Over the weekend, I came across an article whose subject was comments from Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, comments in which Mohler stated that it is his position that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) is not truly a church due to the Southwest California Synod’s decision to elect, for the first time, an openly gay man, as bishop.
According to the article, in the podcast of his comments, he made the following statements: “It is by this act and by many prior acts distancing itself by light years from the actual faith and conviction of Martin Luther,” that the ELCA has “demonstrated itself to be neither Evangelical nor Lutheran and, as G.K. Chesterton might say, not a church either. That just leaves them in America.”
I can honestly find no other word to describe these remarks than arrogance. What I hear in these comments is that, in order for a church to truly be a church by Mohler’s definition of such, a church must adhere to Mohler’s own doctrinal beliefs and the Southern Baptist Convention in order to be considered truly a part of the church of Jesus Christ.
When I was growing up, one thing that I perceived being taught was that all other churches in my hometown were heretical and those attending these churches were going straight to hell. To my recollection, the only interaction we had with any other congregations was restricted to church league athletics such as softball and floor hockey. I don’t ever recall any other collaboration with other churches.
I remember receiving an arrogant attitude that what was taught by the leadership of that church was correct and proper. Anything that disagreed in the slightest went against God and His written word. Even the American Baptist Church in town was lumped into that group. And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? I have been an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches, USA for almost 7 years now. =0D
One thing I have discovered in my spiritual journey, much of which has occurred as a pastor: not everything taught theologically as dogmatic isn’t as dogmatic as some make it out to be. There is much room for debate and discussion. And because of this, there is an extreme need for humility, which is exactly what I don’t see in Mohler’s comments.
In my opinion, in Christian fundamentalism and even into Christian evangelicalism, there is an attitude that states the following: what our interpretation of the Bible is is the norm and the standard by which you will be judged Christian or heretical.
In my years of indepth study of Scripture, I have found that there is often sloppy work done in interpretation and application of Scripture. That is why I continuously commit myself to be a biblical theologian, always seeking deeper understanding because I realize just how much I don’t know.
And that realization causes humility. Arrogance has no place in the family of God.