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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

One Pastor's Thoughts

You are not alone facing this mystery; we all struggle to understand the complexity of life. Rushford Lutheran Church is a place where you can come to learn about God's love for you, where you can grow in faith, use your gifts, and a place where you can share your joys and sorrows in a community of care, compassion and faith. We invite you to come and to experience the difference this makes in your life.

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Pastor's Thoughts
Our congregation will vote in just a few days after you have received this newsletter.  I hope the voting result will show a congregation that has put aside differences and has decided to move ahead with unity; however, I fear it will show, once again, a split in our congregation of how we understand the Bible.  Let me share with you my journey in that understanding.
I grew up in a Lutheran Church that taught us God's Word is the light unto our feet to guide us in our daily living.  The Holy Scriptures provided the teachings by which we were to live out our daily calling as Christians in the world.  When I was ordained into the American Lutheran Church, I took a vow to abide by and uphold the teachings of the church.  To preach, teach, or live contrary to my ordination vows would be heresy.  In October, 1980, the ALC put out a social statement titled, “Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior,” in which it stated, This church regards the practice of homosexual erotic behavior as contrary to God's intent for his children.  It rejects the contention that homosexual behavior is simply another form of sexual behavior equally valid with the dominant male/female pattern.  The social statement also addressed the issue of abortion: We view abortion as a fundamentally inappropriate means of birth control.  Indeed, willful abortion—the sacrifice of a fetal life—is always an offense against God and the human spirit.
The Lutheran Church in America also put out similar statements at that time.  After the merger of the ALC, LCA, and the AELC (Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches—a breakaway group from the LCMS), both of these social statements have been reversed.  How could things change so quickly in just twenty years?  The answer is in the leadership of the ELCA.  Herbert Chilstrom was voted in as the first presiding bishop of the ELCA.  It soon became apparent that Chilstrom wanted changes made.  He did not view abortion as something against God's will but rather a woman's choice.  He did not regard the practice of homosexuality as something contrary to God's will but as a normal sexual lifestyle.  Chilstrom then set up committees, or taskforces, to work at overturning the recent social statements. 
I watched and listened to what was going on, thinking these things won't happen.  Most of the other pastors thought as I did, that these changes will never happen.  I didn't realize the power of the bishop or the way politics is played out in the church.  When you can put on the task force who you want, you can stack it to say whatever you want it to say.  This is what has happened with all the social statements that have come out of the ELCA.  In just a few years the statement on abortion was overturned and last year the social statement on sexuality was adopted, overturning those made thirty years earlier.
The question remains, however, as to why have our presiding bishops and many of our pastors taken these positions that are opposite to what the church has always taught?  They are part of a group of theologians who have a new theology to which they adhere.  It is called revision theology.  They believe that the only basic truth we need to get from the Bible is that God loves us and Jesus is the Son of God and saves us from our sins.  Everything else in the Bible is not binding on our faith.
Social justice is very important to revision theologians.  Since they view homosexuality as a social justice issue, the teachings in the Bible against homosexuality become irrelevant.  Since God is love and everybody is loved by somebody, and certainly by God, then everybody will be saved.  Universal salvation is a strong teaching among revision theologians, even though the Bible teaches us otherwise.
After the churchwide assembly in August of 2009, I was still with the ELCA.  I was dazed but somehow I believed that this could be corrected.  Groups like WordAlone and CORE have been working within the ELCA
for many years to try and get the ELCA back to the center.  They have failed and now recommend leaving the ELCA.  Last fall I attended a conference at Roseville Lutheran Church in the cities put on by WordAlone.  There I met Dr. Preus and Dr. Crumley, the two presidents of the predecessor church bodies.  Dr. Preus was with the ALC and Dr. Crumley was with the LCA.  Both have been working hard to correct the direction the ELCA has taken.  They said that if they knew the ELCA was going to go in the direction it has, they would never have gone through with the merger.  They are deeply saddened as to what has happened in their church.
What would Jesus do?  I think Jesus would call Bishop Mark Hanson and the Chicago council hypocrites.  He would speak to them like he did to the Pharisees.  They take the Word of God and change it for their own traditions and like to puff themselves up, ignoring the advice of the Council of Bishops and others who advised them not to change the 2/3 rule for the Churchwide Assembly vote.
I, too, was in denial for years about what was going on in the ELCA and where it was headed.  I must stop.  I must be true to my faith.  I must, as the Bible teaches us, put God first.  I must love God above all else.  Salvation is not from the ELCA—it is from God alone.  Some of you will vote to stay in the ELCA because of friendship.  That is the wrong reason.  Your friends cannot save you.  What do you believe in your heart?  When making choices about faith and life, morality and ethics, where do you place the importance of the Bible?  By their own admission and writings the ELCA doesn't place the Bible as the most important anymore.  First and most important is our individual experience they say.  How do you feel about this?  What is your experience?  Second in importance is science.  We must let scientists inform our faith.  Third is philosophy.  As if faith is a matter of the mind and reason.
People should vote to stay in the ELCA if you agree with the new theological interpretations; if you agree the leadership of the church can manipulate and control church policies and doctrines; if you agree that the cross of Christ is now emptied of its power because there is no one to save because everyone will go to heaven; if you agree that human nature has changed and Jesus didn't have it all right.  I will cling to the cross; I will trust in God's Word as it is revealed in Holy Scripture.
It's so sad because the ELCA has many wonderful ministry programs.  To have such inept leadership that would jeopardize the ministries of the church to further their own theological and social agendas is appalling.  It is both futile and foolish, as well as contrary to its duties and rights, for a Christian congregation to subject itself to the opinions of human leaders who depart from the Word of God.
Go with the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ).  Contrary to what some are saying, we will lose nothing except those above us who are trying to control the church.  There will still be a youth group, a women's organization, a men's club and so forth.  I have chosen to go with LCMC.  If the vote goes to stay with the ELCA, I will resign as soon as I receive a call from a LCMC church.  I hope that doesn't happen.  I would like to stay and continue to be your pastor, teaching and preaching the gospel as I was taught, helping you to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Roger Michaelson 

1 comment:

Larry said...

Pastor Roger Michaelson
Thank you for having the courage and conviction to stand for the truth that scripture teaches and calling out what has taken place in the ELCA over the last twenty years. May the blessing of the Lord be upon you!
Larry Jaquish