Sunday, July 31, 2005

"Opposition to ELCA Proposals
Since the release of the church council report, many ELCA members have been vocal in their opposition to the three recommendations. Almost all of the objections spring from a sense of the subterfuge in the recommendations. A few of the more militant pro-homosex advocates have complained that the recommendations leave the church's traditional teachings on paper, thus denying Lutheran homosexuals the full "equality" that they seek. The ambiguous language gives no guarantee that a person "coming out" as a practicing homosexual would be protected from church discipline.

Far more complaints, however, have come from the more orthodox, traditionalist side of the denomination. Dr. Robert Benne, professor of religion and philosophy at Roanoke College (an ELCA institution) and director of the Center for Religion and Society, challenges the value of the Recommendation #1, saying, "A church that stands on Biblical and confessional authority cannot maintain its identity and mission with two opposing views on an issue of such importance."

Pastor Jaynan Clark England, president of the WordAlone network, shares Dr. Benne's concern. "When unity becomes the trump card at every table," she says, "then we 'fold' on the truth and idolatry becomes the name of the game."

Objections to Recommendation #2 focus on its ambiguity. While the 1993 bishops' statement on its face would appear to oppose the blessing of same-sex unions, many persons have interpreted the third sentence of the statement (the expression of "trust" in those "explor[ing] the best ways to provide pastoral care" to homosexuals) in a way that allows them to perform same-sex blessings-usually without any repercussions-as a means of "pastoral care."

The second recommendation further obfuscates any clear meaning of the original 1993 statement when it resolves to "trust pastors and congregations to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care to same-sex couples." Critics claim that the ambiguity is intentional, allowing the proposal to appeal to supporters of the current standards, while providing proponents of same-sex unions the latitude to perform such ceremonies.

The most critical responses have been directed at Recommendation #3. Opponents have expressed concern that these "exceptional ordinations" will prove to be anything but exceptional. "Once the ELCA provides for this process, few bishops are likely to resist pastors and congregations who request such ordinations," says Benne. By creating the machinery to acknowledge "exceptional ordinations," say critics, the ELCA would implicitly be endorsing the process. The ultimate result would be to make such ordinations commonplace, not "exceptional."

A coalition of Lutheran reform groups named Solid Rock Lutherans has expressed opposition to the three recommendations. It plans to be present at the upcoming Churchwide Assembly in an attempt to defeat them.

"Solid Rock Lutherans is trying to accomplish several important goals," says the Rev. Roy A. Harrisville III, executive director of the organization. "One goal is to establish a national media presence. This vote in Orlando is a critical vote, not just for ELCA Lutherans, but for the Christian church as a whole."

"We also want to establish clearly what is going on," Harrisville adds. "The three recommendations from the Church Council are masterpieces of obfuscation. None of them really means what it says. Recommendation #3, for example, claims that it is continuing 'Vision and Expectations,' when in fact it is completely overturning it. It is important that we help voting members see through this smokescreen. Similarly, Recommendation #2 sounds as if it intends to continue the Conference of Bishops position against the blessing of same-sex unions, when it is actually designed to achieve the opposite. In fact, Recommendation #2 provides complete and total 'Local Option' for the blessing of same-sex unions by any pastor or congregation that wants to."

Prospects for Change
Historically speaking, Churchwide Assemblies are difficult to predict. The ELCA makes a concerted effort to refer to those voting at the assembly as "voting members," rather than "delegates." The implication is that the "voting members" may feel free to vote however they see fit, unfettered by the positions or opinions of their various synods. Because of this factor, it is hard to anticipate voting outcomes.

Insofar as the individual synod assemblies can be used as a barometer, however, opponents of the three recommendations can feel somewhat optimistic. Recommendation #3, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage, fared poorly in many of the synod assemblies. Among the 65 synods in the ELCA, 25 are known to have rejected the recommendation, while only 16 endorsed it. (Many synods took no position.) Of those 16 synods endorsing the recommendation, many failed to do so by the two-thirds majority that would be required to pass it at the Churchwide Assembly.

Another source of encouragement for opponents of the proposed changes can be found in the report of the sexuality task force itself. Nearly 22,000 church members returned a response form included in Journey Together Faithfully, Part Two, a study guide produced by the task force early in 2004. From that number, a representative sample of 4,000 was extracted. Among that number, those supporting the current standards against same-sex unions and ordination of practicing homosexuals outnumbered those wishing to change the standards by greater than a two-to-one margin. Only 23.2 percent favored a new denomination-wide policy that would confer blessings upon same-sex unions and ordination upon active, unrepentant homosexuals. A demographic breakdown of the respondents indicated that virtually all age groups and geographic regions favored maintaining the current ELCA standards.

The additional comments tendered by respondents were also telling. A full 12.7 percent of responses included the comment "homosexuality is a sin." The second-most-common comment (7.4 percent of respondents) stated, "If blessing and/or rostering [ordination] is approved, the ELCA will be divided." The third-most-common response (4.0 percent) said, "If blessing and/or rostering is approved, I will transfer my membership from the ELCA." The only recorded comment explicitly in favor of changing the standards ("the majority of the church wishes to have blessing and rostering changed") registered a mere 0.1 percent.

"The leadership of the ELCA has demonstrated it is out of touch with the people in the pew," says Harrisville. "It has taken a minority view and elevated it to the status of policy, regardless of the responses given to the survey, which indicated a majority is in favor of the current policies and practices. It is as if the church council is deaf to the voice of the church."

The entire article here.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A most excellent article....

Ecumenical News
"Lutherans Prepare for Sexuality Scuffle"
Steve Rempe

"The Evangelical Church in America (ELCA) is preparing for a major showdown over homosexuality at its upcoming Churchwide Assembly August 8-14 in Orlando, Florida. How the ELCA assembly responds will have a profound impact on the future of the five million-member denomination. It may also set an example for other mainline Protestant denominations facing similar demands that they discard the traditional Christian teaching reserving sexual intimacy for the marriage of one man and one woman.

In 2001, the Churchwide Assembly (the biennial legislative gathering of the ELCA) created a task force to produce proposals for the 2005 assembly regarding two issues: the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions.

After prolonged study and consultation, the task force released three recommendations in January. Those recommendations, slightly modified by the ELCA Church Council in April, will now come before the Churchwide Assembly.

Both the task force and the church council insist that their recommendations would bring "no change" in the church's traditional teaching disapproving of homosexual relations. But there seem to be some carefully constructed ambiguities in the recommendations. These appear to open just enough space under church law for local congregations that wish to ordain practicing homosexuals and bless same-sex unions. The adoption of these recommendations would represent a significant shift in ELCA practice toward the affirmation of homosexuality.

Recommendation #1 urges a renewed commitment to "finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements." The unanswered question is whether "living together" means not enforcing the ELCA's standards of sexual conduct when a significant minority refuses to abide by those standards.

Recommendation #2 starts with some very traditional language. It urges that the ELCA "continue to respect the guidance" of a 1993 statement from the Conference of Bishops on same-sex unions. That 1993 statement affirmed: "There is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship. We, therefore, do not approve of such a ceremony as an official action of this church's ministry. Nevertheless, we express trust in and will continue dialogue with those pastors and congregations who are in ministry with gay and lesbian persons, and affirm their desire to explore the best ways to provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister." The unanswered question is whether "pastoral care" includes the blessing of same-sex unions. A phrase further down in the recommendation implicitly grants permission for just such blessings.

Recommendation #3 would allow "exceptions to the normative policies of this church" as regards homosexual ordination. The "normative policies" of the ELCA are laid out in "Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA," which states:
Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.

While the original recommendation of the task force was to urge tolerance in dealing with those synods that ordained active homosexuals, the Council of Bishops' proposal establishes a formal apparatus to put such candidates on the roster of ELCA clergy. The unanswered question here is whether the process of granting "exceptions" for homosexuals would soon become the norm, with more conservative church bodies being chastised if they refused to allow the "exceptions" that had become common practice elsewhere.

In the case of the first two recommendations, a simple majority in the Churchwide Assembly would be sufficient for passage. Because the third recommendation would require in a change in the ELCA constitution, a two-thirds majority would be necessary for adoption.

Opposition to ELCA Proposals
Since the release of the church council report, many ELCA members have been vocal in their opposition to the three recommendations....

That's one of the bigger understatements of the year!!!!!!!! Read the rest of this most excellent article here.

Do pray

Pray for ELCA

It is always heartening to hear of the generousity towards you by people who are nearly strangers. If you go here you will see the following information and prayer:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has almost five million members. The ELCA General Assembly is scheduled to vote during an Aug. 8-14 meeting in Orlando, Fla., on whether gays in committed relationships should be ordained and their same-sex unions blessed by the church. A reader shares this prayer with us. We will be posting more prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ over the next two weeks.

Our Father in heaven,
Because your Holy Scripture is Your revelation not only of what is our certain hope for eternal life but guidance for this life,
and because it warns us of divided or unclean hearts,
we ask You to guide Your people in all their decisions especially when they meet in Your name.
As Your Son prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” LORD, sanctify those who deliberate in Your name through Your Spirit of Truth. In Your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

It would be great to see it flooded with prayers. Go there and add your petition, please. Make this a week of prayer in your home and congregation.

Friday, July 29, 2005

So, if I understand you Mark, you are saying that this is all about tension. Am I hearing you right?

Looking at critical issues
By KAREN HERZOG, Bismarck Tribune
As expected, nearly every question pointed at the Rev. Mark Hanson from journalists around the nation during a Tuesday conference call had to do with sexuality.

Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, fielded questions about the human sexuality votes that are on the agenda Aug. 8-14 in Orlando, Fla., when delegates of the ELCA gather for the body's Churchwide Assembly.

Although the delegates will vote on a number of issues, including a new structure for the 6-million-member church, new worship materials, interim eucharistic sharing with the United Methodist Church and strategies for mission outreach with people of African descent and Arab and Middle Eastern heritage, the issue of the sexuality votes holds center stage, as it has in nationwide gatherings of other Protestant bodies in the past few years.

Three recommendations created by a task force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality will be considered:

3 That the ELCA find ways to "live together faithfully in the midst of disagreement," about this issue.

3 That the church respect the 1993 Conference of Bishops statement opposing same-sex blessings, while at the same time welcoming gay and lesbian people into the life of the church and giving them pastoral care.

3 Delegates will be asked to decide if a process can be created to allow a synod bishop to create an exception to the ELCA's ordination standards, by which a gay or lesbian clergyperson in a lifelong committed relationship can be ordained or retained on the roster.

Hanson refused to predict the outcomes of these votes.

He said he would, however, "be bold enough to predict that the conversation (around this issue) will continue in the tone" of prayerful and thoughtful concern.

When one part of the Body of Christ (a biblical symbol of the Christian church) suffers, "we all suffer together," Hanson said.

"There is a deep concern for the woundedness of the Body of Christ and for the woundedness of gay and lesbian people in their lives," he said. "We take those experiences of woundedness to God in prayer, bring it to the table of Holy Communion."

The votes in Orlando will signal to what degree those in the middle of the continuum of sexuality viewpoints can "call the two ends to consensus," he said.

"In the last six months, I see a turning," Hanson said. He sees people not wishing to be defined only by "wedge issues," including sexuality, but a growing convergence of interest around issues such as hunger, poverty and the environment.

Interest around those pressing human needs is a hopeful sign, he said, "not just about our life together, but for the world."

Tension is not the sign of a divided church, Hanson said, but of one that can live with ambiguity and diversity.

"I don't look to a tension-free church as a mark of a vital and healthy church in mission," he said. "To be followers of Jesus and descendents of the early church means there will always be tension."

Jesus created tension wherever he went, Hanson said, "by virtue of those he challenged, those he associated with, those he touched, those to whom he spoke of forgiveness, and those he healed."

In the early church, tension was a reality as the small band of followers of Jesus grew and dealt with diversity and questions, such as "who is welcome among us and on what terms?"

What he sees is not a "tension-free ELCA," but a discernment as to whether those tensions are for the sake of the gospel, he said."

The gospel is not about us making "outsiders" feel welcome. When we are talking about God we are all outsiders. The gospel is the power of God to bring sinners into a saving relationship to God through Jesus and to transform us into His people to live that life. Hanson has been unable to speak of homosexuality as sin, thereby promoting the idea that we no longer know what sin is, as though that has changed.

Hanson is trying as much as he can to frame the sexuality issue as a from of racism. It won't work. It's a Sola Scriptura issue. Scripture is clear. Fornication is a sin. Homosexual behaviour is a sin. Do all the torturous explanations you want, it doesn't change the text.

"It is only because traditional marriage has fallen into this anemic condition that marriage between persons of the same-sex even becomes conceivable"

S. Michael Craven
Author, Speaker, VP for Religion & Culture at the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families

Friday, July 22, 2005

Same-Sex Matrimony: The Evolution of Marriage?

Stephanie Coontz, the director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, offered a defense of same-sex marriage which appeared in a Dallas Morning News editorial this past week. The article, The Heterosexual Revolution argues that it is not the legitimization of "gay marriage" that threatens "traditional" marriage but rather it was the earlier abandonment of marriage and all that it embodies by heterosexuals that destroyed our traditional commitment to marriage.

In this latter sense I could not agree more. The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s succeeded in extending sex beyond the previously exclusive relationship of legal marriage. For the first time in America sex outside of marriage became increasingly accepted. As a result sex was divorced from marriage which then opened the door to the acceptance of out-of-wedlock child-bearing further eroding the socially-perceived necessity of marriage. With the increased separation of sex from marriage and marriage from parenting; marriage simply became unnecessary and outdated in the minds of many.

Indeed, today 35 percent of children born in the U.S. are born out-of-wedlock. Sixty-percent of these are to single, non-cohabitating mothers. Out-of wedlock birth has surpassed divorce has the leading cause of single-parenthood in America. However the number of children born to non-married cohabitating couples has increased steadily over the last decade. While statistics demonstrate a continual decrease in the rate of divorce since its peak in 1980 this is largely due to a corresponding reduction in the number of couples marrying. No marriage - no divorce. Conversely non-married cohabitation increased 1200 percent from 1960 to 2004. Today, over half of all first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared to virtually none 50 years ago.

For many, cohabitation is seen as a prelude to marriage and for a growing number of couples, it is considered an acceptable alternative to marriage with a growing percentage of these cohabiting households, now over 40 percent, containing children. The belief that living together before marriage is a useful way "to find out whether you really get along" and thus avoid a bad marriage and an eventual divorce, is now widespread among young people. But the available data on the effects of cohabitation fail to confirm this belief. In fact, a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage. The most recent research reveals that 50 percent of cohabitating relationships break up by the fifth year as compared to a 15 percent dissolution rate among married couples.

I would add that cohabitation undermines the very heart of a successful relationship and subsequent marriage by fostering a condition in which couples begin with a "reserved" level of commitment to one another. This is the essence of a successful marriage; decreased commitment to "me" replaced by a mutual commitment to "we." In a cohabitating relationship couples still hold, in varying degrees, to their individualism, their wants, their needs, etc. This might explain in part why these relationships experience considerably higher break up rates.

Of course none of this would have been possible were it not for the reduced societal commitment to the ideal of marriage. By loosening the societal expectations for marriage as the exclusive and only acceptable context for sexual activity and the essential institution for producing and raising children, marriage ceased being important or necessary.

Consider for example that, according to researchers at Rutgers University, the number one reason given by men today for their unwillingness to marry is that "they can get sex without marriage more easily than in times past."

Where I disagree with Ms. Coontz' article is when she argues, "Marriage has been in a constant state of evolution since the dawn of the Stone Age. In the process it has become more flexible, but also more optional." Historically speaking this is simply untrue. While marriage and its expectations may vary across cultures, among the world's civilized cultures the definition of marriage has been fairly universal. One man and one woman bound together legally and morally and jointly prohibited from extra-marital sexual liaisons.

Furthermore, marriage in these civilized cultures represented and reinforced society's interest in the manner and place in which children came into being and were subsequently raised. The societal ideal was that couples marry, procreate and remain married for life in order to provide the best possible structure for the raising of healthy and productive children. This also ultimately served to regulate sexual behavior (procreative acts) thereby reinforcing a higher moral order.

Among civilized cultures marriage was by no means optional and this is where Ms. Coontz fails to acknowledge history. In every instance where marriage as a means of regulating sexual behavior became "optional" sexual immorality increased followed by increased family dissolution rates which inevitably produced a host of deleterious effects that contributed directly to that civilization's demise.

Ms. Coontz finally suggests that same-sex marriage is a natural step in the ongoing "evolution" of marriage and therefore should not be opposed. Of course this "evolution" is a first in all of human history since there never has been another culture to legitimize homosexual acts in this way.

I hasten to add that this so-called "evolution" of marriage has produced anything but improvement. The U.S., despite a two-decade drop, still has one of the highest divorce rates in the world and among Western nations the U.S. has the lowest percentage of children being raised by biological parents. Traditional marriage has already been "upended" as Coontz acknowledges and the facts are that marriage and the family are in serious trouble in America.

This matters because children deprived of this ideal family structure suffer the most and subsequently the society in which they ultimately live and reign. According to Dr. David Popenoe, the acclaimed Rutgers University sociologist, "children are highly dependent for their development and success in life on the family in which they are born and raised, and a convincing mass of scientific evidence now exists pointing to the fact that not growing up in an intact nuclear family is one of the most deleterious events that can befall a child."

It is only because traditional marriage has fallen into this anemic condition that marriage between persons of the same-sex even becomes conceivable. Continuation down this present path will only further weaken our already fragile social commitment to the institution of marriage. Recall also that this devolution of marriage has taken place within just one generation - imagine the state of the family in one or two more generations in the wake of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage will not strengthen our society's perception of and commitment to marriage, quite the contrary, same-sex marriage only reinforces the message that traditional marriage is outdated and that virtually any family form is acceptable.

Copyright 2005, National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

What are we to think?

From Bp. Hanson Press Conference

"In a July 26 telephone press conference with an array of reporters from Boston to Fargo to Los Angeles, ELCA presiding bishop Mark Hanson talked about his hopes and expectations for the Churchwide Assembly in Orlando.

Bishop Hanson began with a summary of the issues before the assembly. He listed six issues--and interestingly, put the sexuality debate last on the list, in what was apparently an attempt to emphasize that there are more important things happening. (His list: Renewing Worship; evangelism, specifically proposed ethnic strategies; ecumenical relationships, specifically full communion with the United Methodists; God's mission for the life of the world, mentioning especially the Middle East; the ELCA's "plan for mission" (code for restructuring proposal); and then sex, which he described as "continuing a process of study of human sexuality."

The questions, not unexpectedly, mostly had to do with sexuality. The bishop declined (rightly, of course) to express either a personal opinion on the recommendations, or a prediction of what might happen. He did express hope that the "middle" of the spectrum of opinions would be able to craft some way that would allow the "ends" of the spectrum to continue to live together (as per recommendation one).

When asked about possible defections from the ELCA, the bishop expressed the hope that people, if they are considering leaving, would not make that decision solely on the basis of the sexuality actions, but would consider the full context, searching their hearts, the scriptures, and the confessions.

A reporter from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area noted that some bishops are not currently enforcing the existing standards, and wondered, if in Orlando the proposed changes are not made, whether bishops will be under greater obligation to discipline those who violate the standards. Bishop Hanson expressed the opinion that bishops are, in fact, enforcing the standards, and that any action taken in Orlando will have to be factored in to the decisions of individual bishops.

Forum Letter asked the bishop about Carl Braaten's recent open letter charging the ELCA with having become another liberal protestant denomination, and specifically whether the agenda items in Orlando support the charge. Bishop Hanson replied that he had read the letter, was reflecting on it, but any public response, if any, would come after a personal response to Braaten "in the context of Matthew 18." We think that is a reasonable evasion of comment, though bringing Matthew 18 into it seems a little odd. Braaten's letter, after all, is not a personal attack against Bishop Hanson, so can hardly be considered "sinning against him." But then Matthew 18, along with the 8th commandment, seems more and more to be used in expansive ways to stifle public discussion.

The final question came from the New York Times reporter, who wondered about the influence on the ELCA's sexuality discussion of what has happened with the Episcopal Church. Bishop Hanson replied that Lutherans have "deep concern for the woundedness of the Body of Christ"--but also, of course, deep concern for the woundedness of gay and lesbian Christians who do not feel welcome in the church."

Shrimp here: I have decided to no longer write anything that might be construed as an attack on the character of the Presiding Bishop during the run up to Orlando.
Perhaps I could be wrong and Hanson has been completely honest with us. Let me just ask one question here, OK?

Mark Hanson, you think it is best to not express an opinion on how the assembly would vote? Why? Do you think that we think you have no opinion, that you have not been relentless in pushing a secular social agenda until it becomes policy in a Confessional church?

What are we to think?
Church of England Denies Blessings for Same-Sex Unions

The Church of England announced yesterday that it would not give Christian blessings to same-sex couples wishing to ''marry.''

Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2005 Posted: 9:40:36AM EST

LONDON – The Church of England announced yesterday that it would not give Christian blessings to same-sex couples wishing to “marry.”


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The decision was announced by a group from the House of Bishops led by the Bishop of Norwich, the Right Rev Graham James, and was a response to the Civil Partnership Act, which gives gay couples in Britain similar legal rights to married couples and is due to come into effect in December.

Bishop James rejected resolutely equal status for same-sex and heterosexual marriage stating, "Civil partnerships are not gay marriages. Marriage can only be the sexual union of one man and one woman that is in English law as well as the Church."

Regarding the Anglican Church's decision, the Rev Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, accused the Church of a "disregard for decency."

Kirker said, "At a time where lesbian and gay people – let alone lesbian and gay Christians – are looking to the church to affirm their families and to help build stability and provide a safe space for them, the church spits in their face."

The Church, however, fears that the Civil Partnerships Act will inadvertently damage the status of marriage. Yesterday's statement by the House of Bishops defended the Church's teaching on traditional marriage and sexual relations, stating "There are concerns that the introduction of civil partnerships in this form may create fresh anomalies and in practice – even though not in law – erode the unique position which marriage has previously occupied."

The statement claimed that sexual intercourse was "an expression of faithful intimacy, [which] properly belongs within marriage exclusively."

It went on to define marriage as "a creation of ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace.”

“Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, is central to the stability and health of human society," the statement read.

In the Church of England’s “The Book of Common Prayer,” marriage is ordained as being "for the procreation of children, and for a remedy against sin and for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other."

They are really walking the line on this one, taking a good stand on the one side but trying to work within the law for their gay clergy on the other. Read the rest

PTA Again Sides With Homosexual Group

By AFA Journal
July 27, 2005

(AgapePress) - "The National Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) hosted a workshop in June that stressed the need to incorporate more "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender" (GLBT) issues in public school policies and curricula. Meanwhile, a group that presents a message of hope for homosexuals and ex-homosexuals was refused space for their own display.

The Safe Schools workshop at the National PTA Convention in Columbus, Ohio, was conducted by Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a group that wants more training for teachers and students on homosexual and trans-gender issues in schools.

One of the PFLAG presenters, United Church of Christ minister Lawrence Rezash, told PTA members that putting a rainbow ribbon -- a symbol of homosexual pride and solidarity -- on a school bulletin board is one of many subtle ways teachers and guidance counselors can let GLBT students know they are in a safe environment.

However, pro-family groups like the American Family Association believe that the "school safety" argument is used as a smokescreen to allow homosexual propaganda into classrooms. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, for example, only 1 percent of school bullying and harassment incidents are due to a student's sexual orientation.

Grove City College psychology professor and mental health counselor Dr. Warren Throckmorton contends there are ways schools can provide safety for all students without singling out specific victim groups.

"I think if any kid is being harassed for any reason, teachers should intervene ...," he said. "Bullies bully because they're able to, and teachers need to intervene every time they see bullying -- not just when [the bullying involves] certain groups of kids."

Meanwhile, some members of the National PTA have criticized their organization's decision to shut out an "ex-gay" group from the PTA's convention. Although the PTA has refused to comment to the press on its rejection of the group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), disgruntled convention delegates are not remaining silent on the issue.

One delegate from Columbus -- a public school teacher who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from PTA leaders -- contended that the exclusion of PFOX was because the PTA favors the presence of homosexual activist groups in public schools.

"I just believe that it's a political agenda," she said, "and whoever made the decision to deny [exhibit space to PFOX] is connected to the gay community in some way. Therefore they made a decision to shut out this group."

Numerous communities have decided to establish local parent-teacher organizations, preferring to use all monies from fundraisers in their own schools, rather than supporting a national organization that increasingly takes liberal positions on cultural issues like homosexuality.

Perhaps as a result, overall PTA membership nationwide is down -- as was attendance at this year's PTA convention."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dig the headline! If hanson wanted to avoid split why did he promote recklass proposals. Why did he tell us we can leave if we are unhappy?

Shrimp here: How about a little more acountability and a little less spin? Why not adress your pastors by addressing Braaten's letter intstead of getting your press officers to arrange conference calls with the media?

"Lutheran Leader Hopes to Avoid Split"

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 26, 2005; 3:38 PM

"The head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the latest Protestant group in a showdown over homosexuality, said Tuesday he hoped the denomination would stay united no matter what the outcome of its debate.

The ELCA General Assembly is scheduled to vote during an Aug. 8-14 meeting in Orlando, Fla., on whether gays in committed relationships should be ordained and their same-sex unions blessed by the church.

In a conference call with reporters, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson said he hoped anyone contemplating leaving the denomination after the gathering would consider the church's role in the world beyond its stance on homosexuality.

"I think as a large church body we have great capacity to be in mission together that is diminished when we are apart," Hanson said. Of the intense deliberations ahead, he said he hoped "that we will not take the tensions they create as evidence of a divided church but as a sign that a church is struggling with what it means to be centered in Christ."

"I don't look to a tension-free church as the mark of a vital and healthy church in mission," he said.

The three major Lutheran proposals related to homosexuality would:

_affirm the church ban on ordaining sexually active gays, but allow bishops or church districts called synods to seek an exception for a particular candidate;

_uphold the denomination's prohibition against same-sex blessings, but give bishops and pastors discretion in deciding how to minister to gay couples;

_call for unity despite differences over what the Bible says about homosexuality.

The measures could be amended during the meeting, and Hanson would not say how he would vote. Hanson is also president of the Lutheran World Federation, which represents 138 churches in 77 countries. He declined to reveal details of his talks with overseas churches about the upcoming assembly, but said he plans to discuss the vote with them after the meeting.

Members of the federation differ on gay issues.

The Protestant Church in the Netherlands, a merger of Lutheran and Reformed churches, allows blessings for gay couples. But last week the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada rejected a proposal that would have let local pastors decide whether to bless same-sex couples.

With almost 5 million members, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is one of the nation's largest Protestant denominations and the most recent to vote on key gay issues.

Two years ago, the U.S. Episcopal Church sparked a crisis in world Anglicanism by consecrating its first openly gay bishop _ V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The other major U.S. Lutheran body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, is staunchly conservative on homosexuality and other issues."

Sermon resources to address homosexuality and the Bible

Homosexuality & Hospitality: Hot Topics Series

Romans 1:18-2:11 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)

“Homosexuality and Hospitality”
2003 Hot Topics Series
Romans 1:18-2:11
August 17, 2003

Purpose: While homosexuality is a sin, there is no sin greater than not showing God’s hospitality like He showed in his love for us. Therefore, we do not call sin anything but sin, however, we also realize that we are all in need of God’s grace.

I. Introduction
I have a friend. We’ll call him Brad. Brad and I grew up together, graduated together, and for a time even went to the same college together. Brad grew up in a strict Reformed church family. He was adopted. And for the most part, we excused his sometimes peculiar behavior to his family life and his upbringing.

Brad came up to me at our 10-year class reunion, and told me that since I was a pastor now, he knew that I wanted nothing to do with him. When I questioned why he thought this was so, Brad looked and me and said, “Greg, I’m gay and whether you believe it or not, God made me this way. And I know that you don’t agree. So am I still your friend!”

Believe it or not, it wasn’t much of a shock to be honest, and I told Brad so, but I also told him the best piece of advice I could muster in the situation, “Brad, you’re right, God did make you that way. In fact, each of us in born into sin in some fashion or another. But Brad, you’re wrong when you say that I won’t have anything to do with you. I still consider you as a friend. And, as a matter of fact, as a pastor, I believe that God put me here in this very moment just to tell you that He still loves you, and he’s waiting for you to come back to him.”

Brad looked around the room, scoufed, and shook his head, “Yep, he’s definitely a pastor.” And with that, we caught up on old times.

Back at the beginning of June, when I put this worship planner together, I had no idea that this was going to be such a hot topic. In fact, I almost didn’t put it in because I felt that we had probably heard enough about it.

But what has happened with the legalization of same-sex marriages in Canada; the decriminalization of sodomy by the Supreme Court; the announcement of new anti-discrimination rules for same-sex workers at Wal-Mart, and now even a openly, practicing, homosexual bishop being elected in the Episcopal Church by a 62-43 vote, separating the Episcopal Church from the consensus of the Anglican Communion of which we are a part, tells me that we have not heard too much of this message yet.

While The United Methodist Church, from 1972 right up until our last General Conference in 2000, has continuously stated that the homosexual lifestyle is inconsistent with the holiness of life expressed in Scripture, and while affirming that persons with homosexual tendencies are still worth the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but not allowing practicing homosexuals to serve as pastors or bishops or allowing any sort of “covenant union” to be practiced by our pastors, the battle is far from being won.

We still hear a minority of our bishops, who seek to pull us into the world’s thinking…

It’s that world around us…

Where we see several states considering the sanction of homosexual marriages.
Where we see gay couples granted the privileges of married partners when it comes to insurance.
Where we see our televisions that show us several boundary-stretching sitcoms that have openly gay
characters and often make fun of those who have a problem with it.
Where our military just says “We don’t ask…you don’t tell”?
Where the Boy Scouts of America lost funding because they refused to have a gay scout master.
Where there’s a yearly Gay Rights Parade in just about every major city around the globe.
Where there’s even a “Gay Day” at Disney World.

…and the list could go on. In general…

The sin of homosexuality used to be a clear-cut issue that every Christian agreed on…
it now has become an issue that divides even the most conservative of denominations.

The sin of homosexuality was once believed to be a mental illness…but now the American Psychological Association has deemed in its ethical practices that Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual clients are no different than hetrosexual clients, and that any psychologist who counsels a homosexual to change his or her lifestyle “harbors prejudice or is misinformed about sexual orientation.”
(Source: – guideline # 4)

And, the sin of homosexuality, clearly condemned in Scripture…now has theologians ready and willing to stand in front of television cameras and explain it away and call homosexuality anything but sinful.

Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil…”

And from our passage today in Romans, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal men…”

I. The place we need to start in this discussion, is in the simple question, “Is homosexuality sin?”

Now, before we get all righteous, and simply answer, “Yes, of course it is.” Today, I need to warn you that is not enough. We can quote the Old Testament Scriptures like…

Leviticus 18:22 that says, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, that is detestable.” or
Leviticus 20:13 that says, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done
what is detestable…”

But those who support homosexual rites will call these outdated, for we don’t follow many of the Old Testament laws to this day.

So we can quote the New Testament Scriptures like…

I Timothy 1:9-11 says, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, (for fornicators and sodomites (male homosexuals) - NKJV) for slave traders, liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which he entrusted to me.” or

I Corinthians 6:9 which reads “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kindness of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexual offenders, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy or covetous, nor the drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” or

Jude 1:7 which says, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing punishment of eternal fire.”

We can quote those and say, “See…see…here it is…” But to the one standing against us in the “sin or not sin” argument, they will not be convinced as they manipulate the Biblical text for their purpose.

II. I believe the first way we can convince homosexuals to think hard about their lives is to help them find the answer in the results of what they do…Homosexuality has dire consequences…

A report entitled Homosexualities: a Study of Diversity Among Men and Women, written
by Bell and Weinberg (1978), published by Simon & Schuster, says that…

…70% of homosexuals admit to having sex only one time with 50% of their partners
…79% admitted that these persons were often total strangers.
…74% of male homosexuals had more than 100 partners in lifetime
…43% had more than 500 partners
…28% had more than 1000 partners(the average hetrosexual has 8 partners in a lifetime)
…78% at any given time are affected by an sexually transmitted disease
…over 80% had a history of sexually transmitted diseases

In a report on drug use for Newsweek magazine, it was found that…
…89% of homosexuals had used marijuana
…over 50% had used cocaine or LSD
….42% had experienced depression because of there drug use
…which led to 35% considering suicide, 18% attempting it.

Dr. E. Fields, from Maretta GA, wrote a paper entitled “Is Homosexuality Normal?”

In doing the research, he found that the median age of death of homosexuals is 42 (with only 9% living past the age of 65). This drops to only 39 if the cuase of death is AIDS, while the median age of death of a married hetrosexual man is 75.

He also found that the median age death of lesbians is 45 (only 24% live past age 65). The median age of death of a married heterosexual woman is 79.

I believe that the world of the homosexual is not always as glamorous as we are led to believe. If we are to lead these people out of this lifestyle, then we must pay attention to the real hurt and pain that many homosexuals have experienced, are experiencing, or will be experiencing. This is where the hospitality comes in. We have the answer…and that answer is Jesus Christ.

Rev. Les Longden, associate professor of evangelism and discipleship at the U.M. University of Dubuque (IA) put it like this, “Our firmness in adhering to Christian teaching must be accompanied by an equally passionate practice of ministering with and to homosexuals…A robust theological defense…must be accompanied by dynamic ministries that welcome homosexual people into the transforming power of the gospel in the midst of our congregations.”

III. In fact, I believe that best way we can convince homosexuals to think hard about their lives is to show them what Jesus can do.

When homosexuals claim they were born that way…tell them that the “gay gene” has yet to be
found and verified, but Jesus did die so that sin of all forms could be transformed.

When homosexuals claim that Christians shouldn’t judge...tell them that God does the judging,
His Word is proof of that, but we can escape that judgment when through his Son we
come asking for forgiveness of our sin and for the Holy Spirit’s leadership in our lives.

When homosexuals claim that we no longer want them because of their choice, tell them how
Jesus ate with sinners, how Jesus even saved a sinner by saying, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more,” and how Jesus has opened that wide door of faith, so that any sinner may be welcome. When redemption comes, old things are passed away, and the new creature in Christ develops. It’s not that we no longer want them, it’s quite the opposite, we want to show the love of Christ through us, to them.

When the homosexuals claim that Jesus didn’t even mention “homosexuality” in his teachings,
remind that that he didn’t mention rape, incest, kidnapping, or wife abuse either, but no one would argue that his silence on these issues would ever indicate that he approved of them. Instead, he told us to love God, following his Word, becoming his disciple, and then to love one another.

It is true that Jesus isn’t going to change rules…
Jesus was quick to call a sinner a “sinner” in his day. And, if a homosexual refuses to repent, refuses to accept the offer sealed on that Cross and evidenced at that Resurrection,
and decides to openly live in sin and try to fool God in the process,
Paul told the Romans that “God will give them over to their depraved mind, to the sinful desires of their hearts, to the shameful lusts, because they are doing what ought not be done. (Romans 1:28).

IV. Which brings us to our last point, what is our job as the church? I believe that our job is to continue offering hospitality and salvation to every sinner, including those among us, if not ourselves…

ex. hospitality statement petition at Annual Conference – Wakelee’s “all sinners welcome here.”

Jesus invited people from all walks of life to come follow him. He loved and welcomed many. He accepted and protected sinners. And while he called each of us to forsake it all in order to come and follow him, we know that the challenge may be the same or different for each one us.

Homosexuality is just another sin that draws the person away from God’s plan for their lives.

And instead of being fearful, instead of calling names, instead of making signs and getting angry, let the church be a beacon of light for those who want to leave any sinful lifestyle.

Let us offer all people the power of Jesus Christ to bring healing in to their lives.
Let us offer them the one thing that can set them free from sin, so that they can be made into a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Romans 1:32 says, “Although they know God’s righteous decree, that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them.” Wakelee, I don’t want to be that church.

While homosexuality is a sin, and we do not want to call a sin anything but, there is no sin greater than not showing God’s hospitality like He showed in his love for us. We are all in need of God’s mercy and grace. Let us be the church that offers that instead.

Will you join me in prayer?

Heavenly Father,

You have called us to follow your Son and his teachings. You have called us to be His disciples. You have called us to be your church.

In these days, when evil is called good and good is called evil, we’re often left perplexed, confused, and confounded. While we sit back asking, “how could this happen?” we often miss the point that you have called us to reach out in your love in times such as these.

Lord, help us. Help us to live out your will. Help us to be strong in our faith. Help us as we offer that same faith to others.

Help us, outside of these walls, to recognize and call sin what it is, help us to be willing and ready to offer the solution, which is the hope that we find through your Son Jesus Christ.

And when its our sin that gets in the way, give us the strength to overcome it, the knowledge of learning from our mistakes, and your promise of redemption. Give us the loving nudge or push that we need to get back on track with your plan for our lives.

Lord, we give you thanks. For your Word and the direction in which it gives.
Send your Spirit upon us, so that we may be your witnesses in Wakelee and beyond.

In the name of Christ, we lift this prayer…Amen.

#410 – I Want A Principle Within


As we leave this place…
May God’s love be in everything that we do,
May it show in everyone we share it with,
May it be in every place God would have it to be.
In the name of the One who first loved us, even when we were yet sinners, we pray…Amen.

other sermonsfrom them on this subject here

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

For decades, homosexual activists have claimed that their same-sex attractions are inborn, genetic, and unchangeable. Now, transgender activists ...

"Which Sexual Orientation Will Next Achieve Protected Status?"

You have to read this article. Here is an excerpt:

"There are literally dozens of groups of individuals who engage in bizarre sexual behaviors and who have mental conditions known as paraphilias or behaviors known as fetishes. These include Coprophagia—individuals who get sexual satisfaction from eating feces; Klismaphilia— individuals who are sexually aroused by enemas; Pederasty—male homosexuals who enjoy having sex with children; Sadomasochism—individuals who derive sexual pleasure from receiving or inflicting pain upon others; Diaper fetishes—adults who get sexual pleasure from wearing diapers and wetting themselves; Necrophilia—individuals who are sexually aroused by viewing or having sex with corpses.

All of these behaviors could be considered to be "sexual orientations"—and many of the individuals who engage in these behaviors are working to have their peculiar sexual behaviors declared to be normal in psychiatry and in the culture at large.

At a symposium sponsored by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in San Francisco on May 19, 2003, two psychiatrists presented a paper arguing for such deviant sexual behaviors as Pedophilia, Sadomasochism, as well as other Gender Identity Disorders to be removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). The presenters were Drs. Charles Moser from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco and Peggy Kleinplatz of the University of Ottawa. Both are involved in an international organization called "ReviseF65 Project," a subsidiary group of the Norwegian National Association for Lesbian and Gay Liberation. This group lobbies national governments to remove Sadomasochism as a mental disorder from psychiatric guidelines."

Please read the whole thing!

Monday, July 25, 2005

LCNA tries to spin huge loss in Winnipeg

Go to lengthy report on same sex floor discussion and vote here

Doesn't sound like LCNA's Emily Eastwood's spin:

July 23, 2005 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10-2005

Lutherans Concerned Remains Committed to Achieving the Blessing of Same-Gender Relationships in the ELCIC

Lutherans Concerned remains committed to achieving the blessing of same-gender relationships in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) despite the defeat of such a motion at the National Convention of that Church body in Winnipeg, Canada, which concluded on Saturday evening, July 23, 2005.

The motion that went before the National Convention of this Lutheran Church body would have allowed a local option for pastors and congregations to bless same-gender covenanted relationships. Under the proposed local option, no congregation or pastor would have been required to perform such a blessing. The rite for any such blessing would have been prescribed by the national church body and differ from the marriage rite. The motion was not passed after considerable discussion.

"Today the ELCIC lost another opportunity to take a courageous step forward toward ensuring that gay and lesbian people are indeed welcome in this Church. Today is a day to mourn and then to recommit ourselves to work for change in the church we love," said Lionel Ketola of Keswick, Ontario, spokesperson for Lutherans Concerned-Canada.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned/North America, said "While we are disappointed that the motion for local option allowing the blessing of same-gender relationships did not pass, we are pleased that 45% of the delegates voted to approve it. Five years ago, this motion would have never made it to the floor. This year, not only did the National Church Council bring the motion to the Convention, nearly half of those voting were in favor. Though we had hoped for a different result, the numbers tell a story of hope for the future.

She added, "Unlike those who threatened to withhold funds or to leave the ELCIC if the motion had passed, most of those seeking approval for blessings promised to stay, to keep talking, to bear witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered believers. They do so secure in the knowledge that this issue of justice and equality will prevail. We are inexorable in the practice of our Lutheran faith and our commitment to a goal of full participation in the Church."

The convention also passed a motion asking the denomination's leaders, congregations and pastors to "seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," rejecting all words and actions hostile to gays and lesbians in church and community, and taking steps to create a more welcoming place in the church for gays, lesbians, and their families. An overwhelming majority of those present voted approval of this motion. Similarly the convention defeated a motion asking the denomination to provide materials to congregations to aid homosexuals seeking to "exit the lifestyle."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bp Schultz's sermon comments by a traditionist Canadian Lutheran pastor

For those of you south of the border, the practice of the Bishop writing a sermon to be read on the Sunday of a Synodical or National Convention is common. Our conventions almost always include Sunday worship, which all delegates, clergy or lay, are expected to attend. As the e-mail which announced this sermon said “National Bishop Raymond Schultz has written a sermon suitable for use on Sunday July 24, 2005. Many clergy will be attending worship that morning at the National Biennial Convention in Winnipeg. Congregational leaders are encouraged to use this sermon in their pulpits that day.” Not in my congregation.

Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of
these is love.

Paul was trained as a lawyer.
The quote from 1 Corinthians is a summary statement.
In order for Paul to say what he does about love,
he has to talk about faith and hope first.
And that’s what he does.

Time was when there was a shared understanding of what terms like “faith”, “hope” and “love” meant. Unfortunately, that time is past, at least in the ELCIC. Just because everyone uses the same words, is no guarantee that they have a shared meaning. As an aside, if there is any justice in the world there
will be a special accounting for those who have bastardized the rich
language of Scripture and the church to the point that words which once
bespoke Christ, have been made vacuous in an attempt to further a man-made

First: faith.
So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through
the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (NRSV)
Faith is trust in Christ.
Faith believes Christ’s promise and agrees to follow.
But Paul knows that simply following out of duty
is pretty dreadful.
The religion of people like that is often dry
and sometimes very unfeeling.
There has to be some dynamic to the relationship,
something to keep looking forward to.

There is also something to be said of a sense of duty, born out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us by his death and resurrection. But as we should know by now, nothing is more important than “feeling”. Scripture and the Confessions are fine, but only so long as they don’t make anyone “feel” bad. If that happens then obviously there is a deficiency in our understanding of Scripture because God would never want anyone to” feel” bad. It also seems according to Bp. Schultz that God needs to keep His children entertained—there “has to be…something to keep looking forward to”. Time was that the promise of eternal life with God was enough to look forward to, but guess we need something more immediate to hope for.

Thus, Paul’s next point: hope.
So Paul writes:
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For
who hopes for what is seen?
Romans 8:24 (NRSV)

Religion is not just about security with God.
Paul went on a journey with Christ into the unknown.
He learned to trust Christ in spite of the suffering.
He learned to expect things to happen.
And he wanted to have the same happen to others:
that gave him the energy and the patience to keep going.

Reading this description of St. Paul, it bears a striking resemblance to motivational speakers hawking tapes on late-night infomercials—sharing their story of how they overcame (insert struggle here) to become healthy, wealthy (insert any other positive attributes here), and now they want to share their formula for success with you.
As for the source of Paul’s mission and energy, I thought that was Christ.

That brings us to today’s readings.
Today’s readings call upon God’s people not to lose hope
when things don’t happen the way they expect.
Jacob learns that getting to marry Rachel
includes an unexpected marriage to her sister Leah first.
The letter to the Romans reminds the readers
not to be dismayed when drastic changes take place.
No matter how crazy things get,
nothing can separate them from the love of God.
“Keep your hopes up!” Paul writes to them.

Permit me to indulge in a bit of cynicism. Written for the day after the vote on the resolution for a local option allowing same-sex blessings, this smacks of spin. Regardless of how the vote goes, “it’s all good” don’t anyone get angry, upset or anxious and for heaven’s sake don’t anyone quit sending in benevolence.

The gospel reading shows us how Jesus did that.
Jesus spoke about
planting seeds,
salting food and
leaving a light out for people.
Will the seed grow?
Will the food spoil in the heat?
Will the traveler return?

O.K., which special version of Matthew is Bp. Shultz using here, because in any text I have of the Gospel, only the bit about the seed is found in ch. 13, the others are in ch. 5.

Humans do not have the gift of foretelling the future.
Therefore, when they face the future, what they can do is:
look forward in hope and
get involved in the needs of others.
If it goes nowhere, it goes nowhere.
But by hoping in the future,
they leave the door open for something more to happen.

While humans may be unable to foretell the future, as children of God the future for us is by no means unknown. While the details aren’t clear we know our destiny by virtue of Christ’s resurrection and our participation in it. Further, our hope is not in the future, but in Christ. And while we would never preclude the possibility of God doing something new, it also isn’t too much to expect that God would act consistently with His Word – something those pushing this whole same-sex thing have yet to adequately demonstrate.

Paul’s mission to Gentiles was a risky business.
His own religious community hated him for it.
Some stirred up riots when he was in town.
Some got him arrested, flogged and imprisoned.
Many who started with him abandoned him.

Which “religious community” would we be talking about? Jewish or Christian? A rather sweeping and uncharitable judgement of groups which were by no means monolithic in their beliefs or practices in the first century.

But Paul knew that the mission wasn’t his.
He was the ground in which Christ had planted a seed.
Christ was crucified for the risk he took,
telling God, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Can someone make the connection here? Is it self-sacrifice? Obedience to the will of God? Or perhaps more of the motivational “Take a risk and see what happens” school of theology?

The Christian church began as a hope in something
that seemed absolutely impossible,
given the odds against it.
People joined even at great risk to themselves.
They saw a future in the church
that they didn’t see in their old religion
or in the Roman empire.

Interesting, I always thought people joined the church because of the message of Jesus Christ and the promise of the Gospel.

So these texts cause me to wonder what has happened
to the church of today?
How did we get so cautious and self-concerned?
When did we lose the faith to say to God,
“Not my will, but yours?”
Instead, people shop around for a church that assures them
the way things are now is the way God wants it.
When did we quit trusting God
just because God is ready to move us around a little?

The ELCIC is in its present mess precisely because many in its leadership have lost the faith to say to God, “not my will but yours” and instead have been investing huge amounts of time and energy to put their will into action and labeling it as God’s, hoping no one will notice or ask too many questions. We haven’t quit trusting God; we have quit trusting the ELCIC’s leadership. We aren’t unwilling to be moved by God – we are unwilling to have the ELCIC’s leadership try and move us from God.
People looking for a church that can give some assurance of what God desires are not looking to have all the “i’s” dotted and the “t’s” crossed with regards to their faith—they know the need for mystery and trust. What they are looking for is a church where the leadership hasn’t seen fit to try and edit the faith once delivered to the saints to suit the needs of a particular agenda. Or where ignorance isn’t held in such high esteem e.g. “How can we know God isn’t doing something new?”, “How can we know what Scripture really means when it mentions homo-erotic behavior?”.

The Promise is this:
God provided a creation that was intended to be used
to create a just and peaceful society.
That creation is in pain.
The pain comes from human unwillingness to be just or peaceful.
God experienced that pain in the death of Jesus, God’s Son.
Religious people caused much of that pain:
religious people who were absolutely sure
they knew what God wanted.

Out of curiosity, what “Promise” is Bp. Schultz talking about? Further, what about sin? Creation isn’t in pain simply because humanity lacks the willpower to do what is right, it’s in pain because of sin. But then of course we can’t mention that “s” word, because someone might “feel” bad. Also, might it be possible to actually identify these “religious people” Bp. Schultz keeps referring to? If I were to hazard a guess, probably those fanatics who believe the Word of God is clear and understandable, and not the textual Rubic’s Cube most revisionists would have us believe.

Paul had become part of such a religion.
It felt good.
It was very active.
Paul felt like he was really accomplishing something.
But it wasn’t until Paul was stopped dead in his tracks
and could do nothing
that God’s will really got through to him.

Guess in the interests of political correctness, Bp. Schutlz can’t state the obvious that Paul (Saul) was Jewish and a Pharisee.
So Paul knew what he was talking about when he wrote:
…we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit
intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches
the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit
intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,
he prayed in a posture of surrender:
Not my will but yours be done.

Cynicism alert! Can’t help but get the feeling the call here is less to surrender to the will of God than surrender to the collective wisdom of the ELCIC’s national leadership—which of course has a hot-line to God and is in the know about the “new thing” God would like to do but keeps getting thwarted by the knuckle-dragging fundies, who hold uncritically to Scripture and the Confessions.

God never abandons us.
Instead, we push God aside by our plans and activities.
But when we are silent enough to let God do the talking,
God often surprises us with new directions.
Maybe not the action
we think is on the agenda for religious people;
Maybe action that is not as esteemed as we would like it to be;
but action that is meant
to alleviate the world’s pain through God’s compassion.

Hello! Did Bp. Schultz even read what he wrote here? “…we push God aside by our plans and activities”? Sounds like a good description of the process that resulted in the same-sex blessing resolution, the same process Bp. Schultz has consistently held up as a positive thing. As far as his suggestion that “God often surprises us with new directions”, its seems more accurate that in this case the ELCIC’s leadership is surprising God (if that is possible) with the new directions it is trying to implement.

God has enough salvation available to include every human being.
We don’t have to be stingy with it.
We can offer it in generous handfuls to whoever.
That’s what Paul learned after his conversion.
That’s what his religious community hated about him.
They had no hope, no compassion for those not like them.
Paul, on the other hand, had nothing but hope.

Here is a prime example of the “gospel” of inclusivity as preached by many in the ELCIC (and ELCA) these days. The same “gospel” that would bless what God has called sin, that would give communion to the unbaptized, that would water down Scripture and the Confessions to the lowest common denominator so that everyone can “feel” good. O.K., everyone except those who aren’t afraid to identify this for the nonsense it is—they are just “unfeeling” and “religious”.

Our church is closing its 10th biennial convention this morning.
For three days our delegates have lived under the theme:
In Mission For Others.
The main word in the theme is Others.
We have no need to be afraid of the future.

I would disagree (big surprise) with the Bp.’s assessment of the convention’s theme. The main word is not “others”, the main word is “misson”. The fact he missed that says volumes about the state of the ELCIC. The church is supposed to be about the mission Christ gave. Unless the church has a clear understanding of why it exists (e.g. Matt. 28:19-20) and understands that it is not autonomous but exists by the will and power of Christ, it is in danger of becoming nothing more that a social club or service group. The church exists for others, only insofar as it exists for Christ and to do His will.

As Paul wrote to his friends:

…I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor
depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A favorite proof-text of the Bp.’s used to: a) give assurance that no matter what direction the ELCIC heads, God still loves us; b) condescendingly respond to cries of clergy and laity that by blessing same-sex relationships we are inviting the judgement of God.

This is the gospel of the Lord.

If Bp. Schultz is referring to the text from Romans 8, then I can agree that the Gospel is spoke in that text. I can’t say the same for the sermon, but such is life in the ELCIC these days. One can’t help but fear for the future of an organization that would send this sermon out to be read from the pulpits as the Word of God.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Same Sex Blessing on a local option basis motion defeated in Canada

from our Canadian brothers and sisters...

Debate on Same Sex Blessing continued until 1450 CDT. All speakers at
the microphones had opportunity to speak, although after lunch by
common consent speeches were limited to 2 minutes.

Results of the secret ballot on the National Church Council
recommendation to allow Same Sex Blessing on a local option basis.

408 Ballots cast
272 Needed to pass (2/3)

183 Yes

220 No

5 abstentions)

The motion was defeated.

This has to bode well for ELCA next month. How disappointing for the revisionist bishops present, Hanson, Schults and Hutchinson! This has to bode well for traditionalist Angicans in Canada and the ECUSA, too.

We do not mean to gloat over this as a victory over Lutherans Concerned North America and the GLBT agenda; we see the victory in the faithful take a stand to save the church from schism by preserving sound doctrine.

The Canadians have always been our best allies (since the War of 1812 anyway)!

timely prayer request

My husband Daniel is up in Winnipeg for the ELCIC Convention.
Yesterday Bp. Raymond Schultz was re-elected on the third ballot with
a 53% majority. Since he was elected on the third ballot, none of
the candidates had to speak before the assembly. A resolution that
questioned the constitutionality of the National Church Council’s
recommendations on same-sex blessing was defeated.

This morning they began debate at 10:00 on the resolution. A motion
to require a 2/3 vote for passage on the resolution did pass
. The
motion needed a 2/3 vote and was passed by 2/3. The first five
speakers were in favor of passage. The speakers included 2 pastors
who wished to give blessings to couples in their congregations. A
lesbian who came out 20 years ago would found her congregation
inadequate but who had now found a welcoming place. A gay pastor who
had blessed 30 weddings on a cruise ship event and who does not think
we are blessing sin but thinks we are “achieving justice”. The fifth
speaker was a woman who said she had experienced the Bible as a
weapon numerous times in her life. In her life she had been told to
keep silent rather than being ordained and that her love for a black
man was contrary to God’s word. All five speakers were in favor of
the ELCIC discerning a new word from God.

The convention is in recess at the moment and will continue at 11 AM.
About 50 people are lined up at the microphones. Total registration
is about 400 delegates.

Daniel will report more later.

Continue to be in prayer.

God bless and greetings from the ELCIC.

Have a good day.
Kristin Emma Ostercamp

Showing "wholeness" by breaking rules!!!!

Shrimp here: You human people funny. Why you not see the great distance between Liberal theology and traditionalist faith? Why no one has raised the alarm that leadership of ELCA has been preaching and teaching something other? Why has leadership not challenged the far left? Why has far left not been asked to give a defense of their faith?

Traditionalist faith says we come to Jesus as broken people; preaches "Show the Church your wholeness." Read the following from them:

"Goodsoil at Churchwide in Orlando"

"The ELCA 2005 Churchwide Assembly begins Monday, August 8, and concludes Sunday, August 14. Opening Worship is at 4:30 p.m. and the first Plenary Session at 7:30 p.m.

goodsoil will be present throughout the Assembly. We will be present not only to participate in the business of our Church but to proclaim and bear witness to our wholeness, our authenticity and our oneness in the Body of Christ. We hope you'll join us.

Friends of goodsoil will stand in vigil during all the Assembly's Plenary sessions. If you're coming to Orlando we hope you'll consider participating in the vigil. All those standing in vigil are asked to pledge non-violence. Non-violence Training led by Soulforce is available for those who desire it.

2:30 - 4:00 p.m.
nonviolence training

8:00 p.m.
nonviolence training

7:30 p.m.
goodsoil reception

7:30 p.m.

Celebrate the Promise, Pour Out the Spirit, a goodsoil festival worship service. Celebrate the Promise, Pour Out the Spirit will feature a renewal of sacred vows: baptismal vows, ordination vows, and the vows of covenanted relationships, including marriage.

The Rev. Ruth Frost will preach. The Rev. Jen Nagel and the Rev. Jay Wiesner (Bethany Lutheran, Minneapolis, MN) will co-preside. Bread for the Journey will provide music.

Come to Orlando for as many days as possible to bear witness, to be enriched and to celebrate your wholeness."

You got that
. They are going to show their wholeness by breaking our rules!

Will they be called on this by Hanson? Or was he in on it?

Read the following from Wingspan. Doesn't it seem like they are doing the leadership in this issue?

"ELCA Church Council—Sexuality Task Force Recommendations"
Todd Roos

"I represented Wingspan Ministry as a visitor to the Church Council meeting April 8-11, 2005 at the ELCA churchwide offices in Chicago. Also attending were nine other members of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation (“The Alliance”, see and two officials from Soulforce ( The Church Council had the power to modify or amend the three recommendations of the Sexuality Task Force (before they are put forward for a vote at the August 2005 Churchwide Assembly). They chose not to do so but instead actively promoted the notion that ambiguity is a very good thing while clarity is not. This leaves them plenty of wiggle room to equivocate on GLBT rights out of a desire to maintain unity in the church. This desired ambiguity had already been made painfully clear in the Task Force’s recommendation 3 in which the church’s own policy is both stated and violated. The end result is the council’s resolutions on sexuality match the Task Force recommendations. The Assembly can approve resolutions one and two with a simple majority vote while resolution 3 will require a 2/3 majority to win approval.

For the last six years, Ellen Maxon (the only openly gay person on the 35-member council) has been our champion. Ellen courageously and repeatedly suggested amendments to the study recommendations. Her calmly delivered but fervent pleas for our rights deeply moved me. Ellen and one or two allies on the council were the only members who spoke publicly of us as human beings who’ve been deeply hurt by the church, rather than mere objects of the legislative process. Through much of the meeting, I felt rejected as a valued child of God.

There were positive signs at the meeting that gave us an unfulfilled hope for a more positive outcome. Early on, a council ally asked that The Alliance co-chairs be allowed to address the council for 3 minutes. This was granted and Jeff and Janine delivered a powerful statement that was an emotional high point of the weekend. It was the first time in the 18-year history of the ELCA that visitors have been allowed to speak. The Sunday sermon, “Them”, described how we all tend to label those unlike us as Them and thus outsiders. The pastor pleaded for a church that was inclusive of all people.

It’s clear that Task Force members worked long and hard on their recommendations but remained divided just as the council was this weekend. They truly feel they are working toward a positive outcome. Clear leadership and vision were lacking. Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and council members repeatedly emphasized how they were trying to provide space for the inclusion of GLBT pastors and the blessings of relationships of GLBT persons. It remains to be seen how effectively space will be provided and how widespread it will be. The process for GLBT pastors, in committed relationships, to be approved is much more arduous than that for other candidates. Both GLBT ordinations and blessings are totally dependent on the willingness of the individual’s church and synod and ordinations require approval of the Council of Bishops. This last step is demanded of no other candidates for ordination and effectively creates two parallel tracks for ministers.

I felt privileged to represent Wingspan Ministry at the Church Council meeting and honored to work with the passionate, dedicated members of The Alliance and Soulforce. We all agreed that we must continue the fight for full rights for GLBT persons. Our attendance at the meeting gave us much clearer and realistic ideas on how to accomplish that."


Friday, July 22, 2005

Lutherans Concerned reports from Winnipeg

The ELCIC National Convention is being held July 21-24, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. This report filed by publicity officer of Lutherans Concerned.

Shrimp here: Lutherans Concerned, of course, has every right to be a visitor at the ELCIC convention. That they are posting reports from there should clue their theological opponents into some dynamics. First, there is a history of border crossings (to be sure, the reporting group is named Lutherans Concerned North America, a fact many have probably overlooked, and now the timing of these two sets of recommendations on normalizing homosexual relations is even clearer--yet the point I want to make is that there is more to it than that]. Think about what has been said before about the appearance of Bob Childs at LC and other synodical "gay awareness events" and the GLBT presence not only at the churchwide Council meeting; the presence of their papers in "recommended readings"; as well as the presence of their people on synodical as well as churchwide councils. Also, we see the head bishop of ELCIC was at the Churchwide drafting of the three recommendations last March; with Hanson present to preach at the closing of the ELCIC we see another "border crossing" which may point to what may be a real future for Lutheranism in North America ...

Here is the Lutherans Concerned report:

"Attending the ELCIC National Convention are Emily Eastwood, Executive
Director LC/NA, Sharon Lee Ellingsen, Vice-Chair LC/NA, Phil Soucy,
Director Communications LC/NA, and Lionel Ketola, LC Canada, along with
other members of LC/NA.

The National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
opened with a prayer at 2:30 pm on July 21, 2005. Prior to that there was
a Delegate Orientation of administrative matters, chaired by the National
Bishop, Bishop Ray Schultz Among the administrative matters of interest
to and LC/NA were:

* Bishop Schultz reported that, due to a clerical error at the National Church Office and at the Office of the Alberta Synod, the entire list of voting members with addresses was released to an organization, Take A Stand, who then used the list to send a letter advocating for their position against the blessing of same-gender relationships. Bishop Schultz stated that the unauthorized release of the list was regrettable, offensive, and a violation of Canadian law, and he apologized to the
Convention. The person who made the release is no longer an employee of the ELCIC.

* In the letter, Take A Stand asked that those who agreed with the position to oppose local option for same gender blessings wear an enclosed 'Take a Stand on the Word of God' red ribbon during the National Convention. National Bishop Schultz as the Chair said that he was ruling that the wearing of any partisan logo, emblem, or slogan which could be construed as demonstrating a position on the issue was banned from the Convention Hall itself and the Worship services that were part of the
official agenda of the Convention. Thus, the so-called 'red ribbon' as well as rainbow icons/logos and any such advocacy paraphernalia were banned. Such emblems can be worn outside the convention hall and during meals. When the session was ended and delegates headed to dinner, many again displayed their 'red ribbons.'

In the Q&A at the end of the Delegate Orientation, a questioner rose to demand from the Bishop Schultz the written documents that spoke of the policy he was using to rule against wearing the 'red ribbons.' "Sir, I don't know you; you don't me; I don't trust you." The questioner's tone of voice was steely, confrontational, and disrespectful by any standard. Bishop Schultz said that it was a decision of the Chair. The questioner said, "So, Sir, there is no documentation." Almost without waiting for a response, he continued "Sir, it's a simple question." Bishop Schultz
moved on to the next questioner. Later, Bishop Schultz returned to the subject by saying that the ban was completely consistent with the ban of electioneering in the precincts of a polling place, and that it was a decision of the Chair to extend that principle to all of these advocacy materials.

The Convention was officially opened following this administrative session. The Convention is governed by Bourinot's Rules of Order, not Robert's. The general principles of Bourinot are:

* Proper opportunity is afforded to all concerned for an expression of
* Rights of a minority are respected.
* Clear decisions are reached
* Proceedings are governed by an assessment of the issues rather than by
personality factors.

Two other incidents are of interest to and Lutherans Concerned:

* During the discussion of granting Seat and Voice to various Special Visitors, like Bishop Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Bishop Schultz asked that the Youth Convention be given Voice and Vote, but that because it was not a resolution on the agenda, the vote would have to be unanimous. Eight of 377 delegates raised 'red cards,' objecting to the grant, and it failed. Those familiar with those who raised their red cards said they were predominantly from those opposed to same gender
blessing issues.

* During the Bishop's Report, a questioner rose to ask about an article in The Anglican Journal, June 2005, on pg 9 that said that Bishop Shultz had gone to Ottawa to meet with Members of the Canadian Parliament on the subject of same-gender marriage. She noted that there was no mention of this in the Bishop's Report and that she wanted to know who exactly, which MPs, the Bishop had met with and what the nature of the discussions were. She wanted the Church office to issue a document covering this meeting. The Bishop said that there had been no such meeting. He had met with MPs in March, but that had been on economic issues. She said "So, the
Anglican Journal is wrong; are they going to issue a retraction?" To which he responded that he didn't know what the Anglican Journal was going to do.

The first ballot for the election of a National Bishop was held. Bishop Shultz is able to stand for re-election."
















Please do keep folks in your prayers

"The Tenth Biennial Convention of the ELCIC will be July 21-24 at the
Univ. of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Please do keep folks in your prayers,
as they will be dealing with the election of the National Bishop and
the following resolution:

15. The National Church Council recommends that the ELCIC acknowledge the inadequacy of sections of _Sex, Marriage and the Family, A Social Statement of the Lutheran Church in America, 1970_ referring to homosexuality and homosexual behavior in light of developing theological, pastoral and sociological scholarship and that the ELCIC
suspend the application of those references.

That the ELCIC allow pastors to perform blessings for same-sex couples who want to make a lifelong commitment to one another in the presence of God and their community of faith. Authorization to perform such blessings shall require the consent of the pastor, the consent of the congregation or calling agency as expressed by a third-thirds majority vote (sic, I'm unsure if thats Canadianese) at a duly called meeting, and consultation with the synodical bishop. These blessings shall use a rite authorized by this church.

That the ELCIC's Program Committee on Worship be requested to develop a provisional rite for the blessing of same-sex couples in committed relationships.

The resolution is followed by a background statement that includes observations such as "many people in the ELCIC are sincerely struggling with attitudes toward homosexuality in church and society. Nevertheless, many are open to gay and lesbian people affirming their commitment to their partners" and "there is a growing understanding in some contexts that the provision of same-sex blessing is primarily
an issue of pastoral care and not confessional integrity. The ELCIC needs to develop a pastoral practice to address the expressed needs of gay and lesbian people". On a more positive note, the reference and council report also includes a position statement that holds to biblical teaching and was supported by 14 churches across 3 provinces."

We have reporters who will be attending the convention. Two have indicated that they will file some "reports from the front"?

ELCIC Convention Report

ELCIC Convention Report - Day 1

The first (half) day of the convention was fairly uneventful and involved items like welcome/greetings, convention committee appointments, treasurer's report, and adoption of the agenda. The national bishop Raymond Schultz advised the delegates that the red ribbons (carrying the wording "Taking a Stand on the Word of God"), which had been made available by the "takingastand" movement, could not be worn by delegates while on the convention floor as some of the delegates would be intimidated/pressured by such a gesture. The main order of business was Ballot #1 for election of the National Bishop. The results of the first ballot are to be reported to the convention delegates tomorrow (Friday). Stay tuned. More reports here.

Pray for ELCIC

Shrimp here: Besides the fact that they will be voting in their convention today and tomorrow on leaving the Confessional understanding behind, I'll give you another reason to pray for the ELCIC: ELCA PB Mark Hanson is going to preach the closing sermon on Sunday (isn't that interesting).


Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of New Testament
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

On Jan. 13, 2005, the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality issued its “Report and Recommendations.” It proposed that the ELCA retain the current policy that pastors and rostered lay persons are expected to abstain from sexual relationships outside of marriage, including homosexual relationships. However, it also proposed that this policy not to be enforced: “As a pastoral response to the deep divisions among us, this church may choose to refrain from disciplining those who . . . call or approve partnered gay or lesbian candidates . . . and to refrain from disciplining those rostered people so approved and called” (p. 7).

Any who do not want the ELCA to reach a point where it celebrates homosexual behavior and/or irreparably damages its own credibility should view this proposal as a decisive defeat of their (i.e. the scriptural) position under the illusion of maintaining the status quo.

Thwarting a Landslide Verdict
In effect, the Task Force’s recommendations thwart the rightful outcome of ELCA churchwide deliberations. It is remarkable that, even after using study guides imbalanced in favor of discounting Scripture’s intense opposition to homosexual practice, 57% of the respondents tabulated still voted for no change in the current policy or even for more rigorous enforcement of that policy. Only 22% of tabulated respondents favored blessing homosexual unions and rostering actively homosexual persons, or at least a local option approach. And this percentage is almost certainly inflated by the fact that those who seek a radical change are arguably more motivated to submit a survey than those content with the status quo. Of the remaining 21% of tabulated respondents, 17.4% were undecided and 3.4% adopted other positions.

[Note: I speak of “tabulated respondents” because the Task Force analyzed only 14% of the 28,000 responses to Journey Two. Rev. Dr. Roy Harrisville III, Executive Director of Solid Rock Lutherans, cautions in his “Critique of the Report and Recommendations” (p. 5) that no generalizations about what the average ELCA member thinks can be made since respondents were self-selected (i.e., they took the initiative to respond to the survey). The Task Force did not undertake a random survey of a cross-section of ELCA membership. The caveat is well taken. Nevertheless, since the Task Force bases its own decisions in part on their analysis of these responses, and since too even the 22% support for change in the current policy is likely to be inflated (for the reason stated in the paragraph above), it is fair game to point out that even by the Task Force’s own standard of measurement there are no grounds for deviating from current standards.]

Can you imagine a U. S. presidential election where a candidate received over two-and-a-half times more votes than the next biggest vote-getter? This country has never had a presidential election with such a lopsided margin of victory. In the greatest landslides in U.S. presidential history, Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater by a margin of 61% to 38.4% (1964), while Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern by a margin of 60.7% to 37.5% (1972)—in both cases a margin of victory that was less than 2-to1. Here the margin against changing church policy on homosexuality is greater still. And yet the Task Force’s recommendation to remove mandatory enforcement will, if approved, effectively gut the current policy favored by the landslide majority and set in motion an inevitable overturning of that policy. This brings us to our next point.

Adopting Local Option and Radical Change Under the Guise of No New Policy
The Report claims: “our recommendations do not establish a new policy” (p. 11; also p. 10). Make no mistake about it: This is, de facto, a new policy inasmuch as an unenforced policy is a policy no longer in force (i.e. operative, in effect). Indeed, the majority Task Force recommendation is nothing more and nothing less than a variant of a local-option policy, in fact if not also in name. Remember, too, that local option so far as homosex-advocacy is concerned is just another name for incremental coercion.

The proposal, if accepted, would radically undermine both the ELCA’s policy against homosexually active rostered leadership and the ELCA’s overall authority on matters of doctrine and morality. Imagine parents telling their children, “We shall maintain an 8:30 PM bedtime but we shall not enforce it.” For all intents and purposes there would be no set bedtime. Worse, the parents’ overall authority would be undermined as children learned that there were no consequences to disregarding explicit parental wishes. Obviously if the parents are not willing to enforce certain rules, the rules can’t mean much to the parents, and consequently will mean even less to the children. Better not to have any rules at all than to subject them to continual mockery. Or, as Roy Harrisville puts it, using a different analogy: “It is like having a speed limit but announcing that we will never ticket speeders” (“Critique,” p. 2). Both the speed limit and the state’s authority soon become a joke. “The practice of ignoring the policy must necessarily result in the change of that policy. If it does not, the ELCA would become the laughing-stock of the modern Church with a reputation for duplicity” (ibid.)

Surely everyone in the ELCA, including in the Task Force, must realize that this proposal, if approved, would serve as a halfway house or transitional stage that will lead irrevocably to the full embrace of (‘committed’) homosexual activity. Once a significant number of persons in public homosexual relationships are called and approved for ministry, there is no possibility of returning to enforcement of a ban on homosexual relations for rostered persons. Henceforth the only direction left for the church to move in is toward overturning completely the tattered vestiges of the old policy and, finally, coercing acceptance of homosexual relationships, starting at the upper echelons of ELCA power structures and working down gradually to lower levels.

If you support the blessing of homosexual unions and the rostering of homosexually active persons but at the same time are concerned about a major denominational split, you should view this proposal as a win-win situation for your concerns. It may well prevent a significant church split by offering a false sense of security to opponents of a pro-homosex agenda who naively believe that the old policy is still in place. Almost immediately some synods, congregations, candidacy committees, and bishops will violate the standards of the church—in “good conscience,” of course. Inroads advancing the homosexual agenda will accelerate until dissenting voices are almost completely marginalized in most areas of the ELCA. So in time those who take the homosexual blessing/rostering stance may be able to have their cake and eat it too: both averting a major disaffection through steady but gradual shifts while giving lip service to “no changes” and ultimately triumphing in the cause to normalize homoerotic affections, perhaps in as short a time as 2-4 years but certainly no later than 5-10 years.

Those who do not want the ELCA to move toward such a result should recognize the proposal as a lose-lose situation: making the ‘homosexualization’ of the church an all but foregone conclusion, yet doing it in such a piecemeal manner and with such false assurances as to minimize the level of alarm. This will make a united and firm response on the part of the renewal movements difficult. Those who do not want homosexual blessing and rostering must recognize that the Task Force’s majority proposal is a Trojan Horse that masquerades the coming decisive victory by supporters of homosexual blessing and rostering.

In short, a vote for the majority Task Force’s proposal is a vote for homosexual blessing and rostering under a different name.

The Report’s False Appeal to Conscience and Pastoral Concern
The Report argues that there ought to be room for people to violate the church’s sexual standards on the grounds of “conscience” and that to create such room is “a matter of pastoral concern” (p. 11, 13). This is a false claim.

In the New Testament an appeal to conscience as a basis for deviating from common Christian practice is accepted only in matters of indifference, such as abstaining from eating in a non-temple setting food that may have been previously dedicated to idols (1 Cor 8, 10; compare Rom 14, which may be dealing with abstention from meat and wine for other, or additional, reasons). Since it is no sin to refrain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, no major ethical concerns are at stake in abstinence. Thus: “Food will not affect our standing before God: neither if we do not eat do we miss out, nor if we eat do we have more”; that is, abstinence does one no harm and partaking brings one no gain (1 Cor 8:8; note: some scholars think that Paul is quoting critically a slogan of the Corinthian “strong” here but that is unlikely since the wording is oriented against the interests of the strong).

However, Paul does not take this same approach in a case of sexual immorality, specifically, an adult consensual (and presumably affirming) sexual union between a man and his stepmother (1 Cor 5-6). Here Paul makes quite clear that sex, unlike food, is never a matter of indifference; that sexually immoral behavior can put one at risk of being excluded from the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-20). He chastises the church for taking pride in its tolerance and insists that it should have instead mourned over this life-threatening behavior (1 Cor 5:2). He even recommends that, far from permitting violation of the church’s standards on the grounds of conscience, the church should pass judgment on the offender’s action—for the offender’s sake as well as that of the community. They should temporarily remove him from the life of the community, as a wake-up call to him and until such time as he repents (1 Cor 5:3-13; compare 2 Cor 2:5-11; 7:8-13). Despite the misrepresentations of Journey Two and Background Essay it is clear that Paul regarded same-sex intercourse, like incest and adultery (1 Cor 6:9), as a sin, indeed a sin of an egregious sort (Rom 1:24-27) that may have an adverse bearing on one’s inheritance of the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10) and reception of eternal life (compare Rom 1:24 with Rom 6:19-21).

As regards conscience-appeals, there is simply no legitimate comparison between allowing persons to abstain from morally indifferent acts on the one hand and supporting persons in the commission of acts deemed by Scripture to be a high moral offense on the other hand. Paul would have recoiled at such an attempted comparison. It is an exegetical and hermeneutical travesty.

The fact that people who violate the church’s standards do not think that they are sinning is beside the point. While Paul indicates that whatever a person regards as sin becomes sin for that person (Rom 14:14, 23), he does not adopt the reverse conclusion; namely, that whatever a person regards as right becomes right for that person. On the contrary, Paul warns against the self-deception of persons who think that their behavior, especially sexual behavior, has no bearing on their inheritance of the kingdom of God. For example, he says to the Galatian believers:

The works of the flesh are obvious, which are: sexual immorality (porneia), sexual uncleanness (akatharsia), licentiousness (aselgeia) . . . , which I am warning you about, just as I warned you before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. . . . Stop deceiving yourselves; God is not to be mocked, for whatever one sows that one will also reap. For the one who casts seed into one’s flesh will reap a harvest of destruction and decay from the flesh, but the one who casts seed into the Spirit will reap a harvest of eternal life from the Spirit. And let us not grow tired of doing what is right for in due time we will reap, if we do not relax our efforts. (Gal 5:19-21; 6:7-9)

And again to the Corinthians, in the context of how to deal with a practicing, self-affirming Christian participant in an incestuous adult union:

Or do you not realize that unrighteous people will not inherit God's kingdom? Stop deceiving yourselves. Neither the sexually immoral (the pornoi), nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor soft men (malakoi, i.e., effeminate males who play the sexual role of females), nor men who lie with males (arsenokoitai) . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And these things some of you used to be. But you washed yourselves off, you were made holy (sanctified), you were made righteous (justified) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11).

Later, in 2 Corinthians, Paul expresses deep concern that

I may have to mourn over many who have continued in their former sinning and did not repent of the sexual uncleanness (akatharsia), sexual immorality (porneia), and licentiousness (aselgeia) that they practiced. (12:21)

In other words, Paul may have mourn over the fact that some believers have put their lives in jeopardy of not inheriting God’s kingdom because they have convinced themselves that their sexual behavior is no offense to God. It is the same point that he makes about the self-affirming incestuous man in 1 Cor 5:2: the Corinthian church should have “mourned” over the man’s endangerment, not condoned his actions or allowed him to live by his own conscience. “Are you not to judge those inside (the church)?,” an exasperated Paul asks (5:12). Remember that Paul defines homosexual practice as both “sexual immorality” (porneia, by inference in 1 Cor 6:9 and by common Hellenistic Jewish usage) and “sexual uncleanness” (akatharsia):

Therefore, God gave them over, in the desires of their hearts, to a sexual uncleanness (akatharsia) consisting of their bodies being dishonored among themselves. . . . to dishonorable passions, for even their females exchanged the natural use (i.e., of the male) for that which is contrary to nature; and likewise also the males, having left behind the natural use of the female, were inflamed with their yearning for one another, males with males committing indecency and in return receiving in themselves the payback which was necessitated by their straying. (Rom 1:24, 26-27)

Later in the same letter Paul urged Roman believers to reverse this trend:

For just as you presented your members as slaves to sexual uncleanness (akatharsia) and to [other types of] lawlessness for the sake of lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for the sake of holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with respect to [the demands of] righteousness. What fruit did you have at that time? Things of which you are now ashamed, because the end (or: outcome) of those things is death. But now, since you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your fruit for holiness, and the end (or: outcome) is eternal life. (Rom 6:19-22)

The message of Colossians and Ephesians is similar:

So put to death the members that belong to the earth: sexual immorality (porneia), sexual uncleanness (akatharsia), passion, evil desire . . . because of which things the wrath of God is coming [on the children of disobedience], in which things you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now put away all (such) things . . . , because you have stripped off the old humanity with its practices and clothed yourselves with the new, which is being renewed into knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. (Col 3:5-10)

[N]o longer walk as the Gentiles walk, . . . who . . . have given themselves up to licentiousness (aselgeia) for the doing of every sexual uncleanness (akatharsia). . . . Sexual immorality (porneia) and sexual uncleanness (akatharsia) of any kind . . . must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. . . . Know this indeed, that every sexually immoral person (pornos) or sexually unclean person (akathartos) . . . has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the children of disobedience. (Eph 4:17-19; 5:3-6)

And so too the Pastoral Epistles:

The law is not laid down for the righteous, but for the lawless and disobedient, the ungodly and sinners, the unholy and profane, killers of fathers and killers of mothers, murderers, the sexually immoral (pornoi), males who take other males to bed (arsenokoitai), kidnappers (or: slave dealers), liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching that accords with the gospel. (1 Tim 1:9-11)

This returns us full circle back again to the first extant piece of moral exhortation in the Pauline corpus of letters:

For you know what commands we gave to you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God: your holiness, that you abstain from sexual immorality (porneia) . . . [and not live] like the Gentiles who do not know God. . . . because the Lord is an avenger regarding all these things. . . . For God called us not to sexual uncleanness (akatharsia) but in holiness. Therefore the one who rejects [these commands] rejects not humans but the God who gives his Holy Spirit to us. (1 Thess 4:2-8)

There does not appear to be any justification from Scripture, certainly not from Paul, for the kind of application of Paul’s “conscience” texts put forward by the Task Force’s “Report and Recommendations.” Once more, it is an instance, pure and simple, of bad exegesis and bad hermeneutics.

And what of “pastoral care”? Was Paul concerned that the Corinthians who accepted the adult incestuous behavior might have their consciences violated if they could not support his relationship? Certainly not. Paul’s pastoral concern had to do with what eternal consequences might arise for the offender if the community contributed to his self-affirming attitude.

Furthermore, for the Report to equate willful disobedience of the church’s standards with “pastoral care” is misguided. As Robert Benne has aptly noted: “It places this local option under the rubric of a ‘pastoral approach,’ but it is impossible to view ordination as a private event” (“Response to the Sexuality Statement,” circular email, Jan. 13, 2005). The “Statement of Pastoral and Theological Concern” signed by Benne, Karl Donfried, Roy Harrisville, Carl Braaten, Gerhard Forde, Robert Jenson, James Nestingen, and others makes a similar point: “Neither Scripture nor the Confessions entrust the theological or ethical teaching of the church to pastoral ‘discretion.’”

On Failing to Make the Case from Scripture
Even the majority of the Task Force that put forward this disastrous proposal has to admit “that the biblical-theological case for wholesale change in this church’s current standards has not been made to the satisfaction of the majority of the participants in the study” (p. 10). This is an understatement of monumental proportions. Based on their own tabulation (however inexact), and even with the advocacy bent for change present in their study guides, they were able to convince only 22% of those who responded. That means that 78% of respondents were not convinced—nearly four out of every five set of responses. Clearly this is not just “the majority” but a massive supermajority. And the vast majority of these were completely unconvinced.

As we noted above, the real number is likely to be much higher. Why? I can think of at least four reasons for drawing this conclusion. (1) Those who were seeking change of the current policy would be more likely to recognize the Task Force as their main hope for change and thus more likely to be motivated to respond. (2) Those seeking change would, in the nature of things, be persons more inclined to engage in an activism of response. (3) Those who preferred no change or were undecided would more likely be persons disinclined by nature toward the kind of activism that required response. (4) Those who preferred no change would more likely be skeptical about the effectiveness of responding to the Task Force since a common perception is that the members of the Task Force had already been selected to achieve the desired result of change while giving the appearance of hearing all the voices. From the start the majority of persons put on the Task Force did not come with convictions that homosexual practice was always wrong, including most of the “big guns” academically and professionally. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the only biblical scholar put on the Task Force had already written strongly in favor of homosexual blessing and rostering (Terence Fretheim).

Had the Task Force produced study guides that were more balanced and that unleashed the overwhelming array of arguments for demonstrating both Scripture’s unequivocal opposition to homosexual practice and the utter weakness of arguments to the contrary, the 78% figure would have been significantly higher. The Report assures readers that all the task force members “accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life” (p. 10). In the addendum to the Report, “Frequently Asked Questions About the Report and Recommendations,” readers are told:

People of differing convictions on these issues each in their own way rely on the Word of God as the basis for their views. Thus, there are sincere differences of interpretation among people in this church who share a common commitment to the authority of Scripture. (p. 2)

The above two observations are irrelevant. What people claim Scripture says or allows, as well as their level of sincerity in making such claims, has to be tested against the evidence of Scripture itself. People can be sincere in their beliefs about what Scripture supports or allows and be sincerely wrong. The church is under no obligation to validate such beliefs, particularly since almost any conceivable belief, no matter how wrongheaded, has adherents making sincere appeals to Scripture. The church could make very little determination about issues of doctrinal or moral import if it allowed leaders with a contrary conscience to teach whatever they sincerely believed and to violate whatever standards of behavior they sincerely regarded as wrong. (Sadly, the church has already allowed much of this to happen, but this new proposal makes a bad situation significantly worse.)

To be sure, the Report points to the material in Background Essay as evidence that people can have valid differences over “what the text meant originally” and “the precise way it speaks to the present-situation” (ibid.). However, as I shall show in this document, had Background Essay fairly and competently presented the full evidence for reading Scripture as holding firmly to an other-sex prerequisite and utterly opposed to homosexual activity of all sorts, it would have been evident how bad attempts are to try to make Scripture in any way open to homosexual unions. Even the Report has to now admit, in the light of research by myself and others not taken into account by Journey Two and Background Essay, that: “It is hard to maintain with certainty, even though the language of sexual orientation is recent, that the biblical writers who condemned certain same-sex acts knew nothing of people who were constitutively homosexual in orientation” (p. 23). And yet both Journey Two and Background Essay over and over repeat the mantra that the very concept of sexual orientation was unknown in the ancient world.

If “the biblical-theological case for wholesale change in this church’s current standards has not been made to the satisfaction of the majority of the participants in the study,” and it obviously hasn’t, then there are no grounds for gutting the current policy by eliminating mandatory enforcement and allowing unlimited flagrant violation of that policy.

Go here for the full report.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
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