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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Bishop of controversy

Should bishops take a stand on issues?

Our synod bishop spoke at a press conference on behalf of a controversial ballot initiative in our state. Is it permissible for a Lutheran bishop to speak out on issues where there is political disagreement even in our church? Won’t it be divisive?

It’s not only permitted, it’s to be commended. Our bishops don’t always speak for the church on issues that have political significance, but they do speak to the church on behalf of their call to be teachers of the church. Where there is a clear word from Scripture and our tradition that gives us guidance on issues that affect people’s lives, our bishops are wise to speak out. They would rarely do this on close partisan issues. But when it’s a matter of either the right use of the law and certainly the application of the gospel to a social need or concern, they are within the bounds of their call to do so. Sure it may be divisive. Speaking the truth often i­s—and for good reason. Our self-interest weighs in against the interest of the most needy among us. This must be challenged and put to flight.

Weissenbuehler also answers: "Our ecumenical agreements say clergy are permitted in certain circumstances to serve outside their denominations for particular time periods without officially converting from one church to the other. Are laity permitted to become members of a parish in another denomination without officially converting? Is associate membership possible?"


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October issue

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