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Will we accommodate ECUSA?

by Paul Andell (WordAlone board member; Pastor, St. James Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, PA)

August 15, 2003

Earlier this summer I was in London walking past Westminster Abbey when an Anglican priest came alongside me. I said hello and introduced myself as a Lutheran pastor from America. As we continued together he told me that he had been visiting with colleagues about the theologies of Paul. "We just can't decide on one that stands out. Of course," he added, "I know you Lutherans don't have that issue." I answered that we didn't and then thought to myself, "Oh God, I don't know that it's true anymore."

Why do some traditions seemingly take pride in their theological ambiguity? I don't get it. Recently I had a phone visit with an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pastor who shared with me that he'd come out of the Episcopal Church. He was drawn to the Lutheran Church he said because of its “theological integrity and doctrinal loyalty.” Then, reflecting the anguish of many in the ELCA, he paused and said, "This church is in a major drift." I cringe whenever I hear those words.

Another pastor, a real insider with synodical leadership until now, in this synod Southeastern Pennsylvania who came from another faith tradition announced, out of the blue this week in a pastor's meeting, "We've been hijacked.” A couple years ago he remarked to me that, as a WordAlone supporter, might I be trying to undermine the church? I answered, "No, only trying to bring it back to its center—and senses."

Recently I watched the interview on Fox TV of an Episcopalian rector from California queried by commentator Bill O'Reilly about the election of an openly gay bishop. What I heard from the rector in response was that the Episcopal Church doesn't have to depend on one book, that is, the Bible. "We have the Holy Spirit and our church family," he said. In other words, they are being guided to do a new thing. The Word isn't their authority for faith and life. Isn't this the clear definition of an apostate church?

The ELCA has, in my opinion, a theologically illicit affair going on with a renegade church.

Our church, outside its present leadership, which is out of control, has to make a decision. Will we—with this accommodation—continue to isolate and marginalize ourselves from much of the Christian world or find our theological integrity once again and build bridges with everyone from a position of doctrinal, not structural loyalty?