Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quo Vadis ELCA? David Yeago looks at "The Way Forward" "In the Aftermath"

While a lot is going on among the Anglicans, we should not loose sight of the fact that there are things going on among the Lutherans as well. The recent decision of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to allow practicing homosexuals to serve in the ordained ministry has caused great difficulty for “Confessional” (or “traditional”) Lutherans in that country. Many are asking “Where do we go from here?”. One answer is provided on the blog “Lutherans Persisting” by the Rev. Dr. David Yeago, an intelligent and widely published theologian who teaches systematic theology at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. Together with theologians like Michael Root and Carl Braaten, he represents the very best of Lutheranism among the Yankees.

He began by publishing back in September a post entitled “In the Aftermath”. He has followed this up with about ten additional posts under the title “The Way Forward”. This is a work in progress, and we look forward to more. But I have found this so very intriguing because essentially it is all a question about what to do when you suddenly find that the ecclesial community you belong to (and I use that term advisedly) publically teaches a lot of tommy-rot and expects you (as either a minister of that community or a lay member) to tow the line and go along with it.

There are different “breaking points” – as Dr Yeago calls them – for everyone. For me it was the fact that my Lutheran Synod simply voted on a question which thirty-four years earlier they had declared a matter of divine revelation, of apostolic teaching, which could never be altered. This led me to understand that the Lutheran Church of Australia had contradicted its claim to be able to authoritatively teach on matters of divine revelation (aka “judge teachers and teachings according the sole norm of Holy Scripture”), and that such authority must be sought elsewhere. As our Lord promised, seek and ye shall find, and I found the Catholic Church.

Dr Yeago is, like many in his situation, very eager to nip in the bud any such seeking beyond the boundaries of Lutheranism. He is convinced that “breaking point” has not been yet reached, and this series of posts is designed to be a call Lutheran “traditionalists” (as he names them) to remain faithful to their denomination. I think you can see why I am interested in his arguments. Should I have remained in the LCA? Was I wrong to see the vote on women’s ordination at the 2000 General Convention of the Synod of the LCA as a “breaking point”?

Of course not. I remain convinced and thankful that God in his grace opened my eyes to the truth. I have, in the past, been wrong in many of my convictions. Once I was a supporter of women’s ordination, and demanded of those who opposed it that they demonstrate their case. In fact, while I was still a Lutheran I saw the error of that teaching. Other doctrines I was not convinced of until I accepted the whole Catholic faith upon my conversion to the Catholic Church. For example, until I became a Catholic, I practiced contraception. I was not convinced that it was sinful until I learned to listen to the Catholic Church in faith. Then I understood. As St Anselm said, Credo ut intelligam. Another more esoteric example – but important none-the-less – was my rejection, as a Lutheran, of the immortality of the soul. Now, Lutherans do not generally reject this doctrine, but I did. It was not until I accepted the Catholic faith, that I learnt the truth concerning the destiny of the human being as a body-soul unity.

It is my intention over the next few weeks to examine David Yeago’s essays addressing the predicament of traditionalist Lutherans in the ELCA. I hope to do some service to both my Catholic and Lutheran readers, both here and in the United States. I want the Catholics to understand where the Lutherans are coming from, and I want the Lutherans to understand that what they fear in the Catholic Church (the ABC rule: “Anything But Catholic”) is unfounded. There is a way forward. There is somewhere to go. In fact, there is a Church to which God is calling all those who are baptised into Christ.


At Thursday, October 22, 2009 7:43:00 am , Anonymous Joshua said...

I look forward to your analysis very much, David.

Personally, I have the greatest of sympathy for those who find that their denomination has so changed that what was orthodox is now deemed heretical, more or less, and that they are no longer welcome - the Anglican bishop here speaks of "acceptable losses" when speaking of those of his flock who give up when faced by all the changes going on; the former treasurer of the Anglican diocese of Tasmania, a layman who would not go along with women's ordination, was given the cold shoulder, and perforce sought refuge in the T.A.C.; I could go on...

But please, do tell - what did you disbelieve about the immortality of the soul?!

At Thursday, October 22, 2009 3:18:00 pm , Anonymous Cardinal Pole said...

Oh, and depending on how far south the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary is, Dr. Yeago might resent being called a Yankee!

At Thursday, October 22, 2009 6:39:00 pm , Anonymous Joshua said...

If there were a newspaper that ran articles about issues that concern me, to-day's headline would be "Pole, Josh and P.E. on Warpath", with a report of a - certainly not ecumenical - but a joint Inquisition probing David's confession of past heresy.

David, I thought even the Reformers (so-called) condemned the heresy of "soul sleep", which the draft of the notorious XXXIX Articles named and shamed; yet I have read that Low Anglicans and other Protestants have picked up on this heresy...

You are right, of course - as all heretics are in some manner - to note that just "going to heaven" is not the whole of eschatology: too often the future resurrection is forgotten. But to then go so far as to deny the immortality of the soul in reaction is, as you now know, rather silly.

(FWIW, one whole class of seminarians at CTC were so horrified by Dr Ramsay striving to emphasise the future resurrection, as opposed to their fuzzy picture of "going to heaven", that they took him to deny the immortality of the soul, and delated his heresy to the seminary staff!!! So you're in good company, David.)

At Friday, October 23, 2009 12:52:00 am , Anonymous Terry Maher (Past Elder) said...

Well I'll be dipped, bipped, whipped, tripped, clipped and nipped. Doesn't sound Lutheran worth a crap to me, but it explains why you like the sense of a Newmanesque authority that ends all questions around. Good thing you didn't come around before his non-Catholic vision of a Catholic Church that left him Protestant but doubtless became official.

At Friday, October 23, 2009 3:25:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

Good on, ya, PE. Keep up the good work! :-) Just as long as you personally are certain what it means to be Lutheran, you go ahead and be one. I tried to be what I thought was Lutheran and failed miserably.


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