Synod Council Acts


No news has been released from last weekend’s meeting of the ELCA Church Council in relation to the revision of Vision and Expectations and the candidacy process, with the exception of a news release on reinstatement procedures. One presumes something will be forthcoming, almost certainly saying that the Council followed the lead of the bishops and will not act on these matters until next spring at the earliest. In the meantime, the Northeast Iowa Synod Council adopted the resolutions posted to the right (here) declaring their intent to exercise their bound conscience and directing the synod not to abide by the Assembly action. They also call for a recognition that the actions were unconstitutional.
All very interesting. More comment to follow.

31 Responses to “Synod Council Acts”

  1. Conrad Derrick Says:

    I hope the S.C. Synod Council follows the lead of our brethren from Iowa. The 2009 S.C. Synod Assembly has, I believe, already gone on record as to its objections to changes in Visions and Expectations and to the parts of the Human Sexuality Statement calling for recognition of same sex relationships. It would be nice to think that the members of the Synod Council will abide by the majority expressions of the Assembly. I wholeheartedly agree that the time for organizing and developing a strategy to renounce the actions of the CWA 2009 is now, if there is any chance to do so at CWA 2011.

  2. Rev. Judson Merrell Says:


    I don’t only hope that the SC Synod follows suit, I have a firm belief that 2010’s synod assembly will have a very similar resolution before it. It will truly be a hard and difficult assembly to be at, no matter what.

  3. Rev. Garry White Says:

    I also applaud the Northeast Iown Synod for its courage, and hope the South Carolina Synod follows suit. Following CWA, our synods and congregations were too shaken and confused to have an effective response, other than gathering at Lutherans ersisting and similar blogs while the dust settled. Now action responses are beginning — Lutheran CORE and its affiliates are growing and becoming organized, but in a direction that leads outside the ELCA. The actions of the Northeast Iowa Synod have provided an alternative protest. The ELCA must re-center itself within the great tradition or face continued financial losses, impaired ecumenical relatonships, and internal schism.

  4. Pastor Keith A. Hunsinger Says:

    The Church Council voted to “consider” the proposed changes to the governing documents at their April meeting. It was originally written will “approve” the changes then but it was amended. There is a long, technical timeline but that is the important information.

    It should also be noted that the changes to the reinstatement procedure were simply to allow folks who resigned or were removed “solely” because of their living in a publically accountable, monogamous, same gender relationship will not have to wait five years to reapply. Even in their case nothing can happen until the changes to the governing documents are approved. The debate centered on defining “solely”.

    There was one other small change in the reinstatement policy for this class of individuals. They are to apply for reinstatement in the place they now reside not the synod that removed them. I argued that will allow for bishop shopping and voted against the whole motion but was defeated.

  5. Tony Metze Says:

    I pray the South Carolina Synod follows the NE Iowa synod as well, but this will not just happen. We must be organized and willing to step up to the microphone. I promise to do my part and will do whatever it takes including wrangling with parlimentary procedure to get it done.

  6. Ken Kimball Says:

    I would also urge those of you in South Carolina and elsewhere, to also focus on electing orthodox-traditional people to positions of leadership in your synod (as well as remembering that 2010 is when synods electing voting members for the 2011 CWA)–on synod council, committee on discipline, and other boards (particularly whichever board is connected to the Candidacy Committee). One essential path for confessing and bearing witness is the leadership and elections process in the ELCA. The ELCA is not (and never has been) a confessional church; it is a constitutional church body. To confess in the ELCA means to be willing to stand and speak out and to elect and be elected to leadership and then to lead as a confessional Lutheran.

    And I will add, as a member of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee, that Lutheran CORE is not abandoning those traditional-orthodox who continue in the ELCA in confessional resistance. The new church body gets headlines but Lutheran CORE is not becoming that new church body–it is just helping to birth that body for those who need to leave as part of their witness and desire to remain faithful. Again, the real question is not whether one leaves or stays, but whether one stands faithfully under the authority of Scripture and the Confessions.


  7. Pr. Ian Wolfe Says:

    I think Tony you are absolutely right and all who remain in the ELCA in dissent must wrestle with that call to witness (even if it takes Robert’s Rules of Order to do so). The only reason that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council was able to pass these resolutions is because traditional orthodox clergy and lay were willing to step up and serve on Synod Council. A large part of that burden to get people to volunteer has been carried by our synodical reform group Call to Faithfulness. I do hope and pray SC Synod and others will do something similar to NeIA to be a witness to the true division which now exists in our church.

    Of course the two questions that we need to have answered to see if a witness of dissent within the ELCA is possible will be 1) how will Chicago (primarily Mr. Swartling and the Church Council) respond and 2) how will the synods react to negative responses from Chicago?

  8. Christopher Luke Seamon Says:

    I would urge Core to devote a lot of effort to helping organize the opposition within the ELCA to try new and possibly creative ways of overturning these changes. Perhaps I am wrong, but my guess is that the majority of the people in the pews oppose this. That needs to be tapped into.

    Is anyone expecting a “backlash” in 2011?

  9. Noah Hepler Says:

    I am a little confused by the posts in reaction to this. Are views on sexuality now the new standard for orthodoxy? If so I find THAT far more problematic! We are not talking about people denying the divinity of Christ. We are not talking about a denial of anything in the Nicene Creed. The Creed is orthodoxy, not sexual moral conduct – which the Church has demonstratively shifted on -contraception, for example; this is also a denial of the very same “long standing tradition of the Church” (sex must have a procreative end); yet I don’t hear people decrying birth control as heresy.

    Its fine to disagree, but making this a matter of orthodoxy is to place this in a category in which the matter ought not belong.

    Again, as I did in the post on Heresy, quoting Bruce Marshall: “From which sentence of the Nicene Creed, for example, can it be inferred that open homosexuals are not to be ordained?” (The Lutheran Forum 32,1 (1998): p40.)

    • Pr. Jeff Shealy Says:

      I think the problem, Noah, and I can be so corrected if need be, is that precisely because we, the ELCA in passing the HS statement and opening the door for change in ministry policies allowing PALMS, we have avoided deciding whether or not homosexuality is a sin.

      As such, we who think homosexuality is a sin are left in a quandary as how to execute the Office of the Keys. In executing the Office of the Keys, we declare forgiveness to sinners, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose from the dead. And that, I think, is a matter of orthodoxy, from a creedal perspective.

      I don’t think the posts are quibbling over what you propose they are. In addition, with all do respect, I don’t think your citing of Bruce Marshall’s piece is germane to this thread.

      • Noah Hepler Says:

        I think it is germane to the equation of certain stances on sexuality to orthodoxy. The Creed sets standards of orthodoxy; the quote from Bruce Marshall it so demonstrate that this is not within the realm or orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Therefore the “electing orthodox-traditional people to positions of leadership in your synod” should not be reduced, equated to, nor limited to people who have one particular stance on this issue.

        Trying to discern whether or not what we now call homosexuality a sin is not fundamentally problematic. We (the Church) used to call usury a sin. Now we just call it “capitalism” – not only do we now condone it; but we willing participate in it. This we do in spite of the fact that the Church taught that charging and collecting interest was immoral. Luther himself said that interest rates over 5% were “murderous.” But do we call bankers to repentance? Are we calling the BoP to change how we build up our pension so that it is not based on interest?

        Given that this was a matter of how the Church has traditionally taught, why is THAT not a matter of orthodoxy and sexuality issues are? Again, why isn’t birth control a matter of orthodoxy? Especially given that prohibitions against birth control are rooted in the same fundamental theology as the claim that homosexuality is the sin that is condemned in Scripture.

        Equating theses things with orthodoxy places them in a realm where the ought not be – the Rule of Faith. Doing so is a move that is far too close to Donatism for my comfort.

    • A.B.Cely Crowe Says:

      Noah, I believe that the discussion is not involving ‘sexuality as the standard for orthodoxy’ but ‘sexuality does not over-rule orthodoxy.’ I believe I mentioned it in an earlier post, but find it prudent to mention again: homosexual acts are not new. The Christian faith has been wrestling with homosexual acts since its birth–homosexual acts were accepted (even expected) in secular Greco-Roman culture, and it would have been very easy for the early Church to just accept it as a norm.

      And, I believe, the issue is not whether the ELCA should ordain folks who happen to have a homosexual orientation, it’s whether it should be ordaining homosexual pastors having an active sex life outside of marriage. Is it appropriate (a good ethical/moral example) to ordain a heterosexual person who is living in a monogamous, actively sexual relationship with but isn’t married?

      What do you mean by “Church”? From a Protestant Church perspective, the “Church” may have shifted on the issue of contraception, but from a Catholic perspective the “Church” still holds that contraception is immoral and unethical.

      Finally, I believe separating ethical/social/political issues from theological ones is to tread very dangerous grounds. Unless the above are all tied together, there is no way for anyone to live out a Christian life other than in his/her own head.

      P. S. Rhetorical question: from what sentence in the Nicene Creed can it be inferred that the Son is truly present in the Eucharist?

      • Noah Hepler Says:

        I don’t see a difference between those two.

        The marriage argument is, frankly, weak. The only reason that PALMs were introduced is because not every state recognizes same-sex unions. The church could recognize said union as a marriage, but that would not be recognized by the state. As a result the language of PALMs was introduced to aviod a secular matter, not a religious one.

        I believe Protestants are part of the Church. While Rome, for example, may still hold that contraception is immoral, Protestants do not. This identifies a shift in the consensus of the Church on this matter. The closest than any opponent of CWA09, that I have seen, has come to identifying the nature of the sin that homosexual acts are claimed to be has been Carl Braaten. Braaten bases it on the standard Natural Law argument which is problematic on several levels, let alone the fact that Protestants have jettisoned the idea that the only possible end of the sexual act is procreation when it supported birth control. Until the whole argument is taken up then it doesn’t make much sense. Its merely a practice in fragmentation and emotivism.

        I am not separating ethics from theology. If anything I am drawing a distinction – specifically between what ought to be considered in the realm of the Rule of Faith and what should not be considered.

        And, I believe that would fall under “he became truly human” if nothing else. The doctrine of the Real Presence is rooted in the incarnation.

  10. Christopher Luke Seamon Says:

    It’s oft repeated, but needs to be continually repeated, that the real issue of orthodoxy is not the just changes in sexual policy, but the matter of how one treats Scripture. Those who oppose the changes are more concerned that these changes subvert the authority of scripture, a foolish and dangerous step. “Biblical” arguments that justify the changes seem not only to be poor biblical theology but also send up red flags in the minds of the “orthodox”, and for many is a continuing phenomenon in the ELCA.

    • Noah Hepler Says:

      How then do you read texts which condemn usury? Or ordaining women? Or contraception? Do I still have the right to sell my daughter, if I had one, into slavery if she is disobedient? If not, by what authority am I denied such a right which is clearly given in Scripture?

      In what way are they “poor?” Far more problematic to this “orthodox” mind is the inability to distinguish what ought to be considered as a rule of faith and what ought not be – such leads to Donatism.

      IF CWA09 had said “there is not really such a thing as sin” rather than “we are not certain that what we know as Homosexuality is the same thing that is condemned in Scripture;” then I could understand a charge of Heresy.

      I believe there are rather solid biblical arguments out there. I can agree that those give at CWA09 were not always the best; but this is what happens when theological discussions are reduced to 2-3 min. soundbites. Since I do not believe that this is an appropriate venue to present those better arguments I will simply offer that if anyone would like to hear them, then I welcome you to email me:

  11. Conrad Derrick Says:

    Just reviewing the thread, I am surprised that no one has commented on my earlier post suggesting that the S.C. Synod Council do something NOW reiterating the majority vote of the 2009 S.C. Synod Assembly expressing this Synod’s position against ordaining practicing homosexuals and recognizing same sex unions. Our Bishop is calling for a day of conversation and a deadline for motions to be considered at the 2010 Synod Assembly. The S.C. Synod already has had considerable conversation. I was a facilitator at the discussion several years ago conducted at the S.C. Synod Assembly when presentations were made by Prof. Diane Jacobsen and Prof. Robert Gagnon on the Biblical and other arguments for and against these Human Sexuality issues. Actions were taken less than a year ago by our Assembly. Why does there need to be further discussion? The S.C. Synod Council has received its marching orders . . . so abide by what the duly authorized representatives at the 2009 Synod Assembly have already said and quit “dithering around” (to use a phrase used in the political realm. The GLBT movement has utilized the “political processes” to get this radical change in historical Christian theology passed by the CWA. It is time that the members of the S.C. Synod put some pressure on the Synod Council NOW to do something and implement the expression of our “bound conscience” we have already made!

  12. Conrad Derrick Says:

    After looking at the 2009 S.C. Synod Assembly minutes, I would like to add the following additional observations:

    (1) The Assembly voted against recommending the adoption of the Human Sexuality Statement- 56% of the Assembly delegates were against the Statement, 26% of the delegates voted for it; 18% of the delegates abstained

    (2) The Assembly voted against recommending the adoption of the first resolution on ministry policy changes- 56% of the delegates were against those changes, 33% were in favor of the changes; 11% abstained

    (3) The Assembly passed a Resolution by a vote of 54% for and 42% against (with 3% abstaining) calling on the ELCA to affirm its current ministry policies as expressed in “Visions & Expectations” and to faithfully abide by them; and further directing the S.C. Synod Council to forward that resolution to the ELCA Church Council

    (4) The Assembly TABLED a Resolution calling for a year of further study on these issues

    (5) The minutes further reflect that the 2005 S.C. Synod Assembly affirmed the continuing validity and value of marriage as an institution existing only between one man and one woman and memorialized the ELCA CWA to maintain the standards for rostered and ordained leaders as outlined in “Vision and Expectations”

    I believe “enough is enough”. No further discussion is needed, South Carolina Lutherans have already spoken in clear expression of their understanding of these issues. There are far more important things for the Lutheran Church in this state to be doing than discussing them any further. The S.C. Synod Council should adopt a resolution consistent with what was done by the Synod Council in Iowa. Calling for a “holy conversation”, which will most probably end up being very “unholy”, would only further infect an already ugly wound that has been opened on this Church.

  13. Conrad Derrick Says:

    Pr. Hunsinger- If the Iowa Synod Council can pass a resolution setting forth it’s Synod’s policy, I don’t understand why the S.C. Synod Council can’t do the same thing now, without there having to be further discussion and another debate in a Synod Assembly. The S.C. Synod Assembly expressed the consensus of South Carolina Lutherans at its 2009 Assembly, why keep discussing this issue? Aren’t there more important things to do in the church? If the ELCA CWA was serious about letting those individuals, those congregations, those synods, with views inconsistent with what the CWA did express and implement their own bound consciences, then I believe the S.C. Synod has already done so back in May. The S.C. Synod Council would only be reaffirming what that Assembly already said, and would be formalizing the S.C. Synod’s official policy that we will not ordain those individuals who are involved in same sex relationships, and we will not sanction marital or other similar rites for such relationships. This does not mean that we, as a church, do not love and support the participation of individuals who are engaged in those relationships in this church, we simply do not endorse and encourage that behavior or any other behavior which is sinful. Jesus calls us to love the sinner but to despise the sin- whether it be practicing same sex, committing adultery or fornication, lying, stealing, bearing false witness, etc. The S.C. Synod took its moral stand in May 2009, no further “holy conversation” should be required!

    • Pastor Keith A. Hunsinger Says:

      I would agree but keep in mind synod councils are interim authorities between assemblies. Whether we like it or not the battles will be at the upcoming assemblies. Councils can give guidance until then but that is all.

  14. Marshall hahn Says:

    I agree with Pr. Hunsinger here. The NE Iowa Synod Council drafted a Continuing Resolution to recommend to the Synod Assembly to maintain the current 1990 V & E policy on ministry standards. Until then, the council referred to previous synod assembly actions to determine what the policy of the synod would be before the assembly can act on this proposal.

    Marshall Hahn

  15. Conrad Derrick Says:

    Pr. Hunsinger & Marshall- Thanks for the responses. I just feel that these issues have been thoroughly discussed and it seemed to me that the S.C. Synod Assembly has already spoken on its position in a crystal clear manner. Further conversation is just an attempt to wear down those who oppose the new standards. I have to hand it to the GLBT folks when its comes to persisting Lutherans. They will not stop beating this drum until we all throw up our hands and give in to their way, and they are sneaky church politicians who knew how to manipulate parliamentary procedures to accomplish that goal at the CWA. It is very difficult to honestly have a loving attitude toward such pushy people. I believe that if there is going to be any peace within this church and it is not going to be split, there ought to be a moratorium on conversation, with the synods that have already expressed their opinions on either side allowed to implement their own policies. That would be truly allowing bound consciences to exist, rather than endless manipulative debate.

    • Pastor Keith A. Hunsinger Says:

      Your sentiments are much like mine in regards to your fatigue at discussing the issue. Our polity has many blessings but also some curses and the ability for a small group to constantly bring things to a CWA is, for me, a major curse! But as long as that polity exists we will need to fight the fight where it presents itself!

  16. Tony Metze Says:

    I do not mean to sound flippant here, but I do not care what the Churchwide says if a Synod exercises bound conscience. What are the officials at Higgins Road going to do, slap our hands. Obviously, they have never truly exercised discipline in these matters when revisionists were in defiance of Vision and Expectations. If South Carolina passes a resolution to exercise our synodical bound conscience, and by the way Conrad is correct in that we have discussed this enough, then ELCA leaders are welcome to come to Columbia and we can discuss and dialogue why we did it for the next twenty years.

  17. Gregory Davidson Says:

    While the NE-IA and SC moves will explore the shape and force of CWA 2009 decisions, it comes down to individual congregations and even individual believers. The way the bound conscience principle was expressed and used – first by the HSG&T task force, second by the council of bishops, third by some synods, and finally by congregations (and the individuals who constitute them) is driving us toward a congregationalist and even individualist polity. The average person in the pews is tired of all the ‘discussion’, especially when it sounds more like a lecture as PB Hanson’s ‘Town Hall’ did to me. The waters will be roiled again and again as the new ministry standards are published and as new blessings are promulgated. Many congregations that are already weak will close. Hopefully out of all of this some congregations will emerge stronger, understanding what they believe in and why they call themselves “Lutheran”.

  18. Dan Says:

    It looks like most of you guys are in agreement about the wrongness of the new policies. And it sounds like everyone is moving toward a concensus that synods or maybe just congregations will have to carry on as little islands of resistance within the ELCA (there don’t appear to be many who believe the madness will be undone at a future CWA). But at the end of the day won’t we still be members of a denomination that supports gay ordination and gay marriage, a denomination that is out of step with 98% of Christendom and doesn’t put much stock in the Bible (OT or NT) And won’t we be funding it?

    At the risk of being labeled “fundamentalist” I’ve got to say that this really concerns me, because I thought that we were admonished over and over again in the NT not to associate with false teachers or even with those who promote foolish controversies. Sure we need to interact with sinners outside the church, Paul was clear about that, but I think he, Jude and Peter were all pretty clear that we were not to associate with anyone inside the church seeking to subvert the church. Aren’t there passages to that effect in almost every epistle? The apostles’ instructions were common sense in that we risk sooner or later being worn down and drinking the koolaide and in the meantime we offer some level of material support just by being members. We lend our good names and whatever standing we may have in our communities to the advancement of the ELCA.

    To stay in and actively fight back and try to reconvert these people is one thing, but to just sit around and be quietly conscience bound within the ELCA seems to go against Paul’s clear instructions. Was he wrong about that too?

  19. Marshall Hahn Says:

    Dan, you make some good points. And I do not think that anyone here is contemplating just sitting around quietly conscience bound. I plan to oppose the direction indicated by the CWA in whatever way can prove effective. For me, that means, first of all, seeking to limit the harm the CWA actions will do in our synod. And I am open to any other ideas as to what shape this opposition can take. It is true that we offer some measure of material support to the changes wrought by the CWA actions by just remaining within the ELCA. But it is also true that our presence in opposition within the ELCA hinders the implementation of those actions and may serve to call them into question in the minds of others. At least for now. Will this have any kind of long-term effect that can ultimately undo what the CWA has done? Only God knows. And I am willing – for now – to find out.

    Marshall Hahn

  20. Marshall Hahn Says:

    One other thing that is important – what took place at the CWA in August was a political victory for those advocating change. Political, pure and simple. There was no theological nor philosophical argument that won the day. The whole thing is built on a house of cards that has no real foundation. And the more this foundation can be exposed, I believe the shakier it will become.

    Marshall Hahn

  21. Pastor Travis Norton Says:

    In her article in the Lutheran Forum Sarah Wilson advocates for staying in the ELCA. It’s a really good and helpful article. She says that this decision that the CWA made will only work if it is recieved by the rest of the church. Those of us who are opposed to these changes can best serve the rest of the church by continuing to teach and preach a traditional ethic and encouraging the church not to recieve this decision. In the end she says it could be relegated to a mere official position that has no real power or effect for the church.

  22. Dan Says:

    So I guess he (Paul) got that wrong too.

  23. R Reimann Says:

    Thank you all for the insights discussed here. I find the writtings to be of value and stimulating. Coming to grips with the CWA vote has been and is a difficult road. Personally, I will not be affiliated with a church body that is so far removed from mainstream Christian Lutheranism much longer. Our family is in the process of leaving the “organization” ELCA. My belief is similar to Pr. Hahns, in that the whole CWA political win is built on a “house of cards” or “sand” as Christ put it. I see no valid choice but to move my feet. The organizational ship, ELCA, is in the process of sinking and the Captain with his officers are having steak in the mess hall.

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