As the debate rambled on (and really, most of the speakers were just rambling through standard stump speeches, adding very little to the deliberation) yesterday at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Churchwide Assembly, there were two speakers who made a claim about the Reformation that were simply untrue. Unfortunately I didn't catch their names, but one was a professor of religion at some college or university, and the other was a bishop. But both of them stated similar things about the Reformation, that is was about doing something new. One referenced Luther's attack on sacerdotal celibacy. The other just claimed Luther was breaking new ground.
No matter where one stands on the issue of homosexuality or the sexuality statement, can we all agree that retelling history wrongly is ignorant at best, and deceptive at worst. The argument of the Reformation is precisely that the Catholic Church had brought in something new and *gasp* innovative, paticularly shown through the selling of indulgences, but found elsewhere. Luther's claim in that we are justified by grace through faith is actually a call to return to the older and authentic Christianity, articulated by Augustine over a millenia before him. The claim that the attack on sacerdotal celibacy is also not anything new. As pointed out to me by a colleague, Melanchthon argues from natural law that priestly celibacy imposed upon someone is in fact unnatural, and the call is thus to return to something older and more authentic.
Making claims such as these are wrong because they effect so many other issues, particularly our ecumenical relations, but many others as well. And it sets up whatever statements we make on a weak foundation. Supporters of both positions should want to agree on things such as these. If we are to move forward faithfully, the story we tell should be consistent. Newness and innovation are suspect. God's steadfast and unchanging love is to be trusted above all. How we tell stories about both are of utmost importance.