This was definitely the weekend for coverage of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's decision to change its position on the rostering of clergy in same-sex relationships. One of the nicer things was seeing reporters include local perspective. But one reader sent in a local piece that was not so good. It comes from Eric Wilkinson of KING 5 News and it's headlined "Local Evangelical Lutherans react to decision on gay clergy."
SEATTLE -- A landmark religious ruling by the Evangelical Lutheran Church now lifts the requirement of celibacy for gay clergy. to serve in the ministry. It's a decision that's being met with great joy as well as deep concern among the faithful.
Pastors at Seattle's Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church met with church members before Sunday services to discuss the decision made by the Lutheran National Assembly on Friday. Evangelical Lutheran leadership had been studying the issue of homosexuality, church and celibacy for 8 years before its decision.
Okay, so this lede gives a foretaste of what's to come. It appears the reporter has some confusion about the name of the church body in question. It's the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is the largest Lutheran group in America, having been formed in a merger of three smaller groups a few decades ago. And its theology is significantly different from the other American groups that share the name "Lutheran." It's sort of a point of constant consternation for Lutherans such as myself to have to constantly tell people that my church body doesn't share the ELCA doctrinal positions that get featured in the headlines every time they change. Contra the lede above, by the way, the name of the assembly was the "Churchwide Assembly" and not the "Lutheran National Assembly."
Anyway, the story features a number of "Evangelical Lutherans" who support the national body's decision before we get to this part:
Some within the Evangelical Lutheran faith who disagree with the national body's decision are now predicting a deep divide in the church, with people defecting to other denominations or perhaps even creating their own.
Leaders at Seattle's Messiah Lutheran Church say they have already seen one person leave the congregation, even though this branch opposes the decision to let clergy practice an openly gay lifestyle.
"The modern world does not change the Biblical teaching on this point," said Pastor Ernie Lassman. "Our concern is not only about the truth, which is very important, but all the anguish this is going to cause."
If the above seems incoherent, that's because it is. See, Messiah Lutheran Church isn't a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It's a congregation in my church body -- the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. And, well, let's go to the comments section for more:
[Previous commenter] Harry Edmon is a member of my congregation and I share his disappointment that the article does not make it clear that Messiah Lutheran in Seattle is a part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod NOT the ELCA. Also the person mentioned as leaving the congregation did not leave Messiah but came to Messiah as a "refugee" from the ELCA and said that more would be coming to the LCMS..so some confusion and misinformation in some of the story...Pastor Lassman
That comment comes from the source quoted in the story. It does make one wonder how the reporter could so confuse the issue.