Author Topic: So this is unity?!?  (Read 1719 times)

Brad Everett

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So this is unity?!?
« on: July 16, 2011, 12:04:18 PM »
It says something about the state of a denomination when a motion on unity brings to light more discord than concord.
The vote was taken last night (Friday) and the results given first thing this morning – it passed 204 to 133.
When the first of the three motions coming out of the Social Statement on Human Sexuality, (prepared by the Faith, Order and Doctrine Committee at the request of National Church Council) hit the floor for debate it was obvious the divide in the ELCIC is deep and wide.
Intended to be a motion affirming unity, it showed that members in the ELCIC have two very different understandings concerning the state of the denomination.
For those who supported the Social Statement, this motion seemed not just salutary but necessary—a way to encourage continued dialogue and relationships within the ELCIC and between the ELCIC and its partner churches. One delegate said the motion described what the ELCIC is and can become.
Those against the motion characterized it as controlling, manipulative and part of a larger agenda on the part of ELCIC leadership to push through changes in teaching and policy on sexuality and as a means to control and influence future conversation and implementation.
One delegate said he could appreciate a creative strategy and that is what NCC had employed. He said NCC’s strategy was wonderful and its power exquisite in bringing these changes to the ELCIC, but that it couldn’t legislate unity—it couldn’t legislate people’s hearts. He questioned the NCC’s commitment to continuing conversation noting that this is the first convention at which a representative from the seminaries was not given voice—wondering if that was connected to an Open Letter written by the faculty of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, noting that the letter was refused posting on all the synod websites.
In response, a member of NCC said several times that it the council had no agenda, but that it was guided by the same Spirit everyone in the room is guided by—the Holy Spirit.
Rather than recount more of the debate, allow me to cut to what I see is the crux of the matter—and I use that term on purpose. Those who support the Social Statement seem to be of the opinion that disagreement on this issue does not affect what is confessed in the Augsburg Confession Article VII on the Church (part of which is quoted in the motion), which reads:

“Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered. And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.”

 For those who opposed the Social Statement this article describes why unity is threatened if not already destroyed. By changing the ELCIC’s teaching on sexuality the Gospel can no longer be rightly taught i.e. what was called sin is now blessed so how can one properly proclaim Law and Gospel? To suggest that God’s commands on morality can be equated with human traditions, rites and ceremonies and agreement isn’t important, is an affront to those opposed, who see it as compromising the Gospel i.e. there is no need for the good news of God’s grace, if what Scripture calls sin can be so easily set aside.
Those in favor say that “our unity is in Christ”, while those opposed are expressing concerns that the Social Statement and the motions are walking apart from Christ.

I’m not questioning the motives or sincerity of people on either side of the question. But it would seem the disagreement now facing the ELCIC isn’t about sexuality but the Gospel, the cross. AC VII says “And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.” At this point it’s legitimate to question if there is or there can be agreement between members concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and consequently the administration of the Sacraments.
According to AC VII if you can’t agree on that there can be no true unity, no matter what motions are passed.

Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: So this is unity?!?
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2011, 01:24:51 PM »
Thanks for this report, Brad. I agree with those concerned that when moral teaching (the Law) is changed, it includes consequences for the proclaimation of the Gospel. While the AC mentions the Gospel expressly as the necessary basis of unity, it does not preclude the whole of Christian doctrine (which may also be called "the Gospel") since Christian doctrine is interrelated. This is especially the case with the Law and Gospel distinction.