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Kathryn Berry-Koppang, Published June 13 2013

Letter: Adherence to Scripture must not be compromised

I was not surprised to see Sunday’s (June 9) article titled, “Lutheran organization encourages churches to welcome gay members” but I was surprised to learn that the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was the nation’s first synod to be placed on the Reconciling in Christ list by the Reconciling Works organization. The RW described itself as … “A Lutheran Advocacy organization that pushes (emphasis mine) for the full inclusion of LGBT members in faith.” (For those who are wondering, those initials stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.)

Heart of church

The title of the article was nice. A church true to its calling certainly welcomes everyone. The church by its very definition is to be about sharing the love of Christ with all people. That aptly describes the heart of the Lutheran Church.

I love the heart of the Lutheran Church. Its solid foundation was built on “Sola Scriptura,” or “Scripture alone.” That was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation whose roots sprang from Martin Luther’s belief that, “The Holy Scriptures requires a humble reader who shows reverence and fear toward the Word of God.”

I’ve worked for the ELCA church in three synods, the most recent one being the Eastern North Dakota Synod. I felt privileged to work for a church I thought was founded on sound doctrine. Imagine my surprise to learn that I worked for a church whose synod was under the “Reconciling in Christ” umbrella. I had no idea.

Progress?

I have watched in recent years people waving the flag of progress over Christ’s church with a heavy heart. It’s with a heavy heart that I now caution people to carefully consider whether the ELCA is waving a true Lutheran flag. I have observed it morphing into an organization that looks no different than the culture around it.

My heart is with the many people sitting in ELCA pews who are wondering what’s happening to the church they love. For those who are concerned, I gently encourage you to go on a fact-finding mission. Perhaps you start by examining the Reconciling Works website. Ask someone to copy their articles if you don’t have access to the Internet, then read beyond the quaint titles declaring sensible things like “Marriage Matters” until you fully grasp their intent. They don’t hide their intent. Remember? It is to “push” their personal agenda.

Options

The main intent of this letter is to remind people that the ELCA doesn’t define the Lutheran Church. If you are harboring concerns over the direction of the ELCA, I remind you that there are many branches under the Lutheran umbrella not beset with the problems of the ELCA.

While there is no perfect church, there are Lutheran bodies that have not strayed from their solid heritage. It’s a huge relief to know that the church we now call home will never be found on the Reconciling Works website. It’s a huge relief to no longer be part of the same church body that allows a sister church to worship the “risen Sophia-Christ.” (Visit the website of the ELCA church Herchurch in San Francisco). Nor will it ever elect a partnered gay man to the post of bishop (a recent ELCA news item). The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations doesn’t even have synods or elected bishops.

As you examine what is happening in your church, consider this quote by Augustine: “If you believe in the Gospel what you like, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”

Call to love

I know many people who are concerned but don’t know what to do. I assure you that many people have gone before you. It is documented that the ELCA has lost 693 congregations and more than 300,000 members in recent years.

I concede to all that Jesus calls us to love and forgive everyone, but we are being deceitful if we leave out the Scriptures where he lovingly points out people’s sin and then calls them to repentance and new life in him.

If you are brave enough to make a change to a different Lutheran body, there are many people who would understand, pray for you and with you, and provide you with support and love for the journey.

Berry-Koppang is a founding member, New Hope Free Lutheran Church, Jamestown, N.D.