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International Lutheran organization issues statement on same-sex relationships

September 4, 2009 3 Comments

Same-Gender Relationships and the Church
A Statement from the International Lutheran Council

Recent years have brought confusion and discord to churches in various parts of the world—including Lutheran churches—as some church bodies have adopted resolutions stating that sexually active, same-gender relationships are an acceptable way of life for Christians. In addition, some have approved the ordination of pastors living in such a committed, sexually active same-gender relationship. The 23rd World Conference of the International Lutheran Council met August 26-31, 2009, in Seoul, Korea, under the theme, “In Christ: Living Life to the Full.” Our desire to proclaim and to live the abundant life in Christ compels us to make this statement in light of the current turmoil regarding same-gender relationships.

In evaluating the question of homosexuality, even in the 21st century, we believe we are ultimately dealing with the authority of Holy Scripture as the inspired Word of God. Even in the sensitive matter of human beings and their sexual identity, the church is to submit in humility to the authority of the Word of God. The Scriptures testify clearly and repeatedly that the lifelong committed union of one man and one woman is the place the Lord intends for human sexuality to be lived out. Biblical passages which address the practice of homosexuality do so in terms of disapproval. Rooted in the Bible´s witness and in keeping with Christian teaching through 2000 years, we continue to believe that the practice of homosexuality—in any and all situations—violates the will of the Creator God and must be recognized as sin.

At the same time, we declare our resolve to approach those with homosexual inclinations with the deepest possible Christian love and pastoral concern, in whatever situation they may be living. Though we affirm the demands of God’s Law without reservation, we Christians confess that the sins of the world have been forgiven through Christ´s suffering and death on the cross. As the redeemed children of God, we lead our lives as “saints and sinners” at the same time. We hope for full renewal and sanctification, but realize that these hopes are not completely fulfilled in this life. This applies to countless temptations. Our sinful condition calls for a lifetime of prayer and struggle. Confession and absolution provide a welcome refuge to receive the Lord´s forgiveness, which He also offers through His Word and the Sacraments. This enables us to continue our personal struggles to live a God-pleasing life in the power of the Spirit.

The preceding statement was adopted unanimously by the presidents and bishops of ILC churches, meeting in Seoul on August 31, 2009. Further information may be obtained from the ILC Executive Secretary, Rev. Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, at: samuel.nafzger@lcms.org.

The International Lutheran Council is a worldwide association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God.

3 Comments »

  • James Olinsky said:

    What is very striking about this statement is what has been sorely left out.

    Repentance.

    quote;
    “we Christians confess that the sins of the world have been forgiven through Christ´s suffering and death on the cross.”

    No we don’t. That’s not the Theology of the Cross, that’s Universalism.

    We Christians confess that by the grace of God, through faith in Christ alone, we are granted repentance and the forgiveness of sins through the vicarious atonement of our Lord on the cross.

    Amen.

    We as Christians must stop this rampant “watering down” of the Word, which is getting the church nowhere.

  • Ian Adnams (author) said:

    It is not “universalism” to say “that the sins of the world have been forgiven through Christ’s suffering and death on the cross,” as Mr. Olinsky asserts. To say this, as the International Lutheran Council has done in its statement “Same Gender Relationships and the Church” is not to say that everyone will be saved.
    Lutheran theologians distinguish between “objective justification”—i.e., that the forgiveness of the sins of the world has been won through Christ’s work of obedience, his death on the cross, and declared by His resurrection from the dead by grace alone, and “subjective justification”—i.e., that this same forgiveness is received by, appropriated by, and applied to the individual sinner through God given faith alone. As The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations has written:
    By ‘objective’ or “universal’ justification one means that God has declared the whole world to be righteous for Christ’s sake and that righteousness has been procured for all people. It is objective because this was God’s unilateral act prior to and in no way dependent on man’s response to it, and universal because all human beings are embraced by this verdict. God has acquired the forgiveness of sins for all people by declaring that the world for Christ’s sake has been forgiven. The acquiring of forgiveness is the pronouncement of forgiveness (Rom. 3:24; 4:25; 5:19; 2 Cor: 19-21).
    It is contrary to Scripture and the pure Gospel to teach that God’s acquisition and establishment of forgiveness in objective justification is a conditional verdict, depending on faith or any other human response or activity. (Thesis on Justification, a Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1983, p. 12.)
    “Universalism” is the false teaching that Christ’s work of atonement is of such a nature that even those who do not believe nevertheless receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. This is not what the ILC’s statement says, as is made clear by how this statement continues:
    We Christians confess that the sins of the world have been forgiven through Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. As the redeemed children of God, we lead our lives as “saints and sinners” at the same time. We hope for full renewal and sanctification, but realize that these hopes are not completely fulfilled in this life. This applies to countless temptations. Our sinful condition calls for a lifetime of prayer and struggle. Confession and absolution provide a welcome refuge to receive the Lord’s forgiveness, which He also offers through His Word and the Sacraments. This enables us to continue our personal struggles to live a God-pleasing life in the power of the Spirit.
    The announcement of objective justification by God’s grace alone for all the sins of the world is the purest Gospel which alone provides hope for all sinners—and this is why the ILC has included this sentence in its statement.

    Samuel H. Nafzger
    ILC Executive Secretary

  • James Olinsky said:

    Since my first comment to this ILC statement has been misunderstood, please allow me to qualify it. And please don’t hang up while I’m on the phone.

    The second paragraph in the ILC statement actually identifies homosexuality as a sin, which is a great start. But, it’s the wording of last paragraph that’s troubling, and that’s the reason for my first response, which I’ll point out in it’s very first lines.

    quote:
    “What is very striking about this statement is what has been sorely left out…
    repentance.”

    This means simply that there was no mention of repentance. The ELCA has been stirring up this mess, ignoring God’s thundering Law and allowing it to fall by the wayside, which is, the very reason why this ILC statement was made here in the first place. Even worse, ELCA’s actions now allow the unrepentant into the pulpits. What’s also striking, is that it seems like no one else wants to use the “repentance” word either, especially concerning this “sensitive subject.” Have we tip-toed around the Law in this way when it came to adultery amongst heterosexuals in the past?

    The second ILC response to my comment bears even further witness to this. It didn’t even notice the “repentance” word in my post, let alone address it, when it was the whole point of my message.

    And, “Mr. Olinsky” is quite obviously a sheep-person who does not understand big words like “objective justification,” and “subjective justification”, so let’s run him over with our dazzling theological terms. And give him a good hosing down too while we are at it.

    Our theology doesn’t want that dirty “r” word anymore. It’s politically incorrect to say such things as “repentance” openly, it’s too medieval. It’s too assertive. Too insensitive. Just like “Mr. Olinsky” and his post.

    What is happening to Lutheran theology, which was once upon a time, based on Law and Gospel? And the Lutheran dogmatical “thrust” of calling a spade, a spade? And the second use of the Law as a mirror, by the Holy Spirit, to terrify sinners and convict, causing terrors of conscience, (i.e., eternal punishment) and therefore repentance? Which in turn sends sinners scrambling to the “pure” Gospel for the Savior’s life-giving forgiveness?

    “You therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt. 5:48

    How’s that for using Law as a mirror? (not a slap, an uppercut!)

    Well here’s the problem; “Mr Olinsky” does know what “gratia universalis” means, and what “Universalism” is, and what’s more, he complains bitterly that within the particular context of this ILC statement, confessing the “universal, objective atonement” is a very inappropriate application of it, especially in a lawless time, when we should be hammering down the Law, and on our knees praying for God to grant mercy and repentance to those fallen and who are erring grievously. Sackcloth and ashes time. Not just the ELCA, but this whole overblown, “homosexual issue” nonsense. It’s not a case for the “pure Gospel”, but pure, undiluted, Old Testament Law. Have we forgotten it’s power?

    “Thus says THE LORD…”

    I was under the impression that we used “universal grace” and the Gospel to comfort the stricken and therefore repentant sinner. I guess not. But I’ll bet my last denarius that the little warning message sent to the ELCA in the form of an 800 lb. broken cross, was a rebuke of the Law and God’s Wrath, not of the Gospel and “gratia universalis”. And remember, that church had the name “Lutheran” on it.

    In my first response, I used “Universalism” as a “shot”. I know Lutheran theology proper isn’t universal. However, as it stands in this statement, it sure reads like it, and will be easily misconstrued by readers who are less theologically inclined, and mistake it to speak of “Universalism”. Read it objectively on it’s own.
    quote:
    “we Christians confess that the sins of the world have been forgiven through Christ´s suffering and death on the cross.”

    People of the world will be reading this statement of position, and I will remind you, not many of them will be from the Lutheran point of view. Imagine a Calvinist reading this statement. Or a Romanist. Or an Armmenian. An Eastern Orthodox. Nothing is there to qualify it, nothing to clarify, or to put it another way, nothing to justify it. It’s schism-inducing in itself. Also, thanks to the ELCA’s recent heresy, consider how the name “Lutheran” isn’t carrying as much weight anymore with anyone about anything. It’s a downright embarrassing black eye to the Church.

    BTW, while we are at it, C. F. W. Walther sharply rebukes as error this idea of Christians as “saints and sinners” in his book, Law and Gospel, “Thirtieth Evening Lecture” under Thesis XVIII. Christians cannot be both at the same time. You are either Christian or you’re not. This is another misuse of Law and Gospel.

    Power statements from of the Law of God are needed to wake people up, it’s high time to return to teaching people first of all, that they are sinners in the first place, that they must fear God, and not let them so easily walk away thinking: “Bah, God loves me, I’m not so bad, and my sins have already been forgiven anyway.”

    Which is exactly what we have been and are teaching them. That’s why our Churches are so full. Full of empty pews.

    There is far too much antinomianism as it is, let’s not keep adding to it. You cannot convert, nor can you keep Christians “christian”, without the thunders of the Law first, then repentance, and then and only then, add the “pure” Gospel for forgiveness of sins.

    God says so.
    Amen.

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