Monday, July 30, 2007

Open Letter to Bp Hanson

July 27, 2008

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson,
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Bishop Hanson,

Bishop Margaret Payne of the New England Synod has anounced that she intends to preside at a celebration of the Holy Communion at a special service during the Chicago churchwide assembly. This service - not a part of the regular agenda for the assembly - is to be sponsored by Lutherans Concerned/North America and others, and the preacher for this service is to be Mr. Bradley E. Schmeling, a former pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Bishop Payne's participation in this service raises many questions by us in Lutheran CORE.Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession affirms that "nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call." Mr. Schmeling is no longer an ordained minister of our church and no longer has a regular call to ministry in our church. How can Bishop Payne defend her participation in a service at which Mr. Schmeling is to deliver the sermon?

The ELCA is currently in the midst of a process toward developing a possible social statement on sexuality, for action at the 2009 churchwide assembly. A specific process has been developed for preparing this social statement. How does Bishop Payne's participation in this service affect the credibility of this process? How does her participation in the service lead toward peace, unity, and prayerful deliberation throughout our church on these matters?Our church understands itself to be one church, with congregational, synodical, and churchwide expressions. Each expression of the church is to be an interdependent partner with the other expressions. How does Bishop Payne's leading this service reflect the polity of the ELCA? Are individual bishops and synods somehow exempt from the interdependence that we expect from all expressions of the church?

We object strenuously to Bishop Payne's serving as presiding minister at a Eucharist, for which Mr. Schmeling is the indcated preacher. We look to you to redress this matter. You are the only one who can do so! We ask that you address our concerns to Bishop Payne, in your role as chief pastor of our church. We also ask that you publicly express your disapproval for her decision to preside at the service.

When The Rev. Paul Egertson was called as a synodical bishop, he indicated that he would resign from the office, should his personal convictions prove to be in conflict with the official policies of our church. With great integrity, he resigned as a synodical bishop when faced with this situation. Is it not appropriate for Bishop Payne to do the same thing now?We respectfully ask whether Bishop Payne's anticipated action is a matter of discipline.

Paull E. Spring
Lutheran CORE Steering Committee

CC: Bishop E. Roy Riley
Bishop Margaret G. Payne

Letter to her synod

In the past few months, our church has been involved in conversations and decisions that continue to reveal the differing viewpoints among us about the role of gay and lesbian persons in the ELCA. However, we still seek to live together faithfully despite our disagreements and to work prayerfully to discern God's will for our church.

We are called to obey the policies of the ELCA, yet we are also called to consider possibilities for change. Within this difficult tension, we are committed to respect one another's faith-bound beliefs while we disagree about policy related to the ways in which our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are included in the life of our church.

Over the last few months, I have spent time in prayer and discernment that have led me to choose to be more openly supportive of gay and lesbian persons who seek fuller inclusion in the life of the ELCA. I have accepted an invitation from the worship planners of Lutherans Concerned/North America to preside at a Eucharist that will take place on Wednesday, August 8, 2007, during the Churchwide Assembly. To me, this liturgy represents the commitment to continue support for consideration of change in the policy of the ELCA in a way that depends not on political maneuvering but on the flow of gifts that comes to all of us in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

When I sought ordination as a woman in the Lutheran Church, and encountered hateful resistance, I was profoundly appreciative of men who were allies and stood openly by my side with support and encouragement. I want to provide that same kind of support and encouragement for gay and lesbian people who are deeply faithful brothers and sisters already sharing their gifts among us.

The time may or may not be right in God's plan for change in our church, but I pray and continue to trust that there will be open and ongoing dialogue that moves us beyond our present stalemate. As together we depend on Word and Sacrament to be our center of faith and decision-making, I am certain that we will be drawn more and more deeply into the profound unity that we share in the New Covenant of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop Margaret G. Payne
New England Synod of the ELCA

Sex, war on ELCA agenda

One topic for delegates at next month's conference is sexuality. An earlier assembly - they meet every two years - asked a task force to present a social statement in 2009.The ELCA now excludes people in homosexual relationships from official leadership roles. Twenty-one resolutions came from synod assemblies earlier this year, asking for gays and lesbians in relationships to be able to serve as ordained and professional lay leaders.Hanson said he expects "very lively discussions" on whether to bring up those issues in Chicago or to wait until 2009.
The ELCA Study on Sexuality does not focus exclusively on homosexuals but also looks at heterosexuality."It is easier for us who are heterosexuals to talk about how gays and lesbians live out their lives and establish standards than ... to talk about our own," the bishop said.
Gary Steuck, a retired state official and campground operator, hopes issues other than sexuality receive attention."I wonder why we spend so much time on things like this," the Mobridge man said."We spend an awful lot of time on things that aren't so important to the ordinary Lutheran layman."
Because the ELCA continues to experience a slow decline in baptized membership and remains 97 percent white, the very culture of the church must be changed, Hanson said.

Read about the sex war.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

ELCA Membership Drops 1.6 Percent to 4.8 Million in 2006

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) had 4,774,203 baptized members in 10,470 congregations atthe end of 2006, according to the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary. Those figures represent decreases of 76,573 baptized members and 79 congregations since 2005.

In the past 16 years the ELCA lost approximately 466,000baptized members from the 5,240,739 members reported in 1990,Almen said. More than two-thirds of the decline occurred between 2002 and 2006, with a combined decrease of 325,674 baptizedmembers

Nineteen congregations with a combined baptized membership of 7,196 withdrew from the ELCA in 2006.

Anyone think there is a coincidence that 2/3 of the loss happened since 2002. What happened in 2002? Mark Hanson began his role as Presiding Bishop and we began to the Journey Together Faithfully process.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Waxman-Davis Bill Opens Door to Requiring Protections

July 11, 2007 - Undefined “Sexual Orientation” Protections Could Cover Criminal ActsWashington, DC – A bill introduced by Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Davis (R-VA) includes coverage for undefined “sexual orientation” and effectively endorses criminal activity such as pedophilia and necrophilia. According to a new report from the Traditional Values Coalition, the Clarification of Federal Employment Protections Act (HR 2232) “clarifies nothing while it opens the door to licensing all types of aberrant behavior.”

Sexual orientation is a wild card term which will allow all sorts of mischief to occur in the federal workforce as a precursor to expanding these misguided and ill-conceived policies to the rest of America’s workforce,” said TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty.
“The only thing which could use some clarification is the murky thinking of Waxman and Davis who want to throw open the doors of federal employment to all sorts of smarmy characters. They may be confused but the American people are not. They don’t want somebody who spends all their romantic evenings at a morgue or funeral home holding responsible government positions.

“The push is on to use the vagueness of the term ‘sexual orientation’ to advance the homosexual and other, even more bizarre, agendas. This same undefined language is included in the so called “Hate Crimes” bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
“I can see that this sort of thing getting an approving nod from Waxman’s constituents in California, but Virginians will have a lot of questions for Representative Davis. The first being is Mr. Davis a leader in this assault on traditional values or just a dupe who is willing to trade principles for votes?”

The TVC report concludes: “Congress’ refusal to define ‘sexual orientation’ creates the prospect of legal protection for every form of sexual perversion recognized by the psychiatric profession. By its silence, Congress is effectively endorsing such deviant and criminal behaviors as bestiality, pedophilia, and necrophilia as “sexual orientations” protected by federal law.”

Visit for more information.

To Stand in a Crucified Place

A good example of where homosexual hermeneutics takes people: denial of traditional interpretation of Scripture, of the atoning death of Jesus and much more...

To Stand in a Crucified Place The Reverend J. Edwin Bacon, RectorAll Saints Church, PasadenaRector’s Forum: June 24, 2007

We have a responsibility in our words, our worship, and our actions to articulate a theology that does not glorify violence, does not perpetuate poverty, disease, occupation, and genocide, and that does not exclude, denigrate, or sacrifice those who are less powerful in society or in the church.

This means a return to Jesus’ understanding of the nature of God, forgiveness, the Reign of God, salvation, the cross, the community we now call the Church, and the resurrection. [It is] an understanding of God that is much more vast that the old man in a beard. That God usually is depicted in art and in our imagination as so angry at the human race for its sin that the only way forgiveness can come our way is to have the perfect sacrifice of Jesus crucified paid as our penalty. No to all that misunderstanding of how we are made at one with God. God’s grace and power to forgive is in the very nature of God, Godself as Jesus illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

There is no gulf between God’s creation and God that has to be spanned. We are not in the need of that kind of salvation -- salvation from the wrath and punishment of God. We do not need that kind of salvation or savior. What we need is someone to embody revealingly God’s compassion to us whose life says, “This really is NOT too good to be true.” And lest we calcify God as a father -- even a compassionate, forgiving, love and grace-based father -- Carroll challenges us to understand God as Meaning. It is meaning -- to live a life of meaning -- that saves us from hell on earth. Heaven after death is already taken care of in the love and forgiveness and compassion of God.

We must put an end to any portrayal of God that says that without Jesus and the crucifixion we are left standing condemned. And that God’s way is to crucify Jesus and us. That is not what it means to claim that the way of the cross is the way of life. The way of the cross is the way of life means that when we offer ourselves in love for the sake of the life of another -- like loving parents do and loving friends do and compassionate neighbors like Good Samaritans do. That is the way of life.

This theology is deeply needed by the church as an antidote for making denigrating sacrifices of other people. Just two weeks ago, Bill Moyers interviewed our beloved and brilliant Presiding Bishop, but listen to her response to the practices of denigrating LGBT Christians:

BILL MOYERS: You've even been criticized by some of your liberal colleagues in the American fellowship because you have called for a moratorium for a season on ordaining more gay Bishops. Why did you do that?

BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: It was a very painful thing to do. My sense was that there might be hope of some kind of broader understanding if we were able to pause. Not go backwards, but pause.

BILL MOYERS: Is it fair to ask some aspiring gay or lesbian person who wants to become a Bishop, like Gene Robinson did in 2003, to wait?

BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Is it fair? No. It's not fair.

BILL MOYERS: But it's necessary?

BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: It's a crucified place to stand.
--From the Transcript of Bill Moyers Journal, broadcast June 8, 2007

There is no doubt that we all from time to time must stand in a crucified place. Jesus certainly did. Any follower of Jesus certainly will from time to time have a crucified place in which we must stand. But that place in order for us to take the place Jesus stood in that crucified place as opposed to the place the Roman empire stood in that crucified place is the place of self-offering as opposed to sacrificing someone else. When we sacrifice someone else, we are standing in the role of the Empire. When we offer ourselves, we are standing in Jesus’ place. That is why bishops cannot sacrifice someone else and call that act “Christian.”

All of this will call on us to claim with joy, peace, and power our intellectual and historical identities as children of Galileo. To use the story James Carroll used here last week, Galileo’s scientific observations led him to believe that the earth revolves around the sun rather than the opposite. The church said that Galileo had to be wrong because the Bible said the earth was the center of the cosmos. Galileo said, “No, that doctrine is wrong. Observation and scientific experience trumps doctrine.”

This means that we must tell the truth about biblical research. The Bible is not a stenographic record of God’s speaking to 66 different authors. The Bible contains the truth as well as a great deal of destructive, violent, and fear-based bigotry. We must sift through the wheat and the chaff and join the critics of religion coming from the “new atheists” now writing in the service of ending sadistic and masochistic religion and promoting religion that saves lives, promotes resistance of every dehumanizing force and idea, and turns the human race into the human family.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Gay Shibboleth

Opposition to homosexual behavior may now be a bar to high office.
A Christianity Today editorial

As a member of the United Methodist Judicial Council, physician James Holsinger voted with the majority to affirm Methodist teaching that bans practicing homosexuals from ordination. Holsinger also wrote a white paper for the denomination 16 years ago on the health hazards of gay sex and on the biological complementarity of the human sexes.

Should that bar him from serving (as President Bush desires) as U.S. surgeon general? It's not surprising that homosexual-activist groups like Human Rights Campaign think so. But most of the major Democratic presidential candidates agree. John Edwards was particularly harsh: "In a profession dedicated to healing and compassion, it cannot be hard to find a qualified candidate for surgeon general who sees all human beings as equals. … Holsinger's anti-gay writings and beliefs suggest that he will undermine, not advance, the cause of equality and fairness in health care."

The Boston Globe called for Bush to withdraw his nomination, since "no one should go into the job with a record of discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation." A Washington Post editorial called Holsinger's white paper "bigotry masquerad[ing] as science" and mocked him for this sentence: "In fact, the logical complementarity of the human sexes has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other."

"Is he a doctor or the Ace Hardware man?" asked the Post. Satirist Stephen Colbert went further: "For years, we have tolerated smoking just like we currently tolerate homosexuality. But the surgeon general alerted us to the dangers of smoking with warning labels. With Holsinger at the helm, we can use the same approach for homosexuality. Every gay man and woman should come with a label: 'Warning! Plumbers have found homosexual behavior to be dangerous and unnatural.'" The Bush administration didn't exactly rush to Holsinger's defense. "That was not his belief. It was not his opinion. It was a compilation of studies that were available at that time," a spokeswoman said. "Over the last 20 years, a clearer understanding of these issues has been achieved." The spokeswoman added, "It should be noted that in 1991, homosexuals were banned from the military, and several years before that, homosexuality and Haitian nationality were considered risk factors for HIV/AIDS."

Contrast this with, say, 2007, when the military still bans "persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" and gays and Haitians are still at high risk for HIV infection.

So some things don't change. But tolerance for dissent on homosexuality apparently has. The Holsinger denouncements and the White House's assertion that Holsinger couldn't possibly have meant what he wrote suggest that opposition to homosexual behavior is becoming a disqualification from serving in high public office.

That's a remarkable change from even a few years ago, and we're not alone in seeing it. "On no issue is history moving faster than on 'gay rights'—an already antiquated term for full and equal participation and acceptance of gay men and women in American life," Michael Kinsley wrote in Time.

On the other hand, as of press time, Holsinger hadn't been rejected yet, and other newspaper editorials, along with Holsinger's medical colleagues (including some homosexuals) are defending him as fair, professional, and compassionate. Still, affirmation of homosexual behavior seems to be shifting from an in-group shibboleth to an unwritten requirement for American leadership.
Where does that leave biblical Christians? We may soon come to the point where supporting a sexual ethic based on an orthodox reading of Scripture becomes part of our cross to bear.

The rest here.

An Open Letter to Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson

Dear Mark;

All my life I have been proud to call myself a Lutheran. Given my Hussite roots, I have quipped that I was a Lutheran a hundred years before Luther. That pride is not what it was, as I feel it breaking down before feelings of betrayal and alienation. This is happening as I watch my church, like a juggernaut follow the path of the ECUSA in the matters of the ordination of those openly living in homosexual relationships and the blessing and marrying of those in such relationships.

We ignore what this is doing to the ECUSA: it faces schism; it has become a pariah in Africa; the welcome mats from Rome and Constantinople have been pulled back; membership and income losses were recently described in "The Christian Century" as "precipitous." But undeterred, we push forward; apparently ready to accept the same sort of results.

Why? Is it because some new exegetical revelation has burst upon us? No. All attempts to claim that come up against the wall that every reference to homosexual practice in our scripture gives a clear negative judgment. Yet we would pronounce it blessed.

So next we launch into a study on the authority of Scripture, which excuse me, early signs are, that it will tell us that we can continue to claim that Scripture is the "source and norm of our faith and life", as we clearly brush aside Scripture and turn to other sources and norms. We are preparing to sell our birthright as the foremost biblical theologians of the West for the pottage of this culture's approval, as we accommodate to its desires and demands in its extraordinary and overwhelming obsession with and worship of sex. What hubris possesses this generation to think it is qualified to rewrite the teaching of what has been the faith for two thousand years, and a thousand before that?

If we succeed in doing this, we will sacrifice the credibility of all our teaching. The very thing that has made our teaching notable has been its solid rootage in Scripture. Make that optional; take it away and who cares what we say about anything?

I read with deep appreciation the paper on the authority of Scripture produced by bishop Paull Spring, and Lutheran CORE. I hope there may still be hope for us.

In Christ,
George Paul Mocko,
Bishop Emeritus,
De, Md. Synod, ELCA

"The issue" for mainline churches? Let me give you a hint, it ain't sexuality.

Shrimp here: I hope the human people who go to Navy Pier for the Church Wide Assembly are prepared for the assault on their emotions being prepared by those who will tearfully insist that the ELCA must stop being so awfully unfair as to deny homosexuals their right to be active sexually and be a pastor of one of our congregations.

What are we talking about here? Sex? Individual rights? No. as it says in this blog's banner, it's about the authority of Scripture. Here's a sermon preached in one of the congregations that left The Episcopal Church. Listen good. You will hear that "only" 100 or so congregations are leaving TEC over the issue. Well, it's not about numbers is it? It's about leaving the faith, isn't it? Don't bring the ELCA to the same place as TEC. Lawsuits, civil war, deciding to leave the church one grew up in....

We live in a time where the air the young people breathe is filled with the spirit of autonomy. There’s a great hesitation among young adults today to say that such and such behavior is wrong for someone else if the someone else doesn’t think it’s wrong. Our culture is becoming more and more hesitant to draw moral boundaries. Even young people who follow Christ are hesitant to draw moral conclusions about others because they’ve grown up in a society that says do you own thing, find your own way, question authority. And so the college student who challenged his mom, the college students who challenge their parents’ interpretation of biblical teaching about sexual morality now, it’s not unusual. And, Christians who just quote the Bible in support of this or that moral position are often accused of either insensitivity or backwardness or of selecting out those passages that fit their own predilections and ignoring others. That’s the setting that we’re living in today.Now, the question is, how do we know what’s right and what’s wrong? And another question is how do we make wise moral decisions? Well, we’re here because we follow Christ. We believe he’s the Son of God who came among us to reveal God, to teach God to us, to teach us the way of God. And so we follow Christ to know right and wrong. We believe he’s entrusted to us the scriptures as a reliable, true, authoritative guide in right thinking and right living. He told us to trust and to heed the Old Testament, and he established the New Testament through the apostles who he promised to guide into the truth as they proclaimed the word. And so the church has always believed what the apostles wrote in 2 Timothy 3. You know the words:All scripture is inspired or breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God [or the woman] may be competent, equipped for every good work.The fundamental reason why the Anglican Communion and other communions as well are being pulled apart is that there’s no longer agreement as to what scriptural authority means. Church people are now accepting and approving ideas and behaviors that the church has consistently seen over the centuries as contrary to biblical teaching: the deity of Christ, the atoning death of Christ, the historical reliability of the resurrection, our responsibility to proclaim Christ to all people, and of course certain standards of moral behavior. All this and more is being questioned and even discouraged by many church people, and so we’re divided over these things, painfully divided. How do we read our Bible to discern what is right and what is wrong? We’re about to enter into a series of talks on Sundays in the summer on the Ten Commandments—God’s moral foundation for all civilization—because we forget how basic and how helpful the Ten Commandments are and what they teach us. They never go out of date. We’ll try to pitch this in a way that the kids will appreciate it as well as adults. But before we get to that today, I want to help you think clearly about how we view the Bible as a whole in its moral teaching. It’s true—as some people accuse us—it’s true. We do accept some passages of Leviticus, for instance, as still binding, and others we reject. Why do we do that? Are we just subjective—that’s what we’re accused of—or is there more to it?

Read the full sermon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

And Good Soil sent this to Church Wide Assembly goers:

Good Soil sent me CWA voting folks an 8 page newsletter. One of the pages is called Questions and Answers.

Why not delay any more conversation about the ordination of partnered gay clergy until after the social statement on sexuality has been approved?
The guide Journey Together Faithfully Part 3: Free to Serve the Neighbor, is not intended to offer study resources or guidance to the church regarding homosexuality, blessings of relationship or partnered gay clergy.At CWA 2005 the assembly considered numberous resolutions regarding the recommendations of the Sexuality Task Force. The upshot was a collection of votes which confirmed our desire to live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements, stayed the course with intentional ambiguity concerning blessings of same-gender relationships, and said what we don't want relative to ordination but not what we do want. The critical vote of the day was the defeat of a motion to enforce the current policy of exclusion. The recommendation of the Church Council on an exception policy for partnered gay pastors failed to reach a majority by only seven votes.

You should know that many gay, lesbian, and allied voting members were not in favor of the exception policy and voted against it since it would have established extra rules for the qualification of partnered gay clergy as well as a second class of rostered clergy. If we don't change the policy in 2007, the issues will stand before us again at Churchwide 2009 and beyond until the policy is changed. If we do not come to terms with out disagreements regarding homosexuality, we will not be able to pass a social statement of human sexuality which will require a two-thirds majority vote. Meanwhile pastors, like Bradley, stand trial or are pressured to resign their calls. How many gifted pastors must we lose, until the church says enough is enough and the policy fails?

Why all the fuss about the story of just one person?
We are concerned about Bradley--but also about many others. Because of the policies currently in place, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in the ELCA have been denied their calling to the ordained ministry. Pastor Schmeling's story is just one of many similar situations occuring since the beginning of the ELCA. See the timeline beginning on page 6 listing the 4 trials the ELCA has conducted, the 12 otherwise qualified seminarians which the ELCA wouldn't approve for ordinations, 7 ELCA rostered leaders that have been defrocked or forced to resign, 3 congregations removed from the ELCA, 7 ELCA congregations which have been disciplined, and 15 Extraordinary Candidacy Project pastors currently serving ELCA and Independent Lutheran Congregations. Ultimately, the current policies impoverish the whole church--all laypersons, all ordained clergy, all servants, all leaders of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Are the policies precluding homosexuals from the ordained ministry of this church part of the ELCA constitution?
No, they are not. In Chapter 7, the constitution gives the standards for ordained ministers which include commitment to Christ; soundness of faith; aptness to preach, teach and witness; educational qualifications; examination; proper call and ordaination; acceptance and adherance to the Confession of Faith; diligence and faithfulness in the exercise of the ministry; and life and conduct above reproach. An ordianed minister shall comply with the constitution of this church. the constitution does not mention homosexuality.

Why aren't the policies included in the constitution?
Those on the first ELCA church Council detemined that policies like Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline for rostered leaders and Vision and Expectations for ministerial candidates should be separated from the constitution, allowing for the use of discretion in their application. The constitution sets the firm boundaries for the denomination. Amendments to the constitution require a two-thirds majority of voting members of the Churchwide Assembly over two consecutive assemblies. the constitution is not easily changed. The first Church Council saw that, over time, situations might occur requiring change in the policy documents; therefore these policies should not rise the authoritative level of the constitution.

Who put the policy in place?
There is a constitutionally prescribed process for the creation of Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline and Vision and Expectations, the Committee on Appeals presented a draft to the ELCA Church Council which edited it to include the current language precluding practicing homosexuals for the ordained ministry. The Council passed the policy in November 1989. The policiy was never approved by the CWA.For Vision and Expectations, the Division for Ministry in consultation with the Conference of Bishops presented a draft to the ELCA Church Council which was edited to include the phrase, "persons who are homosexual in their self understanding are expected to abstain from Homosexual sexual relationships." The Church Council passed Vision and Expectations in October 1990. The policy was never approved by the CWA.

Must the policies in Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline and Vision and Expectations comport with the ELCA Constitution?
Yes, they must. Until the Schmeling trial, no one has challenged the constitutionality of the policies excluding partnered gay pastors.

Which entity holds the highest legislative authority in the ELCA?
The Churchwide Assembly is the highest legislative authority in the ELCA. The ELCA Church Council has interim authority between CW assemblies.

Can the ELCA CWA change the policies excluding partnered gay clergy?
While the CWA may not change the policies outright, according to Secretary Almen, the assembly may direct the appropriate units of the church to change the policies. Consequently, memorials regarding policy change must be worded carefully to direct the responsible entities within the ELCA structure to make the changes as instructed. Such memorials directing change will require a simple majority pass.

Lesbian Bigamist Lived with Husband and Wife

From This is London:

A mother is facing jail after it was discovered she was married to a man and a woman at the same time. Suzanne Mitchell has appeared in court accused of being the country's first lesbian 'bigamist'. The mother of five admitted making a false statement to the registrar at her civil partnership ceremony by failing to mention she was already married.

Read it all.

If you are going to the CWA,, you already got this. What do you think?

July 7, 2007

Greetings from Atlanta. My name is Jill Henning and, like you, I am a voting member at the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August. My husband, Matt, and I are both pastors in the Southeastern Synod. Between being pastors and parenting two children, ages nine and five, we know first hand how busy all of our lives can be. Still, I'm writing to you about a matter of real concern for my family, my synod, and the ELCA.

Before we leave for Chicago, I'd like to tell you about my good friends, the people of St. John Lutheran Church in Atlanta and their pastor, Bradley Schmeling. If you read The Lutheran, you may have seen something about them. St. John's is the oldest Lutheran Church in Atlanta. Pastor Brad is a dear man, an excellent preacher, teacher, evangelist, and spiritual advisor. I would love to have Bradley as my pastor. With the leadership of Prastor Bradley, St. John has grown in its membership and service to the community. The pews are filled--well, except in the summer, just like everywhere else--and the members are learning to park down the street so there's room for their many visitors. What a wonderful problem to have!

Pastor Bradley has been open with the congregation and Bishop Ron Warren about this sexual orientation since before he was called in 2000. The Bishop approved his call and has affirmed his outstanding ministry. Pastor Bradley ever served as my conference dean. The congregation, Matt and I were all thrilled when Bradley announced, in March of last year, that he had found a life-partner in Pastor Daren Easler. However, on August 11th, 2006, the Bishop filed charges against Pastor Bradley for "conduct incompatible with the office of ministry." After nearly a year of legal briefs, a trial, a decision and an appeal, the ELCA Committee on Appeals decided on July 2, 2007, to remove Pastor Bradley from the ELCA clergy roster. The congregation recieved the news with tears and resolve to tell their story.

At the Churchwide Assembly St. John's will be joined by 22 synods of the ELCA, representing 40% of the ELCA's members. They have asked the Churchwide Assembly to eliminate the ELCA's policy of discrimination against ministers in committed same-gender relationships and the congregations that call them. Because the Churchwide Assembly is the highest legislative authority in the ELCA, you and I will have some important decisions to make.

To help you prepare for Chicago, enclosed you will find a brief summary of the trial. It includes words from Pastor Bradley himself, his partner, his mom, and the first Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Dr. Herbert Chilstrom. You will also see a timeline that the many congregations and pastors affected by the church's policies of exclusion. It only takes 10 minutes to read, but it carefully asks us to consider, "are we really living together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements?" This is precisely the question that we must answer in August.Thanks for giving me a chance to tell you about these friends of mine. I look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

In Christ,
Jill J. Henning
Trinity Lutheran Church
Lilburn, Georgia

Monday, July 09, 2007

When it comes to gays, 'What would Luther do?'

When it comes to gays, 'What would Luther do?'
Given the way he dealt with issues of his day, the father of the Protestant Reformation very well may have seen the same-sex arguments in a more accepting light.
By Mary Zeiss Stange

In Christ, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female," the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians nearly 2,000 years ago. Upon further reflection, might he have added, "neither straight nor gay?"

The question is nonsensical, of course, because in his time the concept of "sexual orientation" had yet to be invented. And yet modern-day anti-gay church activists love to quote the handful of his statements about "unnatural" sexual acts as definitive — indeed, divinely inspired — condemnations of same-sex love.

The same goes for Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation. Lutheran anti-gay activists routinely, and correctly, point out that Luther had plenty of bad things to say about the scourge of "Sodomites" in 16th century Germany. Like his role model Paul, Luther was a product of the social prejudices of his time and culture: a time when the concepts of homosexuality as an "orientation" or a "lifestyle" were still unheard of. But would the man whose break from Roman Catholicism involved a revolutionary rethinking of the role of sexuality in human relationships take such a negative view of homosexuality today? Most probably, given the way his theological mind worked, he would not.

it continues...

The movement Luther himself spawned presents a more mixed picture. Among the "mainstream" — that is, non-fundamentalist — Protestant churches, only the United Church of Christ maintains an unambiguously pro-gay stance. In most other denominations, the questions of how to deal with gay marriage, as well as with the ordination of non-celibate gays to the ministry, are bubbling more or less continually on ecclesiastical back burners. In at least two churches — the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church USA — those pots have lately threatened to boil over.
In these cases, the issue is not the mere membership of gays in the church, or indeed in the ministry, as long as they remain sexually inactive. But what happens when a gay minister openly enters into a committed relationship, as did the Rev. Bradley Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta and Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire?
In February, Schmeling was notified that a disciplinary committee had voted to expel him from the clergy. (On Thursday, he was removed from the denomination's list of approved ministers.) Also in February, the worldwide Anglican Communion issued what amounted to an ultimatum to the Episcopal Church, threatening negative "consequences" should it consecrate another openly gay bishop. At stake in both cases is the question not simply of the ordination of gays and lesbians, but also of same-sex marriage: In effect, because these clergy cannot marry in their respective denominations, their openly committed same-sex relationships amount, for their critics, to "living in sin." Writing for the online magazine Blogcritics in December, Richard Rothstein likened the struggle between pro- and anti-gay factions in the churches to "a Second Protestant Reformation."
He was onto something important.
The New Testament trump card
In the Augsburg Confession of 1530 (a conciliatory statement of faith intended to unite Lutherans with other Protestants), Luther publicly agreed with other reformers of his day that biblical references that depart from New Testament inclusiveness — abstaining from eating pork, for example, or requiring male circumcision — not only can but should be set aside. A 21st century Luther would surely recognize that the few biblical proscriptions against "sodomy" — shaky in themselves as condemnations of same-sex love and rooted in a worldview vastly different from our own — should not bar the loving union of two gay or lesbian persons. Equally, a 21st century Luther would affirm the ordination of such persons, as in line with his theology of the "priesthood of all believers."
The American church that bears his name will have an opportunity to revisit the question when its Churchwide Assembly (the ELCA's highest legislative body) convenes Aug. 6-12. Schmeling may yet get a reprieve, should the church revisit what the disciplinary board itself called "bad policy" regarding sexually active gay pastors. The ELCA has until Aug. 15 to act on his case.
Meanwhile, The Episcopal Church USA has until the end of September to respond to the Anglican Communion's ultimatum. The American bishops have, so far, roundly repudiated the pressure coming from Canterbury. The extent of the potential rift remains to be seen.
One thing seems clear, however. In working through these issues in the months to come, Protestants in both American denominations would best begin by asking, "What would Luther do?"
Mary Zeiss Stange is a professor of women's studies and religion at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

More at:

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"The Network"

We all know what an "Aha" moment is. Well, what would you call it when you have one of those but it is more like a " that's why that is the way that is" type of moment. I just had one. I went to the site to see what's going on and clicked on the links of their partners. Probably everyone in the ELCA besides me knew that there was an organization whose sole goal was to bring the ELCA into full inclusion of gays. Looking at the list of members (a rather long list) there are quite a few leaders there. There are professors who wrote for the sexuality study. A former PB of course. The group has 1089 names, many of them clergy.

Actually, I've probably heard of this group but forgot: Lutheran Network for Inclusive Vision. It is no conspiracy. It's a free country and so it seems a free church. Take a look at their mission statement. It's very interesting:

Below are three "Affirmations" of those who have publicly placed themselves on The Network Roster.

  • We affirm the authority of God's Word for our faith and life. We acknowledge that our church has, on the basis of scriptural interpretation, condemned all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. However, we believe recent and respected scholarship requires other interpretations of certain biblical passages, particularly as they apply to committed and faithful same-gender relationships.
  • We believe it is time for ELCA clergy, AIMS and church members to challenge the policies and practices which continue to bring so much pain to the gay and lesbian members of our church and their families, and deprives the church of gifted professionals.
  • We further affirm the vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in which the Gospel of God's grace in Christ is central. It is that Gospel which empowers us to move beyond estrangement to mutual trust, consolation, and cooperation in the life and ministry of the church. We are deeply concerned when the only choice given to our gay and lesbian pastors, AIMS, diaconal ministers, deaconesses and seminarians is to be silent or to leave the church. The continued expulsion of gay and lesbian professionals who are in stable, committed relationships deprives the church of positive role models for its gay and lesbian members, drives them out of the church and leaves them bereft of sacraments, pastoral care and Christian community.

From their latest newsletter (on the Schmeling decision and the resolutions):

So then, where do we go from here? In addition to working toward changing the policy by passing memorials to the Churchwide Assembly and working for Synod Councils to pass requeststo the Church Council to make the changes, there is oneother avenue. When you look at the templates referenced earlier,you will see a third suggestion, “Endorsing Restraint.” Passage of this would send a message that, while a synod mightnot be ready for total change in this policy, it might be willing togive space and discretion to Bishops to deal with situations such as Pastor Schmeling’s in ways other than removal from the roster. One thing is clear; we cannot sit back and catch our breath. We need to press for change at every turn. We must also support those who are in a position to effect change and give congregations such as St. John’s, Atlanta, and Pastor Schmeling, space to do the ministry to which they have been called.

You might want to bookmark them and go back to see if they come out with a pre-assembly newsletter.

Here is an article written by the person responsible for the area of the New Testament and what it says about "the issue" back in Journey Together Faithfully:

Texts and Meanings: Why Do Scholars Differ about the Meaning of Texts on Sexuality? Arland J. Hultgren of Luther Seminary writes an outstanding piece on the bible and homosexuality. Arland J. Hultgren is the Asher O. and Carrie Nasby Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. His article below was written for the Lent, 2007 issue of the newsletter of The Network.

Biblical scholars differ widely in the interpretation of texts having to do with sexuality issues, and that is particularly the case in regard to those that are brought into discussions concerning homosexuality. To be sure, there is no end to the list of texts that can be brought into the discussion. The list could include the creation narratives in Genesis and still other texts that have to do with males and females, sexual expression, marriage, and so on. But there are a select few that are almost always brought to the table, including Genesis 19:1-11; Judges 19:16-30; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10. Scholars who share the same confessional or denominational heritage and use virtually the same methods of interpretation can come up with quite different conclusions concerning the meaning of the texts and their applicability to issues facing the church and society.It is sometimes suggested that the line of demarcation between scholars is any one of the following (or a combination of them): (1) the one group has a high view of Scripture and its authority; the other does not; (2) the one group is conservative; the other is liberal; (3) the one group is counter-cultural; the other has capitulated to the culture; (4) the one group is open to hearing what the texts actually say; the other consists of people who have their minds made up before dealing with the texts; (5) the one is committed to traditional theological norms (Scripture, creeds, and confessions); the other is not; and (6) the one group honors the integrity of theological work; the other has been affected by experiences that override theology, such as having been moved emotionally by hearing the testimony of gays or lesbians, or perhaps having gay or lesbian relatives and/or friends.In actual fact, however, the lines of demarcation listed here can be set aside. The polarizations that they cause are often inaccurate caricatures; they are unfortunate, unnecessary, and not conducive to discourse or mutual understanding. In their place I have found that there are other, more basic factors that enter into the discussion among scholars concerning the issues around homosexuality and the Scriptures. Four are of particular importance.
The rest is here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

St. John's Lutheran Church Press Release

Pastor Bradley Schmeling Removed from Clergy Roster Immediately by Action of Appeals Committee

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Committee on Appeals has denied the appeal of Pastor Bradley Schmeling and removed him from the clergy roster, effective July 2, 2007.
The Committee on Appeals said that Bradley’s removal was effective immediately with this decision, since the Discipline Hearing Committee (DHC) had no authority to delay the implementation of its February decision further than the end of the appeals process. The DHC had delayed the removal from the clergy roster until August 15. And, the Committee on Appeals said that the DHC had exceeded its authority by suggesting that the policy might violate the ELCA constitution, and further by suggesting ways to change the policy.
This decision by the Committee on Appeals will be reported to the 2007 Churchwide Assembly, which will, as they said, provide “the opportunity for revision of the Constitution, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions by the Churchwide Assembly or of the other documents governing the discipline process by the Church Council, if such be the will of this church.”
Pastor Bradley said, “I’m deeply disappointed by the decision, although I’m not surprised. Change has always proven difficult for the church. I continue to hope that the church will be centered in God’s message of love, compassion, and justice, rather than in the enforcement of discriminatory policies. The church can only resist the Holy Spirit for so long. In the meantime, I plan to continue to follow my call in ministry at St. John’s and to pray for the day when all God’s children are equally welcomed into the Lutheran church.”
John Ballew, president of St. John’s congregation, said, “St. John’s is going to stay St. John’s. Church service this and every Sunday is at 10:30 am. We are going to go to Churchwide Assembly in August, to witness to our ELCA the costs of this decision, based on an absurd policy. This is not just about us and our wonderful pastor; this is about all those called to minister to God’s people, who lead exemplary lives, who provide a model for faithful, loving companionship with each other and with Christ.”
Bradley Schmeling is pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Atlanta, Georgia. He was charged in 2006 with a violation of the ELCA policy for living in a committed, loving same-gender relationship with his life-partner, Pastor Darin Easler. The current policy of the ELCA prohibits the service of so-named “practicing homosexuals” from the ministry of the church. An ecclesiastical trial was held in January 2007 – the result of which was the decision of the DHC to remove him from the clergy roster effective August 15.
The DHC also said that its nearly unanimous view was that the policy may violate the constitution of the ELCA, and suggested two paths to remove the policy: through the Committee on Appeals as a judicial matter and through legislation to change the policy at a churchwide assembly, the highest legislative body of the church.
The Hearing Committee also said that, based on its examination of Pastor Bradley and his ministry at St. John’s Lutheran, there was no basis in the ELCA constitution for punishing Pastor Bradley and that his ministry was excellent.

Lutherans Concerned Angry and Determined Following the Removal of Pastor Bradley Schmeling from the ELCA Clergy roster on July 2, 2007

from Lutherans Concerned:

On July 2, 2007, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Committee on Appeals (COA) denied his appeal and removed Pastor Bradley Schmeling from the clergy roster of the ELCA.
Pastor Schmeling had been charged in August 2006 for violating the ELCA policy that forbids LGBT rostered leaders from living in committed same gender relationships of mutuality, fidelity and respect. In January 2007, an ELCA Discipline Hearing Committee (DHC) conducted an ecclesiastical trial that concluded nearly unanimously that there was no reason under the constitution of the ELCA for Pastor Schmeling to be punished. In fact, they commended his ministry at St. John’s Lutheran, Atlanta, Georgia. However, feeling bound by the ELCA policy, the DHC removed him from the clergy roster with an effective date of August 15th this year. The COA action changed the effective date to July 2nd.
The DHC also had said the ELCA policy of discrimination might be in violation of the constitution of the ELCA, and suggested two avenues to change the policy: a judicial appeal to the Committee on Appeals, and a legislative remedy through action by regional judicatories called synods, and by the ELCA churchwide assembly, which is the highest legislative body of the church.
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said of the action by the Committee on Appeals, “We are deeply saddened, angry, and more determined following the artless and callous treatment of Pastor Bradley at the hands of the Committee on Appeals. The decision was delivered by email, no pastoral call was made or human contact given. The Committee actually noted as positive that they limited themselves to the transcripts of the hearing. They never met Pastor Schmeling or the members of St. John’s.
“There are no scriptural precedents for such behavior in Christ’s life. Jesus was moved with compassion and broke the religious laws of his age, time and again meeting and embracing outcasts in their contexts. There are others in the Gospels, the Scribes and the Pharisees who, according to Jesus, kept the letter of the law but neglected the weightier matters of justice and mercy. Jesus goes on to say to the Pharisees, “you blind guides, you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” Matthew: 23. Pastor Schmeling has been treated by the church like a gnat to be swatted away and forgotten. Christ would not recognize the behavior of the Committee on Appeals, and by default the ELCA in this case, as his own.
“This is what happens when human law becomes an end to itself. The judicial process has proven to be an ecclesiastical dry hole. It started with an unjust, discriminatory policy and decided that it had been rightly and justly executed.
“We now turn to the ELCA churchwide assembly in August seeking the legislative remedy offered by the DHC and confirmed as the only alternative by the COA. The Spirit has moved 22 synods of the ELCA to state in no uncertain terms that the policy of discrimination must be changed. These synods represent a full 40% of the membership of the ELCA. They believe that this matter must come to the floor of the assembly, be debated, and the current policy eliminated leaving a single standard for pastors more fitting to those who follow Christ and Martin Luther.
“The struggle is not over, LGBT Lutherans and their allies both clergy and lay will not relent until justice and mercy prevail.”
About Lutherans Concerned:Lutherans Concerned / North America works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Lutherans in all aspects of the life of their Church and congregations. Lutherans Concerned provides a place of comfort and safety. Lutherans Concerned reaches out and teaches that Christ's message, the Gospel, is for everyone equally. Lutherans Concerned calls for the blessing of committed and covenanted same-gender relationships, and for the ordination of those called to minister.

For further information
Phil Soucy,
Director Communications

Strong medicine

You read about it in The Lutheran (rather their misquotes and false mischaracterization of Dr Karl Donfried and his motives). Here is part of his talk, and a link to the rest:

PART 3. The Empowerment of Alien Hermeneutics in the ELCA

What drives the non-Trinitarian, alien hermeneutic that empowers much of the ELCA’s secularist tendencies? Here we need to have a brief but honest conversation about “feminism” and how this secular ideology has infiltrated churches, academic institutions as well as others in the cultural elite.
Precisely because the term “feminism” is so ambiguous and malleable, it is fraught with enormous danger since it may signify one thing to certain audiences (e.g., advocating the just cause of women) yet have a far more sweeping and intentional agenda to others (i.e. the transformation of traditional sexuality). Having devoted 37 of my teaching years to the education of women and having had a hand in educating the first wave of women to go to seminary (one of whom is currently an ELCA bishop and another a seminary president) I stand firmly behind the substantial advances that allow women to contribute their God-given gifts to the benefit of both particular societies as well as to the larger world community. I have been deeply privileged to participate in these dramatic and positive steps forward for women, resulting in an enormous benefit for all in the human family.

Having taught almost four decades at Smith College, the largest women’s college in the US, I have become sensitized to the broader implications of the term “feminism,” both through our graduates (eg., Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, etc.), through my colleagues - particularly in women’s studies, queer studies, philosophy - and by my students. As a result of this intense exposure to feminist thought and practice I have come to realize that, at its core, one must view feminism as an atheistic ideology. Many of its advocates argue that gender roles and identity as well as sexuality, especially heteronormativity, are social constructs that must be questioned and critiqued. Such feminism is often closely aligned with gay, lesbian and transgender studies and many feminists support the transgender movement since it defies the traditional distinction between ‘man’ and ‘woman.’

Further, many feminists argue that justice involves the elimination of diverse structures of authority and power that legitimate male prerogatives; androcentric bias must be eliminated. This frequently results in the encouragement of “egalitarian lifestyles” such as cohabitation, open marriage and other forms of what is referred to as “responsible non-monogamy.” The goal for some is the replacement of the traditional family since marriage is perceived as a form of slavery for women. It is often insisted that every women must be willing to be identified as a lesbian in order to be completely feminist.
The practitioners of feminist ideology frequently use their newly found power within religious establishments to develop new structures of belief that more appropriately cohere with their non-Christian philosophical orientation, including neo-pagan and goddess spirituality. When this feminist ideology attempts to merge with remnants of classical Christian theology, heterodoxy, also known as a theology of inclusion or acceptance, emerge. This very theology of acceptance and inclusion, however, is neither inclusive nor tolerant of those with whom it disagrees.

As a Lutheran Christian I continue to unequivocally support the right of women to use their God-given talents to the fullest and in overcoming all cultural barriers hindering such advancement while simultaneously rejecting the non-Christian philosophical presuppositions that permeate much of the “feminist” movement.

If we had more time at our disposal I would be eager to exchange ideas with you concerning the theological crisis in our seminaries. But for the moment it will suffice to say that since most of our current seminary professors received their graduate training at secular institutions like Harvard or Union, my own alma maters, these alien and feminist ideologies quickly make their way into the life of the church via many of our seminary faculty. With incredible speed Trinitarian hermeneutics are being replaced by an alien hermeneutic that touts secular justice as the new canon within the canon - whatever that ambiguous and slippery term “justice” may mean – a canon that advocates above all the rightness of gay marriage as a key dimension of a theology of acceptance.
I would argue that whether it is part 3 of the Sexuality Study, “Free in Christ to Serve the Neighbor: Lutherans Talk about Human Sexuality”, or Nessan’s 2006 lecture to the Conference of Bishops, “The Authority of Scripture,” both represent an anti-Trinitarian hermeneutic in which a theology of acceptance has been substituted for a theology of redemption. The starting point for both is a vague and secularized view of “justice” which assumes that sexual activity between gay partners is permissible and should be not only acceptable within the Christian Church but also that such partnerships should be officially blessed by the community in Christ. Once these documents are read through the hermeneutical lens of a theology of acceptance and inclusion, driven heavily by atheistic feminism, one begins to understand the unusual selection of Galatians as well as the rationale for what is emphasized, distorted and omitted.

The good ship ELCA...

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