Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Celebrating Diversity?

A report from a consultation meeting between representatives from the ELCIC's National Church Council and members of the Eastern Synod Council in relation to the motion passed at the 2006 Eastern Synod convention regarding a local option for same-sex blessings, emphasized that "We need to celebrate diversity in our church". This article examines what "celebrating diversity" means and its implications for our church.


June 6, 2007

Celebrating Diversity?

In November 2006 a meeting between representatives from the ELCIC's National Church Council and members of the Eastern Synod Council "focused on the significance to the ELCIC with regard to diversity". According to a report from that consultation meeting, held in response to the motion passed at the 2006 Eastern Synod convention regarding a local option for same-sex blessings, "We need to celebrate diversity in our church" and there needs to be recognition that diversity "is part of how we see ourselves In Mission for Others". Accordingly, the National Church Council's resolution concerning "mission to same sex couples" which will come before the delegates to the 2007 National Convention, asks the convention to recognize "the diversity within Canada's culture", and, accordingly, synods within this church should have the mandate "to devise mission strategies (which includes decisions on matters like same-sex blessings) appropriate to their regional settings".

Despite all of their efforts to manipulate opinion otherwise, those who are trying to radically change the theology and teachings of this church are the ones who are responsible for causing the split in this church. As noted by German Lutheran theologian, Dr. Wolfhart Pannenberg:

Here lies the boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

Rev. Dr. Lothar Schwabe provides us with this analogy to describe the situation in the ELCIC since its formation some twenty years ago through a merger:

There once was a man, who after being married for twenty years, began to flirt with another woman. But his wife stood up to him and said, "If you mess around with another woman, I will ask for a divorce". And he became very angry with her and said, "You will be responsible for splitting up our marriage!"

Dr. Schwabe then asks, "Who is splitting the ELCIC?"

In his essay, "A Clear Question", ELCIC pastor Tim Johnson makes the following observation:

So it is a tough, agonizing question, between two mutually exclusive alternatives that are each sincerely held by honest believers in our church. We have to be honest and acknowledge that this will be divisive. That's just inevitable when one of the alternatives is that this is truly forbidden in God's eyes. While none can be truly certain of that on this side of the grave, those who believe it remains forbidden have every right to hold the question divisive… I believe this[Pannenberg pointing out that the question is divisive by its nature] is a theological warning that the issue will divide the church by its nature without the intention on the part of anyone to be disloyal or combative. Insisting on unity may actually cause greater division. Insisting that we remain united in the discussion and resolution of this issue may be the most divisive thing leadership can do, while acknowledging that it will divide the church may be the greatest thing leadership can do to maintain the unity of the church.

Those who are intent on radically reshaping the theology of this church and revising its teachings and practices speak of the "need to celebrate diversity in our church". In a topsy-turvy twist of logic they paint those who speak of leaving this church or suggest an amicable separation in response to the two incompatible theologies in this church as being part of a "separatist political movement, its real agenda is the struggle for authority and control". Even worse, the revisionists denigrate those who still believe what they believed some twenty years ago, at the time of the merger when the ELCIC was formed, as:

- dims
- unloving
- cruel
- prejudiced
- intolerant
- discriminatory
- unjust
- exclusionary
- fundamentalists
- rednecks
- unChristian
- biblically-illiterate
- unwelcoming
- divisive
- political activists
- a brood of vipers
- ……………..

But, despite the above attitudes towards those who understand the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions as prohibiting the blessing of same-sex unions, at the same time, we are also told by the revisionists that we should "celebrate diversity" ("How faithful people can read the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions quite differently on some issues and yet live and work together amidst those differences")!

The revisionists declare 'We aren't leaving this church!' - even in our deeply held differences ("diversity") there is no reason we cannot remain in unity ("live and minister together faithfully").

Someone recently observed that the problem in this church lies in the fact that we trade words like "grace", "faith", "repentance" and "Gospel" back and forth, but we no longer have a common definition of these words. The same applies to phrases such as being "In Mission for Others" and "celebrating diversity".

So how should we understand the revisionists' appeal to embrace and "celebrate diversity"?

In his essay, "We Are Divided - How Can We Stop Hurting Each Other?", Rev. Dr. Lothar Schwabe observed, "Human nature and sinful self-righteousness would cause each of the two factions to attempt to 'win the battle' and have the other faction leave the ELCIC so that their faction will inherit the ELCIC". Given that they have most of the 'leadership' on their side, bishops, pastors, and seminary staff, and, accordingly, exercise a fair amount of authority and control over this church, 'winning the battle' seems to be the stratagem behind the revisionists' declaration that we need to embrace and "celebrate diversity". It's a Trojan horse kind of stratagem. In his pamphlet "for such a time as this - in statu confessionis", Michael L. McCoy, in response to a question, "How does doubt in God's Word lead to the promotion and supremacy of the false doctrines and false practices of man?", identifies three stages whereby error is admitted into the Church: i) toleration of error, ii) equality of truth and error and iii) supremacy of error. We are being asked to celebrate diversity by accepting (tolerating) a local option "compromise" approach. However, a local option provides a vehicle that will enable those who are in favour of same-sex blessings (and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals) to gradually, methodically and incrementally introduce and promote change until finally the traditional teachings of this church are fully overturned (supremacy of error). Or, in the words of biblical scholar Dr. Robert Gagnon, a local option "is just another name for incremental coercion."

Do you consider such an understanding of "diversity" in this church as something to celebrate?

Ron Voss
Cochrane, Alberta