Tales from the darkside
Only the naive believe that the assurances that nobody will be forced to act contrary to their "bound consciences" with regard to gay pastors or gay "marriage" are worth the paper they're printed on. The entire logic of the homosexualist position is that rejection of active homosexuality on moral grounds constitutes "discrimination" against gays. The difference between rejecting a race or ethnic group and rejecting behavior escapes the sexual Left; after all, they reason, if homosexuality is inborn (or at least a matter beyond a person's control), then to disapprove of it is bigotry. The thought that one could choose, on biblical grounds, to be celibate even if one is of homosexual orientation is not even to be discussed. As it was with women clergy, so it will be with gay clergy: within a decade, those who oppose the ordination of gays will themselves be marginalized and perhaps even denied the right to serve as ELCA pastors.
The usual nonsense about how this is all a matter of biblical interpretation, and how different people interpret the rather clear and straightforward passages in both Testaments concerning homosexuality, is being spouted not only by the homosexualists, but also by the secularist Left in the media. The ELCA's new study bible, it should be noted, has a footnote explaining that the Greek words used throughout Greek literature to describe the active and passive partners in consensual homosexual acts somehow actually only refer to non-consensual acts. In a church body in which Post-Modernism holds sway to the extent that it does in the ELCA, facts are never allowed to get in the way of The Agenda, and the argument that black is actually white and that contradiction of the clear meaning of words is nothing more than a difference in interpretation has been standard for decades.
The interesting thing about the grotesque events in the Twin Cities will be how the relatively conservative laity of the ELCA will react. A church sponsored poll recently revealed that 54% of ELCA pastors favored the full acceptance of non-celebate homosexuals in so-called "covenanted relationships;" that such relationships are rarely exclusive and tend not to last very long does not stop the homosexualists from making the same grotesque arguments made in the civil realm for homosexual "marriages," which- at least where gay men are concerned- are seldom either sexually exclusive or lasting. The laity, on the other hand, tend still to believe that words mean things, and are much less accepting of this nonsense than their pastors.
The trouble is that hitherto they have lacked the courage to do anything about it. When I walked out of our Synod Assembly over a decade ago after it defeated a resolution calling on a synodical sexuality task force to be balanced between traditionalists and homosexualists, explaining that I could no longer recognize the ELCA as the church as defined in the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession, it took me half an hour to get out of the hall. Lay people kept stopping me and asking me not to leave the ELCA, announcing their own intention to "stay and fight."
They had done precious little fighting when a handful of us pastors had stood up to oppose the homosexualist juggernaut, choosing to remain silent in their seats. And if I had a thousand dollars for every lick of fighting the people I spoke to on the way out of the hall that day have done since then, my guess is that I would not have enough money to buy a good used car.
My own congregations, rationalizing that "it doesn't affect us," accepted then- Bishop Phil Hougen's tap dance concerning the authority of Scripture in the ELCA very willingly indeed. A decade of work trying to turn St. Paul's and St. Andrew's into Lutheran congregations went out the window virtually at the moment I ceased to be their pastor. They are now served by a woman; even among these people, who sincerely spoke of their desire to be governed by Scripture, the epistemology of the ELCA has prevailed. That epistemology was stated well by the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland: "When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean, nothing more or less."
That Mad Hatter hermeneutic will climax this week in an action which, as I have already noted, even Wolfhart Pannenberg, the favorite theologian of retired Wartburg Seminary systematician Duane Priebe, maintains will deprive the ELCA of any claim to membership in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
But what will the laity do? There is talk of a split in the ELCA. I would not be surprised if a small number of conservative congregations do break off. The new church body they form will likely have very little about it that is Lutheran, either; the Confessions have played no real role in the theological life of the average ELCA congregation for so long that even ELCA conservatives tend, as a practical matter, to be Reformed Evangelicals with a high view of the Sacraments. Sometimes. In the more pietistic corners of the ELCA, not even a belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper or baptismal regeneration can be taken for granted.
I wonder what the people at St. Paul's and St. Andrew's are saying to themselves right now. Whatever it is, I predict that they'll find a way to live with the travesty in Minneapolis, and tell themselves that "it doesn't effect us here."
They're wrong, of course. The content of the preaching and the catechesis in a church body which has no real regard for either Scripture or the Confessions cannot help but differ from those in a church body in which they hold real authority. But having rationalized their way to this point, I have no doubt that the laity of the ELCA will be able, for the most part, to rationalize their way even around this.
Most, I suspect, will chose to stay and tell themselves that they're fighting.