Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More "Table and Font"

Shrimp again.

The promised study materials for "Table and Font: Who Is Welcome?" appeared on www.elca.org/worship last Friday. The general announcement of that to the ELCA's rostered leaders seems a tad, uh, understated: an e-mail from "ELCA Presiding Bishop" with the subject "An invitation to study The Use of Means of Grace." Since that was adopted by the ELCA in 1997, one might initially imagine there could not possibly be anything of controversy here. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton begins:
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! I'm writing about an important conversation that I need you help to facilitate across our church. The question we have been invited to consider is: Who is welcome and invited to receive Holy Communion in ELCA congregations?

The recommended practice in our church is that people who are baptized are invited to receive Holy Communion. Though this is the practice set out in the ELCA's statement, "The Use of the Means of Grace", there is wide variety of practice in this church.

Now the ELCA Church Council is calling all ELCA members into a conversation about "The Use of the Means of Grace", particularly on this matter of invitation to Holy Communion.Your leadership in engaging your congregation, synod or faith community and colleagues in this conversation will be critical to our church as we seek to be faithful and grounded, yet hospitable and mission-minded in administering Holy Communion.
We note the bold print is Bishop Eaton's emphasis, not ours. We also observe that the ELCA's "recommended practice" since 1997 considerably broadened who was formally welcome to ELCA altar rails previously. Particularly, 1) UMG eliminated age requirements that, in the Western Church, pre-date the Reformation by several hundred years and 2) invited baptized persons who do not believe the Body and Blood of Christ are in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine.

Being a sea creature, Shrimp is so accustomed to the smell of fish that we rarely even notice it. Nevertheless, they still always smell fishy.

Shrimp out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Petition: Speaking the Truth about "Radical Hospitality"

Shrimp here. Yes, it has been a long time. Yet perhaps we can still make a difference.

The ELCA is embarking on another "conversation." The Summer 2014 issue of Seeds for the Parish (not yet on-line, but now appearing the snailboxes of congregations and their leaders) includes Table and font: Who is welcome? An invitation to join the conversation by Scott Weidler, "program director for Worship and Music, of the ELCA churchwide organization."

The innocuously phrased article opens, "For many centuries, Christians have considered Holy Baptism as the sacrament of initiation or entrance into the church, while Holy Communion is the sacrament that nourishes and sustains Christians week by week. This remains the recommended practice in the ELCA," followed by a quote from the The Use of the Means of Grace (this link is to a pdf file of UMG).
For many congregations of this church and among our ecumenical partners, the invitation to receive Holy Communion is for everyone, not just for those who have been baptized. For some, it is a simple matter of hospitality. If this is Christ's table, than all are welcome — period. For others, the initiatory nature of baptism into the body of Christ is critical. Becoming a baptized and communing Christian involves serious commitment and even risk. The invitation, therefore, must be gracious yet clear: Holy Communion is for the baptized; the call to Holy Baptism is for all. Still other find some middle ground in this important conversation.
The ELCA's conversation on this matter, formally introduced earlier in Table and font: Who is welcome? (another pdf which can be found within the "resources" section at www.elca.org/Worship) begins this fall, with resources to be available "by mid-August 2014."

Those resources have yet to appear as of our posting, but one response appeared a week ago at iPetitions, one to which ELCA members (clergy and lay) are encouraged add their names. We've been told the source is Prof. Paul Hinlicky and Pastor Sarah Wilson of Lutheran Forum, and you can find Dr. Hinlicky's initial defense of the petition on the Forum website.

Here's the petition:
Speaking the Truth about "Radical Hospitality"

To the Conference of Bishops of the ELCA: We bring before you our concerns regarding “radical hospitality,” which we understand to propose the invitation of the unbaptized to the Lord’s Supper as a matter of principle. We are informed that such “radical hospitality” is already practiced in some ELCA congregations and is being advocated in others by certain leaders and teachers.

1. “Radical hospitality” disregards in principle the stringent warning against unworthy reception in the Scripture, as in I Corinthians 11:27–28.

2. It further disregards in principle the repeated emphasis of the Lutheran Confessions that the sacrament of the altar is for those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and public profession—a faith and confession whose first act is holy Baptism into the Lord’s death and resurrection. See especially The Large Catechism on “The Sacrament of the Altar” and The Formula of Concord 7, “Concerning the Holy Supper.”

3. It discards the age-old rule of faith by which the church has always understood Baptism as the entry into the cross-carrying Christian life, for which holy Communion is the nourishment.

4. As such, it also discards the ELCA’s own teaching in “The Use of the Means of Grace” (1997) as expressed in Principle 37 and Applications 37E and 37G.

5. The proposal of “radical hospitality” misleads by falsely suggesting that identifying the addressee of the promise of holy Communion as the baptized is an act of anti-gospel exclusion.

6. “Radical hospitality” fails to recognize Baptism itself as the truly radical act of inclusion. All people in every nation are called by the gospel to join themselves to Christ, who “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14), by baptism into a community in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female” (Galatians 3:28).

7. Under the cover of inclusivity, “radical hospitality” in fact deceives the unbaptized, encouraging them to participate in the sacrament without recognizing the entailed commitment to the cross of Jesus Christ and without discerning His body, both in the blessed bread and wine and in the holy community of those who take and eat it.

8. Baptism, repentance, and faith are not legalistic preconditions for grace, but the form grace takes as the Holy Spirit draws persons into a lifegiving new relationship with God.

9. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we call upon the ELCA to remember in principle and in power the opening words of the Ninety-Five Theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he meant for the entire life of the Christian to be one of repentance.”

10. We exhort pastors and laity of the ELCA to self-examination as to whether our own lives reflect the way of the cross, the life of repentance, and the joy of faith, which are our proper witnesses to the unbaptized and in themselves an invitation to Baptism.

11. And we ask the Conference of Bishops to reiterate clearly the teaching of the whole church, the Lutheran Confessions, and the ELCA: holy communion is intended for the baptized, just as baptism is intended for the world.
You may sign it here.

Shrimp out.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Augsburg Fortress Pension Suit Settled

Shrimp here. Yes, really! We're following up on a post from January 2010, which we called "The ELCA's Economic Justice." There we posted a report of the failure of the pension plan for employees of Augsburg Fortress, the ELCA's publisher.

The Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal reported on Wednesday,

Augsburg Fortress Publishers will pay $4.5 million under a pending settlement to end a lawsuit over its failed pension plan.

The settlement would pay about a quarter of the pension plan's benefits for almost 500 employees and retirees of the Minneapolis-based publishing arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), federal court documents show. More than 20 percent of the settlement would go to lawyers representing the plan members.

The nearly 500 Augsburg Fortress employees and retirees will be receiving just over a quarter of the benefits they were entitled to, reports the Business Journal's Jim Hammerand in a follow-up article from earlier today (Friday) after the Chief U.S. District Judge approved the settlement.

From Wednesday's article,

Augsburg Fortress considers the settlement to be "fair and reasonable," said Faegre Baker Daniels lawyer Chuck Knapp, who represents the publisher. Settling made economic sense, he said, but he declined to say whether insurance would cover the cost.
One can read the entire article here.

Shrimp out.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Bishop Boerger Testifies for "Marriage Equality"

Shirimp here. The headline offers you news, and we'll get to it. But first, we want to offer you some background.

From the ELCA's social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, Section IV. Sexuality and social structures that enhance social trust:
The church's historical experience supports its confidence that solemn promises, made before a company of witnesses who ask for God's blessing on a man and a woman, have the power to create a unique framework within which two people, a new family, and the community may thrive. Consistent with that experience, this church has confidence that such promises, supported by the contractual framework of civil law, can create a lifetime relationship of commitment and cooperation.

Recognizing that this conclusion differs from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, some people, though not all, in this church and within the larger Christian community, conclude that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships. They believe that such accountable relationships also provide the necessary foundation that supports trust and familial and community thriving. Other contractual agreements, such as civil unions, also seek to provide some of these protections and to hold those involved in such relationships accountable to one another and to society.
These are the final two paragraphs in the sub-section entitled, "Marriage: shelter and context for trust."

It is the next sub-section that is headed "Lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships." You know that section, where "This church recognizes that, with conviction and integrity: On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that" four contradictory views of same-gender relationships are held, concluding:
Although at this time this church lacks consensus on this matter, it encourages all people to live out their faith in the local and global community of the baptized with profound respect for the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor. This church calls for mutual respect in relationships and for guidance that seeks the good of each individual and of the community. Regarding our life together as we live with disagreement, the people in this church will continue to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, pastoral care, and mutual respect.
Trust us, we were emphatically told in 2009, the ELCA is not endorsing same-sex marriages.


In the vein of continuing to accompany one another, Lutherans Concerned/North America reported last week that ELCA Northwest Washington Synod Bishop Wm. Chris Boerger [for those of you reading out loud, that's pronounced "burger"], "testified at a public hearing of the Washington State Senate Committee on Government Operations and Tribal Relations & Elections, saying that he was in favor of LGBT couples being able to have legally-recognized marriages that are equal in the state." LC/NA quotes his testimony:
Mr. Chairman, I am Chris Boerger, the bishop of the Northwest Washington Synod of the Evangelical Church in America. In 2009 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to commit itself to find ways to allow congregations who choose to do so to support and hold publicly accountable lifelong monogamous same gender relationships. That's quite a mouthful: publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships. One of the people who had questions about our doing this said, "Bishop, isn't that marriage?" And my response is, "Well, in everything but name." The reality is, the Lutheran church has always held that it is the state that defines what marriage is; it's the church that then blesses people who enter into that relationship. We have now stated our desire to bless those who are publicly accountable in lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships. We can't call it marriage--you can. That's why I am here today to say there will be those in my church who will not participate; we understand that freedom. There are those who want to, and we ask for that freedom.
You can watch him here, beginning at about the 1:12:20 point.

"We can't call it marriage--you can."

That brings to our mind Pastor Zip's meditation, ...Gift and Trust, upon reading the social statement the first time back in the spring of 2009, where he focussed on footnote 2 of the (then) proposed statement, which includes:
...Broken promises and betrayed trust through lies, exploitation, and manipulative behavior are exposed, not just as an individual failing, but as an attack on the foundations of our lives as social beings.
and concludes...
Some social scientists have begun to identify social trust as an indispensable feature of healthy organizations, institutions, and whole societies, and social distrust as one of the destructive forces at work in the breakdown and dissolution of organized social arrangements. Such reflections operate in the background of this statement.
And not-so-much in the background of day-to-day life in the ELCA.

Shrimp out.

Friday, January 20, 2012

ELCA Presiding Bishop to Keynote LC/NA Assembly

Shrimp here.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson will deliver the Keynote Address at "Reconciling Works 2012," the biennial assembly of Lutherans Concerned / North America and Reconciling in Christ conference in Washington, DC, July 6-10, 2012. According to the web page for the assembly/conference,
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mark S. Hanson will deliver the keynote address to the assembly, following the opening worship on Saturday, July 7, 2012. This is the first time a presiding bishop of any denomination has delivered the keynote address at our assembly.

Mark S. Hanson has served as presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 2001. He was elected to a second six-year term in 2007. From 2003 until 2010, he was president of The Lutheran World Federation. He has traveled widely throughout the world, sharing a confident hope in God's promises and a vision of the joyful freedom in Christian community and mission.
Here's more LC/NA promotion of the event:
Reconciling Works 2012 is more than a conference. It is an opportunity to explore and live out the work of reconciliation that we are called to do. Justice requires reconciliation, and reconciliation takes effort. Throughout our time together, we will work on justice issues from the intersection of oppressions (racism, sexism, ablism, etc.) and through the lens of full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the Lutheran Church.

We’ll worship together, using a rich variety of traditions of the worshipping community. We’ll provide a blend of the familiar and the unique drawing on our Lutheran heritage and the wealth of liturgical practice in the area. We’ll network with one another, hear stories of joy and frustration, and make decisions together about the future direction of Lutherans Concerned / North America and our Reconciling in Christ communities.
We're left to wonder which intersection of oppressions Presiding Bishop Hanson will address.

Shrimp out.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

PB Hanson: Building Trust Key Work of ELCA

Shrimp here (believe it or not) inviting you to peruse the latest ELCA News release.
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
October 6, 2011

ELCA presiding bishop says building trust is key work of this church

11-127-MRC


CHICAGO (ELCA) - The task before leaders of this church is to build communities of trust among people of faith, said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He said ELCA members and leaders have a unique opportunity to make this their evangelical witness in a world that continues to be "a breeding ground" for suspicion and distrust.

In his Oct. 1 report to the ELCA Conference of Bishops, Hanson said that for the past two years his leadership and that of the 65 synod bishops has been about building communities of trust. "It's the work and the witness of this church at this time," he said.

The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church that includes the ELCA's synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary. It met here Sept. 29-Oct. 4.

While working to build confidence in all relationships of this church, "we are also making witness to cultures of mistrust that are all around us," Hanson said. The danger there, however, is that such "analysis can end up being just one more example of finger pointing, blaming and shaming that end up contributing to [that] culture. ...."

Hanson offered four dimensions necessary for trust to occur: conceptual congruence, personal integrity, emotional resonance and life-relatedness.

When all four dimensions work together and there's coherence, Hanson said the whole is greater than the sum of any of its parts.

"The distinctive evangelical Lutheran witness is to declare what God is doing for Jesus' sake to make all things right, making us a new creation (and) not holding our sins against us," he said, "reconciling us to God and to one another, and entrusting us to the message and ministry of reconciliation."

As an example of this evangelical witness, Hanson highlighted the vital work of the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly this past summer.

"Over and over we said we are a people 'freed in Christ to serve.' We belong to Christ, and we believe God calls us by name. There is a place for you in this church," Hanson said.

"Over and over we experienced our unity in Christ, and that unity comes through word and water, bread and wine. Over and over we said we're called to discern what the death and resurrection of Christ means for us, our witness and our common life in the world. We continually heard people say, we share a living, daring confidence in God's grace. We're called to do God's work, restoring and reconciling communities, so we roll up our sleeves and get to work on solving problems," he said.

The official launch of the ELCA Malaria Campaign illustrates how ELCA members plan to live out its vocation in mission, he said. Together with companion churches in Africa, the ELCA will work to decrease the number of deaths related to malaria by 2015.

This church's relationships with global companions, ecumenical and full communion partners, dialogue partners, councils of churches and The Lutheran World Federation -- all of whom greeted the assembly and were warmly received -- is an example of the "deep bonds of trust" that have formed, despite some disagreement with the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

For the ELCA, inviting Sayyid Syeed from the Islamic Society of North America served as a "powerful witness in a culture and world where religious differences so often breed cultures of distrust," Hanson said.

The presiding bishop also highlighted the strengthening of relationship between the ELCA and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which has its roots in conversations among leaders of both churches for the past five years. This dialogue culminated in a festive, meaningful joint worship service and summit with members of both churches "proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, living, reconciling and setting us free," said Hanson.

"We have a marvelous moment to continue to make this our evangelical witness in (the) world," Hanson said as he concluded his report.

- - -

About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@elca.org
http://www.elca.org/news
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Lutherans
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com

Shrimp again.

No comment.

At least for the moment.

Shrimp out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Michigan ELCA Bishop Speaks Out

Shrimp here. Apparently ELCA North/West Michigan Synod Bishop John Schleicher has been busy writing Letters to the Editor, for he shows up in two different newspapers on two vital topics. The following was published in the Holland Sentinel last Friday, the festival of the Annunciation of Our Lord:

Saving the Earned Income Tax Credit is a moral imperative.

By John David Schleicher
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America


Lansing, MI — As a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), I am called to provide leadership in seeking economic justice in the communities where our congregations serve.  For me that means 125 communities in the Lower Peninsula. I am writing specifically with regard to Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), urging Gov. Snyder and our legislature to find a way to preserve EITC in some form as they engage the tough work leading toward adoption of a constitutionally mandated balanced budget.

A social statement of our church on economic life calls for “tax credits and other means of supplementing the insufficient income of low-paid workers in order to move them out of poverty.  ‘Sufficiency’ means adequate access to income and other resources that enable people to meet their basic needs, including nutrition, clothing, housing, health care, personal development and participation in community with dignity. God has created a world of sufficiency for all, providing us daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life …. Justice seeks fairness in how goods, services, income, and wealth are allocated among people so that they can acquire what they need to live.”

EITC is at risk right now.  In Gov. Snyder’s 2011 Citizen’s Guide to Michigan’s Financial Health, he writes that “Michigan’s families are among the poorest in the nation,” ranking 37th in per capita income among all 50 states.  The EITC, a refundable tax credit for low-income working families, does seem like a just step toward alleviating poverty, perhaps especially for young families with children.  Maybe more important than the economic lift this tax credit gives to our communities, it offers some hope to low-paid workers and their families that their prayers for “daily bread” are being answered even in the toughest of circumstances.

John David Schleicher
Bishop
North/West Lower Michigan Synod
Evangelic Lutheran Church of America
Lansing
Meanwhile, today in the Saginaw News,

New Clean Air Act rules don't go far enough

Voice: Bishop John D. Schleicher, North/West Lower Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lansing

Legislation to ban the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act was introduced recently in the U.S. Congress. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Congressman Fred Upton, has been front and center in this issue.

As a bishop of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I want to express my concern about the damaging effects of such possible deregulation.

The ELCA has long lifted up the care of God’s creation as an important component of our reverence and gratitude toward God, and our love and service to those in need. We see this as a moral and justice-laden responsibility, undertaken with humility and hope.

At our annual assembly last year, members of our synod supported a resolution calling for energy stewardship. Similar actions have taken place in other synods of the ELCA as well.

We recognize the threat of global climate change, which is heightened by increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. It is incumbent on us to take steps to decrease our use of such polluting fuels.

For four decades, the EPA and the Clean Air Act have protected Americans from dangerous pollutants and led to significant public health and environmental benefits for Michigan and the Great Lakes. 

The new Clean Air Act rules have been designed to cover only the largest sources of greenhouse gases.

We are at an important crossroad. This is about the health of our communities, of our Great Lakes and about faithful stewardship of God’s creation. I urge our elected officials to bear these things in mind.
A blessed and holy Lent to you from the ELCA North/West Michigan Synod.

Shrimp out...

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...