Thursday, April 28, 2005

from bad to worse

Professor Gagnon opens his refutation of the ELCA's reasoning behing their relentless push to revise the Christian faith so that they may go ahead and do what it was they wanted to do in the first place by explaining the Jan 13 fiasco. Begin reading it here and then move on to the pdf.


On Jan. 13, 2005, the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality issued its “Report and Recommendations.” It proposed that the ELCA retain the current policy that pastors and rostered lay persons are expected to abstain from sexual relationships outside of marriage, including homosexual relationships. However, it also proposed that this policy not to be enforced: “As a pastoral response to the deep divisions among us, this church may choose to refrain from disciplining those who . . . call or approve partnered gay or lesbian candidates . . . and to refrain from disciplining those rostered people so approved and called” (p. 7).

Any who do not want the ELCA to reach a point where it celebrates homosexual behavior and/or irreparably damages its own credibility should view this proposal as a decisive defeat of their (i.e. the scriptural) position under the illusion of maintaining the status quo.

Thwarting a Landslide Verdict
In effect, the Task Force’s recommendations thwart the rightful outcome of ELCA churchwide deliberations. It is remarkable that, even after using study guides imbalanced in favor of discounting Scripture’s intense opposition to homosexual practice, 57% of the respondents tabulated still voted for no change in the current policy or even for more rigorous enforcement of that policy. Only 22% of tabulated respondents favored blessing homosexual unions and rostering actively homosexual persons, or at least a local option approach. And this percentage is almost certainly inflated by the fact that those who seek a radical change are arguably more motivated to submit a survey than those content with the status quo. Of the remaining 21% of tabulated respondents, 17.4% were undecided and 3.4% adopted other positions.

[Note: I speak of “tabulated respondents” because the Task Force analyzed only 14% of the 28,000 responses to Journey Two. Rev. Dr. Roy Harrisville III, Executive Director of Solid Rock Lutherans, cautions in his “Critique of the Report and Recommendations” (p. 5) that no generalizations about what the average ELCA member thinks can be made since respondents were self-selected (i.e., they took the initiative to respond to the survey). The Task Force did not undertake a random survey of a cross-section of ELCA membership. The caveat is well taken. Nevertheless, since the Task Force bases its own decisions in part on their analysis of these responses, and since too even the 22% support for change in the current policy is likely to be inflated (for the reason stated in the paragraph above), it is fair game to point out that even by the Task Force’s own standard of measurement there are no grounds for deviating from current standards.]

Can you imagine a U. S. presidential election where a candidate received over two-and-a-half times more votes than the next biggest vote-getter? This country has never had a presidential election with such a lopsided margin of victory. In the greatest landslides in U.S. presidential history, Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater by a margin of 61% to 38.4% (1964), while Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern by a margin of 60.7% to 37.5% (1972)—in both cases a margin of victory that was less than 2-to1. Here the margin against changing church policy on homosexuality is greater still. And yet the Task Force’s recommendation to remove mandatory enforcement will, if approved, effectively gut the current policy favored by the landslide majority and set in motion an inevitable overturning of that policy. This brings us to our next point.

Adopting Local Option and Radical Change Under the Guise of No New Policy
The Report claims: “our recommendations do not establish a new policy” (p. 11; also p. 10). Make no mistake about it: This is, de facto, a new policy inasmuch as an unenforced policy is a policy no longer in force (i.e. operative, in effect). Indeed, the majority Task Force recommendation is nothing more and nothing less than a variant of a local-option policy, in fact if not also in name. Remember, too, that local option so far as homosex-advocacy is concerned is just another name for incremental coercion.

The proposal, if accepted, would radically undermine both the ELCA’s policy against homosexually active rostered leadership and the ELCA’s overall authority on matters of doctrine and morality. Imagine parents telling their children, “We shall maintain an 8:30 PM bedtime but we shall not enforce it.” For all intents and purposes there would be no set bedtime. Worse, the parents’ overall authority would be undermined as children learned that there were no consequences to disregarding explicit parental wishes. Obviously if the parents are not willing to enforce certain rules, the rules can’t mean much to the parents, and consequently will mean even less to the children. Better not to have any rules at all than to subject them to continual mockery. Or, as Roy Harrisville puts it, using a different analogy: “It is like having a speed limit but announcing that we will never ticket speeders” (“Critique,” p. 2). Both the speed limit and the state’s authority soon become a joke. “The practice of ignoring the policy must necessarily result in the change of that policy. If it does not, the ELCA would become the laughing-stock of the modern Church with a reputation for duplicity” (ibid.)

Surely everyone in the ELCA, including in the Task Force, must realize that this proposal, if approved, would serve as a halfway house or transitional stage that will lead irrevocably to the full embrace of (‘committed’) homosexual activity. Once a significant number of persons in public homosexual relationships are called and approved for ministry, there is no possibility of returning to enforcement of a ban on homosexual relations for rostered persons. Henceforth the only direction left for the church to move in is toward overturning completely the tattered vestiges of the old policy and, finally, coercing acceptance of homosexual relationships, starting at the upper echelons of ELCA power structures and working down gradually to lower levels ...

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