Delegates of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod on Tuesday overwhelmingly adopted two resolutions in response to last year's pro-gay actions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
One resolution commends for "study and reference" two documents that state that the ELCA's actions – including allowing partnered homosexuals on the clergy roster – are contrary to Scripture.
The other measure supports efforts to promote "confessional Lutheranism" throughout the world.
The LCMS and the ELCA are the two largest Lutheran bodies in the country with 2.4 million members and 4.6 million members, respectively.
When the ELCA's highest legislative body voted last August to allow gays and lesbians in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships" to serve as clergy, the denomination received wide media attention, prompting concerns within the LCMS that many may think all Lutherans share the same beliefs. The ELCA had also adopted a social statement on human sexuality acknowledging that there is no consensus on homosexuality while at the same time recommending that the ELCA commit itself to find ways to recognize lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.
One of the documents commended for study and reference at the LCMS convention this week is a statement from the International Lutheran Council – comprised of 34 member churches – that was adopted in Seoul, Korea, last August.
The ILC affirmed: "Rooted in the Bible's witness and in keeping with Christian teaching through 2,000 years, we continue to believe that the practice of homosexuality – in any and all situations – violates the will of the Creator God and must be recognized as sin."
The council also declared their resolve to approach those with homosexual inclinations with "the deepest possible Christian love and pastoral concern."
Meanwhile, the second document – "Theological Implications of the 2009 ELCA Decisions" prepared by an LCMS task force – notes that the LCMS and the ELCA have partnered together in works related to mercy and relief but that the controversial decision threatened the cooperative relationship.
The document does not call the LCMS to immediately cut ties with the ELCA, but it states that frank and serious discussion on the issue is needed "so that convictions and beliefs are not compromised and that worthy projects, activities, and relationships between our church and others may continue wherever possible."
LCMS delegates, who are meeting in Houston this week, acknowledged in one of the adopted resolutions that many congregations and individuals have withdrawn from or are considering leaving the ELCA, with some going to the LCMS for support. While not encouraging discord in the ELCA, the LCMS said it cannot turn away from those who dissent from the ELCA and will provide encouragement to other Lutheran church bodies as they strive to remain faithful to confessional Lutheranism.
In other business, the LCMS elected its new president, the Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, on Tuesday. Harrison, who is executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, received 54 percent of the vote while the current LCMS president, Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, received 45 percent.
ELCA Presiding Bishop the Rev. Mark S. Hanson extended his congratulations to the new president and stated, "We look forward to building upon our cooperative efforts in responding to the needs of our neighbors and to future meetings of the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation as a regular opportunity for conversation between ELCA and LCMS leaders."