Last fall, I wrote an email to our ELCA Bishop, Mark Hanson, asking him if he was aware of the ELCA congregation in San Francisco, Ebenezer Lutheran Church. I was pretty sure that he was aware but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. If you are not aware of this congregation, look it up on the Internet – www.herchurch.org. In short, this is a congregation that has been taken over by a radical feminist element and pastor, and it practices “goddess worship.” It does not confess the Trinity as Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit. They confess Mother, Christ Sophia, and Holy Spirit. If you go to their website you will be able to buy a rosary (strange enough in a Lutheran context, but not necessarily bad), a rosary, not with a cross (because that’s a symbol not of divine love, sacrifice, and salvation but of divine child abuse), but a rosary with a goddess figure on it. The goddess is the likeness of a fertility goddess from ancient Baalism. Baalism, of course, isn’t a problem for the leaders of Ebenezer Lutheran Church because all that stuff in the Old Testament condemning the Baal cult and fertility worship is in their view merely patriarchal paranoia in an effort to repress the feminine.
Now, I think all of us would agree that they have the right (as individuals and as a group) to believe whatever they want. They can even band together to start their own congregation, denomination, or religion. However, on the basis of their own posted statements, they claim to be an ELCA congregation. But they are in complete violation of the ELCA constitutional faith statement because they are completely at odds with the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions.
And the pastor is completely at odds with the ELCA “Visions and Expectations” statement for clergy. How do they justify that? How do they justify hijacking a congregation founded and paid for by Lutherans?
So, I wrote Bp. Hanson and asked him what he was going to do about it. He, of course, did not respond to my e-mail (and I did not expect that he would), but his executive secretary did. He wrote something to the effect: “Dear Rev. Jepsen, thank you for sharing your concerns with Bp. Hanson. You are aware, of course, that the ELCA is organized into synods (Duh – I didn’t know that! I’ve only been a pastor for over 30 years!) and that it is therefore the responsibility of the local synod bishop to deal with these sorts of issues in his synod. And, do remember, the ELCA is an inclusive church.”
Of course I know the ELCA is organized in synods! What I wanted to know was whether or not Bp. Hanson was going to do anything about this situation to hold this congregation accountable, or to hold the synod bishop of the San Francisco area accountable for his failure to discipline the congregation and its pastor in terms of their violation of the ELCA faith statement and such.
You see, what we have here is a major violation of the fiduciary responsibility of the synod bishop and of Bp. Hanson to fulfill the responsibilities of their offices. And, if he’s going to do that, why on earth did we ever need bishops (overseers) in the first place? And why did we need the historic episcopate when one of the arguments for it was to strengthen the “magisterial” (teaching) office of the church in order to insure orthodoxy?!!?
Can you imagine the Apostle Paul allowing that? Or Martin Luther? Can you imagine Pope Benedict XVI allowing one of his bishops to deal so irresponsibly with a rogue congregation? And then just wash his hands of the matter!!! Frankly that’s not only a violation of Bp. Hanson’s fiduciary responsibility as Bishop, it’s also a violation of his ordination vows to preach and teach in accordance with the Scriptures and the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. Unfortunately, I was so disgusted with that e-mail that I deleted it so I cannot produce it as evidence. You have to trust my memory.
So, on this basis, we have a cynical commentary right out of ELCA headquarters on what ordination vows mean for our church. Little or nothing! What do the words of the ELCA faith statement mean? Little or nothing! Instead, in place of our ordination vows and faith statement we have some fuzzyheaded notion of “tolerance” and “inclusivity”! Because, if what I have described is accurate (and it is), then it appears that in the ELCA you can preach and teach heretical doctrine, thumb your nose at the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and so on (so long as you do liturgy correctly). Do all that and you will be welcomed in the ELCA with open arms because, after all “we are an inclusive church!” However, if you raise a question about heretical doctrine and improper procedure you will be virtually banished for “intolerance”, and treated as if you don’t exist!
At least the Roman Catholic Church of Luther’s day took him seriously enough to excommunicate him. The ELCA just banishes you, ignores you, and refuses to answer legitimate inquiry.
This is what happens when a church is seduced by the culture of death into cultural agendas and into cynical methods of interpretation when a church is not only in the world, but also too much of the world. Then it fails (by submitting itself to the heretical rubric of “tolerance”) to hold people accountable to its founding documents and statements of faith.
Whether intentionally or not, the very leaders we elected to lead and guide us in accordance with our founding documents have now, in effect, subverted those documents without any clear statement of why or where they are trying to take us.
Does this bewilder you as much as it does me? I am bewildered because I fail to understand the reason or the logic that enables them to justify their actions. In fact, there appears to be an abandonment of reason and rationality when it comes to these practices and trends. I suppose, in their thinking, logic and reason are just a vestige of patriarchy and its repression of the more holistic feminine embrace of feelings and intuition.
Read the full speech here.