A Response to “Life Together at Concordia University: LGBTQ+ in Lutheran Perspective”

Submitted by a CN reader. See the referenced 2020 statement from Concordia, Ann Arbor below –ed.

I Cor. 6:Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Concordia Ann Arbor has promulgated a Statement, “Life Together at Concordia University: LGBTQ+ in Lutheran Perspective” which purportedly seeks to establish “a framework for dialogue at Concordia” “to give language, clarity of confession, and foster Christ-like conversation about gender and sexuality on our campuses”. Using the World’s language, it may establish a framework for dialogue, but it does not give a clear confession. It won’t foster Christ-like conversation, if by “Christ-like” we mean Law and Gospel rightly divided calling the sinner to repentance and new life, rather than just “niceness”.

To see the problems with the Ann Arbor Statement, simply substitute a different sin from the above Scripture passage. For example, how would one conduct “Christ-like conversation about” adultery – does Scripture really speak of it “primarily as a matter of the heart”? Do we talk about drunkenness “with the hope of creating a culture of humility, respect, and care”? Do “we respectfully recognize the differing views and emotions related to” fornication? Should a discussion of pornography “be marked by mutual respect, gentleness, and humility”? Although many phrases within the Statement, taken separately, are true, they are put into contexts that denude them of meaning, to appear winsome and avoid giving “offense”.

No Clear Confession

There is no “clear confession”; Biblical truth is diluted with equivocation. The authors speak clearly when they wish; they “utterly reject” “abuse and harassment (and the attitudes that foster these actions) as evil, sinful, and completely contrary to the will of God” – offering no word of Gospel to those who may have engaged in such activity. The word “sin” appears 12 other times, but the Statement never asserts that the University believes or teaches that homosexual acts (or any other extramarital sexual activity) is sinful, let alone “evil” or “completely contrary to the will of God”. The inability to address this point in a document devoted to dealing with issues of human sexuality is glaring. The most specific reference is in the passive voice: “all sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman is called sexual immorality (Scripture calls this sin).” The phrase “Scripture calls this sin” is a cop-out: it IS sin, not merely “a misuse of the Creator’s gift of sexuality” as though one were trying to open a can by punching it with a screwdriver.

Gospel Reductionism

The Introduction states that “the dignity of all humanity” “began with God’s pronouncement of goodness in the creation story (Genesis 1) and was sealed by the death of His Son for all people in the work of redemption,” utterly omitting WHY Christ died. Though we do hear that all people are sinful, and that Christ has died for all sins, there is never any reference to repentance, the means of grace, or amending one’s sinful life. Indeed, there is implied universalism: “God promises forgiveness of sins to all people who trust in Christ Jesus. This promise is not limited to religious people…” The Statement also includes phrases suggesting that God’s Word is contextual or conflating Law and Gospel, such as “we challenge each other to think critically about issues in modern society and their impact on people and communities in relation to God’s Word. With humility, we recognize our own sinfulness and strive to open the door to dialogue, while we also witness to the truth and grace of God’s Word, which guides all people to a God-pleasing life— including matters of sexual orientation and gender expression”. Also, though the University supposedly “holds Scripture to be the final authority”, the Statement adopts a critical theory approach by suggesting a “conversation” where “students have the freedom to speak from their perspectives, including offering opinions about what Scripture means for their lives,” rather than affirming Holy Scripture as truth. Let’s live our best life now, and have a “meaningful conversation about life together, in recognition that life is best lived in faith and obedience to God”!

Adopting the Language of the World

The Statement asserts that “derogatory and hostile language is unacceptable at Concordia University”. However, currently words such as “biological male” are deemed “derogatory and hostile” by some constituencies; the Statement does not indicate who is the arbiter. Rather, the Statement parrots Dictionary.com definitions of words such as “cisgender” (a word which did even exist in 2001 in Webster’s II New College Dictionary). There is some utility in understanding the ever-changing universe of newly invented words relating to human sexuality. However, it does no good to state that “His Word shapes our words” when the same document accepts uncritically a definition of “gender binary” as “a concept or belief that there are only two genders and that one’s biological or birth gender will align with traditional social constructs of masculine and feminine identity, expression, and sexuality”. What about God’s “constructs” (creation!) of male and female? Moreover, the Statement references “LGBT+ students”, validating the premise of identity defined by sinful sexual behavior in direct contradiction to its purported goal of affirming identity in Christ. How would we respond to students “asking for support for fellow adulterous students”?

Confusion About the Role of the University

The Statement accepts (implicitly or explicitly) a number of false premises, so it is bound to (and does) lead to incorrect conclusions. In so many words, it puts “providing education for all people, regardless of gender expression and sexual orientation… in accordance with federal and state laws” on an equal footing with “the truth of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions as a true exposition of Holy Scripture”. This is false. The University does not exist to provide education for all people, nor to prostrate itself to the left hand kingdom. It exists (at least for now) as “an institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod”. The schools of the church choose to welcome students who desire to attend with the understanding of and respect for what the institutions believe and confess in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Even though part of a University education is discussion and argumentation, feelings and perceptions of offense must not be allowed to define truth or alter the University’s mission.

The Right Answer

At the University level, there is nothing wrong with studying and understanding contemporary issues, including issues of human sexuality and the World’s perspective about it, and then applying the Scriptural perspective. However, we are not called to engage in a “dialogue” with sin. The appropriate end of a “conversation” with a person engaged in a course of action that leads to eternal death, is to help him stop it. The best way to have a “critical conversation” is to proclaim God’s clear Word of Law and Gospel to all. Christ has won the forgiveness of sins for us, but the Gospel is not shared (nor needed) without acknowledging our shortcomings before the Law. This can be a civil conversation, but it must not be an equivocal one. The Statement fails because, just as we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ but by the Holy Ghost, likewise we cannot bring sinful persons to repentance by our own “love,” “respect,” or winsomeness.