Esteemed elder, Carl Braaten, has been a leading Lutheran theologian for the past fifty years.  He was instrumental in drafting the original Lutheran Core open letter to which former Presiding Bishop Herbert Chilstrom responded.  See my original blog post on the exchange.  To get to the point, Lutheran Core opposes the proposed gay marriage and gay clergy resolutions that will come before the ELCA in ten days, but Chilstrom supports their passage.

Now, Braaten has responded to Chilstrom’s response.  Braaten’s letter to Chilstrom is posted on the websites of the Lutheran Forum and the Institute of Lutheran Theology.  Neither is an official arm of the ELCA.  The independent promoters and authors from each organization hail from multiple Lutheran denominations including the ELCA, Missouri Synod (LCMS), and other smaller Lutheran denominations. 

For Braaten and his web hosts, ecumenism means moving toward the LCMS and the other lesser Lutheran groups and away from other mainline Protestant denominations.  Braaten laments that for a generation the ELCA has been “moving in the direction of liberal Protestantism on many fronts.”  He mocks the ELCA for rejoicing that “finally Lutheranism is making it on the big stage of American religion, like the other mainline Protestant denominations.”  He would prefer a return to “the ancient traditions which shaped the development of catholic orthodoxy, which I believe our Lutheran Confessors affirmed in a positive way.” 

Look back, not forward.

Yet, I think Braaten profoundly understands that the issue for the conservatives is not about sex at all.  Gay marriage and gay clergy merely provide a convenient rallying point to try to stem the tide of modernity, to hold back the waters that erode the shores of orthodoxy, to return to “the good old days” when the Bible meant something black and white, void of nuance.  That Braaten’s letter rambles from one remembrance to the next is telling.

Look back, not forward.

Braaten says, “the theologians who signed the CORE Letter (around 60 of them) hold the same views concerning the slide of the ELCA toward liberal Protestantism … It is clear that what ails the ELCA, in our view, is not all about sexuality. It is about the underlying pervasive theological condition … the ELCA is falling off a cliff into heterodoxies and heresies of its own … a Social Statement that is a theological embarrassment to anyone or any church that claims to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions … God may well answer your prayer, however, by sending the ELCA into another Babylon, into exile.”

Whew!  I guess we’ll be in exile with the Episcopalians, the UCC’ers, and soon others but definitely not the LCMS.