ELCA Lutherans Elect First Openly Gay Bishop

Religion News Service notes what must be the beginning of the end:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has elected its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. R. Guy Erwin, to oversee churches in Southern California, four years after the church allowed openly gay men and lesbians to serve as clergy.

Following a wider trend within other mainline Protestant denominations to appoint gays and lesbians to leadership positions, the ELCA’s five-county Southwest California Synod elected Erwin on Friday (May 31) to a six-year term.

“It’s historic and a turning point, as was the ordination of women,” said Martin Marty, the dean of American church historians at the University of Chicago and a member of the ELCA. “This is just one of many indications that the culture has shifted”…

Aha, the ordination of women… Perhaps that was the real start?

Some U.S. congregations have already left the ELCA to join the North American Lutheran Church, and some overseas churches have severed ties with the denomination. Earlier this year, the Lutheran church in Ethiopia parted ways with the ELCA…

While nearly twice as big, the ELCA has not seen the same kind of public division as the Episcopal Church, which confirmed V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop a decade ago. The Episcopal Church has fought several court battles with departing congregations over property ownership.

Erwin will serve alongside the first openly lesbian Episcopal bishop, Mary Glasspool, who was elected as a suffragan (assistant) bishop in Los Angeles in 2009.

LA? Hmmm…

The NCR further notes:

In addition, financial support for the denomination hit an all-time low of about $60 million in 2009, the church announced. ELCA Treasurer Christina Jackson-Skelton said the economic recession and “disagreements within congregations” about the decision on gay clergy had contributed to the decline.

And also the ELCA has lost half a million members.

Yes, they are dying, and deservedly so for having abandoned plain Biblical teachings.


20 thoughts on “ELCA Lutherans Elect First Openly Gay Bishop

  1. I agree with you Father. This is what happens when a church’s leadership decides that it is best to conform to the spirit of this world than to preach the truth.

  2. I REALLY hate to quote scripture in a clichéd manner, but “there are none so blind as those will not see” cries out to be said.

  3. Sad to see what has become of this denomination. They are neither evangelical nor Lutheran. One can only imagine what the good Doctor Martin would’ve said around the table if any followers of Wittenberg had discussed ordaining an openly homosexual man to be a bishop! He wouldn’t have minced words. And I’m sure they would’ve been most…colorful?

  4. They’ve approved divorce and contraception for years. So why get so hot under the collar?

    1. RIW, No comparison.

      Based on your terse comment, I’m assuming you’re approaching those two areas specifically from the unique RCC perspective. But Rome stands alone. And in error. The pastoral damage done in these areas is immense!

      Regarding divorce, see Deuteronomy 24 and Matthew 19. And in USA, RCs just use the easy annulment process to get multiple marriages. As RC canon lawyers have publicly opined for years, if you can’t get an annulment, you aren’t even trying. Almost any and every marriage can be annulled. Just have to get the right lawyer! So no difference there, other than it overthroweth the nature of marriage since no RC knows they are actually married until a marriage tribunal rules against a spouse who petitions for an annulment.

      Regarding birth control, RCs use natural family planning with the same intent. To have sex without having children. A married RC couple could use NFP their entire marriage to never have children. But oddly this is the one area where two couples can have the same intent but only one sins. Yet the nature of all sin is in the intent. So if the intent isn’t wrong, then the action isn’t either. Think John Chrysostom discussed how as far back as his day men and women had fulfilled God’s plans regarding being fruitful and multilying.

      1. 1. Rising rate of annulments is simply an indication how immature those who marry have become, not any change on traditional Christian teaching on marriage. And contrary to what you would like to imply, it is not an easy process with predetermined outcome. Lots of cases even do not make it to the tribunal because there are no grounds even to ponder annulment. Overall, annulments still remain at very low level compared to divorces and remarriages in EO or protestant denominations.
        2. Certainly you are right that the intent is important. Yet, those who use NFP do not distort the marital act in any way. So as opposed to contraception, which clearly goes against God’s plan for marriage, there is no INHERENT (or absolute) sin in periodical abstinence. It is only relative on the intent – it may or may not be a sin – whereas distorting the natural course of marital life (as designed by God) is ALWAYS a sin.

      2. Have you never read Patriarch Athenagoras’ telegram to Pope Paul VI on 9 August 1968, praising him for his prophetic courage in issuing the encyclical Humanae Vitae, and declaring that the contents of that encyclical were fully in accord with the Tradition and teaching of the Orthodox church? The telegram was reprinted in Towards the Healing of Schism, ed. & trans. E.J. Stormon ,1987, p. 197. See also:

        Here is the text of the telegram:

        9 August 1968 Telegram from Patriarch Athenagoras to Pope Paul VI expressing the Patriarch’s agreement with the encyclical Humanae Vitae

        We, together with the members of our Holy Synod at its last session read with deep feeling the telegram from Your beloved and venerable Holiness on the anniversary of the great historic event constituted by your visit and blessing, 25 July 1967. We thank you wholeheartedly, dearly esteemed brother, for the telegram, and all the more for the visit. We assure you than we remain close to you, above all in these recent days when you have taken the good step of publishing the encyclical Humanae Vitae. We are in total agreement with you, and wish you all God’s help to continue your mission in the world. With much brotherly affection.

      3. WT, As you well know no one person, not even A Patriarch or The Ecumenical Patriarch, ever speaks for all of Orthodoxy. Patriarchs aren’t infallible; that includes Rome! And the actions of his successors, their peers, and the rather stable established consensus of laity and clerics worldwide speak far louder. (The reception by the laity of the decisions of a council is ultimately the final arbiter regarding its ecumenicity.)

        CC, I realize you’re expressing the unique position of the RCC. But there are always potential grounds for any annulment application, since the grounds are so potentially broad and so deep. I marvel at the thought that every married RC could petition for an annulment. Only then would each RC know if they were actually married. Until the tribunal rules and that ruling is final, all RC marriages are only conditional. They are presumed valid but have not been actually established as valid. Each potentially waits to be annulled at some point. Here in USA, I don’t think there is much difference in divorce rates for RCs and Protestants.Most RCs don’t take the time to go thru the annulment process, at least not until they have some “need” to do so.

        As for birth control, Rome has long fashioned its own moral constrictions as it desires. Just look at the history of monastic vows or fasting. But that is all acting like the pharisees. Imposing burdens on men in the name of God. Married Christians have the liberty to act as they deem fit regarding both the sacred expression of their marital sexuality (another topic where Rome interfers and orders couples to behave in certain ways–though interestingly the most recent RC sex manuals for married couples available in my local RC bookstore allow for oral and anal sexual activity as long as the end result is vaginal) and in regard to the timing and number of pregnancies.

      4. WT, One of the best discussions regarding birth control, including the Ecumenical Patriarch’s then response, is in H. Tristam Engelhardt’s book, The Foundations of Christian Bioethics (Swets & Zeitlinger, 2000). He writes from an Orthodox background. See Chapter 5, Procreation. Both the basic text (at p. 266) and in the footnotes (#101, p. 299) discuss Patriarch Athanagoras’ response to the RC Encyclical of Paul VI. As Engelhardt points out in the footnote:

        “Yet having said this, [he] resituates the issue of contraception in a non-Latin context. ‘Our Church has granted full authority to the spiritual father. It is for him, conscious of his responsibility and his mission, to give the advice and direction that are approrpiate.’ Eastern Churches Review 2 (Spring 1968), 69-70.”

        CC, Engelhardt also discusses the specifics of marital sexual activity. His discussions and his citations of Heribert Jone (Moral Theology, translated, Newman Press (1952)) and Pierre Payer (Sex and the Penitentials, Univ. of Toronto Press (1984)) is most fascinating.

      5. 1. “I marvel at the thought that every married RC could petition for an annulment. Only then would each RC know if they were actually married. Until the tribunal rules and that ruling is final, all RC marriages are only conditional. They are presumed valid but have not been actually established as valid.”
        That is patently untrue. The grounds for annulment are still accurately enumerated (even if they are now broader to reflect contemporary maturity problems in case of many nupturients), so for a great majority of married couples there is not a slightest doubt as to their validity.
        What about EO marriages, then? They are much worse than conditional; they are simply soluble. It is incredible departure from traditional Christian teaching.
        2. Interestingly, based on some testimonies I have read, this EO ambiguity in teaching on a number of contemporary issues (partly due to hopeless divisions and lack of authority within the Orthodoxy itself) is what many protestant converts find alluring. They simply get liturgy and sacraments, but can retain their protestant-style private judgement on nearly anything else. And last but not least, they can still cherish their deep resentment against the Catholic Church.

      6. CC, I think you’re confusing many different things. I’m not sure what relevance there is to the mind sets of converts to EOC or RCC. (A Methodist friend of mine had no trouble converting to RCC as her fiancee wanted to be married in it. But she kept her Methodist ways of thinking, including their joint use of contraception. I remember she told me that when she made her first confession she just told the priest what she wanted to and didn’t tell him anything important that she didn’t want to. She was and is thoroughly Methodist but sees so little difference in the parish experience in the pews in these large churches where you can be anonymous that she has no issue going to Mass or receiving communion. Does that tell us anything relevant? Probably not. But just saying…)

        We’ve got to keep marriage, divorce, annulments, and (re)marriage separate, keeping in mind that only RCC has their unique form of annulments. A RC marriage’s validity is assessed at the time of the marriage, not in the future. RC couples can and do divorce in USA at similar rates to Protestants. So no difference there. Only a subset of RCs choose to pursue annulments; many happily remarry without one and even like doing this in case the 2nd marriage fails as it is immediately null and can be quickly annulled in case they meet another RC and want to have a church wedding). Do keep in mind that in a fallen world people pursuing annnulments have a motive to get one, so they may say anything they want to years in the future about a long ago past when they were young.

        As for EOC, when I went thru a divorce it immediately triggered the disciplinary canons. Require a penitential period. Not unlike how EOs treat killing in combat even though RCC says the homicide is legitimate in a just war for self defense. So ultimately I had to work with my priest and petition the Metropolitan to review the case and decide whether to grant me permission to remarry (which he did though I have not done so).

        My somewhat nominal RC GF can’t understand our 3 marriage limit canone. But neither can she understand how a RC can have an unlimited number of marriages as long as all the right ones are annulled. No system is perfect. I think ours is as good as it gets in a fallen world that requires pastoral decisions be made involving men, women, and children.

      7. CC, I am sorry if I come across as being too cynical about RCC and marriage-related issues; however, I live in the real world with sinful, fallen people. And I’ve watched RCs “game” their system and watched as the system changed to allow itself to be “gamed”. Just compare the difference in thought and practice regarding “annulments” in say 1950 versus 2000. No comparison at all! Take just 2 of my RC relatives. One divorced then remarried and waited some time before getting the annulment. This is nice as it let her decide if the second marriage was worth the time and trouble of getting an annulment. The second married a divorced Protestant without an annulment and they remain married without the annulment. This is nice since if needed he can get this marriage quickly and easily annulled. I believe they both periodically attend(ed) Mass and receive(ed) communion when in their “impaired” state of communion. This is often the real world in action. Luckily for them, there is no communion discipline so they can just pretty much go to any local RC chuch and do what they want, esp. in big city or different cities. When I talk with my EO and Protestant friends about how RCs behave in the real world, sometimes they wonder why Rome is held up as some paragon of simplicity or virtue. Oh the pastoral messes their thinking causes in the real world.

      8. 1. Lying to a priest during confession will get you “absolution” and lying to a tribunal will get you “annulment”, and if you go to communion despite contracepting, you will receive it. What relevance there is to authoritative teaching of the Church?
        2. I haven’t referred to civil-law divorce rates among different communities. What I have referred to was a great difference in the annulment rate in the Catholic Church vs. Church-approved divorce rate in the EO or protestant world, so it’s really hard to compare one with the other.
        3. This limit of three marriages is just splendid – I haven’t really heard about it. Sounds so much like Matt 19:8 and so far from traditional Christian teaching on marriage.
        4. Certainly, my statement about retaining ‘private judgement’ attitude by protestant-to-EO converts was of no relevance to the topic of marriage and contraception. But I couldn’t resist making this observation in light of your remarks concerning the patriarch’s letter on Humane Vitae
        5. As you are divorced (and remarried) yourself, so the topic involves you personally, I will not go with this any further and let you have the final word, if you wish so.

      9. CC, As I said, I’m not remarried. Is possible. My RC GF would want me to get an annulment, so I’ve studied the issue at some length in her local diocese.

        Don’t forget that lots of RCs get divorced. Up to them whether they ever seek an annulment. A lot don’t want to go thru the time, expense, or trouble. Though I’ve heard the success rate for applicants is extremely, extremely high.

        And never forget that the “annulment” process prior to the pop psychology ideas of the 1960s that came into your canon law was entirely different. The raw numbers in USA speak for themselves. Just your way of granting divorce without saying so.

    2. RIW, I read my RC GF’s monthly diocesan newspaper. I always enjoy seeing the annual article on the work of this small diocese’s tribunal. They publish how many annulments are worked on involving how many people and how many aditional people have applied. Lots of people and lots of money! The Tribunal is kept very busy indeed!

  5. Regarding the RCC, it is not the teachings of the Church that were/are in error but rather, based on truth or consequences, many marriages should not have taken place at all, just as many priests should not have been admitted into seminary much less Ordained. Most especially after Vatican 2 much chaos and confusion that filtered down on a diocesan level, opened up a Pandora’s box for all kinds of abuses, concessions, omissions and practices that were totally foreign to the Integrity of Church teaching and the validity & practice of Her Sacraments. Much was left open for interpretation at the local parish level and Pastor and people alike did not know their Faith–according to the depth & breath of riches contained therein . Consequently, full knowledge and the gravity of the Sacraments one was undertaking were seriously undermined and many were just ‘passed-through-on-a-shoestring’. So it only stands to reason that an increase of annulments would then ensue (as well as people manipulating a variety of circumstances), along with a huge exodus of religious from their vows, not to mention addictions and sex-abuse scandals. “The smoke of Satan had entered the Church” – and many were/are dying-off from those noxious fumes! We must know who the ‘Enemy’ is – but the Enemy is NOT the RC Church!
    There must always be HOPE – because ‘Christ forever makes ALL things New’!

    1. Margaret, Saying a couple with four kids who were married in the RCC and who’ve been married for decades suddenly aren’t married and weren’t ever married because of what some marriage tribunal says now that one spouse wants an annulment to remarry is a truly horrible theological error. It overthrows the entire idea of a marriage and makes it conditional upon the whims of a tribunal. Which is why there was divorce and remarriage in OT and NT eras.

  6. Michael: you are presumably speaking of a specific case familiar to you, however unfamiliar it is as to all the particulars in question here. I do know consummating a marriage (having four kids) does not necessarily constitute a marriage that is pleasing & acceptable in the eyes of God – the WHO & Why that determines the tribunal’s rationale . To say that an annulment was granted simply because “one spouse wants an annulment to remarry” seems to imply that the tribunal was capable of being bribed or manipulated in some way, rather than unjustly placing the weight on “a truly horrible theological error”. If a tribunal bases its decisions on “whims”, than it does not represent the RCC or Her teachings and certainly does not stand in for God & HIS Laws.
    When Jesus was asked “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife”, HE answered: “Moses permitted this because of the ‘hardness of your hearts’, but it was not that way in the beginning”. So YES, to your statement that “divorce & annulments overthrows the entire idea of a marriage”, but…once again, because of the ‘hardness of sinful hearts’ it is permitted.
    Ultimately, God will be the Judge at that ‘Great Tribunal’ in Heaven…and nothing will he hidden!
    Now is the time for MERCY…then will be the time for JUSTICE!

    1. Margaret, Horror stories abound publicly about spouses upset that a RC marriage tribunal decided many years or decades later that a marriage NEVER existed. That is what an annulment indicates. No marriage ever took place. See Ted Kennedy’s wife. She is a famous example. And she isn’t alone.

      The RCC’s annulment process/program is entirely made up and its own “creature”. And what they do today isn’t what they were doing 50 or 100 years ago. They added pop psychology ideas from the 1960s to the canon to pretty much make sure anyone who wanted an annulment and had the time and money could get one. Just a way for RCs to have their divorce and remarriage and enjoy it too. Study the thoughts about the state of mind of the couple at the time of the marriage and their maturity. As if a tribunal could discern that so far from the past! And as if any couple could truly meet the pie-in-the-sky utopian qualifications. Not even the few married saints likely were like that on the day of their marriage.

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