The “church” as we know it, at least in the language of my Lutheran tribe- with constitutions, annual meetings, synod assemblies, national assemblies, and such, is a human institution. I don’t, for one minute, automatically assume it is the Holy Spirit at work making His decisions through our legislative bodies.
The Bible (1 John 4:1) says, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”
I was reminded of this recently when the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA elected a new bishop. On the ELCA clergy Facebook page there were many people who were so excited about the new bishop and how “the Holy Spirit has spoken!” Yet, some of these same people are not so excited and are not citing the Holy Spirit when synod assemblies vote in a way with which they don’t agree.
You see, I don’t know if the Holy Spirit spoke or not with the election of the new bishop, and no one will know whether the new bishop is the “right” person for the job or not. Not for a long time.
What I do know is this instant, “It was the Holy Spirit” spirit, does show a misunderstanding of the biblical teachings on the Holy Spirit. This is why when I speak a word of God I am hearing for someone else I always qualify what I am saying. I use phrases like:
“I think God might be saying this to you, or it may just be my own thinking but insert the word.”
“I sense that God is saying this, or maybe not, but I hear insert the word.”
This is how I teach others when they are giving prophetic words, as well.
I just find it fascinating that brothers and sisters from my own Lutheran tribe, which has such little emphasis on the Holy Spirit in general (disclaimer: I am a bit of a “pentecostal” who ended up in the Lutheran camp), get all “Holy Spirity” when human church legislative assemblies vote on something the way they want.
Actually, church assemblies of various denominations vote for all kinds of things that clearly are not the work of the Holy Spirit, in retrospect. Like denominations supporting slavery in synod votes in the 1800’s or forbidding Blacks from becoming members in the 1900‘s, and such. Some day, you may know if the Holy Spirit was at work on any particular decision made by a church assembly, but that always takes a lot of testing.