Author Topic: Response to Chilstrom  (Read 1865 times)

Rev. Spaceman

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Response to Chilstrom
« on: September 11, 2010, 02:45:19 PM »
This is a response to Chilstrom's questions offered by Pr. Jonathan Sorum, PhD.  Chilstrom's questions appeared in many small town MN newspapers recently, prompting his reply.  I offer it for your consideration.

Reply to Bishop Chilstrom

 By Jonathan Sorum
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Parkers Prairie, MN
   
   Bishop Chilstrom, you have asked three questions of us.  I suspect that you intend them as rhetorical questions, but I will take them as real questions and reply to them, one by one.
   “First,” you ask, “what is it about sex that pushed you over the edge?”  Bishop Chilstrom, we aren’t the ones who kept bringing up sex throughout the lifetime of the ELCA.  When you kept bringing it up, we were willing enough to talk about it—even though you stacked the numbers so that only one traditionalist was on the first sex task force and three on the second.  But as soon as the conversation started, you changed the subject.  Instead of talking about sex, suddenly you insisted on talking about identity.  And identity is not discussable.  If someone’s sexual feelings give them a God-given “sexual identity,” then even to say that expressing that identity is a sin is an act of oppression.  So your side made sure that there never was a conversation in this church about sex.  And then, when you ram through a change in church teaching and policy (not, as you claim, a mere declaration of non-binding opinion) that overturns the clear teachings of the Scriptures and the entire tradition of the church and we object, you have the gall to turn around and accuse us of being obsessed by sex! 
   Bishop Chilstrom, let me turn the question back on you:  What is it about sex that pushed you over the edge?  Sometime in the past you decided that the final authority that defines who a person is and what a person ought to do comes from within.  Especially in matters of sex, you decided that you would set aside God’s own gracious and life-giving word in favor of each individual’s self-definition of their “sexual identity.”  Why?   You have vowed to preach Christ alone.  What is it about sex that led you to abandon Christ and deliver people over to be slaves to their own desires?
    For us it’s not about sex.  It’s about Jesus Christ.  You accuse us of persecuting people in same-sex relationships who “live peacefully, go to their jobs every morning, pay their taxes, volunteer for good causes and, in many cases, worship with us.” But we are not judging people.   We know the log in our own eye and have no standing to judge others. But since Jesus alone has saved us from bondage to sin and death, we do insist that he alone, as he speaks clearly and reliably in the whole Bible, has the authority to determine the shape of our lives.  I repeat:  it’s about Jesus Christ.   People are leaving the ELCA because it has officially renounced the lordship of Christ as he speaks in Holy Scripture. All of us in resistance to the ELCA have been saying this, constantly, in many forums. If the only reason you have heard for people leaving the ELCA is that the homosexuality vote was ‘the last straw,” then you have not been listening. 
   “Second,” you ask, “why are you organizing new churches?”  The answer is simple:  As congregations and individuals, we need to be connected to the larger church, which will both support our proclamation of the Word of God and hold us accountable to the Word of God. The ELCA no longer does either. The larger church supports our proclamation of the Word by providing us with such things as educational and worship materials that are faithful to the Word, by training and certifying pastors and ministers who will faithfully proclaim the Word, and by providing ways to extend our ministry beyond our communities. But the education, worship and other materials provided by the ELCA for use in congregations are shot through with an alien agenda, most of the pastors and ministers it now trains are not competent to preach the gospel, and its home and global missions are in captivity to a false gospel.  The larger church holds us accountable to the Word by providing teaching that is in accord with the Word and by disciplining pastors and congregations that veer from the Word in their preaching or actions.  But the ELCA itself is committed to false teaching and immorality, so it cannot be trusted anymore to hold us accountable to God’s Word.  Far from supporting us in our ministry, the ELCA undermines us at every turn.  So we have been forced to turn elsewhere for support and to create new church institutions that will hold us accountable to God’s Word.
   In doing so, we are deeply aware of the support and prayers of many members of the other Lutheran bodies you mention.  But for the most part, we have not found it possible to join them and you know very well why.  We represent the center of Lutheranism in North America.  We would gladly join with other Lutherans who have maintained the substance of the faith, but they won’t have us except on condition that we subscribe to a view of biblical inspiration at odds with the Lutheran Confessions and the Bible itself.  So now that you and others have hijacked our denomination for your agenda, we in the Lutheran center have been rendered institutionally homeless.  If we want to continue the Lutheran traditions that carried the gospel to us, we have no choice but to start over with new denominational institutions.  You mock our efforts, but your jibe about the ordination of women inadvertently reveals what we used to have in our churches and have now lost.  You remind us that Lutherans “fought intensely” over this issue.  Yes, we used to be able to engage one another on the basis of the Scriptures, in the light of Christian tradition.  We even “fought” each other “intensely” because we used to believe that what the Scriptures said really mattered and was worth fighting for.  Would that such a thing could happen in the ELCA now!  Perhaps it will surprise you to know that we who are in resistance to the ELCA don’t agree on everything.  However, among us truly theological discussion can proceed because we all stand on the same foundation of Jesus Christ and confession of the Triune God and all acknowledge that the Holy Scriptures are the one source and norm of our faith and life.  Among us, you will find the true freedom of the gospel and real diversity, not the soul-numbing ideological conformity that is now the norm in the ELCA.

   Finally, you ask us, “[W]hat will you say to your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and others in your church when they tell you that they are homosexual?”  To begin with, moral truth isn’t determined by majority votes, even by a 95 percent majority of “professionals in the field.”  Nor will we accept anyone’s verdict that they “are” homosexual.  Who they “are” is not determined by what is within them, but by what God’s Word says to them.  According to God’s Word, they are, like all of us, human beings, created in God’s image but turned in on themselves in sin.  They are among those for whom Christ died and for whom he broke the grave and they are destined for life with him in God’s eternal kingdom.  It may also be true that, in our present fallen condition, they experience sexual desire primarily toward those of the same sex and that this is not something they have chosen.  But these feelings do not constitute an identity, to which they must conform.  Instead, Jesus gives them their true identity as children of his Father and shows them the way of life in his Word.  Perhaps that way will include sufficient healing for marriage to be possible.  But if they must go the single way, then Jesus will be enough and more than enough for them and will fill their lives with love and every good gift.  Sex, after all, is not the end-all and be-all of life. 
   Which brings me back to your first and last question:  What is it about sex that pushed you over the edge?  Why this virtual worship of sex, as if our sexual desires (of all things!) were a pure and unadulterated revelation of God’s will for our lives, trumping even the Word of God, and having the kind of sex we want with the kind of partner we want were the ultimate fulfillment of life, for which everything that stands in the way—spouse, children, parents, society, friends, even the Bible, even Christ himself—must be sacrificed?  Why, Bishop Chilstrom, have you fallen for one of the oldest idols in the Book?

   You are glad to get rid of us.  Now, you say, you can get on with your “primary mission of telling everyone—everyone--`Jesus loves you.  You are welcome in this church.’”  Precisely!  This is the false gospel you have chosen for yourself.  In this gospel there is no repentance or new birth.  We don’t need Jesus (to use your word, he is one of the “non-essentials”), because we are basically good and don’t need a Savior.  We only need to accept ourselves, as God accepts us.  And we don’t need to receive the Holy Spirit, because we all already have the Holy Spirit within us, speaking through our own deepest sense of who we are.  Nor do we need preaching, because once we know we are welcome, that’s all we need to know.  The church, too, is dispensable because everyone is in principle already included and people don’t really have any reason to gather except to celebrate themselves and they can do that in many contexts using many different symbols and images—the goddess, the Buddha, the divine that is within us, whatever.  Yes, in the so-called church that you have helped fashion, everybody is included.
   Except us.  You have no room in your new church for self-confessed sinners who want to listen to Jesus Christ alone.   So we have no choice but to go on, grieving for the wreck of our church, but joyful because we have Jesus and filled with hope because his Spirit always goes before us and creates a new future for his people. We can admit that we, too, have a feeling of relief when we find ourselves in God’s church, where we feel ourselves supported in confessing the gospel and not undermined at every turn.  But that you and so many others have turned aside to go your own way is in no way a relief.  It is an unmitigated sorrow.  We will never release you.  We will continue to call you to Christ and to pray for you, urgently beseeching God that you
Rev. Thomas E. Jacobson, Ph.D

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2010, 04:03:26 PM »

    For us it’s not about sex.  It’s about Jesus Christ. 


Well stated.

It is not about sex; it is about the authority of the Word and the mission of redemption accomplished  by the Word made Flesh.

Sex is but one symptom; a major symptom, but not the only symptom.
Greek Orthodox Deacon -Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

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Charlesu

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2010, 08:52:14 PM »
Thank You for this Post. I agree fully.

Paul L. Knudson

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2010, 09:37:26 PM »
It's good to have pastors in parishes with doctorates, but it is this kind of professor we could use more of at our seminaries.  One wonders, however, about the intimidation factor of those currently teaching who find it difficult to do their work if they are this outspoken.  I think of several young Phds or those who are in doctoral programs who should be getting positions that open, but often do not.  Steven Hultgren comes to mind.  Stephen Paulson is with us and willing to speak at gatherings like we just had.

For those who receive Lutheran Forum magazine I direct your attention to a fabulous article by one of these young doctoral students.  Christopher Richmann is a doctoral student at Baylor and synodically authorized Worship Leader in the Northern Texas-Louisiana Synod.  His article is titled, "Restoring Proclamation to the Center of Youth Ministry."  While respecting some insights from current seminary professors, he nails the problems we are facing when we look upon Youth Ministry as if it's a very different animal than pastoral ministry as delivery the Word of God as law and Gospel, as needing to lead to death and resurrection.  It was one of those articles that amazed me with its simplicity and yet profound insights.  Anyone reading it thoughtfully can see that it indirectly challenges Chilstrom's assumptions and that of leaders in the ELCA.

Sorum's letter has so much in common with Richmann's article.  We must find ways to break through in helping others grasp what is at stake.  If there is interest, a separate thread could well be started to look at Richmann's timely article.

G.Edward

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2010, 12:42:51 AM »
The new orthodox will rise up out of the ashes of what is already collapsing under it's own dead weight.  Praise be to God!

Bergs

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2010, 06:53:39 PM »
Quote
You mock our efforts, but your jibe about the ordination of women inadvertently reveals what we used to have in our churches and have now lost.  You remind us that Lutherans “fought intensely” over this issue.  Yes, we used to be able to engage one another on the basis of the Scriptures, in the light of Christian tradition.  We even “fought” each other “intensely” because we used to believe that what the Scriptures said really mattered and was worth fighting for.  Would that such a thing could happen in the ELCA now!  Perhaps it will surprise you to know that we who are in resistance to the ELCA don’t agree on everything.  However, among us truly theological discussion can proceed because we all stand on the same foundation of Jesus Christ and confession of the Triune God and all acknowledge that the Holy Scriptures are the one source and norm of our faith and life.  Among us, you will find the true freedom of the gospel and real diversity, not the soul-numbing ideological conformity that is now the norm in the ELCA.

This mention of the mocking really struck home.  I went back and re-read Chilstrom's letter.  The mocking tone really does stand out doesn't it.  Chilstrom's tone reminds me of the same mocking I see in the secular political realm.  I am one who left the ELCA primarily because I experienced it at a congregation where the secular political and spirtual divide was very fuzzy.  So the mocking tone reinforces my reality.  The quote above really is the guts of the thing. 

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Brian J. Bergs
But let me tell Thee that now, today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing.
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Bergs

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2010, 02:33:56 PM »
David Barnhart has also written a response.

http://davidbarnhart.blogspot.com/2010/09/bishop-herbert-chilstroms-letter-to.html

Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN
But let me tell Thee that now, today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing.
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Revbert

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2010, 10:04:12 AM »
I know some might chastise me for this, but the social historian in me has been thinking...

How are the TEA Party movement in American politics and the (for lack of a better term right now) Orthodox Lutheran movement in American Lutheranism similar? Are the two related, in that both are working to stand athwart history and scream "STOP!" (thank you, WFB) in their respective arenas?

This is just a crumb of a thought at this point. I haven't really fleshed anything more out on it, but I'll admit that my gut reaction is that there is a relation here.

Art

Terry W Culler

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2010, 10:26:48 AM »
I think there is a superficial resemblance in so far as both groups have people who feel that tried and true institutions are being altered without their support.  But the TEA Party folks and the Orthodox Lutherans have relatively little in common as groups.  I suspect there are a number of Orthodox Lutherans who are appalled by the TEA Party and a number of TEA Party people who think we're superstitious, backward looking fools.  It's a coincidence that they have come out at the same time.  But it is an interesting thought that had not occured to me.  Well done Art.
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Revbert

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2010, 10:51:23 AM »
I think there is a superficial resemblance in so far as both groups have people who feel that tried and true institutions are being altered without their support.  But the TEA Party folks and the Orthodox Lutherans have relatively little in common as groups.  I suspect there are a number of Orthodox Lutherans who are appalled by the TEA Party and a number of TEA Party people who think we're superstitious, backward looking fools.  It's a coincidence that they have come out at the same time.  But it is an interesting thought that had not occured to me.  Well done Art.

No disagreement, Terry. I'm looking at this as a social historian, not a theologian or politician.  What I am seeing is the big theme of the two is a response of backlash to excesses of a vocal minority who have worked to place themselves in positions of authority and decision making, even as they do not represent the majorities in their respective groups. To take the political point a step further, I might toss the Blue Dogs in there, too, and the Jesus First, AELCA, and Day Star folks (to keep this pan-Lutheran in its extreme <G>) as further examples of the application of backlash.

Tom Senge

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Re: Response to Chilstrom
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2010, 11:13:10 AM »
I believe that there are parallel actions here.  For a long time I have felt that there is a correlation between the two worlds, and not just a coincidence.  I see a vision of a float trip down a river, enjoying the scenery, and ignoring the ever increasing roar of the falls ahead.  Once we realize what is happening, we respond in order to find safe and familiar place to ground the canoe, be it the constitution or orthodoxy.  Simply put, I believe that in the church and in society it became far too easy to let someone else chart the course, and folks have finally awakened.

To Pr. Culler....I am not a TEA Party member, but it would be helpful to me if you could steer me towards instances where there has been an inference that we (assuming "we" means orthodox christians) are "superstitious, backward looking fools".  From a cursory obversation I don't see this at all.  In fact I see the opposite.

Tom