Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Stripping the Emperor's Clothes

The Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was born in Minneapolis on Dec. 2, 1946, the son of a Lutheran Pastor. While his father was a noted speaker for the Pietist Lutherans, his son distanced himself by going to the liberal extreme. After graduation from Minnehaha Academy in 1964, Mark earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Augsburg College in 1968. He was a Rockefeller Fellow at Union Theological Seminary from 1968 to 1969, received a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, New York, in 1972, and attended Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., from 1973 to 1974. His critics wonder if Hanson has ever gotten over the thrill of anti-Vietnam War protests at Columbia and the heady days of Liberation Theology at Union Seminary.

Mark Hanson was known to be a liberal bishop before elected as Presiding Bishop, and has consistently pushed that agenda to the point that the ELCA might literally break apart. However, it is not his liberal politics that most alienates his more conservative membership (nearly 70% according to Mark Noll, church historian at Wheaten), it is the near intellibility of liberal theology to ears raised on Luther and the Bible. Both Jesus and Luther spoke plainly when they talked to people. Hansen speaks in platitudes.

However, when a Lutheran theologian begins to read what Hanson speaks as he goes arounf, they are puzzled to find any Lutheranism in his working theology at all. One wonders what the percetages of Lutheranism is left in this brew? It is the same in all liberal mainline churches in their last gasp of course (i.e., Philip Turner's "The Working Theology of the ECUSA," or consider how mcu Puritan is left in the rhetoric of the UCC and John Thomas).
With this in mind read the following:

At the national WELCA convention Hanson said the following things:

1) Hanson told the delegates that, to comment on the state of the ELCA, the best way to prepare is to ask the church's 5 million members about the state of their faith."The state of the ELCA depends on the vitality of the faith of the baptized of this church," he said, noting that to be Lutheran is to recognize "all the baptized are called."

RESPONSE: Nothing could be further from the truth than to say that the state of the ELCA depends upon the vitality of the faith of he baptized of this church.

The fate of the institutional ELCA is logically independent of the faith of its members. Hanson's statement assumes that an increase in individual faith will eventuate in praxis which affirms the ELCA. Nothing could be more absurd, those I suppose Cardinal Cajetan might have thought the same thing. If anything, an increase in individual faith might lead to further disintegration of the ELCA.

To say that all the baptized are called is nonsense (and is unbiblical and nonconfessional), and it makes magic (ex opere operato) out of baptism. To be called by the Holy Spirit is to come to saving faith in Christ. Many who are baptized do not have saving faith. If one denies this, then they are followers of Origen and the ancient heresy of universalism.

2) The ELCA is unique because it is not organized in a hierarchy but on the principle of interdependence with many groups inside and outside the ELCA, Hanson said. He emphasized the church's interdependence "with the body of Christ ecumenically and globally."
The ELCA is a "mature" 18-year-old church, which must be interdependent with others. At next month's ELCA Churchwide Assembly,voting members will decide whether to adopt a proposal for interim Eucharistic sharing with the United Methodist Church, Hanson said. In his role as also president of the Lutheran World Federation, Geneva, Switzerland, Hanson said he will meet Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 6 at The Vatican.

RESPONSE: Has Hanson never met Ratzinger? Has he read any of his stuff? I have no idea what Hanson is talking about with the "interdependence" stuff. Is he saying that the hierarchical ELCA is contextualized with other groups? If so, then hierarchy is fully compatible with interdependence. I can hardly wait to be
interdependent with the United Methodist Church. In fact, I think I shall invite my Methodist friends over for beer and brats and talk about their reaction to the Book of Concord, particularly the article on free will.

3) The ELCA must confront racism and reach out to new members across all ethnicities, Hanson said. The Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Fla., will also make decisions on questions regarding homosexuality, he said."I don't fear what will happen in Orlando. We are going to Orlando to be the body of Christ," Hanson said. Christians in the United States must look at themselves through the eyes of global partners, he said. Many in the world look at the United States and see it "drunk with economic power . mesmerized with our military might," Hanson said. He said now is the time for Lutherans in the United States to remind fellow citizens that we are part of a global family.

RESPONSE: The Unitarians are still confronting religious intolerance, and they are quite irrelevant in an age of religious tolerance. As the ELCA exists to confront the "isms", we will (and are becoming)irrelevant in an age where everybody (especially the government)confronts the "isms".

I believe that many in the world (especially many within Islam) look at us as being fat cats, immoral, addicted to hedonism. They see us more as drunk on needing our pleasure fix than on being mesmerized by our military might. Of course, Hanson still thinks in 1960s categories. He has really never grown-up and cannot look at the world in fresher ways.

4) Focusing on the gathering theme, "Act Boldly," Hanson said to act boldly does not mean to act alone but "communally" not arrogantly "but in humility."

Finally, Hanson said some tension in the church is a sign of vitality. "I worry
about a church that is concerned about conflict," he said. He challenged the delegates to think about how they read the Bible, reminding them that wherever Jesus walked he caused tension and questioned people in authority.

"We need to engage tension and remain healthy," he said. "We must speak openly and respectfully with each other."

RESPONSE: Which of the two valid ways of reading scripture is Hanson using when talking about Jesus here? It makes a difference if he is the Messiah of God or a wandering cynic philosopher."



Katie said...

God bless you! I stumbled across this blog today after months of trying to locate a blog by a conservative member of the ELCA! I am terrified about what is going to happen in Orlando -- but continually praying that God's will be done.

Anonymous said...

Hanson's views seem to fit the overall approach of our ELCA leadership. Their job is political, not religious in any meaningfukl sense, much less Christian. Every Lutheran reads the Bible in good conscience, some to his or her own conclusions, and that experience must be respected. The role of church leadership is to craft teachings and practices that will allow this church to stay together. The result is least-common denominator mush. This is the model of corporate brand development, develop a product acceptable to the greates number. Our entire Task Force study was just such an exercise in corporate market research. Hanson is 'brave' enough to speak authoritatively on issues about which no-one cares about his position - such as racism, which we all know is wrong, or helping the poor. But on issues like sexuality about which Lutherans do care about his position, he adopts the corporate marketing model of leadership. Poll the consumer, and design a product with maximum appeal. This is not Christian leadership, it is a travesty. With no shepherd, what will become of the sheep?

The Emerson Avenger said...

Would that the Unitarians would responsibly confront the religious intolerance that exists within UUism. I am still waiting for an "age" of UU religious tolerance. . .

The following two-page letter was distributed to a number of Montreal Unitarians and others entering the Unitarian Church of Montreal today. It is a modified version of the letter that I distributed to UUs during the UUA GA in Quebec City in 2002.

Here is the "annotated version" -


From Robin Edgar

Sunday December 4, 2005

To whom it may concern,

Today marks the 5th anniversary of my false arrest in December 2000 on trumped up criminal charges brought against me by Montreal Unitarians. After a few of criminal court dates I was acquitted of these unwarranted criminal charges that were intended to completely censor and suppress my legitimate public protest. I am protesting against the failure and refusal of the Unitarian Universalist religious community to responsibly redress my own and other UUs' legitimate grievances about abusive clergy misconduct. I am also protesting against the antireligious prejudice and intolerance that deplorably pervades and degrades UUism. The abusive clergy misconduct that I was subjected to arose directly from the antireligious intolerance, indeed the outright bigotry and hostility, of a self-professed "Humanist" Unitarian Universalist minister. I have seen too much evidence of similar antireligious prejudice and hostility towards God believing people within contemporary UUism. Such antireligious prejudice and intolerance, even hostility and bigotry, betrays UUism's monotheistic heritage and makes some UU congregations far from "Welcoming" (and at times even less than "Safe") for God believing people in general and Christians in particular. These UU injustices and abuses make a complete mockery of the claimed principles and purposes of UUism, and other UU ideals and must be responsibly redressed by all UUs, including current UUA and CUC leadership.

My clergy misconduct complaints did not involve sexual misconduct however I am also concerned about the UUA's and MFC's past failure to responsibly redress complaints arising from sexual misconduct by UU ministers. The UUA's "official apology" to victims of clergy sexual misconduct admits that the UUA has "largely failed" the victims of clergy sexual misconduct. In May 2000 I protested the failure of both the UUA and its Ministerial Fellowship Committee to responsibly address clergy misconduct, sexual or otherwise, in front of the UUA's offices at 25 Beacon Street. I also protested at UUA and CUC AGMs. I am protesting on behalf of all the victims of abusive clergy misconduct committed by UU ministers and all other people who have suffered either insult or injury (or both) as a result of antireligious intolerance as well as other injustices and abuses committed by hypocritical UUs who willfully disregard and violate claimed UU principles and purposes. I have been protesting in front of the Unitarian Church of Montreal on most Sundays since May 1998 because these remarkably hypocritical UUs have rejected or willfully ignored all of my letters of grievance and my subsequent public protests. Montreal UUs have repeatedly unjustly punished me for refusing to “accept" their unjust, inequitable and uncompassionate rejection of my grievances arising from their well documented injustices and abuses. I have been repeatedly verbally attacked by Montreal UUs and I have been threatened and physically assaulted on occasion as well. Montreal Unitarians attempted to criminalize my public protest and have repeatedly called the police even though my protest is legal. In doing so Montreal UUs have made a total mockery of their purported principles and purposes, and other claimed ideals.

During a private meeting with him, the purpose of which was to try to explain a profound revelatory experience that I had undergone in early 1992, former UCM minister Rev. Ray Drennan sarcastically mocked and ridiculed my religious beliefs by labeling them as "silliness and fantasy" amongst other derisive and insulting comments. Rev. Ray Drennan contemptuous dismissed my revelatory experience as "your psychotic experience" and angrily insisted that I was in immediate need of "professional help." As if these words were not insulting and damaging enough Rev. Drennan went on to label 'Creation Day' (an inter-religious celebration of Creation that was inspired by my revelatory experience) as "your cult." When I immediately challenged him to qualify what he meant by this damaging slur (which is the 21st century equivalent of labeling someone as a "witch" or "heretic") he replied, "I mean a manipulative and secretive religious group." Ironically, less than a month earlier, Rev. Ray Drennan and the Board of the Unitarian Church of Montreal had banned ‘Creation Day' from being celebrated in the "sanctuary" of the UCM during an "in camera" segment of the October Board meeting that was totally secretive cynical manipulation of the democratic process; even though ‘Creation Day' had been unanimously approved as an adult RE activity by the UCM's Religious Education committee. Rev. Drennan never retracted these demeaning and damaging allegations about me, nor did he ever issue an acceptable apology that clearly and unequivocally acknowledged the wrongfulness of his words and actions. Rev. Ray Drennan was never held accountable by the Unitarian Church of Montreal or the UUA's Ministerial Fellowship Committee. I on the other hand have been repeatedly punished and attacked by UUs for refusing to “accept” these UU injustices and abuses. The Ministerial Fellowship Committee complicitly "whitewashed" Rev. Ray Drennan by asserting that his demeaning and abusive misconduct, as I described it in more detailed letters of grievance, "seemed to us to be within the appropriate guidelines of ministerial leadership." When I wrote a letter protesting this ludicrous decision, Rev. Diane Miller responded by vaunting the "wisdom" of the MFC's decision to "close the file."

My grievances arising from the abusive clergy misconduct of Rev. Ray Drennan, and the subsequent negligent and unjustly punitive responses of the Unitarian Church of Montreal must finally be responded to by Unitarian Universalists in a manner that clearly lives up to both the letter and the spirit of UUism's Seven Principles, other UU ideals, and policies such as the Safe Congregations program. I also expect the UUA, the CUC, and the Unitarian Church of Montreal to hold all those who are most directly responsible for the negligent, incompetent, and complicit response to my serious grievances fully accountable for their reprehensible actions and indeed their clearly negligent inaction. Rev. Diane Miller and other members of the MFC's Executive who unjustly, inequitably, and uncompassionately rejected my serious grievances, who complicitly "whitewashed" Rev. Ray Drennan’s clergy misconduct, and who have "largely failed" the various victims of sexual misconduct and abuse by UU ministers must face accountability for their own deplorable failures. Justice must finally be done for me and for others and I expect it to be seen to be done by the Unitarian Universalist community as a whole.


Robin Edgar email – robinedgar59@yahoo.ca

Google and Google Groups searches on pertinent names and key words such as - "abusive clergy misconduct" will find pertinent posts in various inter-net forums that provide considerable additional information about these UU injustices. See also the UU Debate section of http://www.beliefnet.com. My new blog that is dedicated to exposing UU injustices, abuses, and hypocrisy is found at - http://emersonavenger.blogspot.com

The good ship ELCA...

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