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The Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has fired another salvo in the war of attrition that has been waged by a loose coalition of conservative evangelicals and neoconservative Catholics against the mainline Protestant churches for for more than a generation.  This time, Mohler has declared that the the mainline Lutheran church, called the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, (ELCA) is "not a church."

The reason for this charge is that the Lutherans in Southern California have elected a gay man, a well respected pastor and professor of theology, R. Guy Erwin, as bishop.  The ELCA had already accepted gay people as members and as clergy, so it is no surprise that someone was eventually elected as a church leader.  

Mohler, according to a report in the Louisville Courier-Journal, says ELCA only lives up to a quarter of its name.

“It is by this act and by many prior acts distancing itself by light years from the actual faith and conviction of Martin Luther,” Mohler said in a Monday podcast. It 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.”
Fortunately for the Lutherans, they are able to elect their own leaders, and define what it means to be Lutheran, without any help from the leadership of the Christian Right.  

Mohler's latest expression of religious supremacism is reminiscent of his year 2000 denunciation of his ally in the culture war, the Roman Catholic Church, on CNN's "Larry King Live".  Religion New Service reported:

The president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has called the Roman Catholic Church "a false church" that "teaches a false gospel."...

     Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live," Al Mohler was speaking on Pope John Paul II's pilgrimage to Israel and his recent apologies for the past sins of the Catholic Church. While stopping short of calling the Catholic Church a "cult," Mohler said the Catholic hierarchy is unbiblical.

     "As an evangelical, I believe the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel," Mohler said. "I believe the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office." ...

     Mohler also criticized the pope's efforts to create a dialogue with Jews and Muslims...  The pope "has actually embraced all monotheists, both Jews and the followers of Islam, as long as they're sincere within the penumbra of the gospel, within the canopy of the gospel," Mohler said. "And that is just unbiblical, and by the way, not very pleasing to either Jews or to Muslims."

I wonder what other churches Mohler does not consider to be churches.

Crossposted from Talk to Action

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 08:50 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Anglican Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "...what other churches he does not consider..." (10+ / 0-)

    All of them.

  •  Maranatha Baptist Church (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, commonmass, Aunt Pat, Oh Mary Oh

    in Plains Georgia, where President Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday School.

    "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

    by DJ Rix on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 11:46:22 PM PDT

  •  at times I am amused by the antics of the SBC (6+ / 0-)

    until I remember the goals of Rushdoony and the Seven Mountains Theology and the naked power grabs of "steeplejacking" advocated by Falwell and his kindred spirits back in the Day.  I also note that my alma mater, Erskine College and Seminary recently fired a tenured English professor for refusing to sign an agreement declaring his acceptance of the inerrancy of the biblical text.

    I suppose it would be worthwhile to note that it appears the SBC appears to be moving towards embracing the Conservative Catholic establishment as they find common political ground after almost a century of condemning Catholics, and considering the Pope to be the AntiChrist and Rome the Whore of Babylon.

    From reading an SBC discussion board, I note some members are disturbed by local churches which spend more of their churches' incomes on domestic missionary missions and foreign missions than they do on their local congregations.  There appears to be a nascent awareness among some of the lay public at least, that the SBC hierarchy is more concerned in meddling in other people's affairs than they are in attending to the salvation of their own congregations (of course the current SBC view of works vs faith debate allows them to ignore local salvation as salvation, among some of their member churches, has been boiled down to a public acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior as the only prerequisite)  

    •  I can't make heads or tails of that... (0+ / 0-)

      Rushdoony and Reconstructionism have had no significant connection to the SBC or Baptist organziations in general. (You might find this 2007 article interesting in that regard.)  I have known quite a few students at Southern Seminary (of which Mohler is president), and they aren't getting any emphasis on Reconstructionist thought in their classes.

      From reading an SBC discussion board, I note some members are disturbed by local churches which spend more of their churches' incomes on domestic missionary missions and foreign missions than they do on their local congregations.
      I'm confused by this statement - what do you mean by "spending...on their local congregations"?  A link to the discussion board in question would be most helpful.  My SBC churches have traditionally spent  most of their monies on local work, in both our immediate community and state-level projects, and I've never heard a whisper of complaint from other churches/believers or local/state/national organizations.
      (of course the current SBC view of works vs faith debate allows them to ignore local salvation as salvation, among some of their member churches, has been boiled down to a public acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior as the only prerequisite)
      Which Protestant denominations consider works a prerequisite for salvation?  Baptists don't...Lutherans don't...for Anglicans, the 39 Points are clear that works are not necessary for salvation...I don't understand this comment - please explain further.

      The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

      by wesmorgan1 on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 09:47:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  RE: SBC and Dominionism, for just a few articles (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Frederick Clarkson

        http://www.mainstreambaptists.org/...
        http://books.google.com/...
        http://www.talk2action.org/...
        http://www.talk2action.org/...
        http://www.talk2action.org/...

        RE: works vs faith, traditional Protestant view is that works are a reflection of faith.  More radical modern view is that works are unnecessary for a person to have faith.  An even more radical view is that whenever a person "accepts Christ" not only are all past sins forgiven but so are all future sins, simply by virtue of faith.  Think of it as a variant of the old concept of indulgences as parodied by Chaucer.  

        •  So, which denominations specifically state it? (0+ / 0-)

          I can't find any such statement for Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans or any Anglican group - and that's a pretty huge chunk of "traditional Protestants".

          As far as your linked articles:

          * 1 mentions a single minor connection ("Oh, a Reconstructionist even was held in a Baptist Conference Center")
          * 1 talks about a Presbyterian theologian (Schaffer) whose books cite Rushdoony (also a Presbyterian)
          * 1 doesn't mention Baptists or Southern Baptists at all; it's all about C. Peter Wagner and the New Apostolic Reformation
          * 1 mentions a single Southern Baptist layman - Paul Pressler.

          That's pretty weak evidence for a supposed major influence on Southern Baptists...

          The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

          by wesmorgan1 on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 02:29:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  exactly what sort of "proof" do you require? (0+ / 0-)

            I mention this as it appears you want to argue that traditional Protestants do not view works as reflective of faith but rather that salvation is dependent on faith alone with no negative effects of a lack of works by an individual.

            If so here is CS Lewis:
            http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/...

            If that is insufficient for you, I must really beg off because I lack time and inclination to really want to play more

            •  Why am I unsurprised? *snort* (0+ / 0-)

              "If that is insufficient for you"?

              Gosh, why wouldn't comments about Southern Baptists and the SBC be supported by references to Presbyterians, the New Apostolic Reformation, a college founded by a conservative/Calvinist Presbyterian splinter group (the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church), Anglicanism and a generic Christian apologist?

              Oh, but wait - someone said something in an online discussion board, so it MUST be true AND globally applicable to an entire denomination and its leadership!

              Of COURSE we can say that the SBC is moving toward a rapproachment with conservative Catholics - who cares that the very subject of this diary, Dr. Al Mohler, blasted the entire Catholic church as 'anathema' just two months ago?

              Sheesh.

              The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

              by wesmorgan1 on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 09:25:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Seems to me, wesmorgan1 (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                entlord

                That you are selling the Baptists short if you think that they don't (or worse, won't) read Presbyterian authors.  In any case, the Christian Reconstructionist movement has never been about denomination. It is a movement of ideas and has readers and great influence across the Christian world.

                Sorry to be late to this thread, but I think rather than pooh poohing, you could begin to take an interest.  You could begin by reading some stuff from former SBC and current CBF leader Bruce Prescott, who has been writing about this for years.

                Here is part 1 of a multi-part series he wrote on CR and dominionism links to the rest are at the end of this post.

                Here is a post about SBC dominionism in Texas, and another about Oklahoma.

                •  I appreciate the effort and links... (0+ / 0-)

                  I've actually read most of that - I obviously came to a different conclusion than did you and the previous commenter.  It's easy to latch onto individuals and fairly isolated incidents and then simply assert that there is some large group of "Dominonist Southern Baptists across the country."

                  There's a very simple--but gaping--hole in that argument - it includes an extrapolation that cannot be supported by the existing data.  There are 16 million Southern Baptists in 45,000 churches across 41 states, and there is a much broader range of thought among them than most critics of the Religious Right care to consider.

                  Most Baptist churches--SBC or not--don't even know what Dominionism is, and they certainly aren't hearing it from their pulpits on Sunday morning.   It isn't to be found in the SBC's Sunday School teaching materials, and it isn't a topic of major discussion at meetings of Baptist organziations.

                  Given that there's no real attempt to inject Dominionism into church teaching or training, I think that a more disinterested analysis suggests that the relationships among certain Dominionists and certain prominent SBC figures were marriages of convenience for the sake of attaining personal power, rather than any redefinition of Southern Baptist faith.  Now, it's certainly true that one can hear echoes of Reconstructionist thought in the SBC's Baptist Faith & Message, even going back to the 1925 edition:

                  Every Christian is under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ regnant in his own life and in human society...to seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth and brotherly love...
                  but again, the key question (to me) is what's preached from the pulpits and taught in Sunday school - and Reconstructionism isn't there...

                  The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

                  by wesmorgan1 on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 07:34:58 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  One good reason among many (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, commonmass, Oh Mary Oh, Bronx59

    for more moderate to liberal minded Christians to take a serious look at joining an elca congregation. They are my retreat fro the present RC Church mess!  The fact that he does not like them speaks well for them.

  •  Given that the ELCA and the Episcopal Church (12+ / 0-)

    have essentially become sisters and enjoy intercommunion and clergy-sharing, Dr. Mohler (there's a good LC-MS name if I ever heard one) I'm sure doesn't think the Episcopal Church is a church either, even though it has a much larger claim to historical catholicism than the SBC could possible claim and has been around a lot longer, too (and unlike the Baptists, did not split during the Civil War and contrary to what some people might think is not splitting now in any meaningful way, either). Both churches now claim gay (and in the ECUSA, lesbian) bishops. Big whoop, says this Anglican.

    I truly wish people like Dr. Mohler would spend time taking their own inventories and leave autonomous Christian bodies like the ELCA (which I worked for for years, I feel I should disclose) the hell alone. The ELCA is a highly democratic institution, and a very healthy one, and is run by grown-ups who can make their own decisions.

    This business of evangelicals and Roman Catholic groups trying to stick their nose in the business of mainline denominations is un-Christian, it's unseemly, and it's wrong.

    Dr. Mohler has a great big log in his eye.

    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 04:56:52 AM PDT

    •  I was raised in a congregation now in ELCA. (7+ / 0-)

      (There have been several denominational mergers.)

      My own spiritual journey has led me to Reform Judaism, but if I wanted to be a Christian again (which is not very likely) I would seriously consider ELCA, along with United Church of Christ and Episcopal Church.

      From a Jewish perspective, I honor John Paul II's recognition of past Catholic anti-Semitism and his attempts to make amends for it. It's shabby for any Christian theologian of whatever denomination to condemn him for that.

      Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here: http://bettysrants.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/my-next-big-thing/

      by Kimball Cross on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 06:31:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's a pretty low blow, yes. (5+ / 0-)

        JP II did the right thing there, and no matter what you think of popes or the Roman Catholic Church, from a Christian AND secular human rights perspective, what JP II did is commendable, and credit should be given where it's due.

        I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

        by commonmass on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 06:47:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I am told by a UU Church member that... (0+ / 0-)

        ...some UU congregations are giving consideration to dropping the word "church" from their name.
        Is that why U would not include that denomination among those that you would seriously consider?

        •  The UU for years (0+ / 0-)

          has been stripping itself of its Christian associations. They should probably get  rid of the word "Unitarian" at this point. The UU has transformed itself itself into a sort of non-Jewish version of a Reconstructionist Jewish synagogue. I've visited affluent congregations of both & they were  remarkably similar.  It's a good idea. But I doubt Mohler gives the UU a moment's consideration as a "church."

          "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

          by DJ Rix on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 03:50:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  He only considers his own fiefdom (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Ahianne

    a "real church".  This man has flapped his gums so often that most don't even pay attention anymore. His big news gets relegated now to a faith blog in the Louisville paper that has very low readership. Once in awhile when he's really on a nasty roll, they print an article.

    I don't recall Martin Luther saying anything about homosexuality specifically, but he sure was specific about Jews ("Jews and their Lies").  Having been confirmed in an LCA (now ELCA) church, that bit of information about Luther was never mentioned. So the church has not been acting on all of Luther's convictions for a long time anyway.

  •  Republished to Anglican Kossacks. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slksfca

    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 05:41:49 AM PDT

  •  Shaking my head... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    As a latecomer to the church and Lutheranism specifically, I'm just stunned at reading this. I can say for myself, and I believe I can safely speak for my pastor and the congregation, that we typically don't concern ourselves with the 'Christianity' of other denominations. We love them as best we can, we work with them in the community when we can. We may vary in the particulars, but we share a base belief in Christ Jesus. I / We have enough issues all by ourselves to work on, don't need to point out anyone else's. I try, anyway.

    I ought not be surprised the Reverend Doctor has a different perspective. Having lived in the South for 20 years now, I've often heard about the Catholic Church straying from the fold of good, Christian believers. Since Lutherans have been known to good-naturedly refer to our church as 'Catholicism Lite,' it was only a matter of time before we were called out as well.

    •  Growing up an L myself, "Evangelical" meant Lu- (0+ / 0-)

      theran. I was surprised to find it meant something else.

      Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here: http://bettysrants.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/my-next-big-thing/

      by Kimball Cross on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 06:34:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Historical / Cultural Note (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Frederick Clarkson

        In Germany for sure, and I think perhaps throughout Europe... what we know as the Lutheran Church is simply known as the Evangelical Church.

        I wish, I wish, I wish... the so-called mainstream liberal Protestant denominations in the US would become even a little more outspoken in their beliefs and about their actions as a church as other more conservative denominations. The assumption by conservative, fundamentalist churches of the role of spokesman for US Christianity has not been good.

  •  I'd love to see him get started on the LDS! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    -7.25, -6.26

    We are men of action; lies do not become us.

    by ER Doc on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 06:28:53 AM PDT

  •  Ohhh, ... The (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, skrekk, Fishtroller01

    Protestants hate the Catholics
    And the Catholics hate the Protestants
    And the Hindus hate the Moslems
    And everybody hates the Jews

    But during National Brotherhood Week
    National Brotherhood Week
    It's National Everyone-Smile-At-
    One-Another-hood Week
    Be nice to people who
    Are inferior to you
    It's only for a week, so have no fear
    Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

    -- Tom Lehrer

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 07:18:45 AM PDT

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