Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Viva la revolución! (Not!)

An Anglo-Catholic turning Roman Catholic, the Pontificator, wrote a "must read" piece. It is "must read" for ELCA-ers because the lunacy he is fleeing is the same one that has cpatured us:

Well over a year ago, Ephraim Radner declared, “I am myself convinced that we are not really dealing simply with ‘error’ and ‘false teaching’ within ECUSA. Rather, we are dealing with something akin to madness.”
I can think of no better diagnosis of the present Episcopal Church than that offered by Dr. Radner—madness! What else can explain a church that abandons its foundational theological principles and giddily jumps off the ecclesiastical cliff in an act of spiritual and institutional suicide. Like the early Bolsheviks, our Episcopal revisionists really do believe in their revolution. Damn the torpedoes! Full-speed ahead! Viva la revolución! Whatever the cost, no matter how many members are driven away, no matter how many congregations may be forced to close, no matter how many faithful priests are compelled by conscience to renounce their orders, no matter how many canon laws must be twisted and abused to rid the church of clerical dissenters, the revolution must succeed. These guys sincerely believe they are are doing the work of the Holy Spirit. They are true believers. To quote the Blues Brothers, “We’re on a mission from God!” All attempts, therefore, to effect a negotiated reconciliation within the Episcopal Church will and must fail. Two very different religions—at least two!—now inhabit one institutional body."

Read it(and the comments-especially our praying friend Karen B.'s. She and I have a meeting of the minds).

Is the ELCA Lutheran? by Christine Larsen Goble

Is the ELCA Lutheran? by Christine Larsen Goble is available from Amazon

"A must read for ELCA members, both clergy and lay, Christine Goble has written a down-to-earth assessment of the problems within this denomination. She combines concise, disturbing, indisputable facts with clarity and a sense of humor. Written for the Lutheran in the pew, it spells out clearly how the ELCA is surrendering its heritage for the sake of ecumenical unity in the church. Not only has the ELCA tossed aside the Lutheran confessions, but now they are declaring that Scripture does not speak clearly on matters of sexuality. This book is a must read for Lutherans and Christians who want to understand what is going on in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America."

One of my Church Council members brought the book to our last meeting. It's a good read.

BTW, get use to the general disparagement and ridicule at remaining in the church. We will be all over the media outlets in August, but we're getting reamed even at Amazon (who knew what a blessing for mission that reaching out to gays was going to be, a real pluriform of blessings).

You'll find these other reviews at Amazon:

"It appears to me that the ELCA is quietly accomplishing a mini-revolution in Lutheran practice. They are counting on the general reluctance of the clergy to address any potentially divisive issue with their members, and the sleepy confidence of members that everything is going to be all right in the end. One day we'll wake up and it will be a done deal. Yet there is enough coverage of the issues in The Lutheran magazine and other media that the ELCA cannot be accused of maintaining a blackout. Our congregation has not subscribed to The Lutheran for a long time. It caused too many telephone calls to the church office every time an issue hit the mailboxes, which tells you something."


"I would say, "NO!", May 13, 2005 "The ELCA is definately not Lutheran, and some including I would go out on a limb and say they are not even Christian. Not to say if you go to an ELCA church you aren't Christian, but much of the rejection of scripture, and man made doctrines is what makes it a Non-Christian church."


"The ELCA no longer accepts the inerrrancy of the bible; no longer considers the Lutheran confessions to be authoritative interpretations of scripture; no longer believes, teaches, or confesses that sex is intended by God to be limited to married men and women. By every definition of lutheranism, it is no longer Lutheran. Like the Episcopal Church USA, they have decided to perform actions that have made them into a schismatic group. The sleepy laity has little idea what is going on while the gay lobby does everything in its power to junk reformation theology in order to excuse their lifestyles. Wise lay people will leave the ELCA for a confessional Lutheran church - or else watch the ELCA become fully schismatic, then a scandal, and finally, a pagan religious group with christian cultural overtones and symbolism."


" For the many Lutherans who are less than enthusiastic about their church's rush to embrace homosexuality, this book may well prove to be a magnifying glass for the summer sun of their concerns. Well conceived and well written, it's enjoyable, thought provoking reading. Goble dares to do what few do in the face of a rabid gay lobby---to take a long, clear, honest look at data on the effects of homosexuality. Bravo."

the identification of idolatrous notions--the list is growing

That we in the ELCA must find and concentrate on ways of living together faithfully has generated quite a bit of response around the denomination (see one congregations response here)

It's such an obvious ploy. Sort of like the unfaithful spouse wo starts speaking of the sanctity of marriage when caught in adultery. Now this spouse is not going to stop their adultery, but somehow expects that the new way of being married has to be expected by their spouse because unity is so important.

The Revisionists do not stop at revising theology, revise the meaning of words, revise ecclesiology, they will also (necessarily?)revise history.

Here is Pastor Tony Stoutenburg's response to the that question:

"The issue of self definition is the problem. How do we define ourselves?

Are we a liturgical church? That is what the ECUSA is. The PB will talk
about being bound together by their liturgy. There are certainly people
who think Lutherans are this sort of church; those people were behind
"Use of the Means of Grace" that subtlety seeks to impose worship
uniformity, and they have gravitated to the work on the new hymnal. They
are centralists in their understanding of power, which is why they seek
to use centralized power (Churchwide commissions, etc) to impose an
agenda. But as Conrad Bergandoff, late patriarch of the one true
church, the Augustana Synod ;-) , used to say, we are not a liturgical church, we just happen to have a liturgy.

Are we an episcopal church? Again, there are those who are trying to make us one. The ECUSA is kind of one, but the reality is that Rome is the only church truly ruled by a full-blown hierarchy of bishops. And the Crypto-Romans in the ELCA are guiding us on such a trajectory, but the liberals who have bought into their agenda will never be co opted into a full blown magesterium. I think that this has been a long process that has been carefully managed by some on the crypto-Roman right. The problem is that they did not foresee the normalization of homosexuality in society. Therefore, by abandoning scripture/confessions as the norm, they placed the norming power in the bishops. (Notice how the church council proposal which the CWA will vote on places even more power in the conference of bishops? Coincidence? I think not!)

Are we a constitutional church? That is Lowell Almen's claim, and HGA followed right along with him. Mark Hanson sees the limitations in that and does not use the term (that I have heard) anymore. As pointed out by Robin Lake, the constitution does not allow dual rostering of congregations, /but it does not prohibit it either/. And there is precedent!
More importantly this is what HGA had to say on the matter: "ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson told the LCMS news organ /Reporter /that dual congregations don't pose a problem for the ELCA, though official documents don't provide for them. 'Concern for the spiritual
needs of congregations sometimes requires unusual solutions,' he said." Just let them take you to court over joining LCMC, and then subpoena HGA!

But we are not a constitutional church, because the constitution is not constitutive of who we are. Neither is the episcopate nor the liturgy. We are a Confessional church. Bergandoff's full quote was, "We are a confessional church that happens to have a liturgy." In the ELCA, we also happen to have a constitution, bishops, hangnails, etc.

Now in spite of the best efforts of the confessors in 1577, they did not settle every question. Some things are still open to interpretation. For instance, I read CA 7 as prescriptive and Apology XXIV descriptively. I have publicly acknowledged this disparity. Generally, people who favor the historic episcopate read CA7 as descriptive and Apology XXIV as prescriptive, and I have never gotten one of them to admit a disparity. Hence, I see Word and Sacrament alone as constitutive of the church, and weekly communion optional; they see polity as optional, and weekly
communion as mandatory.

(As an aside, at the SW Washington synod assembly - possibly my last ever ELCA synod assembly - the first resolution we passed was one to work and pray for the elimination of poverty. No teeth, just a nice sentiment and an encouragement to do something Jesus calls impossible. This is what I call a "Yea God, Boo Devil" resolution. Church assemblies pass a lot of those. At any rate, as we debated, and defeated, a resolution calling for the upholding of traditional moral standards in
marriage and ministry within the ELCA, it occurred to me that if we applied the same way of reading and applying Scripture to the poverty issues that some are applying to the sexuality issues, we could easily adopt an Ivan Boesky

To settle disputes between various interpretations of the Confessions, European princes relied on their favorite theologians. Under the Erastian system, this worked just fine.

In the United States, this did not work so well. The U S Constitution means that there is no governing authority, so Christians instead form voluntary associations based on shared religious understandings.

If these understandings are based around a shared polity or a shared liturgy or a shared view of the office of the ministry, then the association is relatively peaceful and stable. But if it is based around shared understanding of the Bible or of something like the Confessions, then watch the family fights break out. And since no family fights like religious families, there have tended in the confessional churches to be some real vitriolic fights. Actually, the most prolific at such fights have tended to be Baptists. But Lutherans have, over time, been among
the runners up. As a result, Lutherans tended to split over what may seem to be relatively minor doctrinal differences. They have also tended to split over other issues and found doctrinal differences to serve as good excuses. (Ok, that is a rather snotty and not quite fair take on the metamorphosis of the Friends of Augsburg College into the LFC.)

At any rate, and I may have the number wrong, because I am packing up all my reference books, but it seems to me that in the year 1900 there were seventeen separate Norwegian speaking Lutheran denominations in this country, and most of them thought most of the rest heretical.

Now as silly as it sounds, I do not think that is a bad thing. What people want, I think, in this era, is clarity as a means to certainty. When we stand in the pulpit and say, "well, it is really all the same" that is about as certain as a cheap plastic Ever-ready flashlight on a dark night. What people want instead is a laser-beam to cut the darkness with clarity. Confessional positions staked out, even to the point of excluding other points of view, at least gives clarity.

Since WW1, there was an inclination to be a more "American church" dropping European language worship, etc. Since 1945, the great project of American Lutheranism has been unity. Todd Nichol once pointed out that the textbook Lutherans in North America was written from a particular bias. The point of the book was to show the trajectory toward unity of all Lutherans in this country. So what started with the unification of the United Norwegian Synod in the twenties became the ALC in '60 and the LCA in '62 and eventually morphed into the ELCA in 1988. Of course, the Concordia Seminary/Seminex crisis put a monkey wrench in these grand unity plans, but onward and upward nonetheless.

The problem is that the unity is forced and therefore false. While most of us have grown up with this notion, it is really only a blip in the longer history of American Lutheranism. We have suffered this "unity" for only 17% of all the years that there have been American Lutherans. That percentage is based on the establishment of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and the establishment of the ALC. If we go with the beginning of the Soviet-style hegemony of the ELCA, the number is only 6.4%!

Since the unity is forced, the fault lines in the ELCA are showing. Some of them are splitting the denomination apart. So whenever someone looks at a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity or Goodsoil or LCMC or WordAlone or insert-your-favorite-alternative-here and says, "Well, you aren't being very faithful if you split the church" or "It isn't very Christian to split the church" I have three answers:

1. "Denomination" is not the same thing as "Church". If you really think
humans can split the church you have a smaller God than I do.

2. If you read the history of Lutheranism in America, especially Norwegian Lutheranism, there is nothing more true to the Lutheran tradition in the US than to split the denomination over doctrinal differences. The natural state of American Lutheranism is sectarian, not unified. We have forced it into a unified state over the last 45 years, as opposed to its natural state, so it has begun to die!

3. More importantly, unity as expected by the ELCA's sexuality task force recommendation 1
is nothing short of idolatry. Unity as understood there trumps truth, trumps scripture, trumps conscience. Luther may as well have said, "Duh .... Here I squat. What do you want me to do next?"

Enough for now. Peace

Tony Stoutenburg
Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chinook, Chinook, WA until 30
June 2005/Pastor, Naselle Evangelical Lutheran Church, Naselle, WA until 30 June
2005/Chaplain, Naselle Youth Camp until 4 June 2005
Pastor Elect, Grace Lutheran Church,
Hayward, WI, beginning service 1 July 2005

Monday, May 30, 2005

This Ship's Faulty Design

The Good Ship ELCA had problems before it ever left port. It was designed without accountability, without checks and balances. It was designed to be politically correct, it's underlying theology would not be recognized by Luther, et cetera, et cetera. A few bailed right before it left port, many others have bailed since.

Paul Anderson of Lutheran Renewal wrote the following four and a half years ago:

"If the Ship is Sinking...

By Paul Anderson

My dad was a pastor in the Lutheran Church for forty-eight years. I'm going on thirty years as a pastor. My roots go deep and far back. I have observed with much grief some distressing signals that make me wonder if the Lutheran ship (ELCA) may be sinking. What are some of the signs?

It has lost its direction. Without the compass of the Scriptures, the ship is sailing into strange waters, like universalism, for instance (the teaching that all will be saved). "Inclusive" is the opposite of "exclusive," and saying that Jesus is the only way sounds too exclusive to some. The Gospel is the message of salvation through Jesus Christ by His death on the cross, but that word has been blurred. "Grace" has come to mean doing as you please because God is loving and forgiving and certainly wouldn't judge anyone. "Theological diversity" means that anything goes-and it is going fast. The theology of the cross strangely does not focus, as it did for Luther, on the shedding of Christ's blood. It rather sentimentalizes sorrow and makes pain an end in itself. "Spirituality" is whatever turns you on in this "religious community," which isn't a community at all because there's little that people have in common. "The Gospel" is any good news that blows our way. This ship is adrift, tossed by contrary theological waves, and it has no anchor.

When the message becomes relative, methods tend to become absolute, like liturgical accuracy, for example. Technique replaces passion, which is held suspect. It is easier to talk about Romans 7 than Romans 8 on board this boat (the inner conflict rather than conquest through the Spirit), because one needs to avoid any hints at a theology of glory. One of the mandates on the ship is "Thou shalt not commit obedience" (for fear of works righteousness). Justice and peace are in; anything close to glory is out. "Liberating the oppressed" is the new gospel for some crew members. The message has moved from a Christ-centered message to a Creator-centered (not Father) and Spirit-centered message, not in the New Testament sense of Spirit but in the sense of the Great Spirit, undefined and unoffensive. Fearing the subject of sanctification, passengers are limited to a meager diet of baby food.

While the ship is going down, the captain is reminding people to "walk wet" (i.e., remember their baptism), which isn't hard on a sinking ship. The new hymn is "My hope is built on nothing less than baptism." It is our eternal security, which keeps many passengers on board from thinking that the ship is going down. Baptism is separated from a life of faith because of the fear of human response, thereby reducing faith to fatalism and baptism to a mystery rite. When out of proportion, baptism, a vital New Testament doctrine, becomes as grotesque as a circus mirror.

It has sprung a leak. One can without embarrassment speak about saving the whales but not about saving the lost. The lost aren't lost, so don't try to save them (which may be the reason that more missionaries are coming home than are being sent out). Other cultures are said to have as much going for them as the Christian culture. Imperialism has no place on this ship. What are we-pirates?

This theological tolerance is matched by moral permissiveness. We have redefined homosexuality and waffled in regard to protecting the unborn.

Though the ship seems to be in serious trouble, the captain and deck hands don't appear alarmed. At least, they are not doing anything to keep the ship from sinking. If anything, they are accelerating it. This is nothing new; the ship has been leaking for forty years, impacting all on board, especially Lutheran colleges and seminaries, most of which have also lost their direction. If the ship were a business, it would have filed Chapter Eleven long ago, but it is a non-profit organization, which defines its existence more all the time.

So what will happen in the future? Loyalty to the captain and his officers (those in leadership who serve the same agenda) will continue to diminish. The gap between them and many on board will widen. Vital movements on the ship, those reflecting the fresh breeze of the Spirit, will consider the captain's activity increasingly irrelevant. This feeling will alienate the staff toward those who are suspected of disloyalty, and they will be further marginalized, including some evangelicals and charismatics, who use ten-letter words like experience and commitment and whose values are different from many crew members. As things get worse, some officers see danger ahead and become even more controlling, more nervous. Meanwhile, others think the ship is incapable of going under.

If you think that the ship isn't sinking-pray for those at the helm to change and do what you can to keep the ship afloat. If you fear that the ship is sinking---don't pray for it not to sink; it is probably too late. Pray for a good lifeboat. And see that everyone dear to you is wearing a life-jacket. Don't get swallowed up by a religious system with a political agenda rather than a salvation message. And don't vote to be aligned with another sinking ship.
(The S.S. Missouri has also sprung a serious leak, but for the opposite reason. Many of its passengers are in theological straightjackets.)

What should you do to maintain your sanity in the face of potential disaster?

Mind your own business. Don't tangle with the officers; mutiny is a poor solution. Don't write resolutions on how to keep the ship afloat; it's too late for that. Be like Noah who just did what he was told as an option to getting wet. Build something strong enough to handle the biggest storm. Focus on your primary mission. Care for the people who are under your charge instead of trying to change those who aren't.

Fight if you must, but only if God tells you to. Crusades and causes are not equal with the kingdom, so don't major in fighting, especially if you're the pastor, unless you have plenty of grace to do it. Otherwise, you will turn your whole congregation into fighters. Many of the prophets were fighters, and they needed mega-grace for their difficult task. Draw on the same grace and continually ask, "Is my cause Christ's cause?" And for God's sake, don't be distracted from your primary task, which is usually positive, not negative in nature.

Let go of your expectation to change the system. It only makes your heart sick, like a deferred hope. People in a bad marriage may hope for years that things will change. Maybe they won't. One option: lower your expectations and be the best mate you can. Changing yourself may be more important than changing your partner. God can always do new things in you. Redirecting your expectations may convert you from a whiner to a winner. And God doesn't waste anything. He uses everything for His own purpose, even struggles in a religious system.

Pray like you are part of the problem. Otherwise, you have no solution. Daniel identified with the problem, and God used him as a voice. Avoid the self-righteousness of Elijah, who wrongfully assumed, "It's just you and me, God." Prayer is for people who are grievously sad about the ship's condition-but not bitter. Bitter people don't pray; they just complain, and all that does is demoralize those who are going down. If your "thing" is to complain about the ELCA, I have one bit of advice for you-change your outlook. The strongest action people can take toward those who have disenfranchised them is to bless them. And the clearest action moving into an unknown future as we wait for the vision to unfold is to pray. Desperation, as one pastor says, is God's hammer. Divine opportunity stands behind human impossibility.

Be bold, not passive. Review your own values. Know where you stand and why, so you don't feel condemned when you go against the prevailing current. Hold up the standard of truth, the unfailing Word of God. Building the ark was a difficult task, one misunderstood by all who watched it happen. Expect criticism, but don't let it diminish your confidence. Pay the price to do whatever God tells you to do. Realize that your very presence is a judgment on those who disagree, as it was with Noah.

Stay positive. Live in hope; there is plenty to be positive about. Chicago does not equal Church. Christ is building His Church, against which the gates of hell will not prevail. You can have significance. As has been said before, the ark was built by amateurs-the Titanic by professionals. It is easy to get side-tracked and to neglect your vision. The ship was sinking when Jesus came on the scene. He addressed a sick religious system, but only incidentally to His primary vision. He came to die, not to bash the Pharisees. They were terminally ill and would soon leave the picture completely. Jesus didn't back down in confrontation, but neither did He waste His time with them. He didn't even appear to them after He rose in order to prove His point. When His plans intersected their program, Jesus spoke the truth into their lies. But they weren't on center-stage-He was. He knew what He was called to do, and He accomplished it. May we do the same-in the spirit of Christ! It is a great day to be alive. Carry on, Mates!"

Do you know that sinking feeling? Posted by Hello

Dream of mutiny on the high seas? Posted by Hello

Mutiny? What mutiny? Did you say mutiny? I certainly didn't say "mutiny." I said mutuality. Yes, that's it. We need to have a mutuality!

probably what our mutiny will look like .... Posted by Hello

Why "this" Matters

I have about six readers total so when one of them says "This doesn't matter ..." I have to come right back and say:

Shrimp here:

Dear human people, What do you think this is? Bad art? Politics? Insurrection?

Getting warmer. This is mutiny, bucko's, high mutiny on the high seas. The captain of the ship is mad, mad, mad I tell you. The LORD wants the gospel preached to every family of every tribe of every nation before His Son comes for His Bride, and our Presbah wants the church should be bold to preach recycling and better mental hygiene.

We need to take command of the ship. How are we going to do that?

Well, first of all we don't even know who we are!

Pastors have been acting as gatekeepers, many actually are acting cowardly (I know I did), while others actually are dupes of the dark angels.

On top of that, no one but the people with the secret handshake have a clue how this unaccountable juggernaut works...

and yet we get a chance to elect a new presbah in 2007! Will we?

I said this blog goes out of existence in 2007. I didn't say the "Dump Hanson" blog will.

In the meantime, for Pete's sake, go through the archives, cut and paste stuff and creat your own materials. We have millions of sheep who are just going to get slaughtered to feed the Borg. Get with it.

If you thought this was a rant blog, or entertainment for the jaded-cynics, you need to back away from your keyboard slowly and go to your tower and have a spiritual experience. This mutiny is right on schedule.

American hypocrisy in light of the Bokuba Statement

Of late we have seen a sharpening in the difference between the meaning of the words "Church" and "denomination". The Church is only properly understood as that which belongs to Christ. Christ calls, gathers and enlightens His Church through His Word and His Holy Spirit. Denominations are form which God uses for His blessing and judgment. It is getting to the point that clergy and members of the ELCA will need to gain some spiritual covering by joining an association of confessing congregations in order to put some distance between themselves and the rebellion against God, Scripture and the Confessions which is underway in the ELCA and being supported by every office of official leadership.

The ELCA is a denomination. We have heard appeals for unity as though unity has some sort of of moral or religious value. At the same time we have seen actions from the very same people which they have to have known would tear the denomination apart.

For example, every ELCA bishop has read the Bokuba Statement written by the bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Yet, they knowingly went another direction. The ELCA bishops are currently going before their people trying to spin this, but it won't work: the situation on the ground is completely transparent. The Bokuba Statement calls homosexual behavior a sin. The Task Force Report distances it from the act of naming it as sin. The TFR calls for unity though pre-existing statement of the Bokuba Report said clearly, "We admonish all human communities in the world that to endorse, legalize or encourage homosexual acts in any form is to reject natural ethical codes that humanize society. It is thus to violate God's Creation."

The petition from some Lutheran theologians urging support for the TFR says that this issue will not be divisive in the LWF.

"We disagree with the claims of the seventeen theologians who have criticized the task force's recommendations on ecclesiological and theological grounds. Churches in the Lutheran World Federation already hold multiple positions on both sexuality and ecclesiology, and the Federation's communion holds together in the midst of this diversity. The task force's recommendations do not jeopardize our Lutheran communion or our ecumenical partnerships. Differences on sexuality and ecclesiology do not threaten the unity of the gospel."

Believe it or not that is the whole rationale of their statement. As I said, it calls itself a "statement," intimates that it is a theological justification, but it is nothing more than a petition. It is in effect a bunch of college and seminary professors acting like students. For an intelligent, succinct theological reasoning of this situation click here.

Will not the arrogance of these (mostly) white, educated, middle-class Americans to proceed irregardless of their brothers and sisterss in the developing world and the hypocrisy of their declaiming American unilateralism in the Iraq war yet going ahead and seriously undermining not only our relations with these Lutherans overseas, also the mission efforts of the pastors who aretryingg too work with the immigrant groups in the USA.

Read the following section on homosexuality from the Bokuba Statement:


3.1. The ELCT Position (Conviction)
The Conference of Bishops of the ELCT believes that the Holy Scripture is the foundation of Church teaching. By reading the Bible in its original languages, foreign languages, and our mother tongues, we have come to believe that God uses his word to show the way to salvation. Thus we strongly affirm that:

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for the proof, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living. So that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed". (2Tim 3:16 -17).

Through this foundation we acknowledge and believe that;

"... no one can explain by himself a prophecy in the Scriptures. For no prophetic message ever came just from the will of man, but men were under the control of the Holy Spirit as they spoke the message that came from God". (2 Pet 1:20-21).

Thus, the Conference of Bishops of the ELCT firmly attests that the word of God as it is recorded in the Holy Scripture (Bible) is the solid foundation for the faith and life of every Christian.

3.2. Homosexuals and their Actions
3.2.1. We acknowledge that homosexual people, with their differences and special problems, are present within our society and our church. At the same time, it is true also that homosexual acts and sodomy are condemned by Holy Scripture because they go against God's plan (1Cor 6:9-10; Romans 1:26-27). We thus, are obliged to stand with Holy Scripture which is the sole guidance for decency and ethical human behavior.

3.2.2. We believe that people with homosexual inclinations/orientations and other related problems need teaching, counseling and pastoral care that leads to repentance and restoration. Furthermore, we also clearly see that homosexual acts such as sodomy are against natural order and thus against law of God's creation. These acts are not good and are rebellious.

3.2.3. We believe that the creation of a human being is completed in and by the relationship between a woman and a man. A woman and a man are created in order that each one of them shall complete one another for the purpose of also continued creation.

3.3. Foundation of Creation
We firmly see Genesis 2:24 as being in harmony with life in an African context. It demonstrates that the union between a man and a woman is the blessed tradition upon which human sexual life and behavior is based. We thus strongly reject the act of a male taking on a female sexual role or vice versa. We therefore believe in and value the beauty and completeness of a man as a man and a woman as a woman.

3.4 Legalization of Homosexuality, Its Acts, Sodomy and Same Sex Marriages
3.4.1. We object to legalization of same sex marriage, which in essence is not a marriage but a complacent act of giving in to human desires. The only marriage act that we can bless is the union between two different sexes. This understanding of marriage is derived from God's order of Creation of man and woman. The entire order of creation, including other animals and plants, was then declared by God to be "very good" (Gen. 1:31). We thus find any attempt to change God's intentions "for the sake of a few individuals with divergent sexual views and acts is in itself sinful and evil.

3.4.2. We are objecting to this legalization because it is also against human dignity and Tanzanian culture. We are convinced that this is not a natural constitution of a human person anywhere. We believe that the cultural decency that we are protecting and defending is not against God's will. ELCT is objecting to lifestyle because it deviates from fundamental biblical teaching. We believe and affirm that legalizing homosexual acts, sodomy and same sex marriage rebels against God and misguides society. Thus, legalizing, authorizing or accepting same sex relationships is to undermine the institution of marriage and its sanctity. This institution is the foundation of community welfare. To sabotage it is to sabotage God's command that establishes this important institution. We admonish all human communities in the world that to endorse, legalize or encourage homosexual acts in any form is to reject natural ethical codes that humanize society. It is thus to violate God's Creation.

3.5. The Church's Responsibility
3.5.1. The true church of Christ would fail in its responsibility if it were to concede to the pressure from homosexuals and sodomites. The Church has a duty to help homosexuals and sodomites to accept their condition as a spiritual and physical problem.

3.5.2. Homosexual acts and sodomy are traditionally understood as an extreme sexual desire, and if a person under this possession is not helped, it can lead to bestiality. We affirm that sexual act must be confined to the marriage union of a man and a woman. We deplore distorted explanations by several people who use the term "human rights" to justify homosexuality and sodomy. We find this as a deliberate misuse of a good term "human rights". It should be remembered that those forced to accept these deviated lifestyles also have their rights, which need to be protected. Marriage is the only institution which God ordained through His Word to be the foundation of reproduction, growth and civilize society. We thus ask: is it not also a human rights issue that children be raised in community with father and mother?

3.6 Misusing Biblical Texts
3.6.1. Although we are aware that Holy Scripture forbids homosexuality and sodomy, there are theologians who interpret, exegete, and misuse Holy Scripture to support and endorse homosexuality and in its many forms.
3.6.2. The Conference of Bishops rejects biblical expositions done by some theologians and scholars with intent to affirm and legalize homosexuality. The Bible is the foundation of Christian faith and thus the church has an indisputable authority to rightly and scripturally explain faith based on God's word. The church's expositions do not necessarily have to agree with those of the scholars.

3.7 Homosexuality and Priesthood (Ordination)
We do not agree with those seeking to ordain homosexuals into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. We even do not accept evangelists, elders and other church rostered servants who are homosexuals. Instead we call upon the church of Christ worldwide to sympathize with them, pray for them and counsel them how to be transformed in their thoughts and intentions.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Will Lutherans uphold stance on gay issues?

Shrimp here: me send out my legions to the many assemblies (OK I went to goodsoil.org which you can too, interesting reading and if you turn it around 180 degrees--like they are trying to do with Bible--if they say bad it means good)to learn if Lutherans can uphold stance on gay issues.

Here are three assemblies three scenerios. First, all three recommendations could be defeated outright. That seems to happening in a little less than half of the synods. This comes from a local paper which could mean none of the five gay Lutheran political action groups had a representative down there.

"S.C. synod votes to oppose blessing of same-sex unions


Staff Writer

Clergy and laity from the S.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted this weekend to uphold the denomination’s stance on issues related to homosexuality.

The votes came during the synod’s annual assembly in Charleston and attended by more than 600 clergy and laity from around the state. They are the S.C. synod’s response to a report released in January by a national committee of clergy and laity from around the church.

The assembly voted to approve:

• A resolution that opposed allowing non-celibate gays and lesbians to be ordained. Current church policy permits gays and lesbians to be ordained if they take a vow of celibacy. The report released in January recommended the church “may refrain from disciplining” ministers with same-sex partners and those who approve their employment.

• A resolution that opposed the blessing of same-sex relationships and allowed for disciplining pastors and congregations who perform such ceremonies. Currently, the church does not permit the blessing of same-sex relationships.

“We’re saying to the assembly that we appreciate your compassion for persons in committed gay and lesbian relationships, that we know these persons, love and respect them, but we don’t as a synod wish to make exceptions as to ordination or the blessing of same-sex unions,” said Mel Amundson, assistant to the bishop.

Amundson said the overall climate of debate at the Charleston gathering was “amicable.”

“It seemed to be done in a way that respected differing opinions for the sake of the church and for pastoral concern,” he said.

The synod has more than 64,000 members statewide, with headquarters in Columbia. The Right Rev. David Donges, bishop, is its spiritual leader.

The resolutions were passed in anticipation of the denomination’s nationwide assembly to be held in Orlando, Fla., in August. There, clergy and laity elected as delegates will vote on whether to accept the recommendations of the January report."

South Carolinians good human people!

Next, NW Ohio, where we see the report of an intern (doesn't it do your heart good to know that our seminaries are turning out political activists who go to assemblies and send in reports to gay rights groups. Must make their profs really proud)

Now read this with an eye toward the future, how an intern speaks proudly about introducing doubt about th eauthority of Scripture--did he really say "eat the apple and you DIE? (the problem IS the seminaries, folks)

We'll let Jay tell his story:

The Northwestern Ohio Synod Assembly was held May 20-21 at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green,OH.]

My experience of the NWOS assembly was somewhat limited, as I went to an ordination celebration on Saturday and missed the entire floor debate. From what I heard, there were far more "progressive" (for lack of a better term) speakers at the mics than ever before, and the vote, although it still reflected the historic conservatism of this synod, showed an increase in the number of people who desire change.

As for the non-floor debate aspects, our group had a wonderful booth set up, with colorful materials from LC/NA, and we had lots of people stopping by to chat, and to pick up buttons with rainbow-colored ribbon on them.

There was also a booth entitled "A Pastoral examination of homosexuality" (or something like that). They were handing out essays by Pannenberg, W. Taylor, and poorly written articles about life expectancy and health risks for glbt people. One of the hosts of the table is a voting member to churchwide.

However, we collected the articles and are working on talking points-rebuttals to distribute for folks who have arranged to meet with CWA voting members. We are working on initiating relationships with many of the CWA folks, and since I will be in Orlando, I am hoping to invite them to journey faithfully with me through that event, meeting to debrief and attending goodsoil events.

Some hopeful moments: within 5 minutes of being there, I ran into my first CWA voting member. I invited him into conversation. He is from a rural congregation and describes himself as "undecided." Within 10 minutes of conversation, I had challenged him to address the question from a whole new angle--that of justice AS WELL as biblical theology--and he was intrigued. He agreed to meet with me for lunch. He says his congregation is quite conservative, but that he will "vote his conscience" and he "remains open to be convinced." A very similar conversation happened with two other voting members who are also "somewhat unconvinced" but open to meet with members from our group.

Another young man approached me because I was wearing a button, and he asked me how to vote. He was from a town of 250 and a very conservative congregation, but he felt it was wrong to discriminate, but he didn't understand the language of the resolution they were voting on. I told him I couldn't tell him "how to vote," but I helped him understand the language and the voting options, and thanked him for being open to change and courageous enough to vote his conscience even while sitting with the other voting members from his congregation. As we were finishing, he said, "The church is really changing, isn't it?" All I could say was, "I hope so."

Jay McDivitt, Intern
Messiah Lutheran
Toledo, OH


Remeber, I said, turn it around and it reads true. "Please Lord, let it be not so, let it be not so."

Now the third, a long report and my little shrimp eyes were getting cross-eyed between wherasses and be it resolveds, but the last short paragraph was telling, and this in my considered opinion is what we'll have in Orlando:

"Therefore, the RMS has failed to send any memorials to the Churchwide Assembly because none received 2/3 support. While this is disappointing, to see such a solid majority in favor of complete revision of V&E was very hopeful, and that hopefulness was evident amidst the disappointment. Clearly, more people than the authors of Resolution #8 expected are ready for change. Only a last-minute resolution eliminating the simple majority kept 7C from passing." -Pastor Michael Fick,
Denver CO

7C was, of course, a plea for sanity.

If anyone out there in human land is listening, turn it around. Anyone can go to the mike and request that motions have to be passed by two-thirds and if that passes, IT IS HARD TO GET TWO-THIRDS IN THIS POLARIZED CLIMATE.

Since the offensive "exceptions clause" for gay pastors needs two-thirds, it may well fail. That may even be Hanson's plan, a sort-of-leadership by default. He can run in two years telling the mainstream that he urged caution (there's a quote in one of the news releases from the March Madness he can use).

And that brings us to what next. Dump Hanson in 2007 or we will be stuck here for a decade. We need a bishop who will say "No, I am sorry" to Jeff Johnson and all those folks rather than create task forces to do their work.

Hopefully the new bishop could tunr an eye toward our seminaries and what they teach.

If you have time, go and read the Rocky Mountain report. They had Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing, Professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. "Sheprovided theological reflection for the entire assembly, focusing on the how Lutherans are not fundamentalists when in comes to the Bible and describing instead a hermeneutic of hope centered in Christ’s redemptive activity. Her recent work on the book of Revelation informed much of this, but she also shared some personal experiences. One of the most powerful was a story of her mother’s illness and the wonderful Minneapolis parish pastor, who happened to be a lesbian in a committed relationship, who cared so well for her mother. Dr. Rossing was, as she has been in the past, well received by the Synod."

Nice of the bishop to arrange that, huh? Yes, that woould be the prophetess of LSTC the originatior of "the 1000 Lutheran Theologians support gay marriage statement," the same one who told a reporter that adiaphora was a Latin term.

Hey, I got to go, my little crustacean brain is pounding when I think how much work we have ahead. Go and pray that our LORD revise our seminaries rather than traditional Lutheran theology, or rather revise it back to Confessionalism.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


take a look at the article here.

One paragraph says:
Neuberg and Cottrell are both adamant to point out that just because prejudices are a fundamental and natural part of what makes us human, that doesn’t mean that learning can’t take place and that responses can’t be dampened.

“People sometimes assume that because we say prejudice has evolved roots we are saying that specific prejudices can’t be changed. That’s simply not the case,” Neuberg says. “What we think and feel and how we behave is typically the result of complex interactions between biological tendencies and learning experiences. Evolution may have prepared our minds to be prejudiced, but our environment influences the specific targets of those prejudices and how we act on them.”

So if attitudes and behaviors that are “hardwired” can be changed and, in the case of “bad” behaviors such change is desirable, why is sexual behavior exempt?

Please note that I am interested in exploring the logic. Also it is important to explore the labels as how which behavior is defined as “bad” and thuse to be surpressed and that which is “good” and should be reinforced. Anyway the referenced article: “Tendency to be prejudiced is a form of common sense, hard-wired into the human brain” might advance the discussion.

Comment by Br. Michael, FOCD

Educate Yourself: HomoMyths

In the essay, “Homosexual Myths,” Sue Bohlin with material taken from Joe Dallas' book, A Strong Delusion: Confronting the "Gay Christian" Movement helps regular folk educate themselves so they can “share it calmly and compassionately, remembering that homosexuality isn't just a political and moral issue; it is also about people who are badly hurting.
The common mistruths or questions circulating in the church are:
10% of the Population Is Homosexual.
People Are Born Gay.
What's Wrong with Two Loving, Committed Men or Women Being Legally Married?
Jesus Said Nothing about Homosexuality.
The Levitical laws against homosexual behavior are not valid today.
Calling Homosexuality a Sin Is Judging, and Judging Is a Sin.
The Romans 1 Passage on Homosexuality Does Not Describe True Homosexuals, but Heterosexuals Who Indulge in Homosexual Behavior That Is Not Natural to Them.
Preaching Against Homosexuality Causes Gay Teenagers to Commit Suicide.
We are fighting for the future of the church. Those of us in the ELCA must fight for its future, if you are elsewhere in the mainline, fight there.
We are fighting for the minds and souls of a generation. Educate yourself. Organize or join with those who have already taken a stand. Our religious leaders are spiritually blind.
They think they are liberating people but in fact they are putting chains so heavy that they will be enslaved for life.
Read the essay:
10% of the Population Is Homosexual.
In 1948, Dr. Alfred Kinsey released a study called Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, claiming that between 10 and 47% of the male population was homosexual.{2} He got his figures from a pool of 5,300 male subject that he represented as your average "Joe College" student. Many of the men who gave him the data, though, actually consisted of sex offenders, prisoners, pimps, hold-up men, thieves, male prostitutes and other criminals, and hundreds of gay activists.{3} The 10% figure was widely circulated by Harry Hay, the father of the homosexual "civil rights" movement, urging that homosexuality be seen no longer as an act of sodomy but as a 10% minority class.{4}
Kinsey's figures were exposed as completely false immediately afterwards, and by many other scientists since. The actual figure is closer to 2-3%.{5} But the 10% number has been so often reported in the press that most people think it's valid. It's not.
People Are Born Gay.
Ann Landers said it, and millions of people believe it. The problem is, the data's not there to support it. There are three ways to test for inborn traits: twin studies, brain dissections, and gene "linkage" studies.{6} Twin studies show that something other than genetics must account for homosexuality, because nearly half of the identical twin studied didn't have the same sexual preference. If homosexuality were inherited, identical twins should either be both straight or both gay. Besides, none of the twin studies have been replicated, and other twin studies have produced completely different results.{7} Dr. Simon LeVay's famous study on the brains of dead subjects yielded questionable results regarding its accuracy. He wasn't sure of the sexual orientation of the people in the study, and Dr. LeVay even admits he doesn't know if the changes in the brain structures were the cause *of* homosexuality, or caused *by* homosexuality.{8} Finally, an early study attempting to show a link between homosexuality and the X-chromosome has yet to be replicated, and a second study actually contradicted the findings of the first.{9} Even if homosexuality were someday proven to be genetically related, *inborn* does not necessarily mean *normal*. Some children are born with cystic fibrosis, but that doesn't make it a normal condition.
Inborn tendencies toward certain behaviors (such as homosexuality) do not make those behaviors moral. Tendencies toward alcoholism, obesity, and violence are now thought to be genetically influenced, but they are not good behaviors. People born with tendencies toward these behaviors have to fight hard against their natural temptations to drunkenness, gluttony, and physical rage.
And since we are born as sinners into a fallen world, we have to deal with the consequences of the Fall. Just because we're born with something doesn't mean it's normal. It's not true that "God makes some people gay." All of us have effects of the Fall we need to deal with.
What's Wrong with Two Loving, Committed Men or Women Being Legally Married?
There are two aspects to marriage: the legal and the spiritual. Marriage is more than a social convention, like being "best friends" with somebody, because heterosexual marriage usually results in the production of children. Marriage is a legal institution in order to offer protection for women and children. Women need to have the freedom to devote their time and energies to be the primary nurturers and caretakers of children without being forced to be breadwinners as well. God's plan is that children grow up in families who provide for them, protect them, and wrap them in security.
Because gay or lesbian couples are by nature unable to reproduce, they do not need the legal protection of marriage to provide a safe place for the production and raising of children. Apart from the sexual aspect of a gay relationship, what they have is really "best friend" status, and that does not require legal protection.
Of course, a growing number of gay couples are seeking to have a child together, either by adoption, artificial insemination, or surrogate mothering. Despite the fact that they have to resort to an outside procedure in order to become parents, the presence of adults plus children in an ad hoc household should not automatically secure official recognition of their relationship as a family. There is a movement in our culture which seeks to redefine "family" any way we want, but with a profound lack of discernment about the long-term effects on the people involved. Gay parents are making a dangerous statement to their children: lesbian mothers are saying that fathers are not important, and homosexual fathers are saying that mothers are not important. More and more social observers see the importance of both fathers and mothers in children's lives; one of their roles is to teach boys what it means to be a boy and teach girls what it means to be a girl.
The other aspect of marriage is of a spiritual nature. Granted, this response to the gay marriage argument won't make any difference to people who are unconcerned about spiritual things, but there are a lot of gays who care very deeply about God and long for a relationship with Him. The marriage relationship, both its emotional and especially its sexual components, is designed to serve as an earthbound illustration of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.{10} Just as there is a mystical oneness between a man and a woman, who are very different from each other, so there is a mystical unity between two very different, very "other" beings--the eternal Son of God and us mortal, creaturely humans. Marriage as God designed it is like the almost improbable union of butterfly and buffalo, or fire and water. But homosexual relationships are the coming together of two like individuals; the dynamic of unity and diversity in heterosexual marriage is completely missing, and therefore so is the spiritual dimension that is so intrinsic to the purpose of marriage. Both on an emotional and a physical level, the sameness of male and male, or female and female, demonstrates that homosexual relationships do not reflect the spiritual parable that marriage is meant to be. God wants marriage partners to complement, not to mirror, each other. The concept of gay marriage doesn't work, whether we look at it on a social level or a spiritual one.
Jesus Said Nothing about Homosexuality.
Whether from a pulpit or at a gay rights event, gay activists like to point out that Jesus never addressed the issue of homosexuality; instead, He was more interested in love. Their point is that if Jesus didn't specifically forbid a behavior, then who are we to judge those who engage in it?
This argument assumes that the Gospels are more important than the rest of the books in the New Testament, that only the recorded sayings of Jesus matter. But John's gospel itself assures us that it is not an exhaustive record of all that Jesus said and did, which means there was a lot left out!{11} The gospels don't record that Jesus condemned wife-beating or incest; does that make them OK? Furthermore, the remaining books of the New Testament are no less authoritative than the gospels. All scripture is inspired by God, not just the books with red letters in the text. Specific prohibitions against homosexual behavior in Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 are every bit as God-ordained as what is recorded in the gospels.
We do know, however, that Jesus spoke in specific terms about God's created intent for human sexuality: "From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh. . . What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:4-6). God's plan is holy heterosexuality, and Jesus spelled it out.
The Levitical laws against homosexual behavior are not valid today.
Leviticus 18:22 says, "Thou shalt not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination." Gay theologians argue that the term "abomination" is generally associated with idolatry and the Canaanite religious practice of cult prostitution, and thus God did not prohibit the kind of homosexuality we see today.
Other sexual sins such as adultery and incest are also prohibited in the same chapters where the prohibitions against homosexuality are found. All sexual sin is forbidden by both Old and New Testament, completely apart from the Levitical codes, because it is a moral issue. It is true that we are not bound by the rules and rituals in Leviticus that marked Yahweh's people by their separation from the world; however, the nature of sexual sin has not changed because immorality is an affront to the holiness and purity of God Himself. Just because most of Leviticus doesn't apply to Christians today doesn't mean none of it does.
The argument that the word "abomination" is connected with idolatry is well answered by examining Proverbs 6:16-19, which describes what else the Lord considers abominations: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises evil imaginations, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers. Idolatry plays no part in these abominations. The argument doesn't hold water.
If the practices in Leviticus 18 and 20 are condemned because of their association with idolatry, then it logically follows that they would be permissible if they were committed apart from idolatry. That would mean incest, adultery, bestiality, and child sacrifice (all of which are listed in these chapters) are only condemned when associated with idolatry; otherwise, they are allowable. No responsible reader of these passages would agree with such a premise.{12}
Calling Homosexuality a Sin Is Judging, and Judging Is a Sin.
Josh McDowell says that the most often-quoted Bible verse used to be John 3:16, but now that tolerance has become the ultimate virtue, the verse we hear quoted the most is "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (Matt. 7:1) The person who calls homosexual activity wrong is called a bigot and a homophobe, and even those who don't believe in the Bible can be heard to quote the "Judge not" verse.
When Jesus said "Do not judge, or you too will be judged," the context makes it plain that He was talking about setting ourselves up as judge of another person, while blind to our own sinfulness as we point out another's sin. There's no doubt about it, there is a grievous amount of self-righteousness in the way the church treats those struggling with the temptations of homosexual longings. But there is a difference between agreeing with the standard of Scripture when it declares homosexuality wrong, and personally condemning an individual because of his sin. Agreeing with God about something isn't necessarily judging.
Imagine I'm speeding down the highway, and I get pulled over by a police officer. He approaches my car and, after checking my license and registration, he says, "You broke the speed limit back there, ma'am." Can you imagine a citizen indignantly leveling a politically correct charge at the officer: "Hey, you're judging me! Judge not, lest ye be judged!'" The policeman is simply pointing out that I broke the law. He's not judging my character, he's comparing my behavior to the standard of the law. It's not judging when we restate what God has said about His moral law, either. What is sin is to look down our noses at someone who falls into a different sin than we do. That's judging.
The Romans 1 Passage on Homosexuality Does Not Describe True Homosexuals, but Heterosexuals Who Indulge in Homosexual Behavior That Is Not Natural to Them.
Romans 1:26-27 says, "God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." Some gay theologians try to get around the clear prohibition against both gay and lesbian homosexuality by explaining that the real sin Paul is talking about here is straight people who indulge in homosexual acts, because it's not natural to them. Homosexuality, they maintain, is not a sin for true homosexuals.
But there is nothing in this passage that suggests a distinction between "true" homosexuals and "false" ones. Paul describes the homosexual behavior itself as unnatural, regardless of who commits it. In fact, he chooses unusual words for men and women, Greek words that most emphasize the biology of being a male and a female. The behavior described in this passage is unnatural for males and females; sexual orientation isn't the issue at all. He is saying that homosexuality is biologically unnatural; not just unnatural to heterosexuals, but unnatural to anyone.
Furthermore, Romans 1 describes men "inflamed with lust" for one another. This would hardly seem to indicate men who were straight by nature but experimenting with gay sex.{13} You really have to do some mental gymnastics to make Romans 1 anything other than what a plain reading leads us to understand all homosexual activity is sin.
Preaching Against Homosexuality Causes Gay Teenagers to Commit Suicide.
I received an e-mail from someone who assured me that the blood of gay teenagers was on my hands because saying that homosexuality is wrong makes people kill themselves. The belief that gay teenagers are at high risk for suicide is largely inspired by a 1989 report by a special federal task force on youth and suicide. This report stated three things; first, that gay and lesbian youths account for one third of all teenage suicides; second, that suicide is the leading cause of death among gay teenagers, and third, gay teens who commit suicide do so because of "internalized homophobia" and violence directed at them.{14} This report has been cited over and over in both gay and mainstream publications.
San Francisco gay activist Paul Gibson wrote this report based on research so shoddy that when it was submitted to Dr. Louis Sullivan, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Sullivan officially distanced himself and his department from it.{15} The report's numbers, both its data and its conclusions, are extremely questionable. Part of the report cites an author claiming that as many as 3,000 gay youths kill themselves each year. But that's over a thousand more than the total number of teen suicides in the first place! Gibson exaggerated his numbers when he said that one third of all teen suicides are committed by gay youth. He got this figure by looking at gay surveys taken at drop- in centers for troubled teens, many of which were gay-oriented, which revealed that gay teens had two to four times the suicidal tendencies of straight kids. Gibson multiplied this higher figure by the disputed Kinsey figure of a 10% homosexual population to produce his figure that 30% of all youth suicides are gay. David Shaffer, a Columbia University psychiatrist who specializes in teen suicides, pored over this study and said, "I struggled for a long time over Gibson's mathematics, but in the end, it seemed more hocus-pocus than math."{16}
The report's conclusions are contradicted by other, more credible reports. Researchers at the University of California-San Diego interviewed the survivors of 283 suicides for a 1986 study. 133 of those who died were under 30, and only 7 percent were gay and they were all over 21. In another study at Columbia University of 107 teenage boy suicides, only three were known to be gay, and two of those died in a suicide pact. When the Gallup organization interviewed almost 700 teenagers who knew a teen who had committed suicide, not one mentioned sexuality as part of the problem. Those who had come close to killing themselves mainly cited boy-girl problems or low self-esteem.{17}
Gibson didn't use a heterosexual control group in his study. Conclusions and statistics are bound to be skewed without a control group. When psychiatrist David Shaffer examined the case histories of the gay teens who committed suicides in Gibson's report, he found the same issues that straight kids wrestle with before suicide: "The stories were the same: a court appearance scheduled for the day of the death; prolonged depression; drug and alcohol problems; etc."{18}
That any teenager experiences so much pain that he takes his life is a tragedy, regardless of the reason. But it's not fair to lay the responsibility for gay suicides, the few that there are, on those who agree with God that it's wrong and harmful behavior.
1. Dallas, Joe. A Strong Delusion: Confronting the "Gay Christian" Movement. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1996.
2. Dr. Judith Reisman, "Kinsey and the Homosexual Revolution," The Journal of Human Sexuality (Carrollton, Tex.: Lewis and Stanley, 1996), 21.
3. Ibid., 26.
4. Ibid., 21.
5. Richard G. Howe, Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths (found on the American Family Association website at http://www.afa.net) gives this citation: "Knight lists the following sources in support of the 1%-3% figures: J. Gordon Muir, "Homosexuals and the 10% Fallacy," Wall Street Journal, March 31, 1993; Tom W. Smith, "Adult Sexual Behavior in 1989: Number of Partners, Frequency of Intercourse and Risk of AIDS," Family Planning Perspectives (May/June 1991): 102; John O.G. Billy, Koray Tanfer, William R. Grady, and Daniel H. Klepinger, "The Sexual Behavior of Men in the United States," Family Planning Perspectives, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, vol. 25, no. 2 (March/April 1993)."
6. Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, "The Gay Gene?", The Journal of Human Sexuality, 4.
7. Dallas, 114.
8. Ibid., 112-114.
9. Ibid., 116.
10. Ephesians 5:25-32
11. John 20:30
12. Dallas, 193.
13. Peter LaBarbera, "The Gay Youth Suicide Myth," The Journal of Human Sexuality, 65.
14. Ibid., 66.
© 1996 Probe Ministries International

About the Author
Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker with Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 25 years. She serves as a Mentoring Mom for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers), and on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. She is also a professional calligrapher and the webservant for Probe Ministries; but most importantly, she is the wife of Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their sons, one in college and the other in the Air Force.
Please See Also:
• Can Homosexuals Change? [Sue Bohlin]
• Homosexuality: Questions and Answers [Sue Bohlin]
• Homosexual Theology [Kerby Anderson]
• Same Sex Marriage: A Façade of Normalcy [Sue Bohlin]
• When Someone In Your Congregation Says "I'm Gay" (Pastors' Brochure) [Sue Bohlin]
See also "Probe Answers Our E-Mail: Homosexuality"

What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3 1/2 minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:
Probe Ministries
1900 Firman Drive, Suite 100
Richardson, TX 75081
(972) 480-0240 FAX (972) 644-9664


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Friday, May 27, 2005

The Really Strange Link ... to Hell!

Just when you thought that you had seen it all ...

Be sure to first scroll down through the photos. I'm going to send you now to the site Musings of an Expagan where you will see why this is really (click here)no joke.

Look at the worship bulletin for Trinity Sunday at Trinity Church, Manhattan. This is the Trinity, that bastion of the powers that seem to be (ECUSA). click here ...

What do you think? Does the explanation of clown ministry take the edge off, or do you still see the glint of the devil in the eyes watching Satan's mockery of Christ's death on the cross?

So you see, this is not a joke site like yesterday's Strange Link.

This is Sunday morning worship. They called it a "Clown Eucharist". You would call it ... what?

This begs theological explanation (and condemnation). On the Sunday when the people of God hear in the Forst Lesson that the Lord creates the world with a word, they have a wordless eucharist!

That this came out of someone's imagination, was approved by a worship committee and the whole people of God in that place apparently joined in seems proof positive that there are indeed "two religions in one church" and it is beginning to beg the question if they are of the same spirit.

Kyrie eleison

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Case Study of the Theology in the Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA, 2005

“Introduction: The following collection of email correspondence concerns theology in the Metropolitan New York Synod of the ELCA in the years 2004-2005. The chief topics are the episcopal office, the Bible, the law/gospel distinction, and the nature of Lutheranism. It is earnest writing, but not polished. In fact, it was not originally intended for wider distribution, but was more along the lines of private reflections by busy clergy trying to sort out some theological matters. The correspondence was occasioned by controversies in the Metropolitan New York Synod about blessing same-sex unions and ordaining people in such unions, and it is hereby released in hope that these reflections might contribute to the ongoing deliberations about these matters. The writers are Metropolitan New York Synod Bishop Stephen P. Bouman, synod pastors Amandus J. Derr and Gregory P. Fryer, and Lutheran theologian Robert W. Jenson. The collection begins with a preface by Bishop Bouman. The exchanges were initiated by Pastor Gregory Fryer late springtime 2004. This correspondence was released with the consent of the participants and enjoyed a modest distribution to a few clergy and theologians prior to our recent Metropolitan New York Synod Assembly, May 20-21, 2005, at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Huntington Station, Long Island.”

Follow all the links and read through it–really fascinating.

Gagnon vs Wink

Robert Gagnon vs Walter Wink on the Bible and Homosexual Practice
Robert A. J. Gagnon is the author of "The Bible and Homosexual Practice," the book that most scholars on both sides of the argument admit is the exhaustive and authoritative study of the subject. His replies to various articles and attacks by Walter Wink are at:




He has a much shorter text on the subject at:


Another related article by Gagnon is at:

Other articles on the subject are found on his own web site at:

I own the book, I've read it, and find it an invaluable resource.
It's available now at discount on Amazon.com

Strange Link of the Day

Shrimp here: me down in ocean, and do not know everything about you human people. me get email from Shamanic, not sure if that human person or witchy demon spirit. Shamanic give me link to PFOXS.

You tell me, to what lengths people go? For what? Me know Shellfish is great length, lot of work, but me say upfront that this about Sola Scriptura, this about saving ELCA, this about important future for children, for salvation of sinners, for alternative to health and wealth and damn them to hell.

Not sure everyone with me ....

The Borg

The Borg were a persistent enemy on a Star Trek series. They had to assimilate others in order to be. GLBT is the Borg.

They have web sites. Have fun and visit them. Visit them often and you will learn more about learning about the need for everyone to practice spiritual warfare!

God expects humanity to multiply. Seems there is more than one way to do that! Recruit, take over, what else?

Did you in the ELCA know you were part of a liberal organization? The Borg keep track on this stuff (they pick off the weak first, just like predators in the wild!):

"With a membership of about 5 million, the ELCA is perhaps the fifth largest Christian denomination in the United States. If one were to sort the approximately 1,000 Christian denominations in the U.S. along a conservative-liberal continuum, the ELCA would probably be regarded among the most liberal 10% of all denominations."

Still think there is not a plan by outsiders to take over the ELCA?

The Borg really like stuff like this:

"Anita Hill was ordained as a pastor in the ELCA during 2001 by four bishops: one active and three retired. She is a lesbian who lives in a committed relationship with another woman. (She is unrelated to the Anita Hill who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.) Bishop Mark S. Hanson of St. Paul, MN, censured -- but did not expel -- Hill's congregation. Ironically, Bishop Hanson was elected on 2001-AUG-11 to the ELCA's highest office, that of presiding bishop."

"2004-JUL-25: Ordination of openly gay pastor in Twin Cities: Bethany Lutheran Church in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area ordained Jay Weisner. He is the third openly gay pastor in the Twin City area. Afterwards "...the audience ripped into an unbridled display of clamorous applause, joyous hollering, foot-stomping and fist-pumping." Dora Lofstrom, a church member of 20 years standing, said: "I kind of feel like we're paving the way for the Lutheran Church. I think the tide is with us. I think little by little the church will come." Retired Luther Seminary Prof. Loren Halvorson said the ordination shows that the ELCA is becoming more accepting of gays and lesbians. He said: "I believe we've already reached a critical-mass point."

Since the ELCA does not allow the ordination of gays or lesbians unless they commit to celibacy, Bishop Craig Johnson of the ELCA Minneapolis Synod did not attend the ceremony. He can impose sanctions against the congregation, ranging from a reprimand to severing the congregation from the denomination, and firing the pastor."

They are the Borg!

Good news?

Shrimp here: Hey, St Paul say, "Sleeper wake up!"

Concerned Mass. Parents Mobilizing to Battle Homosexual Agenda in Schools

By Jim Brown
May 24, 2005

(AgapePress) - Mothers and fathers in Lexington, Massachusetts, are coming together and speaking out in an effort to combat the school system's promotion of homosexuality in their children's classrooms.

Three events in Lexington schools have raised the ire of parents who feel the district has stepped over the line when it comes to teaching sexuality in the classroom. School officials are under fire for showing a so-called "diversity" video advocating lesbianism, holding a "Day of Silence" to remember the persecution of homosexuals, and having a parent arrested for protesting the presentation of pro-homosexual curricula in his son's kindergarten class.

Gerry Wambolt of the group Lexington Parents for Respect says area families have had enough. The cascading incidents of pro-homosexual activism in the community's schools are "more than a mere coincidence," he contends, and what has been happening is nothing less than "an attack on the family -- an attack on values."

Furthermore, Wambolt observes, "I wouldn't say it's an attack on Christian values, because it's not just that. It's an attack on Jewish values and Muslim values and virtually the values of anybody with common sense who has come into this country and into this town from other parts of the world."

The Lexington Parents for Respect spokesman says moms and dads in the community recently told the Lexington School Committee they are upset that radical homosexual policies are being implemented in the local schools. He notes that one parent in particular "mentioned a litany of things that took place, and he addressed it right to the superintendent of the schools here -- and said, 'If these things are true, then you should be put in jail.'"

Confrontations between school officials and concerned parents are "coming right down to the common street language of people who are more than beside themselves," Wambolt says, "and the town is just now beginning to wake up."

Read more?

You know Billy Graham call the ELCA "Sleeping Giant"?

I wish somone have courage to forward these stories to lay people!

Wake up!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Gee, I wonder ....

Shrimp here: OK, pastors who take a stand for family values are labeled bigots, those who argue for the faith received are called fundamentalists, so I wonder what a person who brought up the subject of the Enemy and bending the knee would be called.

Hey we don't have any such problems so we?

"When the leadership of that church kept the enemy out, everything was fine," Mr. Robinson said. "But when the leadership of that church let the enemy in, things began to change."

The authorities - who got the first whiff of trouble six weeks ago when a woman, Nicole Bernard, 36, called the Sheriff's Office from Ohio to say she had fled the town to save her child from sexual abuse - are still trying to piece together what happened.

Nine people have been arrested in the past week. A dozen computers have been seized, at least some of which the police believe contain child pornography, as well as dozens of videotapes, hundreds of computer disks and eight large boxes of documents and photographs. Inside the shuttered church compound, in a "youth hall" behind the sanctuary, the police found the faint imprint of pentagrams on the floor that someone had apparently tried to scrub away."

Read it.

Then go to this page and take it all in,how much child abuse is out there being done by pastors. Take it all in, then put Childs in the find function of edit.

There is more info here.

When you are at assembly, just go to the mike and ask this one question and then watch the body language: What are the legal implications of the recommendation that we keep rules but do not enforce them?

We should perhaps ask that lawyer in Texas who won the civil case against the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, from which Gerald Thomas (a Harrison County jury took only minutes in February of 2003 to find Gerald Thomas guilty on 11 counts of sex crimes against children, and then to give him the maximum sentence of 397 years in prison).

The fact that Childs was part of those proceedings, yet okayed a plan for insitutional unaccountability, well, it just boggles the mind.

Read the ELCA's side of the story.

There's more:

"Lutheran Church Abuse Victims Receive $69 Million Settlement

In what may be the largest per capita clergy abuse settlement ever, nine victims will receive $36.8 million from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod and two former officials. The civil case follows the conviction of Gerald P. Thomas, former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marshall, Texas, for sex crimes against children. An additional $32 million out-of-court settlement was reached before the trial ended. Total awards amounted to nearly $69 million awarded to 14 victims."

Wonder how many mission starts the ELCA could have made with $69 million?

Think the assembly in Orlando will receive an accurate accounting on this? After all, it all happened since the last time they sat in deliberation.

You funny human people if you do not talk from the floor on this one. Any voting members out there? Hello!!!


There is an interesting discussion going on over at the ALPB forum blog, "looking forward to Orlando."

I asked Brian Stoffregen what he thought of Gagnon's work on the TFR. He replied that he scanned the "article" [a thick 50 some page slice-and-dice of the methodology and content of the TFR] but that he was familiar with his books (he then goes on to discuss Gagnon's work from memory without going to the Gagnon piece, which all ELCA people who profess any love for either truth or the church simply must do since this is the issue that is splitting the church).

Brian wrote a bit of a response to me and then Mr Gagnon appeared out of nowhere!

I want to post Gagnon's response and I hope that eveyone reads it and commits it to memory. In a time like ours where people are blindly twisting theology to suit their worldview it is essential to educate yourself.

I'm not just speaking about Brian, who seems tis be a pretty good, but seriously deluded, soul. He and a thousand like him are being blinded by their world view (or the Enemy or whatever)so that they have no correct historical reality of real Lutheranism. What they say is "Lutheran" is a "shadow" of the real thing.

This blind leading the blind has to end. To redo another metaphor, our twisting of the truth is going to lead to our twisting in the wind. Liberal theology is the rope in which the ELCA is going to hang itself.

Read Gagnon's response:

"Brian Stoffregen in his posting claims that porneia in Paul refers only to sexual activity involving prostitution and, just maybe, adultery. This is a misunderstanding of the evidence, corrected by a simple concordance check--to say nothing of BDAG (Bauer-Danker's Greek Lexicon of the NT) which defines the word as "various kinds of 'unsanctioned sexual intercourse.'"

In 1 Thess 4:3-8, Paul refers to fornication and adultery as porneia (4:3), a form of behavior typical of “the Gentiles/nations who do not know God” (4:5), a product of “passions of desire/lust” (4:5), “uncleanness” (akatharsia, dirty or filthy conduct, 4:7), acts that by their very nature oppose the Holy Spirit and reject God (4:8). For a similar referent to porneia, see the exception clause in Matt 5:32; 19:9, which (as BDAG correctly notes) alludes to "the sexual unfaithfulness of a married woman" (though, as BDAG also, notes, some apply it to incest).

In 1 Cor 5, Paul characterizes a case of incest between two consenting adults as a kind of shocking porneia that receives widespread disapproval even from Gentiles (5:1), a behavior that should be mourned by the community and that merits temporary expulsion (5:2-5, 9-13), an activity that, if not repented of, leads to the destruction of the perpetrator (5:5) and exclusion from the kingdom of God (6:9). It is likened to the corrupting properties of old rotting leaven and to wickedness and evil (5:6-8).

In 1 Cor 6:12-20 Paul regards sex with prostitutes as porneia (6:13, 18) which, like all cases of porneia, involves the horrific act of defiling the very body purchased by Christ’s blood to be a sanctified “temple” of Christ’s Spirit (6:15-20)—worse even than the sacrilege of throwing mud at the temple in Jerusalem. One is obliged to flee from such activity (6:18), the implication being that failure to do so brings upon the perpetrator God’s terrifying eschatological wrath.

In 1 Cor 7:2, where Paul enjoins the Corinthians to marry and, for those who are married, to have sex in marriage in order to avoid "sexual immoralities" (i.e., various forms of sexual immorality) he clearly is concerned not only with prostitution but with other sexual offenses such as fornication and adultery.

In 1 Cor 6:9 Paul implicitly brings together porneia (here incest and sex with prostitutes, perhaps too fornication), adultery, and same-sex intercourse as instances of egregious sexual immorality. In 6:9-10 offenders known as pornoi head up the vice list, just as in 5:10 and 5:11. In 6:9 the word appears before “idolaters, adulterers, malakoi, and arsenokoitai.” Why isn’t the word grouped with the three other types of sexually immoral persons? The answer has to do with the fact that the incestuous man is called a pornos in 5:8 and his actions porneia in 5:1. Paul places pornoi at the head of the list, before idolaters and other sex offenders, because it is still the main subject of the discussion. In following pornoi with adulterers, malakoi, and arsenokoitai, Paul does not mean to distinguish the latter three from the rubric pornoi but rather to further specify who would be included under that rubric. The immediate context in ch. 5 (incest, called porneia in 5:1; cf. pornos in 5:8) and 6:12-20 (sex with prostitutes, called porneia in 6:13, 18; cf. porneuō in 6:18 and pornē in 6:15-16) makes clear that pornoi would include at least participants in incest and men who have sex with prostitutes. The following three categories of sexual offenders simply fill out explicitly who else would be a pornos. This also explains why the vice lists in 5:10-11 employ pornoi as the sole term denoting sexual offenders; it is a general term that normally covers the sweep of sexual offenses. Similar to 1 Cor 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10 singles out immediately after pornoi “men who lie with males” (arsenokoitai)—not because arsenokoitai are distinct from pornoi but because arsenokoitai are a particularly egregious instance of pornoi.

Although Romans 1:24-27 does not specifically refer to same-sex intercourse as porneia, it does refer to it as an instance of akatharsia ("uncleanness") which is generally associated in Pauline literature with porneia (1 Thess 4:3-7; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Col 3:5). Moreover, it is clear that Paul in Rom 1:18-32 has constructed an expanded vice list, where idolatry is discussed at length in 1:19-23; followed by a discussion of sexual "uncleanness" in 1:24-27, where Paul lifts up same-sex intercourse as a pinnacle example of the suppression of the truth about God's will for our sexual behavior given in the material structure of creation is particularly obvious; and then in 1:28-31 adds a list of other (non-sexual) vices to round out the vice list. Since the combination of idolatry-porneia or porneia-idolatry appears in all the Pauline vice lists and akatharsia in Paul is often used synonymously with porneia, it is obvious then Paul here is treating same-sex intercourse as a premier instance of porneia / akatharsia.

In addition, the term porneia appears in the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25). Why is that important? It is widely acknowledged that the prohibitions therein imposed on Gentiles are derived from the laws imposed also on resident aliens in Lev 17-18. Why, in turn, is that important? Leviticus 18 brings together sex laws concerning incest, adultery, male-male intercourse, and bestiality, which would have been enshrined for Jews of the first century under the rubric porneia. What transpires in the Apostolic Decree is part of a developing trajectory of "Noahide laws" in early Judaism which group together various sex laws under the rubric of sexual immorality, which even Gentiles are required to abstain from. For further discussion and documentation of this point, see: The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 435-37.

Time doesn't permit me at the present moment to cite all the texts from early Judaism that prove my point. But Mr. Stoffregen should quote the TDNT entry more fully. The entry doesn't just say that the meaning of porneia occasionally broadens to adultery. It says: "Porneia then comes to mean "[immoral] sexual intercourse" in general without more precise definition" (p. 587). For example it refers to Reuben's act of incest (Testament of Reuben 1:6, etc.) and the sexual immorality of the Sodomites (Testament of Benjamin 9:1, etc.). Incidentally, the verb form porneuo is used by Jude 7 to refer to the Sodomites: "by committing sexual immorality they went after other flesh." For the defense of "by committing sexual immorality" as a translation and as a reference, in part, to male-male intercourse, see pp. 41-42 in my critique of Journey Together Faithfully that appears on my website at www.robgagnon.net (specifically, http://www.robgagnon.net/articles/homoJourneyTogetherCritique.pdf).

That akatharsia usually refers to "sexual uncleanness/impurity" in Paul is, again, self-evident from any concordance check. That by "uncleanness, impurity, filthy conduct" Paul primarily had in mind immoral sexual behavior is evident from the direct connection between 1:24 and 1:26-27, the use of the word as a description of sexual immorality (adultery) in 1 Thess 4:6-7, and the close conjunction of akatharsia with sexual immorality in vice lists (noted above). Cultic or ceremonial uncleanness is no longer at issue; the sense is moral. A contemporary parallel is the use of the words "smutty" or "dirty" for sexually immoral material and practices. A secondary allusion in Rom 1:24 to a wider range of "filthy" behavior is likely given the extension of the vice list in Rom 1:29-31 and the use of akatharsia in 1 Thess 2:3 with reference to the "impure practices" of deceit, trickery, and flattery as a pretext for greed. But the primary referent is sexual. Certainly too the reference to akatharsia in Rom 6:19 has in view the akatharsia mentioned in Rom 1:24 (the only other occurrence of the term in Romans) which is epitomized for Paul in the case of same-sex intercourse (1:26-27): “for just as you presented your members as slaves to sexual uncleanness (akatharsia) and to [other acts of] lawlessness for the purpose of [manifesting] lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for the purpose of [manifesting] holiness (or: sanctification).” A reference back to the self-dishonoring behaviors of Gentiles, especially sexual practices, is precisely what we find in 1 Thess 4:3-7--where Paul conjoins the terms porneia and akatharsia, as he does often elsewhere.

I see that Mr. Stoffregen wants to limit Paul's critique of same-sex intercourse to acts of temple prostitution. The same argument was made about a year ago by a former moderator of the PCUSA and theology professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary, Jack Rogers. For my extensive rebuttal of such a contention (which Jack Rogers never responded to, I suspect because a counterargument was not possible), go to http://www.robgagnon.net/articles/homoRogersResp2.pdf for the pdf version or to http://www.robgagnon.net/ResponseToRogers2.htm for the html version. I came up with 15 arguments against such a position; there are certainly more but after 15 there seems to be little reason to elaborate further.

Responding to postings such as the one by Mr. Stoffregen is a tiring affair because it requires me to repeat points and arguments that I have made over and over again but which people like Mr. Stoffregen apparently never bother reading or never bother dealing with the arguments contained therein.


Dr. Robert Gagnon"

Monday, May 23, 2005

Letter to an Unknown Pastor

The PFOX website was established to provide hope, support and facts for those whose lives have been touched by homosexuality.

"You have questions. We at PFOX have answers and resources to help you understand same sex attractions.

We must let our loved ones with same sex attractions know we love them unconditionally and that nothing can change that love. As responsible parents, we must seek the facts and continue to love our children unconditionally without having to affirm their homosexual behavior. We do not have to approve of everything our children do. Blanket approval is not responsible parenting or true love. True love is loving in spite of our differences and treating each other with kindness and respect.

No one is born gay. All scientific studies, including those by gay scientists, have not found any gay gene or gay brain center. Ex-gays are living proof that homosexual orientation is not fixed permanently. People can and do make the decision every day to seek help in overcoming unwanted same sex attractions.

On the PFOX website, you will find articles that explain genetics, the psychiatric and psychological components of same sex attraction, the medical facts, and the latest research on same sex attractions. You will also find links to PFOX groups in your area, therapists, testimonies, articles on the widespread discrimination against ex-gays, and book/movie reviews. We also provide a Yahoo online email support group for: families and friends, those who do not have local support, those who feel they need a friend, and those who prefer daily dialogue.

Letter to an Unknown Pastor

Dear Pastor,
God bless you in your desire to reach the hurting and for reaching out to souls that need to be saved. Not every person called to be a pastor responds to the call. However, there is a huge problem in the church today. You may already know about it. It’s one that has been neglected for so long and swept under the rug in most churches. I’m talking about homosexuality. There are many helpful ministries out there that really benefit the hurting such as drug addiction ministries. Others help prostitutes, kids in gangs, fatherless kids and single parents, substance abusers, depression, the homeless and hungry, even women with breast cancer! What a blessing that the Body of Christ is reaching out to these people with compassion. But who reaches out to the homosexual who wants to change?"

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Walter Sundberg
Luther Seminary
St. Paul, Minnesota

I want to begin my reflections tonight on this very difficult subject of what the church should affirm and bless as permissible sexual expression, and what it should reject as impermissible, by quoting from an ancient source. His name is Monoimus. He lived in the late second century. We are told he was an Arabian. He is remembered as one of those who challenged Christian faith from within as part of the heretical movement called Gnosticism. Gnosis is a Greek word that means "knowledge." Gnostics were those who claimed that they had special or even secret knowledge that revealed the truth of what was required for the fulfillment of human life in relation to God.

"Man is a universe," said Monoimus, "originating" in himself; he is not predestined; he is master of his own fate. In light of this gnosis or special knowledge, Monoimus goes on to say:

Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you who makes everything his own and says, "My God, my mind, my thought my soul, my body." Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. . .If you carefully investigate these matters you will find [God] in yourself.

This is a powerful idea. The fact that was rejected by the church as heresy does not take away from its force and attractiveness. St. Augustine once observed that only significant souls produce heresies. I think this is true. It is why heretics are remembered, why seminarians study them as part of their schooling in the faith. Do not forget that heresy in the church has never come across as a vulgar or bad idea or an outrageously immoral claim that can be dismissed out of hand. Rather, heretics always appear to us as appealing, even compelling, able to reach the deep recesses of our being, urging us to confess: `This is most certainly true.' In the economy of salvation, the Almighty has made room for heresy, a Greek word that means choice or faction or particular opinion. God wants us to confront these choices; by them he tests us in order that we might come to know the false alternatives to His intention for our lives and self-consciously and in full knowledge reject them: "There must be haireses [choices, factions] among you," says St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, "for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine" (I Cor. 11.19).

Monoimus presents a position on Christian faith that is one of these choices: the choice that says `I will make faith a reflection of my needs and desires.' Monoimus speaks across the ages as a significant soul. His haeresis offers a tempting alternative to the faith of the Bible. To struggle against him is to test the genuineness of our commitment to God and Christ.

Let us look at what Gnosticism has to say more closely.

Paul Tillich argues in his Theology of Culture that there has been through the centuries basically two ways of approaching God:

In the first way man discovers himself when he discovers God; he discovers something identical with himself although it transcends him. . .something. . .from which he never has been and never can be separated. In the second way, man meets a stranger when he meets God . .Essentially they do not belong to each other. They may become friends. . .But there is no certainty about the stranger man has met.

In the teaching of Gnosticism, we encounter the first way with a vengeance: man discovering himself in the seeking of God. According to the Gnostics, the trouble with orthodoxy is that its God is a stranger. Orthodoxy is wrong because it alienates humanity from the uninterrupted quest for the self. St. Augustine's doctrine of election, Luther's witness to the `alien work' of God: these theologies are repellent to the Gnostic.

The rejection of the `stranger God' is fundamental to the theology of the most famous of the Gnostics, Marcion, said to be the son of a bishop, whose witness, like Monoimus, was made in the second century. To get rid of the 'stranger God,' whom he readily acknowledges is the Creator of this world and fashioner of its natural order and its rules for living, Marcion proposed that Christians change the Bible. He constructed a canon of sacred texts that included one of the Gospels and the letters of Paul, but excluded the Old Testament because of the inhuman character of the creator God, Yahweh. Marcion does not like Yahweh. He is repelled by what Yahweh demands of his followers. And so out goes the Old Testament! If something gets in your way; if a sacred text teaches something you don't like; get rid of it.

Adolf von Harnack, the great German historian of doctrine who lived a century ago, in his great book on Marcion, asserts that Marcion is the first theologian to place Law and Gospel in opposition. Law, which consists of the natural order, the strictures on physical behavior, the suffering, pain, and heartache that prevents human life from its fantasy of easy fulfillment, Law is not true religion. True religion is Gospel, the fulfillment of the self and its desires It is the unconditional love that Jesus demonstrates, a love for us as we are in our authentic selves. Jesus represents the true and better God, far above the terrible demiurge Yahweh who made this world. Jesus against the God of the Old Testament: this is true theology?

There is so much that is familiar to us today in the Gnostics of long ago: The Law as repression; the Gospel as fulfillment; constructing a sacred text that fits a predetermined interpretation, the measure of which is man; the rejection of a God who judges; the definition God's love as acceptance of us and complete identification with us. The ideas of Monoimus and Marcion may have been written long ago, but they could have been written today.

In Europe, Gnostic ideas have been a staple of modern theology and biblical interpretation in the university since the Enlightenment. In American culture, they are even more at home. Gnosticism in this country does not require the special pleading of a professor, although professors are happy to oblige. Rather, Gnosticism readily finds popular expression and acceptance; and it has done so from the days of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman in the nineteenth century to Robert Schuller and Shirley Maclaine today. It is evident in the general therapeutic mind-set under which we all live, especially the educated white middle class. "Take yourself as the starting point," says Monoimus. Here is what Emerson writes in his essay "Self-Reliance," one of the classic texts of American literature: "No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it." "Take yourself as the starting point" says Monoimus. Here is what Walt Whitman writes in "Song of Myself": "I celebrate myself, and sing myself. . .I know I am solid and sound. . .I know I am deathless. . .One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself." "Take yourself as the starting point" says Monoimus. Here is what Harold Bloom, that prickly but enormously influential literary critic, says in his book The American Religion (1992), after surveying popular culture and finding the likes of Robert Schuller and Shirley Maclaine: "We are," Bloom writes, "a religiously mad culture, furiously searching for the spirit, but each of us is subject and object of the one question, which must be for the original self, a spark or breath in us that we are convinced goes back before the creation."

Last year we witnessed a compelling illustration of this at work in the Episcopal Church. In its convention last summer in Minneapolis, the Episcopal Church ratified the election of Gene Robinson as bishop, thus preparing the way for his consecration. Why did they do it? There was, after all, enormous pressure not to do it. A split was threatened; turmoil in the ecclesiastical leadership assured. The denomination was already losing members at a steady clip; they have been declining for forty years. This makes the numbers worse. The church, already losing revenue, is now facing a huge shortfall. The Archbishop of Canterbury asked them not to proceed. Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Archbishop of the largest Anglican Church on the planet, twenty-five million members, pleaded with them in person at the convention not to do it. His church is in a spiritual, cultural, and political struggle with Islam for the soul of his nation. He has to deal with polygamy, accepted by Muslim and tribal traditions alike, and Aids that is killing Africans by the tens of thousands.. If there is any time when the church should stand firm on its tradition regarding sex and marriage it is now, he said. The mission of Christ in the world is at stake. Despite these warnings and pleas, the Episcopal Church convention members went right ahead. And Gene Robinson stood up, the media revolving around him, offering the world as his stage; and he said proudly, "In me God is doing a new thing." Why did the Episcopalians do it?

Leander Harding, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Stamford, Connecticut, made the attempt to explain why in a recent issue of the monthly journal First Things (February, 2004). He is a critic of the decision of his church. He declares that when all is said and done, it was finally the Siren song of Gnosticism that led Episcopalians to make their haeresis, their choice. Permit me to quote him at length:

The quintessential American Religion is the quest for the true and original self which is the `pearl of great price,' the ultimate value. Finding the true self requires absolute and complete freedom of choice unconstrained by any sources of authority outside the self. Limits upon personal freedom and choice are an affront to all that is sacred to the American Religion. When the self-determining self finds `the real me' salvation is achieved . . . Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire not in spite of being gay, not as an act of toleration and compassion toward gay people, but because he is gay and as such an icon of the successful completion of the quest to find the true and original self. . .[D]ivorcing his wife and leaving his family to embrace the gay lifestyle is not some unfortunate concession to irresistible sexual urges but an example of the pain and sacrifice that the seeker of the true self must be willing to endure. That natural, organic, and conventional restraints must be set aside is a time-worn Gnostic nostrum. . .Because Gene Robinson has ?found himself' he has. . .found God and is naturally thought to be a `spiritual person' and a fit person to inspire and lead others. . .

I think Rev. Harding has got it right: down deep this is what when on in

the Episcopal Church last summer; this accounts for the enthusiastic willingness to put the denomination at risk.

This is the force that we face in the ELCA. We face it every day. Each of us sways to the Siren song of Gnosticism in our own way. How many of us pastors use Law and Gospel in our sermons to make the Bible say what we want it to say? How many of us who belong to the educated white middle class, absorbed in a culture of personal fulfillment, seek the exaltation of the self? Yes, we feel the force of ancient Gnosticism every day. But we are also going to face it, in the particular way that the Episcopal Church faced it, next summer when we meet in Assembly and deliberate on the matter of homosexuality.

How will this challenge come to us in the ELCA? It won't be through an election of a bishop as in the Episcopal Church. Rather it will be through the assessment of the work of a biased committee on sexuality that has produced a report entitled Journeying Together Faithfully. This report does two things to advance the goal of approving homosexual behavior. First, in a Background Essay on Biblical Texts, it assiduously considers seven key biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments that speak to the question of homosexual behavior. It is clear from this supplement that the plain reading of these passages by ordinary folk sitting together with the Bible on their laps is not enough. No: These passages must be interpreted; set in context; explained by experts. But this is easier said than done. What the supplement ends up really being about is the differing interpretations of educated elite scholars. On each passage the only thing that can be clearly stated that there are differences in interpretation, especially with regard as to whether or not the meaning of a particular passage is best confined to the historical context in which it arose; or if the passage is powerful enough to transcend ancient time and so be binding on Christians today. Since all these seven passages can readily be filed under the category of Law and not Gospel, and since Lutherans often, not always, but often, oppose Law and Gospel; so much so that critics of Lutheran theology have wondered about our Marcionite tendency, it is not hard for Lutherans to claim that all of these passages of Law should be confined to the past, thus having no authority on us today. Only the Gospel really counts. The Gospel always transcends context. The Gospel is the love of Christ that affirms the believer in his or her identity as a self and promising him or her "life abundant." By the time one completes the reading of this supplemental essay, one cannot but question whether Bible study on these passages should even be bothered with! Since the principle of Law and Gospel is clearer, and more important, than the literal or plain reading of biblical texts, one is left with grave doubts regarding any authority whatsoever ascribed to these seven passages. They are Law. What we really want is Gospel; and Gospel means the affirmation of the self.

This appeal to Gospel is reinforced in the study by an appeal to the Sacraments. This is the second way in which the study works to create sympathy for a change in church teaching regarding homosexuality. It does so by asserting that through participation in the Sacraments, each of us is validated in our experience and insight. I quote: "As members of a community formed by Baptism and sustained by the Eucharist, we enter the conversation as equals." As the baptized we are "united in the body of Christ" affirmed "through the forgiveness of sins." The confession of sin is not the basis of our equality, at least it is not emphasized in the report. Rather the focus is on Divine affirmation. Our "core experience", says the report, is the "new life," which is the sacramental gift. We thus search for truth trusting that our own experience does not separate us from God. That baptism involves the obligation to renounce the devil; that Jesus sets the Table "on the night in which he was betrayed" by his disciples and then down through the ages by us; that St. Paul warns us to examine ourselves lest we eat unto judgment; all of this does not seem to register in the report. The sacraments are construed exclusively as sweetness and light; in them there is no darkness; that would be too much of the "stranger God" of orthodoxy. What the report asserts is that your experience, whatever it might be sexually, is as valid as my experience, whatever it might be sexually. What we all contribute to the conversation is the journey of the self toward identity. I quote the study: "We contribute different experiences, sensitivities, joys, sorrows, skills, and abilities. These diverse gifts can enrich our conversations. . ." The Bible can provide "insight on our experience, including our experiences of sexuality." Insight, however, is not the same thing as authority to judge. What really counts is engagement in an enriched conversation in which, because we are all sacramentally incorporated into the church, no one is turned away or rejected. In this conversation, God or Gospel can be found (I quote again) through our "sensitivities, joys, sorrows, skills, and abilities." I hear old Monoimus calling:

Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you who makes everything his own and says, "My God, my mind, my thought my soul, my body." Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. . .If you carefully investigate these matters you will find [God] in yourself."

I wish to say one final thing: While I know it is customary to applaud after a speaker at these occasions, to affirm what he says or at least to be polite, I ask that you not applaud. I feel very uneasy about standing before you tonight. In being critical of this important matter before the church, believe me when I say that I do not come before you from a position of moral superiority. I have not been the best of husbands or fathers; I am a sinner like each of you. And like the priest and Levite, I have passed on the other side of the road to avoid the neighbor in need. That I am invited to the Table of the Lord, is not grounded in my equality of insight, but rather because the Lord has set the Table "on the night in which he was betrayed, "betrayed by me. My warrant to speak, then, is not based on my personal virtue, but my obligation as pastor and teacher to exposit the Scriptures and to witness to what the Confessions call the magnus consensus or great consensus of the teaching of the church. That consensus warns us of the danger of Gnosticism. It is a danger that faces us today.

The good ship ELCA...

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