Saturday, December 12, 2009

Response to the Vote

Last Sunday evening at our church we voted on the "Common Confession" (click the colored words in this blog to learn more).  There was an opportunity for people to speak from 6:30-7:30. More spoke against than in favor.  Then ballots were distributed and we voted.  The Common Confession failed 62-84.

Before the vote, I briefly shared two reasons why I thought it wise for our church to approve the Common Confession.
  1. I believe the ELCA has violated its own confession of faith.  In its constitution, our church says that the scriptures are authoritative for our "proclamation, faith and life." Even so, though we find no blessing of same sex relationships in scripture, the denomination to which we belong (the ELCA) will now officially support such blessings. 

  2. I thought approving the Common Confession would allow our local church to retain some of our members who are particularly upset about the approval of same sex blessings in our denomination. As one of its points, the Common Confession upholds the marriage of male and female as "an institution created and blessed by God."
During the past few weeks and months I've been writing and speaking on this topic.  You who follow this blog have learned where I stand.  For me, this is a matter of our church's foundational teaching more than it is about sexuality or homosexuality.  It has to do with our church's future and what will be guiding us as we move into 2010 and beyond.  That's why it hasn't been enough for me to just have our church "take a stand" as regards homosexuality.

It's so important that we look at this issue NOT as about sexuality, but as about the truth of God's Word. If we start with by asking how we feel about homosexuality, we will be divided.  Our opinions on issues do not unite us.  The only thing that unites us is God's Word--the Word incarnate, the Word spoken in Law and Gospel, and the Word written and recorded in the Bible. The danger is that we are being driven from the foundation--taken away from the Word of God as the one thing that holds us together as a church.  Also, if we start by talking about sexuality, we will, as some said on Sunday night, be guilty of the worst form of judgmentalism.  . 

In my sermon of Nov. 22 entitled It's About Truth (Not Power) I said this:
"No one who knows Jesus can hate or reject or discriminate against anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation. We need to be totally open to having people of all kinds come to the Lord here… But, because, from the Word of God—and from the testimony of God’s creation, we see that God has blessed the bond of one man and one woman as the way life comes into the world we cannot say that same sex marriage is the same.

It’s just not according to the Word of God. It’s because we can’t find scripture to bless same sex marriage that we cannot support this move. It’s not because we want to discriminate or because we’re homophobic or hate gays. If that’s why we have a problem with gay marriage we must repent. The love of God for all people is not up for debate. But neither is the truth of God’s Word.

That’s what the Common Confession is about. Look at the seven points… The Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Salvation, the Authority of Scripture, a Common Confession of Faith, the Priesthood of All Believers, Marriage and Family, the Mission and Ministry of the Congregation. Please spend some time studying this and the commentary that goes with it.

This is not about power. You may like Lutheran CORE and the 16 other groups who have proposed this statement-- Mount Carmel Ministries, World Mission Prayer League, the WordAlone Network, the Fellowship of Confessing Lutherans, Youth Encounter. Or, on the other hand, you may consider those groups to be troublemakers and fear mongers…

But please do NOT think of this as about power or politics. We can adopt this Common Confession and NOT become a part of CORE or make any other changes to our church affiliation—honestly—this isn’t about that.

What is important is that the Word of God be proclaimed and that the truth be made known—that’s what the Common Confession tries to do. That’s what the Bible study we’re doing at 10:00 is trying to do also—to focus on the truth—truth that centers in love."

If what I have been saying and writing hasn't been clear, if you think I've been dishonest or judgmental, please talk with me according to Matthew 18:15 and help me understand where I have failed. If you feel I'm still not listening, use the next verses of Matthew 18 as your guide. Just remember that, for me, this is not a matter of sexuality or homosexuality first--this is a question of on what basis we make any decisions in our church. As Martin Luther said: "Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures or evident reason, I am bound by the Scriptures adduced by me, and my conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God, and I am neither able nor willing to recant..."

As we move towards Christmas (when we celebrate the Word of God becoming flesh and living among us), and as we move into 2010 I hope we will continue to talk together.  I hope no one will give up.  God has been working among us.  There has been a lot of positive energy in our church.  It's just sad that our ELCA has thrown us into such confusion.  I hope we will be patient, filled with the Spirit and, if at odds with each other, willing to begin againPlease join me in prayer, asking our gracious heavenly Father to mercifully help us be both faithful to God's Word and absolutely loving to all


  1. 12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:12-17

    This is Gods word for you and me.

  2. I did not make the meeting wherein this vote was taken. I was delivering a Christmas tree to a widow. Not having heard the statements before the vote, I'm not sure how I would have voted.

    The thing that I would like to remeind people of is that ELC Cokato is going through some difficult times. The stuggle for how we will respond is going to take some time.

    The impotaint thing, however, is ELC Cokato. That we remain stedfast in our commitment to raising and teaching our children, to our commitment for carring for our community, both here in town and abroad, and our commitment to each other as a congregation.

    There will be many more meetings, forums, and votes. There will be differing opinions and viewpoints. but let's approach this as one CONGREGATION, with a single purpose, to take the love that Jesus has poured out on us, and share it with as many people as we can.

    Tim Robbins