Lutheran theologian Robert Benne laments the ELCA’s departure from the “Great Tradition” of marginalizing gay people and its descent into the dreaded “liberal Protestantism.” The problem, it seems, is that the ELCA hasn’t given sufficient weight to the opinions of white male pastors and theologians.
One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever someone makes an appeal to tradition (or Tradition), there will always come along someone else who’s more traditional than thou. Some of Benne’s commenters are already pointing out that the real problems began when Lutherans abandoned biblical inerrancy (or broke away from Rome). It’s also worth pointing out that some of our most outspoken “traditionalists” on gay relationships are “liberals” on questions like women’s ordination. And almost no Lutherans take the traditionalist position on artificial birth control. One man’s traditionalist, it turns out, is another man’s liberal–or heretic.
Which isn’t to say that it’s impossible to be a consistent traditionalist. But such a consistency would have to be purchased at the price of plausibility. Why, after all, should we think that all the interesting moral or theological questions were already answered in the first (or fourth, or thirteenth, or sixteenth) century? The Bible itself contains passages where people are wrestling with–and revising–their received tradition (e.g., the fifteenth chapter of Acts). This seems necessary if tradition is to be a resource of wisdom and inspiration and not an ideological rationalization of power and privilege.