Saturday, August 06, 2005


From the Pietist:

, "Apparently, three of four congregations (all former ALC) in the Southwestern Texas Synod have successfully completed their first 2/3 vote to leave the ELCA. Bishop Ray Tiemann has written the following response and intends to post it in the synod newspaper in September in order to try to forestall a second successful vote in those congregations and possibly other defections?"

Here is Bishop Tiemann's apologetic for the ELCA:


As bishop of the Southwestern Texas Synod, I thank you for faithfully living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ as ordained and lay rostered leaders, congregational lay leaders, and members of congregations in this
synod. We are called to work together as the people of God as partners in this ministry of Christ's Church, and I am always amazed at how the Holy Spirit works among us.

Due to recent developments, however, I am concerned with how we live together as the Body of Christ. I have been saddened by congregations that have taken their first step to terminate their relationship with the
ELCA. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is like a "body" within Christ's Church. The Apostle Paul reminds us that God has fashioned the church so that "?there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers,
all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." (1Cor. 12:25-26)

I am most concerned, however, that some of the information, or representations of another's actions, that has been shared has not been accurate. I realize, brothers and sisters in Christ that this written response is a poor substitute for genuine, face-to-face dialogue. However, with these issues so important to the church, it will need to suffice at this time to allow me to communicate with so many. This letter seeks to address some of the more frequently-heard statements, and I have sought to respond to them in the most open and direct way as possible.

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The ELCA is turning its back on the authority of Scripture.

The "Confession of Faith" that is contained in the constitution for congregations, synods, and the churchwide organization is very explicit:
"This church confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the Gospel as the power of God for salvation for all who believe. This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its
proclamation, faith, and life." This statement is more forthright than what existed even in some predecessor Lutheran church bodies.So, how have Lutherans dealt with the issue of the authority of Scripture? It is not in a literalistic use of selected verses but in the revelation of God's saving work centered in Jesus Christ. It is this
proclamation which makes it authoritative, because there is no other place where we receive this Good News. Jesus' death and resurrection is the center of our faith, not keeping the Ten Commandments or upholding the
correct political stance or having the best church structural system.

Everything depends on whether justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone suffices as the center that holds the church together. If not, then the unity and mission of the church has been sacrificed for things that are not of ultimate importance, even the issue of

When we say Scripture is the "norm of our proclamation, faith, and life," it means that these things are to be measured against the witness of Scripture as a whole. As Lutherans, we understand that the Word comes to us as both Law and Gospel. The classic interpretation of this idea is that the Law kills and the Gospel gives life. We need to be cautious not to dispense "cheap grace," but we also need to be cautious not to let the Law become legalistic (people seeking to keep the rules), where pleasing God and earning salvation means participation in right behaviors and is no longer related to the Gospel. This Luther calls a "theology of glory," where we earn our own salvation and the cross of Christ
and his forgiveness becomes secondary to our actions. Scripture is clear that the Gospel always has the last word in our lives.

ELCA membership has decreased by almost 500,000 members in the last
sixteen years.

The trend of membership decline follows the pattern that existed in the
predecessor churches, although initially the downward trend slowed with
the creation of the ELCA versus what had been the experiences of the
ALC and LCA. This pattern is consistent with the experience of most
"mainline churches" including the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, which
lost 24,000 members in 2003 alone. What are some of the reasons for the
decline? Certainly the struggles with social issues and seeking to be
a public voice in the culture has contributed to these losses, but
there are other factors. For example, the aging of the membership of the
ELCA (the average age of which is ten years older than the average age
of the population) is an issue.
Further, new members are gained only as each congregation in its own
area seeks to reach out to those around the congregation and bring new
people into the fellowship of Word and Sacrament. Clearly, that outreach
by congregation has not been happening in many places. One of the
Lutheran church's greatest struggles in evangelism is acceptance of
newcomers from other ethnic groups and non-churched backgrounds. This has a
much larger effect than church statements on social issues. We need to
be passionate about reaching out, inviting, and then truly accepting new
people into our congregations. As I have often heard, "The church is
the only institution that exists for those who don't belong yet."

The Conference of Bishops is constantly seeking more power in the

The Conference of Bishops is a non-legislative body in the ELCA, and
thereby makes no formal decisions in the church. It serves as an
advisory body which seeks to reflect the perspectives of congregations and
members within each of the 65 synods. I have personally been impressed
with the maturity of Christian faith among my fellow bishops and a
genuine yearning to work collegially for what is best for the church. To
contend, as some have, that the Conference of Bishops is becoming a
"ruling body in the church" is far-fetched. Constitutional changes would
have to be approved by the Churchwide Assembly to provide direct authority
by bishops and such rarely happens.
Finally, ELCA bishops are not "ordained" to this office, but are
"installed." They hold the title of "bishop" only as long as they serve in
this office. The role of the Conference, and of Lutheran bishops, cannot
be equated with those within the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican,
or Episcopal traditions.

The ELCA ?sold out' to the Episcopalians on having bishops ordain
The Conference of Bishops just wanted to have more power.

Historically, the ordination of pastors by bishops was the normative
pattern in both the Lutheran Church in America and The American Lutheran
Church. A widespread custom, however, developed in The American
Lutheran Church of district bishops assigning that task to pastors,
especially when individual, rather than corporate, ordination became such a
common practice.
In adopting "Called to Common Mission," the Full Communion Agreement
between the ELCA and The Episcopal Church USA, the ELCA agreed that the
consistent pattern for ordinations in this church would have bishops
presiding in the company of other pastors. This is listed in the synod
constitution, that the synod bishop "?shall exercise solely this church's
power to ordain?" This did not change with the adoption of "Called to
Common Mission" but remains similar to those exercised by bishops in
our predecessor church bodies.
Please keep in mind also, however, that there is a bylaw 7.31.17, which
provides for an exception to the provision that only a bishop will
ordain a pastor. This bylaw was encouraged by the Conference of Bishops
and approved by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly. Since that time,
twenty-four ordinations have taken place that were not done by a bishop.

What is the concern about the "historic episcopate?"

The historic episcopate is the orderly transmission of the office of
bishop, with its roots in the time of the early church. It is a symbolic
succession pointing back to the centrality of Christ and the teaching
of the apostles. It also looks forward to the carrying out of the
mission of the Gospel in the Church today.
This pattern existed for centuries prior to the Reformation of the 16th
century, long before the rise of the Lutheran or Anglican (Episcopal)
Church. According to Called to Common Mission, our full communion
agreement, the three bishops who "preside and participate in the
laying-on-of-hands" at the installation service for a bishop shall be a part of the
historic episcopate, with one of the being Episcopalian.
The historic episcopate has been part of the life of some Lutheran
churches, such as Sweden and Finland, since the time of the Reformation. In
more recent years, the historic episcopate has become a part of
Lutheran church life in Tanzania, Namibia, El Salvador, and Norway.

We have spent millions of dollars on this homosexuality study.

Gary Brugh, ELCA Office of the Treasurer, confirmed that the ELCA
Church Council allocated $1,150,000 from surplus funds to carry out the 2001
Churchwide Assembly's action to conduct both a study on homosexuality
and a study on human sexuality. The study was, therefore, not funded out
of current mission support gifts, even though congregations made
decisions not to send mission support out of protest to the study.
As of January 31, 2005, the amount spent was $613,039. The Human
Sexuality Study, which was to be presented to the 2007 Churchwide Assembly,
is now being considered for presentation in 2009. The funding for it
will come out of this same allocated amount by the ELCA Church Council.

We used to call them "district presidents." Why are they now called

Historical documents reveal that the title, "bishop," began in San
Antonio, Texas at the 1970 General Convention of The American Lutheran
Church. The ALC was the first Lutheran church body in North America to use
the title, "bishop." The reason for that change involved the fact that
the title "bishop" underscores the pastoral responsibilities in the
office, whereas the previous term, "district president," was seen only in
administrative context. Ten years later, the Lutheran Church in
America (LCA) followed the ALC pattern.

The role of bishop goes against the understanding of the priesthood of
all believers.

Martin Luther, when he spoke of the priesthood of all believers, did
not want to make a distinction between the laity (temporal estate) and
the clergy (spiritual estate). In Luther's Open Letter to the Christian
Nobility, he wrote, "?through Baptism all of us are consecrated to the
priesthood?and there is no difference at all but that of office."
In section S8.12 of the synod constitution, there are thirty-three
specific responsibilities given to the office of synod bishop. Thus, the
bishop's role is not about hierarchy, but describes the elected role of
the synod bishop during the six years when he/she serves in that
office. In my estimation, it accurately lives out the "priesthood of all
believers" by providing specific responsibilities for the elected leader
of this specific office. In the same way, the responsibilities of the
office of pastor are spelled out constitutionally, as are the offices of
an elected church leader, committee members, etc. in congregational

The ELCA is joining forces with some of the other declining
liberal-protestant denominations in the country.

The ELCA has Full Communion Agreements with several ecumenical
partners: The United Church of Christ (1997), The Reformed Church (1997), The
Presbyterian Church, USA (1997), The Episcopal Church, USA (1999), and
The Moravian Church (1999). At the 2005 Churchwide Assembly in August
there will be consideration of Interim Eucharistic Sharing with the
United Methodist Church, but we currently have no official agreement with
Full Communion Agreements provide for shared ministry among
denominations when cooperation will enhance the mission and ministry of Christ's
Church. Some characteristics of Full Communion include: 1) a common
confessing of the Christian faith; 2) a mutual recognition of Baptism and
a sharing of the Lord's Supper, allowing for joint worship and an
exchangeability of members; 3) a mutual recognition and availability of
ordained ministers to the service of all members of churches in full
communion; 4) a common commitment to evangelism, witness, and service; 5) a
means of common decision-making on critical common issues of faith and
life; and 6) a mutual lifting of any condemnations that exist between
In our synod we celebrate an example of such a relationship, where the
Rev. Nathan LaFrenz, an ELCA pastor, serves both a Lutheran and an
Episcopal congregation in Brackettville.
In such situations, the pastor from the partner denomination is not
"called," but under "contract" on an annual basis. There is a detailed
list of items that pastors serving in different traditions must know in
order to serve well. For example, for a pastor from a different
Christian tradition serving in an ELCA congregation, he/she must be familiar
with the following resources, 1) The Book of Concord, 2) the
Constitution of the ELCA, 3) Vision and Expectations, 4) The Use of the Means of
Grace, 5) The Lutheran Book of Worship, 5) With One Voice, 6) Christian
Dogmatics, by Braaten and Jensen, The Lutherans in North America, by
Nelson, and One Great Cloud of Witnesses, by Almen.
Also, should a pastor from a Full Communion partner serve an ELCA
congregation, complete and continuing disclosure to the synod of all
information concerning the past and present ministry, as well as any
disciplinary proceedings concerning such person, will be provided. Also, this
pastor must meet all the provisions in Vision and Expectations-Ordained
Ministers in the ELCA, which outlines proper conduct for ordained

The new Renewing Worship materials take male and female references out
of the text for the marriage rite, creating a ?genderless' marriage

It was from a WordAlone article entitled, "Redefining Marriage
Liturgically," that this accusation first surfaced. It is important to
remember that in the process of developing the Renewing Worship series, many
provisional materials were tested. This is commonly done in order to
engage the church on a number of issues and levels. There were
congregations in the synod, like MacArthur Park Lutheran, San Antonio, which
were part of this process. It was in response to some of these materials
that the article was written.
However, the proposed marriage rite is clearly intended for the union
of one man and one woman. It states, "Marriage is a gift of God,
intended for the joy and strength of those who enter it and for the
well-being of the whole human family. God created us male and female and
blessed us with the gifts of mutual companionship, the capacity to love, and
the care and nurture of children. Jesus affirmed the covenant of
marriage and revealed the height and depth of self-giving love on the cross.
The Holy Spirit sustains those who are united in marriage, that they
may be a living sign of God's grace, love, and faithfulness." In the
service itself, wife/husband and her/him are used throughout. Hence,
there is no "genderless" marriage rite. For more information, please go to

Augsburg Fortress Publishing regularly promotes the gay agenda while
the publishing or traditional teachings on sexuality.

Scott Tunseth, publisher at Augsburg Fortress, responded to this
statement by saying that Augsburg Fortress cannot presume to speak on
behalf of the ELCA. While they are the publishing ministry of the ELCA,
they maintain a certain amount of independence, especially in the area of
book publishing. Their role as publisher is not to make judgments or
pronouncements, but to develop and provide resources that help
individuals and congregations to study the issue of sexuality, and many other
topics, and determine their own faithful response.
Concerning actual books, traditional stances published by Augsburg
Fortress include Robert Gagnon's Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views;
Robert Benne's Ordinary Saints, and James Nestigen's Faithful
Conversation: Christian Perspective on Homosexuality.
Other books published, which provide a wide spectrum of material
related to sexuality and encourages discussion, include James Childs'
Faithful Conversations, Robin Scroggs' The New Testament and Homosexuality,
and Craig Nessan's Many Members, Yet One Body.

Lutherans Concerned was allowed a display at the 2005 Synod Assembly
but WordAlone was denied.

Every year at the Synod Assembly, organizations, institutions, and
agencies have the opportunity to have a display. The standard policy is
that only those who are directly affiliated with the ELCA may have
display space and, except for Augsburg Fortress, promotion or sale of items
is restricted.
In 2004, however, a request was made by Via de Cristo. After
discussion, the Synod Council agreed to provide display space, realizing that
this set a precedent for consideration of other requests. Then, in
2005, a request was made by Lutherans Concerned. After much discussion and
with the consideration that the Southwestern Texas Synod is a
"Reconciled In Christ" synod by action of the 2000 Synod Assembly, that space
was granted for 2005. Each year such a request must be made and previous
inclusion does not guarantee future space. What is most significant,
however, is that WordAlone never requested a display and was not denied.

I don't like it that we send ?voting members' to synod and churchwide
rather than ?delegates' who represent us.

The membership of this church is defined as the baptized members of
its congregations. Given our ecclesial understanding of the nature of
the church and the polity of this particular church, the term "voting
member" seems more suitable as a gathering of folks who come together to
worship, pray, seek the guidance of God's Spirit, and make decisions for
the well-being of the whole church. Individuals do not come as
politicized "delegates" from a particular caucus if they are to serve on
behalf of the members of this whole church.
Therefore, the term "voting member" was deliberately chosen in the
formation of the ELCA to underscore the fact that we come together as the
baptized members of this church to make decisions on behalf of the
whole. They serve on behalf of all the members of all the congregations in
this church, including those from which they are a member.
To say "delegates" are to represent "us," who is "us?" And on which
issues would they be representing "us?" Whether the person is a
"voting member" or a "delegate" their work is the same - to listen to all
sides on the decisions before the church and to use their gifts and their
best judgment to make decisions for the church as a whole.

Why did the ELCA Church Council vote 32-2 in favor of ordaining
practicing homosexuals?

They did not. The ELCA Church Council, by the direction of the 2001
Churchwide Assembly, was given the specific task of conducting a study
on homosexuality, particularly related to two issues: the blessing of
same-sex unions and the ordination, consecration, and commissioning of
people in committed same-sex unions. They were to present the results of
the study to the 2005 Churchwide Assembly and bring for action any
amendments to the ELCA constitution and bylaws and all other related
governing documents.
The ELCA Church Council has been faithful to that calling. They
provided for the study and received the report at their April, 2005,
meeting. At that time, their responsibility was to transmit, in legislative
language for consideration by the Churchwide Assembly, action items
based on the Report and Recommendations of the Task Force for ELCA Studies
on Sexuality. Whether or not to support a particular position on the
issue was not the question.
As a result, Recommendations #1 and #2 were forwarded to the Churchwide
Assembly in the style of a resolution, following the recommendation of
the Task Force. However, with Recommendation #3 the Church Council
took the concept of the Task Force, to seek to find some space for
rostered service, and provide a model for exceptions, with constitutional
provisions, for the Churchwide Assembly to wrestle with. Thus, by a 32-2
vote, it was forwarded to the Churchwide Assembly for their action,
which must pass by a 2/3 vote.

The pedophilia case in Marshall, Texas, was a commentary on the
"whatever" attitude that pervades the ELCA.

The criminal conduct of former pastor Gerald P. Thomas in Marshall,
Texas, was not a case of a "whatever attitude" or what has been insinuated
as ELCA personnel knowingly doing nothing to prevent a predatory
pedophile from serving in the ELCA. To slight the faithful and diligent work
of candidacy committee members and synod staff in this way is
inappropriate and offensive.
These are the facts. No one in the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana
Synod leadership knew that Thomas had molested children until after his
arrest. There was an incident in Wilson, Texas, that occurred during
Thomas' internship in which he gave alcohol to minors at the parsonage
and the youth found a pornographic video. His internship supervisor,
along with local law enforcement authorities, investigated the incident,
confronted Thomas, and the supervising pastor subsequently approved
Thomas' internship. The law enforcement authorities filed no charges, but
a memo was sent to Trinity Lutheran Seminary requesting leadership
there to ensure that Thomas was debriefed about this incident and that he
receive counseling. Thomas subsequently passed his senior year of
seminary and was approved by the Michigan Multi-synodical Candidacy
Committee for ordination. He received his first call to Marshall, Texas and
was ordained in 1997. Immediately upon Thomas' arrest in May, 2001,
Bishop Kevin Kanouse visited Thomas in jail and acquired his resignation
from the clergy roster of the ELCA.
In the process, the ELCA settled out of court prior to the jury trial
for $8 million, Trinity Lutheran Seminary settled for $22 million, the
Michigan candidacy committee settled for $1.2 million, and Good Shepherd
Lutheran, Marshall, settled for $750,000. In the trial concerning the
Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, the verdict was for $37
million, although there is still speculation about how much of the money
already settled will affect this amount. The settlement is still in
As a result of the Marshall case, there has been a reworking of the
candidacy process. Specifically, the ELCA has sought to address
communication issues between Candidacy Committees, the seminary, internship
supervisors, and synods to better supervise candidates. Part of the
revision also includes a full background check on each candidate in the
process - a national criminal check, a county-by-county residence check,
driving record, and credit history. It is important to note, however,
that a background check on Gerald Thomas would not have surfaced any
previous allegations.

I heard the Lutheran Youth Organization passed a resolution
approving of same gender relationships.

It is true that the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) passed a
resolution at its 2003 meeting which "supports the blessing of same-sex unions
and the ordination of non-celibate individuals in committed
relationships." Please note that the young adults of the LYO, representing synods
across the church, make decisions on their own, without consultation or
pressure from adults. Having personally read the minutes of this
decision, there were numerous amendments and much discussion. The final
vote was 48% yes, 40% no, and 12% abstentions.
You should also know, however, that the Council of Synod LYO Presidents
recently passed a resolution calling for unity in the church. In it
they resolved, "that we want to stay a united church regardless of
potentially divisive conversations and actions concerning the issue of
sexuality in the church?we encourage members and congregations to maintain
their commitment to work together as one body in the mission of Jesus
Christ within the ELCA, regardless of actions taken during the 2005
Churchwide Assembly?and to individually commit to living out these intentions
in our lives, congregations and synods."
One other item that has received some discussion occurred during a skit
at the 2003 Youth Gathering. In Luke 14:1-24, Jesus tells a parable of
a great feast. Youth served as actors with colored, monogrammed
t-shirts with names like crippled, landowner, rancher, rich, vain, etc. Some
had IN or OUT on them to describe whether they were welcomed at the
feast. When the text was read and some could not attend because "they had
just been married," two girls came together across the stage. It was
interpreted, by some, that this was a subtle introduction of the
homosexual agenda and the blessing of same-sex unions. In speaking with Heidi
Hagstrom (Director for Gathering Program) and Pastor Scott
Maxwell-Doherty (Team Leader), the choice of persons for the skit was a practical
matter, as they had a certain number of sized t-shirts to fit the youth
that were helping. In no way, conscious or otherwise, was a message
meant to be conveyed except that of the awesome grace of God in the
parable, filling his table with guests.

The ELCA is always pushing a liberal political agenda through its
office in
Washington, DC, like opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment.

The Lutheran Office of Governmental Affairs (LOGA) in Washington,
D.C., is minimally budgeted to advocate on behalf of the ELCA. They follow
the guidelines of ELCA social policy statements. The process for
developing such a statement is 4-5 years, intentionally includes study
participation of congregations throughout the ELCA, and the statement must
finally be approved by the Churchwide Assembly.
LOGA is not free to advocate on whatever topics it wants. According to
Les Weber, Associate Director for Church in Society, advocacy is based
only on policy. The church seeks to speak only on issues about which
there is a clear mandate. It does not take Democratic or Republican
positions, but reflects the social policy statements of the ELCA.
Concerning the Federal Marriage Amendment, LOGA joined numerous other
religious denominations and organizations issuing a statement objecting
to the amendment on the basis of violation of civil rights. Speaking
against civil rights violations has a long history within the ELCA.
Specifically, the Federal Marriage Amendment states: "Marriage in the
United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.
Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or
federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the
legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."
The impact of the language negating any state or federal law that
permits "legal incidents" of marital status which confer rights and benefits
for individuals threaten hundreds of legal rights that gay and lesbian
families currently have under a number of state and local laws. It was
felt that the U.S. Constitution should not be used as a vehicle for
enacting discriminatory provisions against gays and lesbians or to deny
any such group equal protection under the law.

The ELCA Division for Outreach promotes the gay agenda
by showing solidarity with the gay movement.

The Division of Outreach does have a publication entitled,
"Congregational Hospitality to Gay and Lesbian People: Resources for
Congregations." It was written after consultation with congregations who are having
success at mission with gay and lesbian persons. It revealed that gay
and lesbian visitors sometimes look for tangible clues to the
congregation's openness, hoping to see visible signs that this congregation will
be a "safe place." Such possible signs of welcome include a framed
mission statement or an announcement in the worship bulletin; encouraging
an intentionally welcoming attitude and environment; clergy and lay
leaders modeling hospitality in their words and actions, and perhaps using
a symbol of welcome, such as a rainbow flag. However, the division
does not involve itself in the politics of gay and lesbian issues or take
a political stance, which solidarity implies.

We have no real voice in the ELCA, as individuals or as a congregation.

The ELCA is made up of almost 11,000 congregations and 5 million
baptized members. Its size requires a structure that allows for
decision-making across the expanse of the whole church. It is not a perfect
structure, but it is one that seeks to be representative of the diversity of
the ELCA, with provisions that at assembly gatherings at least 60% of
voting members be lay persons and that equal male/female ratio be
Individual participation in the ELCA provides a multitude of
opportunities. Persons can be elected or elected to various congregational
positions, synod positions, and churchwide positions. Nominating processes
are in place for serving beyond the congregation that allow interested
ELCA members to serve the whole church. They can be elected to the
Synod Council, ELCA Church Council, one of a number of synodical and
churchwide boards, and as a voting member to the Synod Assembly or the
Churchwide Assembly. They are able to bring resolutions and memorials to
the assembly process, so that issues can be discussed, debated, and
decided upon.
Congregations are an integral part of the ministry of the church, but
not in the same way as in the former American Lutheran Church. In that
structure, congregations were called on to ratify constitutional
actions that took place at the National Convention. This process of
ratification is similar to that of the Presbyterian Church (USA). When the
ELCA was formed, however, the current method of governance was decided
upon, where voting members at synod assemblies and churchwide assemblies
make decisions on behalf of the whole ELCA.
This does not mean, however, that the structure will always stay that
way. Memorials have been brought to the churchwide assembly to provide
for just such a ratification process or to restructure the composition
of the ELCA Church Council to provide for the election of one member
from each synod. So far, those memorials have not been approved, but the
dialogue continues.

In conclusion, I commit myself to continuing dialogue on all issues
which we face together, and I ask that we respect each other's positions
and represent them with fairness and love. We will not agree on
everything, but we can hold to Jesus Christ, who is the center of our faith.
---Ray Tiemann, Bishop

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