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In his article "A Killing Lie," David Miller (the editor of The Lutheran magazine) opposes the death penalty. Miller considers the death penalty to be part of what the biblical scholar, Walter Wink, calls "the myth of redemptive violence.

According to Miller, the "fundamental problem with the death penalty is that it is rooted in a false faith that contradicts the Christian story." He continues, "Our problem is that we hear the myth of redemptive violence so often we are blind to its falsehood." Luckily, "Jesus offers an alternative vision, a wisdom that contradicts the myth of redemptive violence." Finally, "We must always resist the myth of redemptive violence - in ourselves and society - because it's a killing lie."


Miller's sentiments reflect the position taken by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) when the ELCA's 1991 Churchwide Assembly adopted A Social Statement on the Death Penalty.

CCM and the Myth of Historic Episcopacy

Like the death penalty, Called to Common Mission (CCM), the ecumenical agreement between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church in the USA, is built upon a myth. In order to achieve "full communion" with the Episcopal Church, the ELCA must adopt an "historic episcopate" as a condition for unity. An "historic episcopate" refers to bishops (episkopos in Greek) making new bishops in succession through prayer and physical touch (laying-on-of-hands). "Historic episcopacy" is the hallmark of all Anglican churches, including the Episcopal Church.

Many scholars consider the "historic episcopate" to be a myth, one of many "Christian fictions" with no biblical foundation. In fact, the concept of "episcopal succession" was "rediscovered" (or invented) in the Roman Catholic Church in 1538-1540, partly as a means to counter the Lutheran Reformation!

Lies and Confessions

Lutherans have statements of faith which were developed in the course of the Reformation. Lutherans refer to these documents as "confessions" or as "confessional writings." Lutherans understand these writings to be accurate expositions of the Bible. Two such documents are the Augsburg Confession and its Apology.

In Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession, the Lutheran Reformers acknowledge that the state has the right to punish evildoers with the sword. In language of the day, the term "sword" represented the exercise of temporal power. At that time, the use of the "sword" included the death penalty. Thus, although the Augsburg Confession expressly includes the right of the state to employ the death penalty, the ELCA in its Social Statement on the Death Penalty has opted to take a stance opposite to the Lutheran Confessions.

The ELCA, however, treats Article 14 of the Apology to the Augsburg Confession very differently. As indicated elsewhere, CCM paragraph 11 claims that Article 14 of the Apology refers to "historic succession" in the episcopal office when Article 14 speaks of "the ecclesiastical and canonical polity" which the Reformers desired to maintain. Unfortunately, this interpretation is based on invented history which has wrongly misled members of the ELCA to believe that the Lutheran Reformers really wanted an Episcopalian- or Anglican-style church.

So, although the Lutheran Confessions expressly mention the use of the "sword," the death penalty is rejected in the ELCA as "a killing lie." In sharp contrast, although the Lutheran Confessions do not imply, mention, or refer to "episcopal succession" in any form, the ELCA through CCM has embraced the myth of "episcopal succession," has bolstered this myth with historical fallacies, and then has demanded that the ELCA adhere to the Lutheran Confessions! The contradictions are rather amazing.

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Historic Episcopacy and Historic Hypocrisy

The matter, however, does not stop there. Anglicanism owes its existence to a certain form of episcopalian religious intolerance. In earlier times, this religious intolerance was enforced with much persecution, suffering, and death, including the death penalty. Therefore, the present polity of the Episcopal Church exists because the episcopalian Church of England employed "redemptive violence" in yesteryear to support the myth of "episcopal succession." Sadly, Anglicanism has never repudiated this religious intolerance.

CCM paragraph 16 reveals the true conditions for unity between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church. According to CCM paragraph 16, to achieve "full communion" with the Episcopal Church the ELCA must incorporate the principles of this episcopalian religious intolerance both into its constitution and into the structure and practice of its ordained ministry.

Observe, again, the contradictions. In 1991, when the ELCA adopted A Social Statement on the Death Penalty, it did so "because of this church's ministry with and to people affected by violent crime." Then, in 1999 when the ELCA adopted CCM, it embraced and placed at the heart "of this church's ministry" a myth which has been enforced through redemptive violence, including death. By adopting an "historic episcopacy" at Anglican behest, the ELCA has become an institution of historic hypocrisy.

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CCM - A Killing Lie

CCM is based on a myth and on a false faith which contradicts the lordship of Jesus Christ. CCM effectively says that Christ, his word, and his sacraments are not enough (non satis est) for unity between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church. Lutherans teach that false faith is sin.

To promulgate the myth of "historic episcopacy," CCM has been concocted with misleading information, invented history, and false claims. The problem with CCM is that after hearing the myths about the "historic episcopate" so often most members of the ELCA have become blind to their falsehood.

Called to Common Mission is a killing lie. If the historic hypocrisy in CCM does not kill the ELCA as an organization, then the historic hypocrisy in CCM will certainly kill the ELCA as a Lutheran church.


Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997).
Ernst Käsemann, "Verkirchlichte Freiheit," Der Ruf der Freiheit, 5th edition (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1972), p. 181-182.
David Miller, "A Killing Lie," The Lutheran, July 2001, p. 58.
John Miller, Popery and Politics in England 1660-1688 (Cambridge University Press, 1973).
David Ogg, England in the Reign of Charles II, 2nd edition, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956).
Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Gospel and the Catholic Church (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1936).
Stephen Sykes and John Booty, editors, The Study of Anglicanism (London: SPCK, 1988).
Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978).
John T. Wilkinson, 1662 - And After: Three Centuries of English Nonconformity (London: The Epworth Press, 1962).
A Social Statement on the Death Penalty, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, September 1991.

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