Dear Friends in Christ,

The week of the Nationwide Assembly (August 16-23) was a sad week for the ELCA. It was not a sad week for the church. Last week in Minneapolis, the ELCA decided to disregard the Holy Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and 2000 years of tradition by endorsing a human sexuality statement that allows, and in some cases endorses, homosexual behavior, co-habitation and other forms of adultery. The ELCA also decided to disregard the Holy Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and 2000 years of tradition by offering the equivalent of same-sex marriage (“publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships”) and allowing homosexual people who refuse to remain celibate to be rostered leaders (ministers) of our church. I firmly believe that these positions are wrong. I have always been a proud member and pastor of the ELCA, and I am shocked and saddened that the assembly would take positions that are so contrary to the Word of God.

So what do we, Bethlehem Lutheran Church and St. Paul Lutheran Church, do now? First of all, things will not change at Bethlehem and St. Paul, at least for now.

1) We will continue to uphold marriage as a union between one man and one woman. (Genesis 1: 27, 2: 24 and Matthew 19: 3-6)

2) We will continue to proclaim homosexual behavior as sinful behavior.

(Leviticus 18, Romans 1, 1 Timothy 4)

3) We will continue to proclaim, with the Apostle Paul, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3: 23) All of us have sinned, and our sins are no better (or worse) than anyone else’s, including our brothers and sisters who have a homosexual orientation. Bethlehem and St. Paul will continue to welcome, support, and minister to all sinners.

4) We will continue to repent of all our sins, and continue to refrain from sinful behavior to the best of our abilities and as the Spirit of Christ allows us to. In this we follow the words of Jesus from John 8: 11, “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Thus we will continue to proclaim what is sinful behavior and call upon all sinners to “go and sin no more”.

Yes, things will not change in our own churches. However, things may change at Bethlehem and St. Paul with regards to our relationship with the ELCA. I confess that I have never felt so alienated from my national church. At the assembly, the ELCA chose to trust human, sinful experience over the clear Word of God as expressed in the Holy Scriptures. In so doing, the ELCA chose to place their trust in themselves, over and against Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. That is why I say that this was a sad week for the ELCA. Because of these decisions, we at Bethlehem and St. Paul may have to re-define our relationship with the ELCA.

But this is not a sad week for the church. Remember, the ELCA is not the church; and certainly the Nationwide Assembly of the ELCA is not the church. The church belongs to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the church is called to put our faith in Him, proclaim Him in Word and deed, and follow Him. Whatever our relationship with the ELCA becomes, we at Bethlehem and St. Paul still belong to Jesus Christ. We still believe and trust in Jesus Christ. We still proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We will still pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

I firmly believe that many of the decisions made by the nationwide Assembly of the ELCA were wrong and ill-advised. But Jesus Christ is still Lord, and His church will always prevail. The ELCA may falter and fail, but Jesus Christ will always be victorious. The will of God is just and holy and good; and when I pray “thy will be done”, I firmly believe it will happen. God’s holy will, will be done.

Your Friend in Christ,

Pastor Ron.