Statement of Rev. Matthew Harrison on ELCA’s Task Force on Sexuality Study
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Yesterday the church commemorated the 463rd anniversary of the death of Martin Luther. His last written words, found on a note in his pocket, were “We are beggars: This is true.” Hermann Sasse regarded these final words as a summation of Luther’s great legacy to Christianity. In all matters of faith and life, Christians are beggars who receive what the Lord gives, and as the Lord gives. Salvation is all by grace, all by Christ’s doing. All that we are to believe and practice in the church is very clearly given in the Bible, God’s own infallible Word.
Today the ELCA’s Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality released its “Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies” (http://www.elca.org/faithfuljourney). The report recommends a path for the ELCA’s 2009 church-wide assembly to recognize and accept publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships of clergy in those synods (ELCA regional divisions) and congregations, which desire to approve of such relationships.
The LCMS position on homosexuality is that of the Bible and the church catholic from the very beginning. Revisionist readings of the Bible that assert otherwise are deeply dependent upon views of the Bible that are at odds with its self-definition as God’s very Word.
We at LCMS World Relief and Human Care (LCMS Board for Human Care) have many tasks mandated by the Missouri Synod, which involve a great deal of interaction and partnership with ELCA offices, entities, affiliated agencies, and individuals. We have sought to carry out these mandated tasks with complete and uncompromising fidelity with charity, faithful to the LCMS’s clearly stated positions, including those on human sexuality. This task is becoming ever more complex, and the proposals of the ELCA task force promise to increase this complexity greatly. We will continue to the best of our ability to ensure that service organizations recognized by the LCMS “respect and do not act contrary to” (6.2.1 LCMS 2007 Handbook: Constitution, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, page 200) the biblical position of the LCMS on this issue.
To say that we are disappointed in the Task Force proposals would be a vast understatement. But we are not surprised. We are deeply concerned about many ELCA friends (on both sides of the issue) and especially about those who find themselves holding the orthodox position while their beloved church body slips into heterodoxy. But we do not write in order to self-righteously castigate the ELCA. Rather in deep humility and repentance, we think of our own many and deep sins: our own failure to hear the word of God; our failure to bear convincing witness on this issue; our own deep sins and our lack of love for one another, which have often rendered our witness of no effect; our lack of love and failure to reach out “with might and main” to those who struggle with the issue of homosexuality.
Today, Feb. 19, 2009, is a day of deep repentance. Join me in praying for the future of the Lutheran church, in America and throughout the world. Please join me too, in praying for the hundreds of Lutheran agencies, which faithfully struggle to serve those in need. We are beggars: This is true.
Rev. Matthew Harrison
LCMS World Relief and Human Care
(For a further discussion on this topic from a biblical and Lutheran Confessional viewpoint please see Armin Wenz’s The Contemporary Debate on Homosexual Clergy published by LCMS World Relief and Human Care.)