Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"The ELCA has left us"? Not exactly (continued)

Congregations now pulling out of the ELCA or threatening to do so are, of course, blaming their disgruntlement over the approval of gay clergy at the churchwide assembly this past August. Yet, the church newsletter quote from Pastor Terry Breum is evidence that this is only part of the story.

Breum cites a long list of biblical, theological, ethical and even political issues about which he finds LCMC much more compatible with his views (and he assumes those of his congregation) than he does the ELCA. From this statement, acceptance of homosexuality is just one, and not necessarily the most important, issue over which Breum feels the need to find a new denominational home. This continues a theme pushed earlier this summer by Carl Braaten and others lamenting the ELCA’s having become just another “liberal Protestant” denomination. He, too, had a long list of complaints. Acceptance of gay clergy and partnerships would be just one more step down this path to ecclesiastical ruin.

What should be obvious is that whatever split is coming has been long in the making. It is the result a fundamental divide within the ELCA that has finally reached the surface and can no longer be ignored. Many who disagreed with the decision in August will nonetheless remain in the ELCA. They can agree to disagree. For others, however, this is the last straw on a heaping stack of theological complaints.

It’s this group that needs to go. Their continuing presence serves only to irritate themselves and everyone else. And while ELCA leaders can’t publicly say, “Here’s your hat—what’s your hurry?” they can also drop the facile lament that any loss of congregations is a body blow to the denomination. This is a divide that is not going to be resolved within the lifetime of any of those involved. Trying to patch it won’t work and will only divert our time and energy from more important endeavors.

The accident has happened. There’s nothing to see here. Let's just move along.

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