how disconnected the churchwide organization is from the majority of ELCA members.

Inaccurate statements and characterizations

Contrary to the common assertion that ancient peoples knew nothing of homosexual orientation or homosexuality as a condition, the evidence abounds in ancient literature that in fact they did. It is sinful presumption to assume that we who live in the 21st century are wiser than ancient peoples. It is the height of sinful presumption to assume that we know more about human sexuality than God, our creator.

It is false to assert that believers who view homosexual behavior as sin are those who view homosexuality as a choice, rather than a condition. Most believers do perceive homosexual inclinations as a sinful condition, no more sinful than any other sinful inclination—adultery, lust, promiscuity, greed, covetousness, murder, gluttony, theft, dishonor of parents and so on. We are all conceived and born in a sinful condition. We are all responsible for choosing what to do about our sinful inclinations.

It is also misleading to state, “There is significant study which suggests that biblical texts that condemn same-gender activity do not address homosexual people who are in committed relationships.” (church council, April 11, 2005) Most Biblical scholars in the world dispute this type of study. Even among scholars who approve of homosexual sexual relationships, many concede that the Scriptures proscribe all homosexual sexual relationships.