“The Reformation was about a return to Scripture and the authority of the Word of God. By its actions over the last years ELCA is turning the calendar back to pre-Reformation times. . . . ”
As I had written an article for Reformation and was letting it percolate before sending it to the editor, a report in the news suggested a rewrite.
According to two different headlines, both of which ultimately say the same thing, “Evangelical Lutherans” reached “accord with Episcopalians,” or approved a “long-pending unity pact” with the Episcopalians.
The final hurdle was overcome when the ELCA agreed with the Episcopalians on Apostolic Succession. With the favorable vote at its August 1999 Convention, the bishops of ELCA now trace their authority back to the apostles. That is the only conclusion to which one can come since the Episcopal Church teaches that its bishops “are through an unbroken chain the successors of the Apostles” (Popular Symbolics, p. 238). It is either that or the Lutheran bishops will still be a cut below their Episcopalian counterparts. The sop for those who disagree with the compromise is that the ELCA will be able to maintain many of its Lutheran traditions.
Two things: “When the elephant has its foot in the door . . . ” Further, of what value are traditions when the doctrine is fouled?
According to one public report, the delegates to the ELCA convention this past August applauded their compromise by singing the hymn, “If You But Trust in God to Guide You”!
Nothing surprises any more today. ELCA already has a pact with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ. At the 1999 convention the ELCA also entered into a communion relationship with the Moravian Church in America.
The reality is that the latest compromise of the ELCA is simply another milestone in its unfettered return to Rome with whom it has already found accomodation in the doctrine of justification. Anyone who has observed the church scene over the last 50 years has seen it coming.
The Reformation was about a return to Scripture and the authority of the Word of God. By its actions over the last years ELCA is turning the calendar back to pre-Reformation times.
Luther once said: ” . . . Nor should we let men toy with Scripture, juggle the Word of God, and make it submit to being explained, twisted, stretched and revised to suit people or achieve peace and union; for then there could be no secure or stable foundation on which consciences might rely” (What Luther Says, Vol. III, par. 4770, p. 1475).
He also said that it was not tyrants who were the greatest danger to the church, but indifference from within. It is disheartening so see how those within the ELCA who object nevertheless are willing to accept the decision in the spirit of “Christian love,” as one pastor put it. Another said he would stay in the church but wanted “to sit down and talk.”
Therein lies a greater danger to souls than the unvarnished and easily recognizable abuse of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
The theme of our CLC Convention in 2000 is “God’s Word is STILL Our Heritage.” That is a fine theme. But saying so does not make it so. Preaching the Word and living it demonstrate the reality.
We can be true children of the Reformation or we can be a contributory cause to the necessity for a new Reformation. The conclusion of what we are will be clear if we remember that the purpose of the church is not the perpetuation of itself through compromise and for the glory of bishops. The purpose of the church is to hold before the sheep the salvation accomplished through our Lord Jesus Christ.
If the sheep will follow the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10) and enter eternal life, they must hear it. To help the sheep hear the voice of the Good Shepherd is our privilege.
If what is taught is not the truth, it is not the voice of the Good Shepherd. That is our responsibility.
–Pastor Daniel Fleischer