Thursday, July 07, 2005

What's Wrong with Rogness?

From Chris Johnson:

"Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Bishop Peter Rogness comes down with a bad case of Griswold's Syndrome:

There is part of me that resists sending this note, since I steadfastly maintain that we ought not cave in to the culture’s hysteria over sexuality issues and let it take over the church as well. Certainly there are significant issues to be pondered here, not least of which are issues of authority of Scripture and the evolving awareness of homosexual orientation. Important, yes, but issues that do not warrant the shrill and divisive debate heard in many places.

That would be the Anglican Communion. And where have you heard this before?

We need to not get side-tracked on issues of sexuality. I believe there are issues far more central to our life as a church, issues that ought to be more central.

So what should ELCA do about the sexuality issues? Rogness has an interesting and positively Episcopalian suggestion. Absolutely nothing at all:

In 2001, the ELCA in churchwide assembly embarked on a four-year process designed to bring two questions, long a source of discussion and consternation, to recommendation/action in 2005: the blessing of same-gender relationships and the ordination of homosexual persons in committed relationships. The 2003 Churchwide Assembly re-affirmed a commitment to this timeline.

Much study and discussion, formal and informal, is taking place. Much avoidance is also taking place. What is not being avoided is a nearly universal anxiety about what this issue is about to do to our church, and an almost-as-universal yearning by what seems to be a large middle of our church to somehow avoid this outcome.

Or, put more simply, “Can we find a way not to vote on these matters?”

I believe both the anxiety and the yearning are remarkably perceptive and healthy and provide a clue for how we as a church ought to shape our response.

If we have a vote, then people will have to say what they think about this issue and some people will get mad. Why not wait and see what God wants us to do? After all, the Spirit could be doing a new thing and we wouldn't want to get in the way, would we? Pete's been sitting at the feet of the master:

This is one of those times. I hear more and more people expressing the view that a vote on these matters will not be helpful. A vote will not change one person’s mind or move us any closer to consensus; it will create winners and losers. This is a time to allow our church to live with the ongoing diversity of view and unfolding discernment that will happen in God’s good time. In the book of Acts, Gamaliel saw the wisdom of patiently waiting for God’s unfolding clarity. We need to do so as well.

Since we, in fact, are bound by our procedures and will indeed have a churchwide assembly in 2005, we will be challenged to find a place to stand (and yes, I know, we will ultimately have to vote on that place to stand) that does not constitute a major change in our theology and policy, but acknowledges that at this time in the life of our church our discernment continues to unfold and leaves us at different places. Perhaps we need to find a way not to vote that is not a de-facto victory for the status quo, but acknowledges and allows us to be at different places and for our church life to continue its unfolding. And we will need to find a way that recognizes that four years was our timetable to come to clarity, but perhaps not the Spirit’s.

We draw our vitality from being a spiritual community of which Christ—not Roberts Rules of Order—is the head. We need to have rules, of course. But we need to act, whenever we can, not simply as a legislative body but as a community gathered to celebrate and discern God’s movement among us. Sometimes that work of discernment does not conform to the legislative process. This is one of those times.

Can you say "Gene Robinson-like strategy to create facts and the ground and completely end debate on this issue before it begins?" Knew you could:

Can we agree that living with these differing perspectives for a time might be less harmful for the church than a divisive vote that does nothing to bring us together?

Can we trust that the future will make more clear whether society’s changing attitudes toward homosexuality are a good thing, rather than force ourselves to decide on a fixed timetable?

Can we let those congregations who want to seek new ways of ministering to gay and lesbian people do that without making a new church policy?

Can we let otherwise qualified candidates be approved if there are congregations wanting to call them, and synods and candidacy committees who know them and believe they will enhance the ministry of the church—without presuming to change in one sweeping vote the long-held views of the church?

Can we find a way to live with our differing perspectives, re-affirming our commitment to Christ as the head of the church and the Scriptures as the source and norm of our church’s faith and life?

Can we agree that it is more important for us to be a church that prays about these matters than a church that votes about them?

A strategy which appears to be well underway:

A third congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the Twin Cities has voted to call an openly gay pastor, defying ELCA policy that forbids ordination of anyone in a same-sex relationship.

Bethany Lutheran Church, on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis' Seward neighborhood, intends to ordain Jay Wiesner on July 25 and call him as a pastor.

"We hope this action will have a positive effect" on the ELCA, Benson said this week. There is "some worry about creating a backlash" by doing something so public, but "we also realize no liberation movement has happened by people remaining quiet."

And so it begins again. Those of us fleeing ECUSA's apostasy had better prepare to be joined at some point by conservative Lutherans because regardless of which way ELCA's vote turns out in 2005, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America looks like it will eventually travel the trail blazed by ECUSA."

No comments:

The good ship ELCA...

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