Friday, June 24, 2005

What part of upheaval do they not understand?

"The assembly of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA recently endorsed the recommendation at a meeting in Reading. Other recommendations in the proposal call for unity and for the church to continue to oppose the blessing of homosexual unions, but allow pastors to minister to gay and lesbian Lutherans.

The Rev. Catherine Ziel, executive associate of the Rev. David R. Strobel, bishop of the synod, said about two-thirds of the 750 delegates at the assembly supported the gay clergy proposal.

She said the synod council, which includes the leadership of the district, recently came out in favor of the proposal in an informal session.

Predictably, Lutheran clergy in the area have differing opinions on the proposal.

'Too overwhelming'

"I just believe it's an issue that the church should not be involved in," said the Rev. David Searing, who became pastor of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Scranton in March. "The controversy is too overwhelming. We will not have accomplished any good by pursuing this."

The Rev. George Mathews, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Clarks Summit, said he could see both sides of the issue, but his conservative leanings prevailed.

"I would appreciate the church maintaining a position that does not violate our historical standards of ordination," the Rev. Mathews said.

"I think the problem becomes one of perspective," he explained. "What is the church's mission? What is its image?"

The issue of gay pastors has been a church topic since the Rev. Albert Wagaman became a minister 36 years ago, he said.

"I guess it's a breakthrough into a wider understanding of who can be part of the church," said the Rev. Wagaman, pastor of St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Archbald. "I think it's not good enough."

The proposal signals progress regardless of its fate, said the Rev. Kenneth Buckwalter, pastor of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Honesdale.

"I do believe the document is a step forward in terms of addressing homosexuality and the church's position on it," the Rev. Buckwalter said. "I would say it is part of the path toward the inclusion of all people."

An ELCA document on human sexuality is expected in 2007 and the church should have awaited that result before addressing the gay clergy issue, said the Rev. David Heckler, pastor of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Hawley.

"Personally, I voted against it," the Rev. Heckler said. "I'm uneasy about it."

He also said there is serious concern within his congregation about it.

"The vast majority of folks in my congregation who have spoken to me about the issue have been very upset that the ELCA is leaning this way," the Rev. Heckler said.

Among other congregations, though, the topic is barely discussed.

"I brought it up a couple times at St. Luke's and there's just no response at all," the Rev. Wagaman said.

Approximately 1,000 voting members of the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly will gather in August in Orlando, Fla., to consider the proposals.

Other denominations have had divisions over the issue. The U.S. Episcopal Church experienced upheaval after the consecration of a gay bishop in 2003. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) also have had conflicts over sexuality.

What part of upheaval does elca leadership not understand? They should read Anglican Mainstream's statements like this one from the Province of South East Asia:

"Christian churches of the other denominations feel it unfair that they have been tarred with the same brush as that for the Anglican Church. They are also embarrassed by what is shamelessly practiced by the Church in the North American provinces. Who suffers? The evangelization and mission of all the churches in our region suffer. The Anglican Church which has the responsibility to evangelize 400 million people in the nine nations of the province, are the primary sufferers. Our members are at pains to understand the actions of ECUSA and Canada. We cannot defend the actions because those actions are blatantly in violation of the Holy Scripture. Not to defend the actions or to even rationalize them begs the question why we should remain in communion with the churches in ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada.

The power of the gospel to change and transform lives is the essential part of our faith. This power of the Gospel gives hope and life to the masses in South East Asia who have been disillusioned by the other traditional religions of the land. The innovative teaching prevailing in the West is contradicting the true teachings as revealed in the Bible. Such teachings present a totally different “gospel” and directly undermine the very bases and foundations of our reason to share the Gospel. They are offensive not only to our Bible believing brethren but to all the other faith communities."

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