My Paper read as follows,
Each week I stand at the front of my congregations and say ‘on behalf of my Lord Jesus Christ and by his command, I forgive you’. I claim to speak with the authority of Jesus Christ as I forgive the sins of those gathered there. This claim is repeated in the consecration and administration of the Sacraments where I claim to be called by Christ himself into this ministry, authorized by Him to speak with the same authority as if the Words came from His own mouth. On what basis can I make this claim? Not everyone is given this authority, so how can I be sure I have it?
I was taught in Seminary: ‘Because Christ called you through His Church, hands were laid on you, and the Church declared you one of it’s apostolic ministers.’ But I am not called to the Uniting Church, nor to the Anglican Church, nor to the Mormons. In fact, I am only called to those people in the communion called the LCA. My call, my authorization, came solely from the LCA. The question is; has Christ given the LCA such authority to pass on?
I could rely on my own conscience under Scripture telling me that the Lutheran Church has Christ’s authority, in spite of all the opinions and arguments to the contrary. Or I could simply trust the interpretations of the senior theologians of the LCA. But, even among Lutherans in Australia, we have a wide range of opinions on key doctrines. The recent debate regarding women’s ordination, for example, put on public display the huge variance of opinions on the doctrines of Church, Ministry, Sacraments, the Holy Spirit, and these impact significantly on all the major articles of faith. So how do I know which interpretation is right and why the rest are wrong?
While I believe that God clearly reveals his truth to us for our salvation in the Word,
experience tells me that I can fall into error no matter how sincerely I seek the truth. I have been wrong, even when I earnestly and sincerely studied the Scriptures and submitted to them. But then Lutherans would not even pretend that my own interpretation, that of the CTICR, that of pastor’s conference, or even that of the whole Synod could not err. So how do I know if our interpretation of Scripture which validates my ministry is truth? What if we are wrong?
The Christian Church has never really believed that an individual can rely on their own interpretation for the truth. Christians from the earliest times have looked to those called, appointed and authorized by Christ to speak His Word into each new context with His own authority. But, just because someone claims to be one of Christ’s apostolic ministers does not make that claim true. So how do I spot the truly authorized ministers from ones making false claims? More importantly for my own conscience, what about MY claims? My claim to speak with Christ’s authority stems from the LCA’s own interpretation of the Word. Is it possible that they are wrong, or are they somehow free from the possibility of reading the Scriptures wrongly?
It boils down to this. I stand and claim to exercise the authority of Christ each Sunday, and most days of the week by who I claim to be, and by what I claim to do. If my claims are true, wonderful! If they are false claims, then I am the worst kind of impostor and fraud. I am no longer convinced that the LCA can claim Christ’s authority to ordain, forgive, or any such thing, with any surety. So how can I, in good conscience, stand in my congregation THIS SUNDAY to speak and act as if these claims were true?
Next: The Diet of Box Hill - Part II