John 3:21

John 3:21
"It is the nature of all hypocrites and false prophets to create a conscience where there is none, and to cause conscience to disappear where it does exist." Martin Luther

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Brooklyn, NY got its hopes raised but then dashed

 Rev. Dr. Norm David reports that Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Brooklyn, NY got its hopes raised but then dashed when Bishop Robert Rimbo of Metropolitan New York Synod / ELCA promised to meet with him to discuss the Bethlehem property issue then broke that promise. 
        The opportunity arose when the Synod at its annual assembly in May adopted unanimously a resolution to pursue "a year of forgiveness and healing" after a lot of aggravation this past year.  One such aggrieved party is Bethlehem, whose property near the heart of the city at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues the Synod seized and shuttered in January 2009.  Bethlehem contends this action was illegal and actively seeks its return. Rev. David, who attended the assembly as a guest, took Bishop Rimbo aside, expressed his gratitude for the resolution, and asked if they could meet.  Bp. Rimbo said that if Rev. David would send him a letter stating what he'd like to discuss, the bishop would meet with him.
        Rev. David wrote the letter stating the Bethlehem concerns.  Bishop Rimbo responded that there was no "Bethlehem issue" and that "all issues brought forth in your letter have been resolved by the Courts of New York State and by the Church."  Rev. David wrote back to say "You know as well as I that nothing has been settled and that, if leaders of our respective entitities fail to reach some kind of accord, we of Bethlehem will be forced to contest all that you claim in all possible forums."
        Rev. David referred Bishop Rimbo to the words of Christ in Matthew 18:15-17 and 5:24-26 and urged him to reconsider and appoint the meeting.  In the meantime, Bethlehem's fundraising drive continues for its anticipated lawsuit.  The amount pledged is $62,000 at present but the legal fees could cost two or three times that, he reports.  Those who wish to contribute may learn more  For those who can give $3,000 or more over a 3 year period, Bethlehem will enter into a nonrecourse loan arrangement.  All checks should be made payable to "Eastern Star LLC" and sent to 597 Belmont Street, Belmont, MA  02478-4420.
With best regards,
Rev. Dr. Norm David, Senior Pastor
Bethlehem Ev. Lutheran Church, Brooklyn NY

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

LCMS Urged to Defend Abandoned Biblical Truths

The head of the second largest Lutheran body in the country greeted delegates over the weekend with a note of affirmation that they are the front-line defenders of biblical truths.While lamenting the liberal direction that their sister body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and The Episcopal Church have taken in recent years, Gerald B. Kieschnick – president of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod – thanked his denomination for uniquely preserving the Gospel.
"The unique contribution of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to Christianity in the world is that we have always stood steadfast and without compromise on the truth of God's inspired, inerrant, infallible Word," he said Sunday at the 64th regular convention in Houston.
During its eight-day convention this week, the LCMS will be considering resolutions in response to the ELCA's decision last summer to allow noncelibate gays and lesbians on the clergy roster. One of the resolutions commends the "Theological Implications of the 2009 ELCA Decisions" document for study and reference.
While the two Lutheran bodies had partnered together in works related to mercy and relief, the ELCA's action – or what Kieschnick described as a desertion of biblical truth – now threatens that cooperative relationship, the document states.
The document does not call the LCMS to immediately cut ties with the ELCA but it expresses hope that their theological position will be respected and that they can "avoid any policies or decisions which would require us to cease our support and involvement in their activities."
Further frank and serious discussions on the matter are also needed, it adds.
In his report Sunday, Kieschnick indicated that the ELCA has descended into "the swamps of compromise," deluded Christian doctrine, and edited "God's Word to suit the whims of the day."
And just as the LCMS defended the "purity of the Gospel" in the early 1970s, they are continuing that fight today, he noted.
Since the ELCA's controversial action, dozens of churches have taken votes to sever ties with the denomination – the largest Lutheran body in the country – and several have sought support from the LCMS, according to Kieschnick.
The breakaway churches are going to the smaller Lutheran body for theological support, training, mission assistance, financial assistance and conservative confessional companionship, he said.
Kieschnick reaffirmed the LCMS' stance that homosexual behavior is contrary to the will of God and therefore intrinsically sinful and that marriage is a divine institution which binds one man and one woman together in a one flesh union not to be broken until death parts them. He further repeated the theology and confessions that the denomination holds to, including belief in the triune God and that the pastoral office is limited to men.
"This is what we believe, teach and confess," he underscored. "Anyone who alleges otherwise is simply misinformed or misled. The Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod for 163 years has been a solid, evangelical, faithful, biblical, confessional Christian church and I pray to God it always will be."
He added that preserving biblical truth does not make the church static or incapable of adapting to changing times though the LCMS has struggled with shrinking membership over the last 40 years.
It's about "proclaiming a changeless Christ to a changing world," he stressed.
Membership at the LCMS is currently 2.4 million. Kieschnick acknowledged that the denomination is struggling with its fair share of problems including disharmony over diversity (in terms of worship, style, role of laity and service of women), a lack of civility and accountability, poor communication, and a loss of its children and grandchildren from LCMS churches.
He urged the church body to face up to this reality in order to fix the problems and move forward to reach the lost.
"Time is short and hell is hot," he noted. "I pray that we will recommit to proclaiming the one message of Christ and Him alone."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sheep Stealing Studied

Sheep Stealing Studied
Presbyterians weigh guidelines for reformists.

Neither denomination will comment until the PC(USA) General Assembly meets this July in Minneapolis, where delegates will consider asking the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to create guidelines for interactions between member denominations.
A yearlong Presbyterian Church (USA) investigation found no evidence to support accusations that the conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) actively solicited PC(USA) congregations. However, the April report expressed concerns over "inappropriate interference" by the EPC's New Wineskins Presbytery, which works with disaffected PC(USA) churches.
"There is going to be tension between the two groups, as there is between other Presbyterian and Reformed groups in the country," said Jeff Jeremiah, stated clerk for the EPC.
A renewal group leader doubts the potential guidelines will do much to stem an exodus, which in recent years has claimed more than 100 churches from the denomination.
"I think this is an attempt by a dying denomination to corral whatever churches it has left, rather than to be reformed and change its policies," said Parker Williamson, editor emeritus of The Presbyterian Layman.
The strains between the EPC (100,000 members) and the much larger PC(USA) (2.1 million) were likely exacerbated by mid-May events: a cutback of 49 positions at PC(USA) headquarters just days after First Presbyterian of Aurora, Illinois, left the denomination and an Arizona church announced its intention to do likewise.
Some say the divide mirrors conflicts between more than 35 renewal groups and other mainline denominations.
David Runnion-Bareford, president and CEO of the Association for Church Renewal umbrella group, said some renewal groups are critical and others try to work within the system.
Presently, he sees a third set of groups emerging: "lifeboat groups," such as the Anglican Church in North America, which is distancing itself from the Episcopal Church. "They are more associative and draw people together … encouraging each other, finding qualified pastors, and keeping churches healthy," he said.
Another is the North American Lutheran Church, which plans to form this August in Columbus, Ohio, one year after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) approved same-sex unions and noncelibate gay clergy.
Already, more churches have left the ELCA over the past year than the PC(USA) over the past four years, according to reformists' estimates. By early May, 351 congregations (out of more than 10,000) had voted to leave since August, although only 122 successfully completed the process.
Whether this could prompt a Presbyterian-like dialogue is unclear. However, Alan Wisdom, director of Presbyterian Action for Faith and Freedom, hopes all denominations remember the need for civility, lest non-Christians think such disputes are primarily about church property. "I would hope church officials dealing with these questions would put people first," Wisdom said. "Christ came to die for people, not denominations."

Related Elsewhere: 
Previous Christianity Today articles on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) include:
Ready to Implode? | PCUSA congregations prepare shift to Evangelical Presbyterian Church. (March 15, 2007)
Official Presbyterian Publisher Issues 9/11 Conspiracy Book | Process theologian David Ray Griffin is among the most prominent proponents of theory that Bush administration, not Al Qaeda, was behind attacks. (July 31, 2006)
'Assault on the Jewish People' | New Presbyterian policy on Israel raises hackles. (December 1, 2004)
Talk of Presbyterian Split Grows | Homosexual ordination, lordship of Christ are ongoing issues for conservatives. (December 3, 2001)
PCUSA Opens Door to Gay Ordination and Other Ways to Salvation | The real big news out of the denomination's General Assembly may not be its revoking of its ban on gay ministers.  (June 1, 2001)