ELCA Pastor: 'Gender-Neutral Hymnal Concession to Culture'

Jim Brown | Agape Press | Monday, August 29, 2005

ELCA Pastor: 'Gender-Neutral Hymnal Concession to Culture'

"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the God of Creation! My heart is longing to offer up sweet adoration!" - Proposed revision to 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty' (Hymn 543, Lutheran Book of Worship)


A conservative minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America says he and other ELCA pastors are disturbed by the denomination's approval of a new, more gender-neutral hymnal.


At its Churchwide Assembly in early August, the ELCA okayed a plan to update the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship by eliminating the "Father" terminology and male pronouns used in reference to God. 


The hymnal overhaul will include other gender-neutralizing and diversity-affirming changes to traditional Lutheran worship lyrics and liturgies as well. For example, in the Lutheran Creed, God and Jesus will now be referred to as "Holy Eternal Majesty" and "Holy Incarnate Word" instead of "Father" and "Son."


Dr. Roy Harrisville is executive director of Solid Rock Lutherans, a conservative group whose mission is to call the ELCA to "remain faithful to the Word of God according to the Lutheran Confessions." 


Harrisville says those who favor the revisions to the Lutheran Book of Worship want to change fundamental Christian beliefs.


"At base, what needs to be asked is not can we be somehow inclusive in our language, but rather, when we do alter our language, are we altering our theology and our basic values - and I think that is what's happening," he says.


Harrisville says it is tragic that a number of Lutheran Church leaders desire to be what they regard as more "culturally relevant" in hopes of attracting more people to their church.


"Relevance is a huge issue for many of them," he shares, "and they think that if they acquiesce to a particular ideology that is regnant in society, that therefore they will be relevant and thus influential and thus, of course, attract more folks to their churches. I don't think it works that way."


The ELCA's worship director, Rev. Michael Burk, has said the new hymnal will reflect the fact that the denomination is a "global church." 


Use of the new hymnal will not be mandated in local churches, but likely will gradually be adopted by most of the ELCA's approximately 10,600 congregations as they either purchase the book immediately or buy it when the time comes to replace their old hymnals.


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.elca.org)

Solid Rock Lutherans (www.sldrck.org)

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