WAS TORNADO GOD'S REBUKE?
Jon Christian Ryter
August 27, 2009
In its online edition, Christianity Today poised the question, pondering whether or not there was any connection between the vote by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA} to adopt a "sexuality statement" on homosexuality and the tornado which struck the Minneapolis Convention Center on Aug. 19 where they were meeting. John Piper, whose Baptist Church is just down the road from the convention center thought the storm itself was the message, telling Christianity Today reporter Ted Olsen that "...[t]he tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and to all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction."
A Christian renewal group within the ELCA reported that both sides of the discussion claimed the weather was a commentary from God supporting their point of view. WordAlone issued a statement in which they said "...a supporter of the social statement..." (those attempting to sanctify homosexuality in the Lutheran Church as normal behavior "...typified the storm as a mighty wind of the Holy Spirit, and as a positive message. Some WordAlone members heard a different message—a warning of God's anger at the ELCA in the wind." The tornado did significant roof damage to the Convention Center with 2,200 registered members debating the question of whether or not the Lutherans should approve a statement mitigating homosexuality inside. Outside the Central Lutheran Church, next door to the Convention Center, strong winds tore off part of the church's 90-year old metal steeple, then ripped apart large outdoor tents, and scattered chairs and folding tables across the parking lot. The tents were used earlier that day to serve breakfast to the guests attending the convention. Church member Jack Freitag said he saw a "..wall cloud from the south coming across the parking lot (with a) very loud roar." He saw signs and debris being blown around in the wind. "I was worried about the people then..."
About 120 people had taken refuge in the church's basement. The funnel cloud, which touched down twice, made significant physical impact on the terrain without doing any serious damage. A witness at the church said: "We saw the tornado. It was turning real fast. It got real black out here and had the trees coming to us on the left. The windows were shaking real bad, and all this stuff across the street in the church, they had a little dinner there, it tore it all up, and it was just lifting off the ground. And, it just disappeared. It just disappeared." Myself, if I had been one of the delegates voting, I would have voted against softening the position on homosexuality.
Nevertheless, with 2,200 registered attendees of which half were voters, by a vote of 676 to 338—the exact number needed to win—the delegates voted for a more open position on homosexuality (without officially sanctifying homosexuality as normal relationship). Their position became one of neither condemning nor condoning. The statement suggests the delegates could not reach a consensus although, in reality, they did. They agreed that in "...this discernment about ethics and church practices, faithful people can and will come to different conclusions about the meaning of Scripture and about constitutes responsible action. We further believe that this church, on the basis of 'sound conscience' will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world."
The fly in the ointment was found in the footnotes. The church statement clearly reveals what the church membership should view as a Laodicean red flag and find a Bible-believing church in which to fellowship with God. In the footnotes, this statement appears: "When the question is about morality or church practice, the Pauline and Lutheran witness is less adamant and believes we may be called to respect the bound conscience of the neighbor. That is, if salvation is not at stake in a particular question..." Since homosexuality is a violation of God's commandments (even in the Muslim faith), it cannot be casually overlooked and made acceptable to God when it is not.
The footnote continues that "...if a brother or sister...saw eating meat (offered to pagan idols as something inherently wrong), the Christian was obligated to "walk in love" by eating just vegetables for the neighbor's sake." In point of fact, what is corrupting Christianity is the practice of compromising the Word of God in an attempt to find common ground where Christianity can be merged with other religions of the world. Just as the cold water springs and hot springs that run under the ancient city of Laodicea merge, becoming neither hot nor cold, so are the hearts of today's social Christians who find social compromise works better than standing on unpopular Christian principles.
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I believe the Minneapolis tornado, in this context, did allegorically represent God's anger and His disappointment in the elders of that body. And the torrential rains were His tears over the wrong decision made by His "freewill creation" as He watched with a freshly crucified heart as members of the Body of Faith divorced themselves from His Word and became part of the rapidly growing Church of Laodicea that sees no evil in evil. The ELCA mollified His commandments and bent them to the whims of man, who is now promoting the lukewarm societal church that offends no one—except God.