Soul Cafe is really a church! Beyond being a youth center on 12th St. in Hood River, it’s a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). That’s the largest church body in the United States that calls itself “Lutheran.” We also call ourselves “Lutheran,” but we mean something different by it than does the ELCA. We consider the label “Lutheran,” when applied to a church, to mean the particular confession of faith to which that church holds in its teaching. Specifically, we consider a Lutheran church to be one that holds (without compromise) the teachings confessed in the Lutheran Confessions, because they fully and faithfully agree with the Bible.
Soul Cafe’s church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, acknowledges that the Lutheran Confessions have historical importance, but no normative importance over present-day Lutheran teaching. Therefore, we would not describe the ELCA with the adjective “Lutheran.” Appropriately enough, Soul Cafe seems to avoid that label.
If you’d like to confirm for yourself that Soul Cafe is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, [have a look at its web site][sc]. Be sure to scroll to the bottom. If you’re still not convinced, you can look it up [in the ELCA congregation directory][directory].
Soul Cafe’s web site uses some of the code language of homosexual advocacy (“open and affirming”), extending it to accept and affirm many different social choices that the Bible considers to be sinful. It promotes an organization called “Lutherans Concerned/North America,” which advocates the acceptance of homosexuality in Lutheran churches, contrary to several passages in Holy Scripture. The person it calls “pastor” has written several statements there that show a radical separation from historic Christianity. She alludes to the Lutheran Confessions (specifically, Augsburg Confession article 7), but only to claim that most of what the Confessions say should be considered “adiaphora,” meaning “that which is neither commanded by God nor forbidden.” The effect is to dismiss the Confessions, as well as much of the Bible’s doctrinal content as a matter of mere personal opinion. More troubling, she seems to deny the trinitarian foundation of the [Ecumenical Creeds][creeds]:
> I have learned that the Trinity is not some complex theological doctrine. The Trinity is the experience of God the Father/Mother, Son, and Holy Spirit in relation, in community with one another and in relation, in community with all the world. The Trinity is the perichoretic Godâ€”the God who circulates and dances through the neighborhood, working healing and wholeness.
Any church that persistently denies the Trinity, or even the authority of God’s Word in all matters of faith and life, is not a Christian church, though it may still claim to be. Christianity is not a matter of being nice to others, nor a matter of merely living a certain way. It is a matter of what we believe, which then flows naturally into the way we live. When we confess that God’s Word is right about our sins, and then trust in the forgiveness He applies through Jesus Christ, we have begun to be Christians. This faith continues with a confession that God is right about everything else that His Word addresses. Unfortunately, the heritage of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America includes theological liberalism, which does not consider the Bible to be God’s Word. Therefore, there is very little to prevent a congregation like Soul Cafe from completely losing the character and doctrine of the Christian Church.
We should pray for our friends and neighbors influenced by such places as Soul Cafe, and do what we can to help them avoid such places. We can offer them so much more, beginning with the certainty that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and has died and physically risen to life again as the atoning sacrifice for every sin — even sinful life choices like homosexuality. Some may still not be convinced that Soul Cafe is a church. Remember Matthew 7:15-20, where Jesus predicted such things:
> Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
[creeds]: http://www.bookofconcord.org/creeds.php [sc]: http://www.soulcafe.org/ [directory]: http://www.elca.org/ELCA/Search/Find-a-Congregation.aspx#&&congrno=NqxW5NXR4PLc%2f8APUnSpt%2flII0RdI6q9U%2bmDNA%3d%3d