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HERE WE STAND

Response

of

The Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Churches of the ELCA to the 2009 ELCA Church Wide Assembly on the Social Statement of human sexuality

_________________________________________________________________________

I. Introduction

1.     The people and the Government of the United States have accepted us with extended hands to become part of the nation. We appreciate the hospitality we received and experienced in this country by church and people. We are also grateful to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for standing with us in the process of organizing our Oromo congregations in several States of the United States. We are indebted to the bishops and Mission Directors of our respective synods, which have helped us in so many ways. We love our fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ with all our hearts. We have been through many things together with churches that hosted us and pastors and leaders of congregations who shared the warmth of their hearts with us.

2.     Irrespective of all these, we want to express our disagreements with the ELCA’s decisions of the 2009 on the Church-Wide Assembly regarding homosexuality lifestyle.  We are saddened that the church that proclaims the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments can err and deny what it proclaims.

3.     As a member and body of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we, Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Congregations express our strong disagreement on the decision of the 2009 ELCA Church-Wide Assembly on “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” that approves same-sex union contrary to the scripture and adopting a resolution to ordain homosexuals.

4.     Our church leaders have been expressing their concern and opposition to Synods, synod conventions and Church- Wide Assemblies about the direction ELCA is taking in blessing same-sex unions, and ordaining homosexuals in contrary to God’s original creation and the Scriptures.

II. Preliminary Hermeneutical- Biblical consideration 

5.     We believe the Bible is infallible word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit and the only norm and unchanged guiding principle.  

6.     Biblical Statement on human sexuality is clear. God created mankind in a specific and precise fashion, without any shadow of doubt. He created male and female (Gen. 1:27). God’s original creation was heterosexual marriage and not homosexual. God created human beings as man and woman, with two fundamental elements, to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28). It is only male and female that fulfills the commandment of God of being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth. In Matthew 19:4-5 Jesus reiterates, underscores, and upholds the original intention of God’s creation, which is heterosexual marriage life style, when He said, “that at the beginning the Creator made male and female”.  

7.     When it comes to homosexual practice; all statements both in New and Old Testament without any exception regard homosexuality as a diversion from the will of God, as “an abomination” as “degrading passion” as a sin, which excludes people from God’s kingdom and an offense against the Law of God. (Cf. Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:26f; 1Cor. 6:9-11; Tim 1:10)

8.     There is no scriptural base for supporting homosexuality out of the love of our neighbor to compromise the Word of God. Instead we believe in the redemptive love to sinners.

9.     We believe that the study done by Social Statement Task Force of the ELCA to produce this social statement is mostly based on proof texting and exegesis that is not loyal to the rules of biblical interpretation and is dishonest to the text that is quoted. 

10.  Now that the ELCA has crossed the line and accepted that homosexuality is not sinful while it is clearly and repeatedly expressed in the Scriptures that it is sinful and offensive to God. Once the church has crossed the line to say something that is said to be sinful is no more sinful or it has never been sinful it has no moral authority to teach the rest of the law of God including the Ten Commandments. We are very saddened and dismayed that this happened in our church, which we cherished.

11.  When people try to interpret the Scriptures based on majority, history has shown us that the majority was not always right. The Christian faith was not the faith of the majority in the beginning. Jesus Christ was crucified by majority vote. The prophets like Jeremiah and Elijah were in extreme minority. Issues related to interpretation of the Scriptures should not be decided by vote. Nobody has voted for the truth to prevail.

12.  The Scriptures quoted to support this decision are not about the subject matter “homosexuality.”  People seldom quote the Scriptures that directly mention about homosexuality. They rather quote the love of God for all. But the love of God for all does not save all. For it is only those who received the Son of God that were granted eternal life (John 1:12, 3:16-17). It is customary in biblical interpretation to strictly interpret scriptures that directly relate to the subject matter. But in ELCA debates on this issue, we see that people avoided those scriptural passages that are directly about homosexuality.

13.  After the appeal to bound conscience, it seems as if there is really nothing to believe as truth anymore. It looks like there is no right or wrong anymore leaving us to our own best judgments; we are on our own.  What a sad thing for us and for the following generations. We see a misuse of the phrase “bound conscience” taken out of context. Luther said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

14.  Luther was not saying, “I respect your bound conscience.” He was saying his own conscience was captive to the Word of God. But to them he was saying your conscience is bound to tradition. He was saying to them that they did not stick to the Scriptures. The notion that we should respect once “bound conscience” is taken out of context. 

15.  It is heartbreaking that the ELCA is shifting its theology toward neighbor-centered theology, a mere humanism.  This neighbor centered theology of the ELCA gives the sense that God is impersonal and that people are interested in one another, and social gathering around the Word and the sacraments. 

16.  Much has been said about unity in diversity in the ELCA Assembly and after the Assembly. Dr. Ishmael Noko has been quoted repeatedly for saying, "… the Body of Christ, a creature of the gospel and, therefore, not ours to dismember.”  But we believe that God has one church that cannot be dismembered: the Universal Church.

17.  Based on what is written in the Bible we believe homosexual behavior is sinful, not because of cultural biases, as some already hinted, but for the scripture say so.  

18.  We also believe that the church is comprised of repentant sinners, not defiant apostates.

19.  As a church of Christ, we welcome all people irrespective of their failures including homosexual’s disorder. We also believe and teach the scriptural truth that people need to know God’s will, repent of their sinful behavior by God’s grace. Our churches teach that God by his grace can free people from all weakness and deviations. But we have no authority to revise God’s order of nature and will, on a mere idea of human conscious or experience.

20.  In no way do we think of ourselves as better than anyone as far as sinfulness is concerned. But we are sorry for our sins. We repent of them privately and in corporate worship. We believe that we are in bondage to sin and cannot redeem ourselves. We consider people with homosexual behavior should also repent from their sins. We also do not see ourselves righteous on our mere ‘moral value’ as such, for it does not exist, except for the sake of Christ. But this tension never justifies or places homosexuality in a positive relation to the will of God, neither can we do. 

21.  Our stand does not emanate from hate of anybody. It does not also emanate from contempt for anyone. But we choose to be loyal to the Scriptures and stay repentant sinners. All are encouraged to come to our churches. Our pastors are ready to work with people of homosexual orientation. We encourage them to recognize this behavior as sin similar to any sin in the Bible. It is not only homosexual people who have sinful tendencies. Sinful nature is universal.  Every one of us struggles to be obedient and not to be led by our flesh.

22.  It is taught in our churches that justification is by faith in Jesus Christ alone and not by work of the law. But we also teach that the gospel should bear fruit in changing our behaviors.

23.   We believe that God has his own person and reason why he hates human sinful behavior. Some actions are incompatible with God’s own nature. God’s wrath comes to people because of what humans do to his name, his glory and his honor, not only to what people do to their neighbors. That is why the Law is divided into two: Namely Love God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your might and love your neighbor as yourself (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:28-34). So we are called to love God first and foremost. The degree to which we are commanded to love God is with all our heart, with all your soul and with all your might.  The love we should have for God is that of another order. And then we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. Definitely love for neighbor cannot be expressed by breaking the law of loving and honoring God. On the contrary those who love God are commanded to love neighbors.

24.  We believe that the ELCA didn’t give a due consideration to Rom. 1:18-32 and did let the practice of homosexuality widely exercised in the church to the extent it becomes a major issue in a Church-wide Assembly and finally changed the ministry policy and officially abandoned the thousands years of church teaching. This resulted in confusions, divisions and bewilderment in the church.  

25.  The resolution that was adopted at the general assembly has two sharply conflicting opinions within itself. Those churches that are in favor of the resolution will implement the policy at their will but those who are not, are excused from the implementation. Such approach and a teaching of social statement and ministry policy adopted by ELCA apply to one and exempt the other. This type of methodology definitely violates the denomination's unity in teaching, in faith and in life.

III. Family and Cultural Reasons

 26.  Parents in our churches tell us that it is now dangerous to bring up children in ELCA congregations whether the congregations accept ELCA’s resolution on human sexuality or not. For the majority of our congregation members it is becoming difficult to make a difference between the world and the church on ethical issues. The recent developments on human sexuality in the 2009 ELCA Church-wide Assembly makes it even worse for the parents to teach their children on sexual ethics. The resolution is clearly contrary to what Oromo parents have been teaching them at home and church. 

 27.   The issue of homosexuality is a cultural shock for our people. In a dominant culture of our people there are millions of people who don’t even know the existence of this practice. 

IV. Decisions 

28.  The decisions of the 2009 ELCA Church-wide Assembly regarding homosexual behavior have extremely damaged our basic tenets of the Christian faith and of the church's witness.  For the sake of the truth of the word of God to prevail, the unity in Oromo Congregations and authentic Gospel witness, based on our belief that the Bible is the word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and for the sake of the true witness of faith to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, and the only norm and rule of faith of the Church of Christ, which rejects homosexual behaviors as a diversion from God’s will, we would like to express our decision as follows:

a.      We disagree on “Visions and Expectations” of August 2009 ELCA Church-Wide assembly resolution in relation to homosexuality.

b.     We cannot in the name of “bound conscience” accept a policy contrary to the scriptures.

c.      We cannot accept the ministries of any gay or lesbian persons ordained by the ELCA or any church in our congregations and/or at synod or church-wide meetings.

d.     We will work, consult and collaborate with the all-Lutheran bodies those in confessional resistance as to how we should continue our ministries as committed Lutherans in the United States of America.   

e.      We will earnestly pray for the ELCA that it may change its current course and come back to its original path and save the unity of the ELCA.

29.  Therefore, Union of Oromo Evangelical Churches (UOEC) take firm stand based on the authoritative word of God that homosexuality is sinful, and immoral. Because of UOEC firm belief and convection that the Bible regard homosexual behavior as sinful and God’s original creation rejects same- sex union, UOEC would not support blessing of same- sex, including ordination, consecration or commissioning. We believe, doing otherwise is rejection of God’s commandment against same -sex conduct and God’s heterosexual order of creation.



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