Comment on Benne Speech


Robert Benne’s speech raises a basic question for the ELCA: What is given by divine authority in a way that places it beyond our decisions? Can there be an authoritative recognition that places some matters – the authority of scripture, the divinity of Christ, the name of God as Father, Son, and Spirit – off limits for our revision? The question isn’t easy, for there would need to be some action or recognition by someone to place a matter beyond our revision. The desire for such a means may be the mistake of wanting a procedure to do that which a procedure is not capable of – assuring us of the church’s faithfulness. But does the absence of such a possibility in the ELCA and other Protestant churches mean that all topics are always up for grabs, that everything is vulnerable to the claim: “Behold, I am doing a new thing”? That is the Catholic worry, a worry reinforced by recent events.

Michael Root

8 Responses to “Comment on Benne Speech”

  1. David Charlton Says:

    I wonder if at least some of the arugments for the sexuality statement and policy changes don’t already contain an implicit denial the doctrine of the Trinity. Some are so confident of our unmediated access to God and his will they see no need for revelation. In other words, since God is not hidden, there is not need for the Deus Revelatus. Others are so skeptical about our ability to know God that God remains hidden even after the coming of the Son, and the Spirit. Still others believe they have direct access to the hidden God through the Spirit without the Word.

  2. Kathleen Suggitt Says:

    I have been a Christian all my life other than the first 10 days. For over 20 years I expressed that faith as a devout, faithful, and active Roman Catholic. For the past 28 years I have expressed my faith as a Lutheran – the last 3 of them as a pastor in the ELCA. I am a Lutheran by choice of theology. I do not see that changing any time soon. However, there are a couple of things I miss about being Catholoic. One is the broad and creative ways which Catholics have of entering into the mysteries of faith and expressing their spirituality.

    The other is some of the practical aspects of their ecclesiology. I am by no means a ‘papist.’ However, one of the things that I have NEVER understood about the ecclesiology of the Lutheran churches in America is the lack of a magisterium. I am not a theological wunderkind by any stretch of the imagination, but I firmly believe that there are certain areas of the life of the institution of the church which should not be up for debate or vote. It seems to me that adopting ministry policies based on an interpretation of scripture using a “new hermeneutic” which radically diverges from the teaching of orthodox and apostolic churches for nearly 2000 years darned well ought to be one of them.

    Somehow, I do not think when Luther was concerned about “good order” he meant simply adminstrative areas such as candidacy and mobility processes. Perhaps it never occurred to Luther that there would be the NEED for a magisterium to maintain orthodoxy and apostolicity in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

    • Rev. Kevin Scheuller Says:

      My story is very similar to yours. I was a Roman Catholic for my first 19 years, a Lutheran for the past 22, and ELCA pastor for almost 10 years now.

      The only thing I have to add to your observation is the sarcastic resolution brought up by a number of clever pastors within the Metro Chicago Synod (my home synod, the instigator in the most recent original memorializing of the ELCA to address this matter of homosexuality and the church). Anyway, a group of what I assume were more traditional pastors in the Metro Chicago Synod submitted the resolution that Franz Bibfelt (a fictional theological hero dreamt up by Martin Marty) be appointed “synod theologian,” to underscore the lack of orthodox theological reflection that tends to occur in the ELCA.

      Of course, the resolution did not pass. I’m surprised it passed the synod council’s consideration, unless – of course – they were in on the joke.

  3. TheCowboy Says:

    This idea of a magesterium was thrown around not too long ago by some classmates of mine (a good suggestion). We were under the tutelage of Dr. Root and others at LTSS at the time.

  4. Pr. Dan Biles Says:

    The answer, Mr. Root, is yes. The Doctrine of the Trinity passing by two votes in the formation of the ELCA. The UCC voting on the divinity of Jesus at one of its assemblies. It is all up for grabs.

    “The Spirit is doing a new thing” were the words used, by a seminary professsor no less, at our synod assembly’s debate on the sexuality statement & ministry policies. It is the new gnosticism. Or the old in new drag.

  5. jay Says:

    I say yes, there are issues of faith that are beyond reproach, upheld by thousands of years of scripture, tradition, history, writing, and reason. These are core matters of faith- Trinity, Divinity of Christ (which I believe went up for a vote before and lost to be turned over again in the 4th century), atonement, covenant, etc. But I have a very hard time defining sexuality as being as central to the proclamation of Jesus’ divinity and Trinity. It seems these matters were not central to the proclamation of the reign of God and yet somehow this has become what we have done with this subject. Perhaps, in the question of relativism and wondering who the relativists are, us or the authors, I cannot help but feel we are unduly influenced by sexuality in our own culture. If sexuality is as central to matters of faith as the Trinity I shudder.

  6. Paul Schreck Says:

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment here, just in case anyone is still reading this particular thread…

    The first Council of Jerusalem found itself able to set aside the direct command of God, and chose not to require circumcision of the converting Greeks.

    In addition, Scripture records Jesus telling us that whatever we bind on Earth is bound in Heaven; what ever is loosed is loosed. That would suggest a significant degree of decision making by the Church.

    If that first council could set aside such a clear command, and Christ imbued the Church with the power of binding and loosing, then is it not incumbent upon the Church to reconsider positions if new evidence comes to the fore?

    Of course, I’ve tipped my hand here by insisting that such decisions should be made by the Church, not a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Minnesota….

  7. Paul Schreck Says:

    Gosh, it’s been nearly two weeks, and not a single response to my devil’s advocate observations. I guess everyone’s moved on from this thread…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: