On March 26, 2010, the Great Falls (Montana) Tribune ran a story under the headline "Speaker addresses possible shift for Faith Lutheran." It tells of yet another congregation deserting the ELCA and joining the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ). I cannot imagine that even in Great Falls, Montana a local congregation changing the church body with which it affiliates is considered very newsworthy. This, and the fact that the story includes a link to the LCMC website, but not the ELCA website, makes me think that Tribune was called in by the LCMC as part of a publicity strategy. I could be wrong, of course.
The most interesting part of the article to me was a statement by Wayne Arnst, "a member of and spokesperson for Faith Lutheran Church."
Arnst said that over time, ELCA has moved from a "Gospel of Redemption" as a longstanding Lutheran tradition, to a "Gospel of Inclusion."
Like the words "New and Improved" on a cereal box, this distinction between redemption and inclusion sounds meaningful, but is it? Surely redemption and inclusion are not mutually exclusive categories.
As I read the Scriptures, Jesus was very much about inclusion. He persistently associated with the marginalized, outcast and unclean. He shared table fellowship with "tax-collectors and sinners." He was found in company with Samaritans. Under the Apostle Paul, the religion of Jesus began even to include Gentiles.
I am not entirely clear as to what Arnst might mean by the "Gospel of Redemption." I understand redemption to be God's radical reordering of fallen creation into the Kingdom of God, a kingdom marked by peace, justice and love.
I suspect that Arnst's vision of redemption is somewhat different than mine. I suspect, though I cannot say with certainty, that Arnst's vision of redemption involves a kind of moral purity that excludes homosexual love. I suspect that Arnst's idea of redemption includes either conversion of homosexuals into heterosexuals, or a requirement of celibacy for homosexuals. If it is the former, then the best empirical evidence tells us that conversion does not happen. If the latter, then it is tied up in a subtle form of works righteousness. Either way this kind of redemption can hardly be called "Gospel." It is Law.
For further reading, Justin Johnson (DarthJedi) has written a good piece about whether Jesus required repentance when he forgave sins. Read it here.