Wednesday, May 04, 2005

We Are All Beggars, This IS True

WE DO NOT HAVE A LUTHERAN IDENTITY CRISIS, OK?

MARGARET, BISHOP OF NEW ENGLAND, WANTS YOU TO KNOW THAT. WELL, ACTUALLY, SHE WANTED HER CONSTITUENTS IN NEW ENGLAND TO KNOW THAT, AND THEN SOMEONE AT HIGGINS ROAD SAW IT, THEY BEGAN EMAILING IT AROUND, AND THEN, VIOLA!, IT MADE IT TO THE ELCA WEB SITE.

FRIENDS, LISTEN TO ME CLEARLY: MARGARET IS A GOOD PERSON AND SHE LOVES JESUS. HOWEVER, I AM GOING TO POINT OUT A FEW PROBLEMS WE SHOULD ALL HAVE WITH WHAT SHE IS TRYING TO SAY HERE. OTHERWISE, OUR DENOMINATION MIGHT DIE, AND WHILE I THINK IT IS POSSIBLE THAT GOD IS TRYING TO HELP THIS ALONG, WE ARE BY NO MEANS SURE OF THAT, SO LET'S DO THE PRUDENT THING AND CONTINUE TO GENTLY PROBE AROUND THE WOODPILE FOR SNAKES BEFORE WE PICK UP ANY LOGS FOR BURNING, OK?.

AT THE END OF HIS FIRST YEAR AS PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE ELCA MARK HANSON GAVE SPEECHES LIKE THIS: “ON THIS ONE THING, I TRUST WE ARE IN FULL AGREEMENT: WE CANNOT SEE WITH ANY CLARITY WHERE GOD IS LEADING US IF WE DO NOT KNOW FROM WHENCE WE HAVE COME AND TO WHOM WE BELONG. IN FACT, IN MY MORE SKEPTICAL MOMENTS, I SOMETIMES WONDER IF OUR DRIVING NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN STRATEGIC PLANNING AND CREATE MEMORABLE STATEMENTS OF MISSION, VISION, AND VALUES IS AN ATTEMPT TO FILL A VOID CREATED BY OUR LOSS OF IDENTITY, UNITY, AND PURPOSE.”

HIS MEDIA PEOPLE MUST HAVE TOLD HIM TO NOT SAY THAT AGAIN, BECAUSE LATER HE WOULD SAY THE OPPOSITE. "THERE ARE THOSE WHO ARGUE THAT THE ELCA IS IN SEARCH OF ITS IDENTITY: LOOKING BACK TO PREDECESSOR CHURCH BODIES, LOOKING AROUND AT ECUMENICAL AND GLOBAL PARTNERS, AND LOOKING AHEAD, WONDERING WHO WE ARE BECOMING."

WE DO NOT HAVE A LUTHERAN IDENTITY CRISIS, OK?

PERHAPS A LITTLE BACKGROUND IS IN ORDER. ELCA PRESIDING BISHOP MARK HANSON IS A GOOD MAN WHO LOVES JESUS BUT WHO IS LIVING THE SOCIAL ACTIVIST’S DREAM, “NOW I CAN BRING IN THE KINGDOM, YES SIR!” OF COURSE, LIKE ALL GOOD, MISGUIDED PEOPLE HE HAS NO CLUE AS TO HOW TO DO THIS BESIDES SMILE A LOT, TALK ABOUT LOVE AND BRING RESOLUTIONS TO THE OTHER GOOD KIDS AT WHEN THEY HAVE THEIR MEETINGS.

HE BEGAN TO GET A CLUE THOUGH THAT PERHAPS IT WASN’T GOING AS WELL AS HE FIRST THOUGHT, AND IN 2004 HE TRIED A LITTLE PREEMPTIVE SPIN AND MADE A VIDEO OF HIM TALKING TO A BUNCH OF ELDERLY LUTHERANS. THE PLAN WAS FOR HIM TO LOOK RESPONSIBLE AS THOUGH HE CARED IF THE CHURCH BURNED TO THE GROUND.

HERE’S A QUOTE FROM THE VIDEO: “I DON’T WANT TO GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS THE BISHOP WHO PRESIDED OVER THE DISINTEGRATION OF A DENOMINATION BECAUSE WE HAVE SOMEHOW LET THE QUESTIONS THAT DIVIDE US NOW DEFINE US.

GOT THAT? DIVISION IS A BAD THING. UNLESS, OF COURSE, YOU ARE THE ONE WHOSE ACTIONS ARE DRIVING THE DIVISION. IF YOU ARE THE ONE DRIVING FAITHFUL, CONFESSIONAL, EVANGELICALS OUT OF THE CHURCH (THEY REALLY ARE SUCH A DRAG, BRINGING UP THAT OLD, DEPRESSING, FUNDAMENTAL, PIETISTIC TYPE OF LUTHERANISM) THEN YOU HAVE TO SAY CLEARLY THAT DIVISION IS A BAD THING.

THIS IS REALLY AN IMPORTANT CONCEPT, SO LET’S GO OVER IT ONE MORE TIME. IF YOU ARE DRIVING PEOPLE AWAY YOU MUST SAY DIVISION IS A BAD THING. THEN PASS A RESOLUTION AGAINST DIVISION. THEN YOU HAVE A PRESIDENT FOR LABELING AND SILENCING THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO GO AWAY, OR THE ONES WHO ARE TRYING TO STOP YOU FROM DRIVING PEOPLE AWAY.

ANYWAY, BACK TO THE ORIGINAL ARGUMENT. WE DO NOT HAVE A LUTHERAN IDENTITY CRISIS, OK? A GOOD PLAN TO IMPLEMENT YOUR PLAN TO IMPOSE RECYCLING ON THE WORLD WOULD INCLUDE KEEPING YOUR POWER BASE HAPPY. NOW, WHEN YOUR COMMITMENT TO RECYCLING MEANT MAKING ALLIANCES WITH EVERY LIBERAL YOU CAN FIND, YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE PROMISES TO THE GAY AGENDA PEOPLE. GOT THAT? OF COURSE. NOW, WHAT THE GOOD BUT MISGUIDED PEOPLE HAD NOT COUNTED ON WAS THAT THE GAYS WERE ACTUALLY NOT GOING TO BE SATISFIED UNTIL THEY GOT EVERYTHING, SO YOU WOULD HAVE TO IMPOSE COMPLETE ACCEPTANCE OF ALL THINGS GAY BEFORE YOUR PLAN OF WORLD-WIDE DOMINATION COULD BE IMPLEMENTED.

NOW THIS IS WHERE IT GETS A LITTLE STICKY. SOME PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH STILL READ THE BIBLE. I KNOW, I KNOW, IT’S ONLY A FEW, BUT THEY ARE COMPLAINING A LOT ABOUT THE TOTAL DISREGARD OF SCRIPTURE IN THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS. SO A REALLY GOOD PLAN INCLUDES, GUESS SPIN BIG TIME SPIN. WE MUST FRAME THE DEBATE. GUESS HOW? GET SOMEONE ELSE TO SAY, “WE DO NOT HAVE A LUTHERAN IDENTITY CRISIS, OK?

SO, FRESH FROM THE ELCA WEB SITE, TOP RIGHT SPOT ON THE “HOT TOPIC #7” PAGE:

SAINTS OR SINNERS?
BY BISHOP MARGARET PAYNE

ONE OF THE UNEXPECTED OUTCOMES OF THE SEXUALITY STUDY HAS BEEN THE REALIZATION THAT PEOPLE DO NOT ALWAYS KNOW WHAT THEY MEAN WHEN THEY SAY: WE ARE LUTHERAN. WE DO NOT HAVE A DENOMINATIONAL IDENTITY CRISIS, BUT WE COULD USE A CHURCHWIDE REMEDIAL REVIEW OF THE THINGS THAT MAKE US LUTHERAN CHRISTIANS.

OK. WHY DO THEY KEEP SAYING WE DO NOT HAVE AN IDENTITY CRISIS? IS IT BECAUSE THEY HEAR IT OVER AND OVER WHEN THEY COME OUT OF HIGGINS ROAD?


THE CAPSULE VERSION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE LUTHERAN IS TO LIVE DAILY WITH AN AWARENESS OF GOD’S GRACE. THERE ARE OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS. WE DRINK A LOT OF COFFEE AND WE LOVE TO EAT TOGETHER. ALSO, WE KNOW THAT WE ARE IN RIGHT RELATIONSHIP TO GOD BECAUSE WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY OUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST AND NOT BY ANYTHING WE DO OR DON’T DO. WE SEE THE BIBLE NOT AS A HANDBOOK FOR MORAL BEHAVIOR, BUT AS A SOURCE OF WISDOM FOR LIFE IN THE COMPASSION AND PEACE OF CHRIST. WE SING LUSTILY. WE KNOW THAT WE WERE “BORN AGAIN” NOT BY OUR OWN CONSCIOUS DECISION, BUT AS A GIFT FROM GOD THROUGH OUR BAPTISM. WE ARE A PEOPLE WHO CHERISH WORD AND SACRAMENT AS THE CENTER OF OUR LIFE OF FAITH. WE HATE TO BRAG, EVEN ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE DO A BETTER JOB OF DELIVERING CARE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE SUFFERING THAN ANY OTHER AGENCY IN THE WORLD.

GOOD FOLKSY TOUCH, MARGARET. YEP, WE LOVE OUR COFFEE AND GIVE US ENOUGH DONUTS AND WE WILL LOVE YOU TOO UNTIL THE SUGAR CRASH. THEN WE WILL REMEMBER THE, WHAT WAS IT? 2.2 MILLION OF OUR DOLLARS YOU SPENT DECIDING THAT THERE WAS A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION ON WHAT TO DO ABOUT ORDAINING GAYS WITH LIFE PARTNERS. YOU KNOW, ITS SO FOLKSY AND WRITTEN AT THE FOURTH GRADE LEVEL THAT SHE ALMOST SNUCK, “WE DO NOT SEE THE BIBLE AS A HANDBOOK FOR MORAL BEHAVIOR” WRONG! I DO, MY FAMILY ALWAYS HAS, AND MANY, MANY PEOPLE I KNOW FEEL VERY STRONGLY THAT THE BIBLE TEACHES MORALITY. THE ABOVE IS RIDDLED WITH OTHER ERRORS AS WELL AS THINGS IN WHICH WE DISAGREE, SUCH AS I GUESS I WAS NOT BORN AGAIN THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT, OR FAITH, BUT BECAUSE SOME MAGICAL WORDS WERE SAID OVER ME, BUT THAT TAKES US AWAY FROM OUR MAIN POINT, "IF WE CHERISH THE WORD SO MUCH, WHY DO WE IGNORE IT WHEN WE MAKE DECISIONS?"

ANOTHER PECULIARLY LUTHERAN TRAIT IS TO SEE EVERY HUMAN BEING AS BOTH SAINT AND SINNER. THAT TENSION IS BOTH AGONIZING AND PROFOUNDLY TRUE. IT IS MUCH EASIER TO SAY: “THERE IS A GOOD PERSON” OR “THOSE PEOPLE ARE EVIL.” BUT LUTHERANS BELIEVE THAT WE LIVE IN THE TENSION OF KNOWING THAT THERE IS GOOD AND EVIL IN EVERY HUMAN HEART. WE STRUGGLE TO INCREASE GOODNESS AND BATTLE AGAINST THE EVIL THAT IS BOTH WITHIN US AND ALL AROUND US.

THIS PART WAS GOOD. POINT TO MARGARET.


SOME PEOPLE CRITICIZE LUTHERANS FOR “SITTING ON THE FENCE” AND OTHERS ARE FRUSTRATED BECAUSE THE ELCA DOES NOT HAVE A LIST OF HOLY PRONOUNCEMENTS THAT DECLARE WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT DO. THAT IS BECAUSE WE HAVE A DEEP RESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL CONSCIENCE THAT IS BOUND TO THE WORD OF GOD, AND WE SEE PASTORS AS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS WHO WORK CLOSELY WITH PEOPLE TO HELP THEM MAKE DIFFICULT DECISIONS AS THEY TRY TO BE MORE SAINT THAN SINNER. WE TRUST PEOPLE AND PASTORS, WITHIN THE COMMUNITY OF THE FAITHFUL, TO WORK AND PRAY TOGETHER TO FIND THE WAY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS OF PAINFUL LIFE CHOICES.

DICEY. SOUNDS NICE, BUT GIVE EVIDENCE FROM YOUR WORK ON THE SEXUALITY STUFF HOW YOU ARE EMPOWERING PEOPLE TO HAVE THEIR CONSCIENCE BOUND TO THE WORD? BY SAYING THERE ARE TWO IRRECONCILABLE HERMENEUTICS, AND I AM FREE TO CHOOSE THE ONE THAT SUITS ME?

ONE INTERESTING THING GOING ON IN AMERICA TODAY IS THAT PEOPLE ARE CRAVING CERTAINTY, EVEN MORE THAN CHOCOLATE OR KRISPY KREME DONUTS. MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE FEAR IS IN THE AIR, AND PEOPLE WANT TO BE TOLD WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO BELIEVE. BUT LUTHERANS ARE SUSPICIOUS OF CERTAINTY UNLESS IT IS THE CERTAINTY THAT JESUS DIED FOR OUR SINS. LUTHERANS KNOW THAT WE ARE ON SHAKY GROUND WHENEVER WE DECLARE THAT WE ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE THAT SOMEONE ELSE IS A SINNER MORE FERVENTLY THAN WE DO THE HARD WORK OF SEEING OUR OWN SIN. FOR LUTHERANS, THE CROSS IS THE COMPASS. IT AIMS US IN THE DIRECTION OF SACRIFICIAL LOVE INSTEAD OF TRIUMPHANT ANNOUNCEMENTS OF CERTITUDE. GOD IS ALWAYS PRESENT IN OUR LOVE FOR OTHERS, BUT REMINDS US REPEATEDLY THAT WE SHOULD NOT JUDGE AND CONDEMN OTHERS.

FEAR BAD, JUDGING BAD, CONDEMNING BAD. GOT IT? IF WE ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE THAT SOMEONE ELSE IS A SINNER, WE ARE A SINNER: THIS IS THE NEW MEANING OF SIMUL IUSTUS ET PECCATOR.

THE ELCA TASK FORCE HAS PRODUCED A REPORT THAT DESCRIBES THE DISAGREEMENTS IN OUR CHURCH REGARDING ISSUES OF HUMAN SEXUALITY AND MAKES RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A WAY TO LIVE TOGETHER AS WE CONTINUE TO PRAY, STUDY AND COMPARE OUR CERTAINTIES.

WRONG, IT IS NOT A WAY TO LIVE TOGETHER! PASTORS AND CONGREGATIONS HAVE LEFT, OTHERS ARE WAITING FOR PROOF THAT THE ELCA IS TOO FAR GONE--WHICH, OF COURSE, MARGARET IS ARGUING IN FAVOR OF HERE!

THIS REPORT IS NOT MY PERSONAL OPINION; IT IS THE JOINT OFFERING OF 14 SAINTS AND SINNERS WHO DESPERATELY SOUGHT TO DISCERN THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION FOR OUR CHURCH AT THIS TIME. IT IS FAITHFUL TO SCRIPTURE, RESPECTFUL OF ALL SIDES OF THE DEBATE, AND HUMBLY OPEN TO FURTHER AMENDMENT. IT DOES NOT PRETEND TO PROVIDE THE MAGIC BULLET OR THE FINAL ANSWER. IF THE ULTIMATE “AHA” SOLUTION APPEARS BETWEEN NOW AND AUGUST, EVERY MEMBER OF THE TASK FORCE WOULD DO THE LUTHERAN VERSION OF JUMPING UP AND DOWN WITH JOY – WHICH IS A NOD AND A SMILE – AND VOTE FOR IT.

ACTUALLY, FROM WHAT WE READ ELSEWHERE, IT AGREES WITH WHAT YOU HAVE SAID AND DONE. WHY ELSE WOULD YOU HAVE FORBID PEOPLE TO PASS OUT DISSENTING LITERATURE AT YOUR LAST NEW ENGLAND SYNOD ASSEMBLY? AS FAR AS THE TASK FORCE REPORT BEING A "JOINT OFFERING," IT CAME WITH SEVERAL DISSENTING POSITIONS, AND ONLY DISSENTING POSITION ONE IS ACTUALLY FAITHFUL TO SCRIPTURE.

BUT MEANWHILE WE KNOW THAT WE DUG DOWN AND DID OUR VERY BEST WORK. THE REPORT IS UNAPOLOGETICALLY LUTHERAN. IT WRAPS ITSELF AROUND THE PAINFUL AMBIVALENCE OF THE ISSUES OF HUMAN SEXUALITY AND ASKS THAT, FOR NOW, WE LEAVE DIFFICULT DECISIONS IN THE HANDS OF PASTORS AND CHURCH LEADERSHIP. THE INTENT OF ALL THE RECOMMENDATIONS IS TO HONOR TRADITION WHILE WE CREATE A NEW SPACE TO DISCERN WHERE THE SPIRIT OF GOD MIGHT BE LEADING US TO WELCOME GAY AND LESBIAN PEOPLE MORE FULLY INTO EVERY ASPECT OF THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH. TO RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO PROCLAIM “THE RIGHT THING” AND TO SUGGEST THAT WE CONTINUE TO LIVE IN TENSION IS A VERY LUTHERAN THING TO DO. IF I WERE NOT LUTHERAN, I WOULD BE PROUD OF THIS REPORT, BUT LUTHERANS ARE UNCOMFORTABLE BEING PROUD. HOWEVER, IN THIS CASE, I THINK I WILL PART WAYS WITH MY LUTHERANISM. I AM PROUD THAT THE ELCA HAS PRODUCED A DISTINCTIVE WAY TO HANDLE THIS TOUCHY SUBJECT. IT IS DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER PATH SUGGESTED BY A CHURCH. IT CLINGS TO PAST WISDOM BUT OFFERS HOPE AND A WAY TO GET BEYOND AN IMPASSE. I TRUST THAT THE CHURCH IN ASSEMBLY THIS AUGUST WILL REFINE IT INTO A USEFUL TOOL FOR OUR LIFE TOGETHER.

ACTUALLY, IT IS THE “PAINFUL AMBIVALENCE” OF LIFE THAT DEMANDS CLARITY. IF YOU WOULD REALIZE THAT THE SCRIPTURES ARE A MORAL HANDBOOK YOU WOULD KNOW THAT WE HAVE AN ANSWER.


I WAS NOT “PROUD” WHEN I READ THE REPORT. I LET OUT AN AUDIBLE MOAN WHEN I GOT PAST THE FIRST FEW SENTENCES OF RECOMMENDATION THREE, THAT WE KEEP OUR RULES BUT NOT ENFORCE THEM.


NOT ONLY IS IT BAD THEOLOGY, BAD ORGANIZATIONAL THINKING, IT WOULD ACTUALLY PUT EVERY CONGREGATION THAT REMAINED IN THE ELCA IN LEGAL JEOPARDY, IF PASSED. THAT JIM CHILDS, WHO WAS CALLED TO GUIDE THIS PROCESS, WAS NAMED IN THE LAWSUIT AGAINST THE LUTHERAN PASTOR CONVICTED OF PEDOPHILIA, AND DIDN’T POINT THAT OUT, WELL, IT BEGGARS BELIEF.

I PRAY THAT THE ASSEMBLY REJECTS THIS OUT OF HAND.

7 comments:

Eli said...

"BUT REMINDS US REPEATEDLY THAT WE SHOULD NOT JUDGE AND CONDEMN OTHERS."

Test this by showing up at her church wearing a white sheet and hood, and see how fast you get judged.

Eli said...

"BUT LUTHERANS ARE SUSPICIOUS OF CERTAINTY"

Yeah, that Dr. Luther was always so wishy washy when it came to everything!

This clip is right out of their Yoda wisdom playbook - - See, fear leads to anger, anger leads to the dark side.....

Norsk said...

Note the most telling aspect of the whole miserable piece: in the last paragraph, she describes the "compromise" of the task force recommendations as "honoring tradition while...discerning where the Holy Spirit may be leading us to welcome gay and lesbian people more fully..." So people who want to stick with our existing teachings are slavishly mired in tradition, while those who want to change our teachings are being led by the Holy Spirit. And she attempts to pass this off as being evenhanded.

Shrimp said...

And I happen to know that Yoda is not a baptized Christian.

So glad to see you humans understand the situation. Hope you got a plan!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this article. I am in the New England Synod, and am totally fed up with Margaret Payne. Not only is she a revisionist, but she never shows up to lead the liturgy in our congregations, as previous bishops have done. She's too busy pushing the "healing the wounds of racism" program, and sponsoring a "gay and lesbian outreach task force". Of course, there is no outreach program or task force for orthodox laypeople, or for not-so-knowledgable laypeople who are puzzled by the strange things going on in the ELCA and the synod. These Christians, who are the backbone and sinews of the synod, are considered dispensible.

Fortunately for me, I also have a relationship with an Orthodox congregation, which I attend once a month. (That included celebrating Pascha with my Orthodox brothers and sisters last Sunday, which was wonderful.) They have a real bishop, who knows me and prays for me (even though he is based in New York). Neither is true for Margaret Payne. This morning, in our Lutheran liturgy, I prayed publicly for my Orthodox congretation and my Orthodox bishop.

Anonymous said...
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Shrimp said...
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The good ship ELCA...

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