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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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August 22, 2009

Hanson: Talk to one another

 
An emotional Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson urged ELCA members unhappy with the Churchwide Assembly's decisions on sexuality to make thoughtful, careful decisions about their continued involvement in the church.

"Now perhaps more than ever, we need to stay engaged with one another," Hanson told the more than 1,000 voting members at the close of the assembly's business early Saturday evening in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The assembly will formally wrap up with worship on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, the leader of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod got right to his point: actions taken by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly on sexuality and rostering of gays and lesbians could be a deal breaker.

Saying he spoke in "deep humility, with a heavy heart and no desire whatsoever to offend," Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of the LCMS said, "The decisions by this assembly to grant non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA and the affirmation of same gender unions as pleasing to God will undoubtedly cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA."

"It will also negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies. The current division between our churches threatens to become a chasm," he said.

Kieschnick acknowledged that money woes and strife have hit his 2.4 million member church as well, but that what's happening in the 4.6 million member ELCA boils down to an understanding of Scripture.

 "Simply stated, this matter is fundamentally related to significant differences in how we understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God's revealed and infallible Word," Kieschnick said.

The ELCA's constitution describes the Bible "as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of [the denomination's] proclamation, faith and life."

Hanson responded by encouraging the LCMS to remain in close collaboration with the ELCA in existing projects such as hunger and disaster relief, as well as a looming joint effort to attack malaria in Africa.

In another greeting, Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, thanked the ELCA for its many contributions to Lutheran efforts around the globe, urging the denomination to look beyond its current controversy over homosexuality.

"God, those people [ELCA members] love their church, I know it," Noko said. "God, send the Holy Spirit to keep them together. You stay together."

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