Monday, January 16, 2006

Luther Seminary, Brokeback Mountain and the ascendancy of narcissism.

A fairly well-known conference speaker, author, and professor has resigned from Luther Seminary and the ELCA Clergy Roster. She says, "I’d like to let you know that another letter from me was hand delivered, by my bishop, Peter Rogness, to the Conference of Bishops, this week. This letter informed them of my intention to resign from the clergy roster of the ELCA on the basis of my inability to live in compliance with 'Section III: Sexual Conduct' of the document titled Visions and Expectations (specifically the sentence that reads 'Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships')."

In her letter, Fryer glides quickly over her divorce last year: "Some of you were aware of the cataclysmic changes in my personal life, culminating in the sad and quiet ending of my marriage very early last year. When I came to Luther three years ago, this was not something I ever dreamed would happen." There is not a word about sin, not a word about guilt. She goes on to talk about all she wants to do to bring renewal to the church. When it is viewed in the cold light of day the letter is a whole lot of "me-isms" : I am writing, I want to share, I begin to move in new directions, I want to make clear, me and my new partner want to do ministry, I am not going to change my message.

Poor Kelly and the poor people who are going to make her into a type of "the new visionary," She can be our Gene Robinson. Things just didn't work out, and her friend of 10 years is just coincidently going through the same thing (abandoning her spouse). No sin, no guilt, not adultery.

Sounds a little like Brokeback Mountain. We've all heard what a wonderful movie it is and how visionary, these two men, in a time that was so oppressive, had the courage to love each other. Beans! All the positive reviews, how many even mention that both men went on to marry after their summer of love, had children and then tore their families through their self indulgent adultery.

No, it's not called self-indulgent adultery by the politically correct. It's called self-fulfillment. Did you read Walter Sundberg's essay on Gnosticism and the ELCA? He quotes from an essay written by Leander Harding:
The quintessential American Religion is the quest for the true and original self which is the 'pearl of great price,' the ultimate value. Finding the true self requires absolute and complete freedom of choice unconstrained by any sources of authority outside the self. Limits upon personal freedom and choice are an affront to all that is sacred to the American Religion. When the self-determining self finds 'the real me' salvation is achieved. . .Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire not in spite of being gay, not as an act of toleration and compassion toward gay people, but because he is gay and as such an icon of the successful completion of the quest to find the true and original self. . .[D]ivorcing his wife and leaving his family to embrace the gay lifestyle is not some unfortunate concession to irresistible sexual urges but an example of the pain and sacrifice that the seeker of the true self must be willing to endure. That natural, organic, and conventional restraints must be set aside is a time-worn Gnostic nostrum . . . Because Gene Robinson has 'found himself' he has. . .found God and is naturally thought to be a 'spiritual person' and a fit person to inspire and lead others.

Now read Fryer's letter from the Luther web site:
12 January 2006

An open letter to my friends and colleagues who are part of the staff, faculty, student body, and boards of Luther Seminary; and to all those across the church who are my co-learners and partners in ministry:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am writing to you with a heavy — but hopeful! — heart.

I want to share with you my decision to resign from the faculty of Luther Seminary. This decision hasn’t been easy or quick. In fact, since I arrived at Luther, three years ago, I have been wrestling with whether or not this is a place from which I can best fulfill my call to help lead the church in renewal for the sake of God’s mission in the world. In recent days, after much prayer and conversation, it has become clear to me that God is leading me in new directions. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with colleagues and the leadership of Luther Seminary about various options that would serve the seminary best and, also, my sense of call to do a new thing. Some of you may be aware of how complicated — and prayerful — this process has been. In the end, I’ve decided to make my resignation effective immediately. It has been a privilege to be a part of some important initiatives here at Luther Seminary and I hope that, as I begin to move in new directions, Luther will consider me a friend and partner in the kingdom work to which we have all been called. In fact, I want to make two things clear. First, this decision stems from a relationship of mutual respect and reflects the high regard in which I hold Luther Seminary and they hold me. And, second, although the situation I describe below has complicated this process a bit, my decision is not being driven by it. I am thankful for the warm words of encouragement and appreciation I have received from the administration and from many of my colleagues on the faculty here; and I look forward to dreaming with them about creative new ways for us to be in partnership together in the years ahead.

On a separate and more personal note, I’d like to let you know that another letter from me was hand delivered, by my bishop, Peter Rogness, to the Conference of Bishops, this week. This letter informed them of my intention to resign from the clergy roster of the ELCA on the basis of my inability to live in compliance with "Section III: Sexual Conduct" of the document titled Visions and Expectations (specifically the sentence that reads "Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships").

Some of you were aware of the cataclysmic changes in my personal life, culminating in the sad and quiet ending of my marriage very early last year. When I came to Luther three years ago, this was not something I ever dreamed would happen. I want to thank you for the support, prayers, and encouragement you offered to me during that time. These events, however, created space for me to see things I had never seen before. Even as our church has been publicly wrestling with the issue of sexual orientation over this past year, I have been on a private journey of my own. It has been scary and confusing, but it has also been full of joy. As it turns out, the remarkable woman who has been my best friend for over ten years has a story not unlike my own. We are looking forward to our future together...making a home, raising our kids, doing ministry.

It makes me sad that finding such happiness and wholeness in my life means that, at this point, I cannot serve as a pastor in my church. And I hope that one day I will again be a member of the ELCA clergy roster. But, in the meantime, I am committed to continuing my ministry of teaching and writing in this church, for the sake of our call to participate in God’s passionate mission to love and bless the world. In fact, I have chosen this approach to communicate with you because I want it to be clear that I have no interest in being drawn into the unhealthy fascination our culture — and our church — has with matters sexual. To be sure, I disagree strongly with the current policies of the ELCA on these issues. But, frankly, my primary concern isn't about what is happening "in here!" My passion is — and has always been — for the mission field into which God is sending us. My heart beats for God’s world "out there."

I believe the gift of salvation, which we receive through faith in Jesus Christ, is also a call to participate in God’s mission in the world. For some crazy reason, God uses people — even people like you and me! — to get it done. "Come follow me!" Jesus says, especially to those of us who least deserve it, and to all of us together. Answering this call isn’t a right any of us has. It is, however, a responsibility we all share...every single one of us. In fact, this call to be a part of God's passionate mission to reach the world is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian. It is at the heart of what it means to be the Church. As we answer this call, I believe we can be guided by these five simple principles: Jesus is Lord, Everyone is Welcome, Love Changes People, Everybody has Something to Offer, and The World Needs What We Have. This mission and these values give shape to my life and my ministry. They have been — and will continue to be — at the very center of all my preaching, teaching, researching, learning, and writing. In fact, in the months and years to come, I make this promise to you: The message you hear from me will be the same message you have always heard.

Please know that I am open to hearing from and being in conversation with you as we move forward. I am excited about what lies ahead, although I am not certain yet exactly what form my ministry will take. I am hopeful about the many good things that God will do and is doing in the midst of all these changes. And I ask for your prayers. To be sure, you are in mine.

In Christ,

Kelly A. Fryer

I really don't have any personal animosity towards Ms. Fryer, but (yeah, big but) as I already pointed out (judgmentally, but hey, it is so representative, so typical of our generation) her letter, which I think was supposed to be a resignation letter, was a head-spinning piece of self-promotion (who puts their web site in a resignation letter) and you better betcha that it is a calculated moving forward of the gay movement. I doubt that she cuts any ties with the seminary and will probably find herself on campus on a fairly regular basis and will probably be adored by many students as a "martyr to the movement" (can't you picture her being mobbed as she gets lunch in the cafeteria?).

We really need to revisit the issue of divorce. If clergy with a PhD can go through one and not acknowledge that they did anything wrong, our "I'm OK, you're OK" stuff from a few decades back took hold more than we imagined. We need to teach on cohabitation. We have couples calling churches all the time who have no hint that they are doing anything wrong by living together before marriage, and they leave after the first counselling session still not being told that it's a sin. If you can't see the ELCA doing anything about divorce, that is a pretty good reason to leave the denomination.

But, oops, I didn't mean to say that. I think you should stay and fight if possible, at least until the end of summer 2007…

It's nice to see the lc3 web site and to hear about Lutheran CoRe.

People, educate yourself, then go forth and educate your congregation and colleagues. The time is upon us.


Pastor Zip said...

Nice analysis, Shrimp. While I too have no personal animosity towards Ms. Fryer -- indeed what she describes is devastating on many levels -- the shocking "cataclysms" of her personal life since starting to teach at Luther are not out of line with the theology of her book *Reclaiming the "L" Word* (in which, despite the blurbs, the "L" is not particularly "Lutheran"). Let us pray that Luther Sem and Ausgburg Fortress, who have invested so much in her the last couple of years, will not yield to the temptation to pick up, her offer to continue teaching in this church. Having set aside her vocations as wife, mother, and pastor, she is hardly in a position to claim a continued vocation as teacher.

Anonymous said...

It's very clear that there is a double standard in who is punished for sexual sins and violations. It seems the only pastors that can be judged as guitly of committing adultery in the elca are heterosexual. Pastors who have samesex affairs are not engaged in adultery, they are embracing who God mad them to be. This is really a crock.Another thing is Ms. Fryer is in her 30's, maybe 40s? I don't know. Isn't that a little late to discover ones samesex attraction? I thgought the gay mantra is that people are gay from the age of 5 on? At times I really wonder if some folks take up same sex activity at middle age to be cutting edge or "cool." According to Mert Strommen about 3-4 percent of the population is defined as gay. As the gay steamroller picks up steam, more will join in the fun just to keep up to date.

Pastor Zip said...

Actually, Anonymous, it is not at all unusual for someone to discover/discern a homosexual orientation in one's 20s or 30s, or even later. Listening carefully to the stories, those childhood indications are usually made in retrospect. However, the greater societal acceptance (or even promotion) of GLBTQQ identity these days does encourage such "self-discovery" at an earlier age.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Zip, I know of other situations where an older conversion to gay sex does happen. Generally I've seen it with women who have been sexually violated on a regular basis, and so they turn to women for nurture and it goes on from there.

However, I have known pastors and students in seminary who so identify with marginalized groups, i.e. racial minorities, poor folks, that they try to become one of them. I know of one elca pastor who joined the Black Panthers, and who later in life decided to get into lesbianism. It seems to me that with the pc cultures of our seminaries that some students will opt for this to identify with a supposedly downtrodden group. Racial minoroties don't have the same zing anymore, but deviant sexual behaviors are now all the rage.

Pastor Zip said...

No significant disagreement on your main point, Anon, other than to note that the Black Panthers disappeared well before the formation of the ELCA. IOW, this sort of stuff has been going on for a generation now. When I was in sem, the emphasis was the oppressed in Central America but, as you say, their zing disappeared pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

I am completely offended by your gross generalizations and obvious lack of knowledge of Kelly Fryer's character. If you would like to talk about sin, I would refer you to Luther's explanation to the eighth commandment and ask you to look in the mirror. For the record, I am a current student at Luther. Ms. Fryer, as you refer to her, is deeply committed to God's authority and has made no move to "advance a gay agenda", which is why she did not fight a resignation, respected the ELCA's policy and realizes the promise and call of her baptism to serve the church and the world that God ultimately loves. I pray that God will open your heart and energy to serve those who don't know of God's redeeming love in Jesus Christ and that you stop wasting your time striving to divide the church.

Anonymous said...

I find it very interesting how you can seem to speak with authority on something that you obvious have very little knowledge about. Mobbing Kelly Fryer in the dining hall???? Please -- have you even been on the campus of Luther Seminary? If you had, you would know that this scenario, if far, far, FAR from reality. And speaking of agendas. . .are you suggesting that you have none? I suggest that you research more and blog less. And in the meantime, take the log out of your eye.

Shrimp said...

Dear Anonymous; Yes, I have been to Luther, even to the dining hall (had a nice salad if I remember).

Perhaps my eyesight is not so good though. Tell me, what do you think the relationship of Fryer to the seminary will be?

Shrimp said...

Oops, I almost missed the first anonymous post. Listen, can you pray for a person to open their heart while they have a log in their eye? I am so glad to finally realize that only conservatives are judgmental, and only someone who is fighting for keeeping the faith rather than revising it is doing divisive work.

8th commandment? Yikes. You can't say that without judging the person you are casting that stone at...

Shrimp said...

Oops, I almost forgot, I was accused of mischaracterizing Ms Fryer's character, but I believe what I wrote was about her behavior. This is another defect of the postmodern age, confusing comments on behavior with generalizations of worth.

Anonymous said...

as an outside reader, I am SHOCKED that you people named anonymous, shrimp, pastor zip etc. are training to become CHRISTIANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and hope to lead in the name and spirit of Jesus.

a. Please try to grow up, learn compassion, and get educated about the diversity of people, cultures, relationships and yes SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS that exist in this world.

b. the biggest "me-ism" that I see on this blog is the central ME that exists in bigotry born of limited experience, immaturity, a lazy intellect, and an unwillingness to question the parameters of a parochial upbringing. Rather than search and seek truth in the large world, you writers hide in anonymity and try to hold on to the big ME of your own experience at the expense of understanding the experience of others. Isn't me-ism born of an unwillingness to try to understand difference, to expose yourselves to the wide world, to get off your blog and out into the city and the world to start to try to seek answers rather than to sit at a computer blogging bigotry...?

c. consider this: Jesus was a revolutionary leader, a visionary of ideas that were not popular, widely understood or accepted in his day. Someone who advocated radical ideas of love, acceptance and peace...

Who is your model of Christian leadership????

Cap'n Bill said...

Dear Anonymous; seems like you are still upset by this post--or perhaps you real name is not Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

I appreciated what Kelly has offered to the church, but what I see here is yet another pastor of the church making a decision to bow down to temptation rather than resist. Luther has always had a fine faculty. There are some however who used their teaching posts as a place to launch a "new world order". If you think about it you can justify pretty much any kind of behavior - spend time in the church awhile and you will see that alive and well. I would however expect more from a pastor in such high regard as Kelly. She left her spouse, divorced, "married", broke ordination vows, and now thumbs her nose at the church. I can understand why this happened in such short time - Luther is still a confessional seminary with a backbone - at least it was five years ago. This is not the case at Wartburg, Trinity, or PLTS. If the church continues to advocate for the voice of experience rather than the voice of the Gospel - the self justification of behaviors over against the proclamation of law and Gospel, then we are heading for a curtain call.

Nice blog BTW.

Anonymous said...

It's funny now looking back on this three years later. As far as I am concerned, Ms. Kelly Fryer has spent virtually NO time on the Luther Campus (it's hard to get mobbed somewhere you aren't).

There are some pretty inaccurate predictions and analyzations.

The snide tone was also fantastic.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

The good ship ELCA...

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