Category Archives: Homosexuality


These days it has been hard to get me here to post some “ponderings”.  Recent events calling on boycotts as a first response to news has me riled up.

You’ve seen the news.  Dan Cathy, The CEO of Chick Fil-A disclosed his objection to marriage between two people of the same gender.  He made the claim that the company is run on Christian values to justify his perspective.  The backlash was immediate.  Many groups have called for a boycott of the business, protests are planned, and counter protests are planned.  Almost every action is directed against another group with the desire to draw attention to one’s own perspective.

What a mess.  This is nonsense.  This is more polarization of our society.  I’ve never seen it so bad.

When did it become true that if we disagreed with someone that instead of talking we protest, demonize, or boycott?  What ever happened to civil discourse?  What ever happened to the hard task of listening to others not to find fault with their perspective but to hear their perspective and learn from it.  Are my opinions so full of ultimate truth that I must make sure that all people agree with me in word and deed?  The arrogance is astonishing.

While I personally disagree with Mr. Cathy’s reading of scripture related to same-gendered marriage, I also disagree with the actions of those who are calling for boycott or banning Chick Fil-A from certain communities.  These actions have further damaged any chance of seeing any change in Mr. Cathy’s stance.  Thanks for making that work harder.

My experience has been that I have more influence in someone’s life and decision-making if I am in relationship with them.  Boycotts and bans damage the possibility of relationship.  Boycotts and bans have their place, but not as the first response, or maybe even the 10th.

Martin Luther explained the 8th Commandment (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor) this way: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and interpret everything he does in the best possible light.”

Exposing “The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) EXPOSED”

It has become sport to attack the ELCA these days.  The ELCA is a flawed institution like every institution.  It is contaminated with sin just as every other human endeavor.  Martin Luther claimed that even our worship of God is tainted.  What characterizes many of these attacks is “painting with a huge brush” objections some have.  One example of this is a website that claims to “Expose” the ELCA.  Here are some of the author’s key points about why persons should leave the ELCA, and my comments.  I offer this as “pondering material”.  My statements are indented and in bold.

The ELCA is promoting a brand of “universal salvation.” The Lutheran Study Bible says, “Jesus includes in salvation people who do not believe in him or even know about him.” That is not Biblical. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

In the first printing of “The Lutheran Study Bible” the website’s author is correct.  The systematic theologian writing the study notes for Matthew 28 did include that phrase.  It is my understanding that in subsequent printings, it has been changed/removed.  It would be interesting to debate this more inclusive view of salvation.  What can we say about God’s grace as applied to those who do not know about Christ?  If indeed baptism is necessary and life begins at conception, what about stillborn persons?  Is there room for God’s grace beyond those “who believe and are baptized”?  Let’s at least raise the question and discuss it!

This denomination teaches that Jesus did not say what the Bible says He said. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

As a pastor in this denomination, I’m not aware that I do this, nor am I aware that anyone else teaches this.  The charge is very short on details.

They date the writings of scripture by seeing when “prophecies are fulfilled” and decide there is no way the writers could know what would happen before hand, so they decide scripture must have been written after the fulfillment. i.e. – God not involved. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

I think this is an attack against modern Biblical scholarship.  If so, then I’d simply reply that when prophets and others write, with God involved, it is entirely possible that the authors believe themselves to be writing about one thing, and God uses it for something in addition.  For example, in Isaiah, when the author writes that a young woman will conceive and bear a child, the immediate application was a promise that before that child was weaned certain events would occur.  It is a poetic way of describing time.  Later, others used the phrase and applied it to Jesus.  Please don’t tear away contextual meaning from scripture, because when you do that, you violate scripture.

The ELCA does not believe there is prophecy in the Bible! There are hundreds of places where the Bible says there is! Jesus says many times that it does. Some people say over 25% of the Bible is prophetic. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

It depends on what you mean by prophesy.  I understand that often prophecy is interpreting current events in light of God’s action in the world.  If prophecy only means “prediction of future events” then many Biblical scholars across the church will take issue with the definition.

This denomination has denied God’s authorship of the Holy Bible, as evidenced from the listing above. And the Bible even refers to itself as Holy (2 Timothy 3:15). Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

More inflammatory rhetoric here.  Look, in a legitimate debate, using 2 Timothy 3:15 as proof will completely fail.  It relies on circular logic.  If by “God’s authorship of the Holy Bible” means that every word is literally true and factually accurate and there are no metaphors, parables (other than that which is called a parable) or the like then I’m guilty as charged!  This Bible is a library.  It contains a wide variety of literature that is God-breathed, and that the people of God have found to speak God through.  Come on, even the genealogies of Jesus don’t agree.  I’d suggest a reading of Karen Armstrong’s books for some interesting perspectives for debate. (That reference will get me labeled a “flaming liberal”!)

The ELCA has taken a stand against Israel. They threaten to stop all financial relations with Israel. They want Jerusalem and parts of Israel given to the Arabs. God gave Israel that land. It states it clearly in the Bible. God confirmed it with Isaac and Jacob that the land was for them. This is against God’s will, and it is an action that the Bible warns about. “In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.” Joel 3:1-2. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

The Bible also commands hospitality to the sojourner and that the laws apply equally to the people of God and to the resident alien.  Is the modern state of Israel the same as the Israel of the Bible?  Not necessarily so!  God has delivered Israel into the hands of its enemies many times in scripture when it was disobedient.  Is this a like time?  The Evangelical Christian tendency to support the nation of Israel at all costs is often disingenuous.  Many see it as a way of inviting the second coming of Jesus more quickly.  Just maybe the ELCA is serving God as a prophet to the modern nation state of Israel.  Read the prophets once again!  What does the Lord require but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

The ELCA supports abortions in their medical coverage. They also actively promote and lobby for the use of public funds for abortions. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

I hear this pretty consistently and I don’t have any factual information to say about this.  Abortion is tragic and undesirable … but I know that if it is to occur, I’d rather it be done by medical personnel.

The ELCA and others supporting homosexuality try every kind of theological gymnastic move to make the the Bible mean something other than what it says. They even try this when God so clearly says homosexuality is a sin. They also try to say Revelation is not about prophecy, even when the biblical author writes “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw–that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:1-2) In reality, what the ELCA is doing is calling the Biblical authors and God, LIERS! Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

Homosexuality is the issue that seems to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  The Bible says a lot of things that are difficult and require interpretation.  Sometimes we’ve gotten that right.  Sometimes we’ve gotten that wrong.  Each generation must wrestle with the text in a way to be faithful to it.  Many serious and faithful scholars disagree about what the texts that seem to be about homosexuality say and don’t say.  I say, let’s engage in the conversation without resorting to “slander” (which is also listed in scripture as something we should not do … within a few verses of one of the most commonly quoted passages about homosexuality).  Likewise, serious scholars have discovered contemporary meaning to the time it was written in the apocalyptic writings of The Revelation.  In the text itself it says, “what must soon take place”.  Is 2000 years your idea of soon?  (And don’t give me the thousand years is but a day to God quote.)


That is enough.  At least I’ve got that off my chest.

Pondering Pastor

ELCA Angst: Scriptural Authority

In August, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to allow persons who were in publically-accountable life-long monogamous same-gender relationships (the acronym now in use to keep the terminology consistent is PALMS) to be on the leadership rosters of the church (pastors, diaconal ministers, and associates in ministry).  There are many who point to these decisions and make the claim that the ELCA has abandoned the “authority of scripture”.  The rhetoric is often quite shrill.

I’ve spent some time in scripture with an eye toward evaluating the response of those who claim the scriptural “high ground”.  I’ve taken my time in this process, and have invited members of the congregation I serve to consider scripture’s guidance and experience with what I think is a similar controversy described in the last 2/3 of the book of Acts.  I’ve been careful to ask these participants whether or not they believe (a) that the story has similarity to the conflict within the ELCA and (b) whether or not it is instructive for our life together.  We have participants who are anxious to rush to judgment about the Assembly votes themselves, but I try to gently steer them back to the questions at hand.  Thus far, the process has been very helpful.

Beginning at Acts 10, we learn about a vision that Cornelius has where an angel of God appears to him and instructs him to summon Simon Peter.  Cornelius is a “God-fearer”, which means that he is a Gentile believer who has attached himself to portions of Jewish law and practice, but who has not submitted to circumcision.  There is no indication in the text that Cornelius has any idea about the reason he would be instructed to summon Simon Peter.  Likewise, in these opening verses of the story, we have no clue what God has in store for Cornelius.  Meanwhile, as the messengers of Cornelius are approaching Simon Peter, this disciple of Jesus has a vision of his own, where a sheet is lowered from heaven with all sorts of animals on it and a voice commands Simon Peter to eat.  He objects and resists, because there are unclean animals on the sheet, but the voice declares, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane”.  The Spirit further commands Simon Peter to go with the Gentiles sent by Cornelius.

We found it interesting that the only possible reference to any other part of scripture declaring all food clean is Mark 7:14-19.  If that is indeed a place where Jesus declares all food clean, would not have Simon Peter, a disciple present at the event, have recalled it and known its significance before this new vision?  We also noted that there was a three-fold repetition of the instruction and still Simon Peter remains puzzled.

Simon Peter arrives at the home of Cornelius and specifically states that “it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile”.  Simon Peter further states, “but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” (Acts 10:28)  That is different than what the voice stated in Acts 10:15, and demonstrates an expansion of the teaching of the vision.  One of our questions of the story thus far is whether or not Simon Peter’s expansion carries the weight of a new revelation by God.  If so, it has tremendous implications about that which the Old Testament calls an “abomination”.  We also note that by this time in the story, there are few clues as to what God is doing with this encounter.  Simon Peter makes a speech, and says “…anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him …”  and “… everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  There appears to be both obedience (to what is not clear in this particular text) and trust/belief lifted here as important.

Then, in Acts 10:44-45 an absolutely astonishing thing happens.  The gift of the Holy Spirit falls upon those who are completely outside the bounds of who is acceptable according to Jewish thought and Jewish law (contained within scripture).  The significance of this cannot be minimized.  If we were wondering at all about what God’s purposes were in bringing together the orthodox of orthodox Simon Peter who had never eaten anything unclean and a Gentile dabbling in the faith but not really committed, here it is.  Note too that the astonishment is among the circumcised believers accompanying Simon Peter.  This is not a throw-away reference.  Time and cultural changes tends to make it hard for us to recognize the new thing God is doing here.

After the dramatic and powerful experience in Caesarea, Peter (and likely those with him) travel to Jerusalem where the decisions Simon Peter made were openly challenged.  Specifically at issue was the table fellowship with Gentiles, in other words, his willingness to even to be engaged with the Gentile Cornelius.  I love the way the text describes Simon Peter having to go through his experience “step by step”.  At the end of this description, Simon Peter says, “… who was I that I could hinder God?”  The challenge by the leaders in Jerusalem was that Simon Peter had made some poor decisions, and Simon Peter’s witness is that he was simply following the lead of God.

Hearing this account, the leaders in Jerusalem had no spoken objections.  We would expect the matter now to be settled.  We also noted that there is “relief” sent to the believers living in Judea.  We will continue to see this theme throughout the rest of Acts, even when the controversy is not over.

The story of the controversy isn’t apparent again until Acts 13-14.  Following a speech by Paul in Antioch, there are some “Jews and devout converts to Judaism” (read all circumcised) who challenged Paul.  Paul defends the ministry to Gentiles, but is driven out by the Jews.  The same thing happens in Iconium.

In this part of the story, I don’t read “Jews” as “Jewish people” as much as I do “faithful people of God who hold on to what scripture says is the only faithful way of inclusion into the faith, that is, circumcision”.  At stake for them was the adherence to the law as revealed to Moses.  They were protecting the traditions and scripture from those who were claiming a new revelation from God that contradicted more than 3000 years of God’s history with God’s people.  I’m sure they held these teachings very passionately and were absolutely convinced of their continuing validity.  However, participants in our study made the observation that if they were right, then the Christian Church developed completely in error and the witness of Paul is completely wrong.

In Acts 15-16, the controversy has grown so intense that a consultation occurred with the leaders in Jerusalem.  A compromise is worked out.  James orders that the Gentiles do not have to be circumcised, but need to be obedient to the law in some minimal ways, including abstinence from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.  This remains an uneasy compromise for many, and there is lack of trust that even this compromise is right or will work.

What was he thinking?!?  On the heals of this consultation, Paul circumcises Timothy!  Now, Timothy’s mother was Jewish and his father was a Greek (Gentile), but there is a perfect opportunity to assert the freedom granted by the consultation.  Yet, one might say, Paul was either respecting the bound conscience of the Jewish believers in the area or was tired of the conflict or had more important things to focus on.  Our group is not to this point yet, but I’m anxious to learn what they make of this part of the story.

In Acts 21, Paul is arrested.  Paul has gone back to Jerusalem, where people of the circumcision party are bound and determined to silence this one who is contaminating the true faith.  They attempt to kill him, but soldiers (Gentiles) arrest him and save him.  Paul’s story continues eventually to Rome where he is in house arrest.  Note that this conflict is the very thing that spread the Gospel to Rome through Paul.  The witness of the author of Acts is that this very conflict is used by God to spread the Gospel.

I notice that in the midst of the controversy, with its center in Jerusalem and to a certain degree with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, Paul never suggests the withholding of offerings or “relief” to the church and the people of Jerusalem.  He always encourages the Gentiles to give generously to the very people who would exclude them from full participation in Christianity if they do not submit to the ritual of circumcision.

I don’t claim to know what God is doing in the ELCA.  Our current conflict seems overwhelming at times.  I watch people who saw themselves as brothers and sisters in Christ in July, now name-calling in September.  I’m of the firm belief that the story of the conflict between the circumcision party and the god-fearers in Acts (and in Galatians) can be instructive for us as we seek to find ways to live with our differences.  Faith is often shaped in the times when God seems absent and there is not the clarity we desire.

Pondering Pastor