Backs gay acceptance
The Christian Church, celebrated Reformation Day Oct. 31 and All Saints Day Monday. Two of the earliest protestant denominations that developed were the Lutherans and Anglicans.
It is the American iteration (ELCA Lutherans and Episcopalians) of these two denominations that also are now being internally fractured by disagreements over homosexuality. I would like to summarize Reformation theology with regard to the three major complaints of those who would leave these denominations. They believe that (1) the denominations ignore sin, (2) reject the Bible, and (3) have forsaken their church confessions.
With regard to the first, Reformation theology sees sin as broken relationships, whether with God, our fellow humans or the world. And for all of us our understanding of what specifically constitutes sin has changed in every era.
Sixty years ago, I was told that I would be sinning if I danced, played cards or dated a Catholic girl! There are a lot of specific behaviors that used to be seen as sins, but which we now realize do not break relationship with God or anyone else. It's wrong to say that the ELCA or the Episcopalians have dismissed the notion of sin. They haven't. And to say otherwise is to bear false witness against your neighbor, which is sin.
Second, both Luther and Hooker (early Anglican theologian) were scripture scholars but not biblical literalists. Though they hardly had access to all the knowledge that today's scholars enjoy, they used all the scholarship at their disposal, and through it heard good news in the Bible. In a very Reformation way, we respect the Bible too much to think that it's best understood by just reading the words off the page. For Luther and Hooker, the Bible only becomes "God's Word" when it offers life. Both, I think, would be outraged to see the Bible used like a club.
Finally, the heart of the Reformation, "the doctrine by which the church stands or falls," as Luther wrote, is "justification by faith." To people dreadfully anxious about their salvation, Luther declared that our behavior -- whether good or bad -- had nothing to do with fixing our relationship with God. God fixes the relationship -- as a gift.
For many of us right now, the words of those who are angry about the changed policies seem determined, in very unLutheran and unAnglican ways, to make one category of people eternally anxious about their salvation. The Reformation was about ending anxiety, not institutionalizing it. The Reformation, then and now, is about grace and welcome offered as a free gift to people otherwise made anxious by social and religious forces.