Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Methodist bishops table proposed new gay stance

A proposed change in the United Methodist Church's 25-year-old stance on homosexual behavior that would condone same-sex marriage "where legally possible" was tabled by a committee at the Council of Bishops meeting this month near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.The denomination's Book of Discipline says the church "does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider[s] this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." The stance of the worldwide, 11-million-member church has withstood many challenges in past conventions, but the issue is expected to arise again next year. A council subcommittee had recommended replacing the 1972 language with wording saying the church does not condone sexual relationships between people of heterosexual or homosexual orientation "outside the bonds of a faithful, loving and committed relationship between two persons; marriage, where legally possible."The proposed change also declared that the present stance "is based on highly questionable theology and biblical understanding and causes profound hurt to thousands of loyal United Methodist members and potential members."But the bishops' administrative committee voted May 1 to table the recommendation, and the measure never formally went before the Council of Bishops, according to the United Methodist News Service.Had the council approved the recommendation, it would have gone to a committee of the 2008 General Conference for action by 1,000 delegates at the quadrennial meeting in Fort Worth, Texas. Bishops do not have a vote at the General Conference, but they may propose legislation for delegates to consider.Retired bishop Jack Tuell, a former lawyer and onetime president of the Council of Bishops, commented after the tabling action that "almost any thoughtful plan of leadership would be superior to prudent silence." While saying he understood the committee's rejection, Tuell contended that there should be "a better way to express the mind of our United Methodist Church" than the statement's incompatibility clause.An informed source told the Century that Tuell had submitted the proposal to fellow bishops. Another point in the tabled recommendation emphasized that the change would make it clear "that we disapprove of all promiscuous premarital or extramarital sexual relationships, whether practiced by heterosexual persons or homosexual persons."In defending the proposal's shelving, Oklahoma bishop Robert Hayes said that advancing the recommendation would have "proven to be divisive and counterproductive to the unity that currently exists" among the bishops and in the church. Forwarding the recommendation would not advance "the betterment of the church at this time," he added.After the United Methodist News Service on May 8 reported the proposal's tabling, Troy Plummer, executive director of the pro-gay rights Reconciling Ministries Network, commented, "Silence kills. Too many lives are at stake for the bishops to take an ostrich position. The way to unity is justice, not avoidance."


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Two conflicting memorials any guesses on what will happen to them

Memorials to The Lower Susquehanna Synod
Regarding Official Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships

WHEREAS, the 2005 Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution to “continue to respect the guidance of the 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops” regarding the blessing of homosexual relationships; and

WHEREAS, the text of the 1993 bishops’ statement states “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 such a ceremony as an official action of this church's ministry;” and

WHEREAS, former Bishop Kenneth Sauer, the chairperson of the Conference of Bishops at the time of the adoption of the statement in 1993, distinctly recalls the purpose of the statement as being to refuse to approve any ceremony that would appear to give public approval by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to same-sex unions; and

WHEREAS, any ceremony approved by an ELCA synod or congregation is an official action of this church's ministry; and

WHEREAS, any attempt to use the “pastoral care provision” of the 1993 statement as a basis for providing official blessings of same-sex unions would be to use that phrase in an unintended way; and

WHEREAS, the New England Synod has promulgated “Guidelines for the Blessing of Same-sex Unions” that officially endorse the public blessing of homosexual relationships, thereby directly contradicting the 1993 bishops’ statement and the actions of the 2005 Churchwide Assembly to endorse the 1993 Statement; and

WHEREAS, these actions that directly violate the decisions of the 2005 Churchwide Assembly make it more difficult for all of us to heed that assembly's other guidance that all in the ELCA “live together faithfully”; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America memorialize the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to reaffirm that the 1993 bishops’ statement as endorsed by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2005 does not approve the “official” blessing of homosexual relationships, which includes any blessing for which approval is given by a synod or congregation; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America memorialize 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to direct the Church Council and the Office of the Secretary to notify all ELCA Synods and congregations to refrain from public blessings that imply approval of same-sex relationships.

Adopted by the Hanover Conference
April 22, 2007
St. John Lutheran Church, Abbottstown, Pennsylvania

The other is revisionist:

Memorial to
The Lower Susquehanna Synod
Encouraging Refraining from Discipline
The Harrisuburg Conference

WHEREAS, there is currently no consensus in this church regarding the rostered service of persons in committed same-gender relationships (Report of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, p. 5); and

WHEREAS, the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly urged every part of the ELCA to “concentrate on finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements, recognizing the God-given mission and communion that we share as members of the Body of Christ;” therefore be it

RESOLVED, that this Synod Assembly submit the following memorial for consideration by the 2007 Churchwide Assembly:

RESOLVED, that in order to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements, synods, synodical bishops, and the Presiding Bishop of this church are encouraged to refrain from disciplining those who – in good conscience and for the sake of outreach, ministry, and commitment to continuing dialogue – call, approve, ordain, commission, or consecrate otherwise-qualified candidates for rostered service who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship; and be if further

RESOLVED, that synods, synodical bishops, and the Presiding Bishop of this church are encouraged to refrain from disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship who have been thus called, approved, ordained, commissioned, or consecrated.

My Conversion to the Lutheran Feminist Faith

by Mike Adams
Monday, April 30, 2007

Just when I thought everything was going so well in the Baptist Church, another church came along and swept me away. In fact, from the moment I logged on to www.HerChurch.org I realized I had to move to San Francisco to join Ebenezer Lutheran Church (ELCA). Now that I’ll no longer be Baptist I can have sex standing up without the fear that people will think I’m dancing.
Another advantage of ELCA is that it dubs itself "A home for women's spirituality” rather than a “house of God” (how boring is that?). It’s a sort of spiritual headquarters for the “Lutheran Feminist/Womanist Movement,” which exists to celebrate the feminine persona of the Goddess and “dimensions of the sacred as expressed in faith, worship, learning, mutual care, and acts of justice.” I assume their discussion of acts of justice omits the fate of places like “Sodom” and “Gomorrah.” Only a male God could be capable of that kind of justice.

I was initially attracted to ELCA because they claim to be “a diverse community.” As a professor at a university, I know that when people claim to be diverse they really mean it. Also, ELCA stands firmly within the Christian tradition in an effort “to re-image the divine” by focusing more on her feminine persona. I’m sick and tired of a God who made me in his image. I want to make up my own God. And I want him to be a chick - preferable a cute lesbian with lots of cute friends.
I also like that ELCA challenges the church’s restrictive language of the past. ELCA pays special attention to “images” and “metaphors” that seek to celebrate “divine fullness” offering a witness of, among other things, “inclusive justice.”
The people at my new church are not joking when they say that a new form of church is happening at Ebenezer Lutheran Church, which, by the way, is located at 678 Portola Drive in San Francisco, California. When people gather at 10:30 A.M. on Sundays for worship, it is lively, engaging, thoroughly inclusive, and feminist in nature. I’m hoping that the first Sunday of every month the church will eventually skip communion and have a pillow fight led by Pastor Stacy Boorn.

But, already, I’m finding that at ELCA the music and readings really reflect a commitment to reclaiming the feminine persona of the divine. Because the philosophy at ELCA is “Come as you are” anyone is sure to find hope, healing, and community. After all, ELCA explicitly says “All are welcome at this table!” Even if you’ve been out all night at a drag show or a gay bath house you can still make it to worship Sunday mornings at 10:30. (I hope that crack about the gay bath house doesn’t “bomb” as badly as my last one).

The ELCA feminist prayers are very inclusive and draw upon a “storehouse of tradition” to bring forth names like Mother, Shaddai, Sophia, Womb, Midwife, Shekinah, and She Who Is. They do so out of “renewed insights” into the nature of the Gospel empowered by the risen Christ-Sophia. These are things my former brothers within the Baptist Church failed to grasp all along.
At ELCA, we even have our own feminist version of the Lord’s Prayer, which goes something like this:

Our Mother who is within us
We celebrate your many names
Your wisdom come
Your will be done
Unfolding from the depths within us
Each day you give us all that we need
You remind us of our limits
And we let go
You support us in our power
And we act with courage
For you are the dwelling place within us
The empowerment around us
And the celebration among us
Now and forever

Aside from the sexist “Amen,” which should have been “Amyn,” you have to admit that it was a tear-jerking rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. It certainly beats the hell out of Jesus’ take.

ELCA believes that Christianity continues to “silence the voices and power of women, the divine feminine, and efforts to empower women and support the equality of all peoples.” So we all need to join ELCA and their feminist faith community in order to be agents for change in the church and, most of all, the oppressive patriarchal systems.

It was a big decision to leave the Baptist Church but, fortunately, ELCA gave me the following prayer of meditation to help ease the transition:

Goddess of struggle and blessing

We thank you that you are so willing to meet us in love here and now

As you meet our mothers and fathers, partners and lovers, siblings and children, Friends and strangers on their faith journeys

As you entered our human life in Jesus Christ-Sophia

Help us open our hearts to you in our time of remembrance and celebration

That we may grow in light and love toward you and all people

Through the gentle wind of your Spirit

When I prayed that simple prayer I finally realized that all my critics were right. I’ve been too critical of the gay and feminist movements in America. All they want is to be left alone. It’s not as if they want to overthrow our most sacred institutions.

Goddess Bless them, one and all.

The good ship ELCA...

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