There are two types of verbs according to the rules of English grammar: action and being verbs. Most certainly the church of Jesus Christ living under the authority of the Living Word of God is a verb in its being and its doing. As defined by Article VII of the Augsburg Confession, the church is the preaching of the Word and the administering of the sacraments rightly. The church is the “doing” of the Living Word: delivering Jesus himself orally and through the real presence of his body and blood. The church is where sinners meet their Savior. It is an encounter. It is the state of “being” forgiven and saved and it comes from the church’s doing of the Living Word of God.
The recent churchwide assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America held in Chicago last month resolved to engage in some “doing” itself. A majority of voting members voted to “pray, urge and encourage” synods, bishops and the presiding bishop to “refrain from” or “demonstrate restraint” in disciplining congregations and individuals who practice ministry outside the standards for rostered clergy. Ironically, this same assembly had upheld the existing ministry standards just one day before. The present standards, which they upheld and then one day later asked leadership not to act upon, direct both heterosexual and homosexual pastors to conduct themselves according to a biblical understanding of marriage and sexuality.
To pray, urge and encourage are also verbs. One would think such action verbs should be encouraged and practiced in sync with the Word of God and all of the teachings of the church up through the present day. When what one does is not in line with what one says he or she believes, there is a problem. If we are to practice what we preach, then we need to either align our practice, actions and “doings” with our standards or we need to change what we believe, confess, teach and preach. Not to do so is hypocrisy on public display. The church can “do” better.
I ask the WordAlone Network together with its partners and supporters to “pray, urge and encourage” synods, bishops, the presiding bishop and the whole of the institutional church to uphold the biblical standards of this denomination and align what we say are the ministry standards of this church regarding the conduct of its clergy with the practice of disciplining those who are not living accordingly. Let’s practice what we preach and do what we say we believe. Perhaps in so doing those who observe from afar and read about our “doings” in the headlines will come to understand that there remain some who still believe that freedom in Christ does not mean a life without limits but rather life in His unlimited love.