(The following is a letter to ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton from Gary Eliason. Mr. Eliason gave Exposing the ELCA permission to post his letter.)
I feel the need to communicate with the larger ELCA that our family is choosing to leave the denomination. More correctly, that the denomination has left us! I was born and raised in an ALC family. As most kids in that situation, I attended Sunday School, confirmation, Bible camp, worked at Bible Camps for many summers and travelled with a Lutheran mission team for a year and a half, and naturally when the ELCA formed, joined that.
I grew to love the foundation of the church focusing on Grace alone, Word alone and Christ alone. However, in my estimation, the church has been drifting more toward Humanism and choosing to conform to this world, rather than be transformational to those that are in the world.
We are told from ELCA pastors, that it doesn’t matter which god you believe in, as long as you believe. We are told that there is no hell or place of judgement. From a seminary professor we are told that Jesus’ death on the cross was not as atonement for our sins, but rather an example of how we should live our lives.
Regarding the subject of sexuality, the church’s teaching seems to harken back to a rallying cry of the Hippie era, “If it feels good, do it!” I’m not sure how that coincides with lessons from living a disciplined life, or choosing the narrow way. I am not anti-gay, and I do believe everyone has his/her own rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, Biblically I have found no reference to same sex marriage. Marriage always seems to be referenced in the context of a man and a woman. If 2 people of the same sex choose to live together, I see no reason for them not to, with a civil agreement and legal holdings of traditional marriage, but I find it troubling that we take the sacred meaning of one word and apply it to another circumstance in order to fit our thought pattern, and again, conform rather than transform.
Along the same lines, to have openly gay pastors, and to celebrate a trans individual as a church leader is not a concept I find in Scripture. Yes, we must accept all people seeking salvation to be an active part of the church, for we are all sinners, but how can it be justified to say that we are a welcoming church, and that we celebrate all life as holy, but then not welcome or celebrate the life (or as stated “the neighbor”) growing in the womb of the mother into that same church. The neighbor? I can only think of the lesson from the Good Samaritan.
Is any abortion justified? While I believe it is the last resort in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, it is interesting to note that the only other 2 countries that have laws as liberal as the US regarding abortion are China and North Korea, where Christianity is banned! The 3 types of cases I referred to account for less than 2% of all abortions, and in fact, 85% of rape victims choose to bring their child to term.
To say that the ELCA bases its current views about abortion on a document from 1991 comes full circle to the reason Martin Luther rebelled against the Catholic church. Their teachings relied more on church doctrine and tradition than on the Word alone.
I am truly saddened to see that nearly 1.5 million people have chosen to leave the ELCA. Could it be that because the church has tried to stand for everything, it has ended up standing for nothing? In wanting to validate every lifestyle, much of pop theology, yet failing to say yes, yes, and yes to unborn children, it shows no differentiation from itself and much of modern culture. What once was a city on a hill, is now just another house in the subdivision.
I am praying that I will be able to find a church that will not leave me again.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Former ELCA seminary student and former ELCA member who is fed up with the ELCA's consistent mockery of God's Word.
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Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. - Ephesians 5:11