Sunday, April 16, 2006

Lutheran Conservatives Fear Contextualization of Scripture

Shrimp here: This is what it is all aboit folks, the reason for this blog.

by Pauline J. Chang

Lutherans read the Bible. This is the title of a proposed multi-year project to get the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) members and congregations to focus on the authority and interpretation of Scripture.

At first look, the emphasis on the Bible seems to stand in line with what confessing and traditional Lutherans have been saying all along: we must return to the heart of our faith, which is the Holy Scripture.

However, some conservative Lutherans fear that this core will get lost in the process of a larger denominational framework that has often placed the virtues of diversity and humanity above the absolute truth of God.

“I’m not confident that this process will reveal in a helpful way of how far some people in the ELCA have become from Martin Luther and the reformers and how little we focus on the authority of Scripture when we read the Bible,” said Mark Chavez, president of the Word Alone Network – a grouping of conservative Lutheran churches within the ELCA. “I’m not confident that this process will point out to everybody that most of the academic community in North America rejects absolute truth.”

The multi-year special focus on Scripture was adopted at the denomination’s Church Council meeting in early April, with plans to produce congregational resources on the topic by 2007. By then, a working group would be selected to lead the project and test out the resources at various Lutheran seminaries and colleges.

“[We] developed a consensus that the initial response should involve the members of this church in reading the Bible, informed by resources that would help them understand and use a Lutheran approach to the Scripture," the report to the council said.

The idea for the project began last year in the North Carolina Synod, following the release of a controversial church-wide report on homosexuality that addressed the thorny issue from varying viewpoints – from the traditionalists who reject the act as a grave sin, to the contextualists who view it as a celebration of diversity.

While the North Carolinian request made no mention on the report on homosexuality, it used terms familiar to traditional Lutherans, such as “authority of Scripture” and “biblical renewal.”

“In a round-about way the [Lutherans Read the Bible] project is related to the sexuality debate,” said Chavez. “The North Carolina synod did ask us to focus on the bible precisely for what was happening in the sexuality studies.”

Chavez fears that this original request will eventually get lost as the denomination struggles over which view – traditional or contextual – best represents the Lutheran view.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I think they are going to come up with different categories with the way Lutherans read the Bible,” said Chavez. “One of the categories will be a contextualist’s and the other will be the so-called Biblical literalist’s.”

“The practice so far has been to carefully select people to participate in this who are going to favor the contextual understanding,” he added. “This is a symptom of a deeper problem we have in our culture, academia and churches, where there is a prevailing assumption that the church is very relative and dependent on the context of things.”

Ultimately, Chavez said he believes the project can be positive for the church since it will get the denomination to focus “a lot more attention on the church and authority on Scripture all along.”

“My hope for this end project is that through this process, we really would take a serious look at how Martin Luther and the 16th century reformers approached the authority of the word of God,” he said.

Read about it at The Lutheran If you have'nt read the Craig Nessan essay which lays out the contextual hermeneutic go here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We get letters....

Someone wants you to know:

"The Forum Letter reported Bishop Landahl's participation in the installation of Pastor Goldstein at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco. The editor guessed that he wished to express sympathy for the noble struggle to "change ELCA policies toward sexual minority pastors," and then added: "This is not to suggest that, as a bishop in the ELCA, he is not also equally charged with upholding those policies St. Francis seeks to change."

"In January, February, and March of 2006 Bishop Landahl sent letters to the pastors in the Metro Chicago Synod that each began, "This kind of letter is difficult to write." Three pastors were removed from the ELCA roster for having sexual affairs outside of marriage. Two had sexual affairs with women in their congregations. The third case, however, was a single pastor who had had an affair with an adult male. A pastor in the Metro Chicago Synod reported that a little probing uncovered the following facts in the case: this pastor's affair took place over a year and a half ago, it did not involve anyone in his congregation, the informant who filed the complaint to the bishop's office was the ex-wife of this pastor's ex-lover who filed her complaint six months after her divorce, and the effect of removing this pastor from the roster was that he was shy a half of year of being in the Health Plan for 30 years, which would have enabled him to continue to receive health benefits (he has a diabetic condition). Our informant in the Metro Chicago Synod who knows this pastor well reports that said pastor repented of his action, made a confession and received absolution. Nevertheless, he was given the maximum penalty of being removed from the roster. Vision and Expectations was enforced. Then Bishop Landahl went off to be an "ecumenical guest" at St. Francis to preside at the installation of a pastor who has made no secret of his gay orientation."

Perhaps this was passed on to me because we carried the news about Landahl's participation in Pr Goldstein's installation, perhaps because Goldstein them visited this site in an effort to "continue the dialogue" or perhaps it is pure mischief, bu tthe fact it that these people and the congregation at St. Francis, San Francisco is trying to provide another test case in an effort to keep the issue alive.

I myself am torn between clossing this blog down now that it has become a tool for them or beat them at their own game (mischief that is). What do you think?

Smear is smear

Megan is writing up a storm! In comments below she posted a link to Extraordinary Candidacy Project Resources where one finds the provocatively misnamed and phantastically written: Word Alone Supports the Ordination of Non-Celibate GLBTQ Individuals in the Lutheran Church: Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 7:17-40 By: Vicar Megan Rohrer.

Megan, the main thing to point out to you and everyone is that it is purely your opinion that WordAlone is "against homosexuals." All tehy are trying to come against is the teaching that homosexual pracitce is not a sin. We've seen this tactic before, but it is a smear, and I challenge you to stop it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Every once in a while...

...I need to explain that this blog is called Shellfish because I think the "silly shellfish argument" is ludicrous. That does not mean that I think revisionists and gay activists are ludicrous. Far from it, they are forces to be reckoned with. In my opinion they are idealists,true crusaders, and if their cause is right they would be a great blessing to the church. However, when they are wrong, they are dangerous, and as we see in the mainline churches, quite capable of derailing the train, sinking the ship, or whatever, choose your metaphor.

Go here to see the shellfish argument laid out and taken apart.

In the last few days though, we have seen a new version of silly shellfish. Statements like the following can only need to a quite new religion. It comes from a commment left below, so I hope the author will not think I am not out of line by posting it here, but all I am doing here is what I might do in the comment section itself. Having gone back and forth a few times with her already, and concerned that the person is already doing some ministry and perhaps preparing for a career in it, it is legitimate concern:

"To be honest I think that we could be back and forth for days and days because one of the beauties of the scripture is that it is able to speak through many times, with the stories of many people (some more sinful than others) and even when God is violent or nonviolent, male or female (though more rightly probably male AND female), homosexual or heterosexual that the omnipresent message of the text is that God is with us and God saves us." (you'll find that in commments here)

I wrote the following in response which I put here not that it is utterly brilliant, but because I do not want anyone to miss it, and it is for practical reasons almost as much as our wish that this silly game would end:

Megan, I myself am not going to answer all your questions. I wish you well, but the way to help you is to refer you to someone else who can take you under their wing and point out your recklessness, lack of training in logic, the principles of hermeneutics, and the value and meaning of tradition. You live in a seminary community, right?

What I mean is this. You try to make the point that Luther had no problem with lesbians, but only male homosexuals because you know of a place where he says men should not try and be like women. You cannot argue that a person is neutral or negative on an issue because their opinion on certain subjects is not on record. If the record is silent, it is silent; it cannot endorse the question you bring to it.

This is sort of like the problem that people have when they want to argue that Jesus endorses homosexuality because he does not explicitly condemn it. He doesn't condemn everything that Scripture condemns--if he did the NT would be as many pages as the OT. However, when he endorses marriage as between a man and a woman, that taken with the fact that he says he came not to abolish the law would negate the proposition that Jesus endorses same sex marriage. But beyond that, the Christ does speak of sexual immorality:

Revelation 21:6-8 He also said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the one who is thirsty I will give water free of charge from the spring of the water of life. 7 The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur."

You'll note that that also has implications to the argument that it doesn't matter so much what sins we do since we are all sinners.

Megan, from what you've written in the last few days, you simply must understand that your position is antinomian. You have been condemned by Luther himself.

You think the Bible is beautiful because you can spin out many explanations. No, the bible is beautiful because it speaks of salvation and does this by pointing out our need for salvation and the promise of God to save those who accept their need for a savior.

In the future if you want an answer from me keep it to one question (some writers might get paid by the word, we don't).

Now, any of the rest of you have the time, please go at it. But do be nice and remember, Jude is in the canon, that is, the reason we do apologetics, especially with people who work in the church, especailly with seminarians, is not to prove we are right, but because the answer matters, and if it doesn't have eternal consequesnces we should all resign the pastorate and put up the counselor's shingle, or better yet, run for political and not ecclesial office.

Peace and blessed Holy Week,

Also, rethink your positions. Try out your arguments on someone who is not a radical (I'm sure you can find one in the Bay area if you try hard). Have a good day!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Did you see "The Three Bishops" tour?

I just learned that LTSP has provided us with web casts of each speech.

Watch them. Then give your answers to the pop quiz:

Each of the three bishops is a revisionist (we know by their actions) in their own way. Name the type of revisionism they represent.

If you need to crib go here.

OK, no answers as of April 7. Must be to hard. Let me give a hint. One is a "pragmatic revisionist"? Name which fits that description and why.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Passing on some information from a friend:

On the last page of the ELCA Church Council Response to Metro NY (7) it says, "Yet, in any careful reading of the whole resolution, the plain meaning of the statements must be considered." If only they read the Bible and its prohibitions of sexuality the same way!

I think these sections need to be scrutinized as we look for ways of helping our bishops enforce the rules governing the sexual behavior of ordained persons:

"Further, the synod has responsibility to exercise discipline as specified in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and in applicable policy documents...Discipline hearing committees are made up of six members of the synod discipline committee and six members of the churchwide discipline committee, with a hearing officer appointed by the presiding bishop from the Committee of Hearing Officers elected by the ELCA Church Council...In fact, oversight and review of the decision of a discipline hearing committee is vested solely in the Committee on Appeals, which is elected by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly."

This is important

"In regard to such discipline, the word “may” is used in bylaw 20.21.04. The “may” reference, however, does not imply that a synodical bishop or synod has the latitude to ignore the bylaws of this church or “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline.” In that bylaw, “may” relates to the need to gather information before determining that “cause for discipline may exist.”

I really like this part, and I wonder if it cannot be used with both professors who are also ordained in the ELCA as well as with bishops?

Ordained ministers, according to bylaw 20.21.01., “shall be subject to discipline” for the following:
“a. preaching and teaching in conflict with the faith confessed by this church;
“b. conduct incompatible with the character of the ministerial office;
“c. willfully disregarding or violating the functions and standards established by this church for the office of Word and Sacrament;
“d. willfully disregarding the provisions of the constitution or bylaws of this church; or
“e. willfully failing to comply with the requirements ordered by a discipline hearing committee under 20.23.08.”

…Further, under bylaw 20.21.02. in regard to ordained ministers:

“The disciplinary actions which may be imposed are:

“a. private censure and admonition by the bishop of the synod;
“b. suspension from the office and functions of the ordained ministry in this church for a designated period or until there is satisfactory evidence of repentance and
amendment; or
“c. removal from the ordained ministry of this church.”

…When there are indications that a cause for discipline may exist, and before charges are filed with the secretary of this church, the synodical bishop must seek to resolve the matter by consultation as required by bylaw 20.21.04. in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.Information that a rostered person is allegedly a non-celibate homosexual is—under “Definitions Response of the Church Council to the Resolution of the Metropolitan New York Synod (April 2006) - page 6 and Guidelines for Discipline”—an indication of a potential cause for discipline. Information that a
congregation has called someone not on the clergy roster is similarly such an indication. In an effort to resolve the matter by consultation, the bishop may appoint an advisory or consultation committee to provide advice as described in bylaw 20.21.05.

…It is in the bishop's discretion how much investigation to do. In order to make a decision or to try to reach a resolution, however, it is necessary to gather as much information as possible about the situation. Every case is different, and these cases can be particularly difficult. It would be important to know, for example, exactly what the “committed relationship” entails and what evidence exists that it violates “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline.” Except for the attempted resolution under bylaw 20.21.04., the synodical bishop has discretion about the following:

1) Whether to censure and admonish under ELCA constitutional provision 20.18.
2) Whether to appoint an advisory or consultation committee.
3) Whether to file formal disciplinary charges against the pastor, rostered layperson, or a congregation.
4) Whether to request resignation from call or from the roster.

And from the footnotes, a reminder: The document, “Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” in the section on “Sexual Conduct,” reads: “The expectations of this church regarding the sexual conduct of its ordained ministers are grounded in the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that ordained ministers are to live in such a way as to honor this gift. Ordained ministers are expected to reject sexual promiscuity, the manipulation of others for purposes of sexual gratification, and all attempts of sexual seduction and sexual harassment, including taking physical or emotional advantage of others. 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.”

The full, official report is a 7 page document that was posted to the ELCA COMMUNICATORS ONLINE meeting on LutherLink in pdf form.

Two Questions:

Passing on questions from friends. The first is for the folks at "Why are you saying it is a new day?" That is, what new bit of resistance are you doing? the second is for Robert Goldstein. "You are on the roster but your congregation is not?" second part of that question is "So, then, you maintain celibacy?" If Robert and soomeone from good soil could respond in comments? Thank you.

"New Day at St. Francis
-- 2006-03-27

"On Sunday, March 26, Pr. Robert Goldstein was formally installed as the Lead Pastor of St. Francis Church. The Rev. Paul R. Landahl, bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America preached; the Rev. Dr. Susan Strouse of First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco was presiding minister. The rite of installation was performed by the Rev. Daniel Solberg of St. Paulus Lutheran Church and dean of the Conference of San Francisco Lutheran Churches.

Pastor Robert Goldstein is on the ELCA clergy roster and has been a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessor, the Lutheran Church in America, since 1975. He formerly served congregations in New Jersey and Chicago.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Pr. Goldstein received his B.A. in biblical languages and literature from Abilene Christian University, and a B.D. and S.T.M. at Yale, where he specialized in the philosophical writings of Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard. He received a Ph.D. in philosophical theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

An openly gay man, Pastor Goldstein has been a proponent of equal rights for women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

St. Francis Lutheran Church was one of two congregations expelled from the ELCA at the end of 1995 because it called and ordained a gay man and a lesbian couple as pastors in 1990 in violation of a rule requiring congregations to call only clergy approved by the ELCA. The three candidates were ELCA seminary graduates, and were denied approval for call solely because they would not commit to lifelong abstention from homosexual sexual relationships as required by ELCA policy. St. Francis is an independent Lutheran congregation. It continues to participate in activities of the ELCA's local San Francisco Conference and regional Sierra Pacific Synod. The congregation has been granted voice but not vote at synod assemblies." The rest is at

The good ship ELCA...

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