The Evangelical Lutheran Church in American has been meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center all week for its 2009 Churchwide Assembly. And today, those in attendance are scheduled to participate in a key decision:
Following the Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians into one of the thorniest social debates of contemporary Protestantism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is to decide today whether to allow sexually active gays and lesbians to serve as pastors.
Meeting this week in Minneapolis for its biennial convention, the nation’s seventh-largest denomination is considering a policy that would allow its 10,000 congregations to hire as pastor any properly ordained person “in a lifelong, committed, monogamous, same-gender relationship.”
And apparently God is not happy with this effort, which is why, according to John Piper, he sent a tornado earlier in the week to let them know:
A day after tornados and storms slammed the Midwest, John Piper, a prolific author and preaching pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, called an out-of-the-blue tornado that struck downtown Minneapolis Aug. 19 a “warning” from God to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, whose delegates were meeting there to debate a liberalized policy on homosexuality.
The tornado tore off part of a 90-year-old steeple of the Central Lutheran Church and ripped apart large outdoor tents set up to serve breakfast to the delegates to the ECLA convention which has been holding its meetings this week next door at the convention center. Some meetings also are taking place at the church. The tornado also damaged the convention center, where delegates were at the time.
Piper then listed six points and accompanying texts as to why he thinks the tornado was providential:
1. “The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God. ‘The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.’ (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
2. “The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith. ‘Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ (1 Corinthians 6:11).
3. “Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.
4. “Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados. ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ (Mark 4:41).
5. “When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms — an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment. Jesus: ‘Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’ (Luke 13:4-5)
6. “Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.”
Interestingly, tornadoes also reportedly hit parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana on Wednesday as well, but Piper has not yet clued us in to what message God was trying to send to the people in those areas who had their homes and businesses destroyed.