Monday, January 28, 2008

Jen Again: Is She or Isn't She?

Shrimp here. Cap'n Bill beat us to posting the article below in part due to Shrimp's fishing around to find out just who were those "three retired bishops" participating in Jen Nagle's out-of-the-ordinary "ordination." Nothing (at least so far) appears on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries web site. Not even anything on the updated Salem English Lutheran Church site.

But we did find this ELM press release over on the web site of the Human Rights Campaign (" the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization"). Who says church and politics don't mix?

The retired Bishops are (the press release, please) "Bishop Emeritus St. Paul Area Synod Lowell Erdahl, the Rev. David Brown, and Bishop Emeritus of Southwestern Minnesota Synod Darold Beekmann." Not identified anywhere in any of the publicity was the Synod that did not grant Rev. Brown "Bishop Emeritus" status, but a bit more sleuthing enables Shrimp to congratulate the ELCA's Northeastern Iowa Synod for that bit of wise inaction.

But there's still more, if you know where to look (and, of course, Shrimp does). The folks at Lutheran (True) Confessions report some 500 in attendance, including about 100 vested clergy, and further write:
The laying on of hands, which so often happens in two separate movements (first by clergy, and later by the laity) was done in one movement with the whole congregation filling the aisles, hands on the shoulder of the person in front in a great chain of connection.

And of course, there was a sermon, a powerful sermon delivered by the The Reverend Angela Denise Davis, a blind, lesbian, African-American woman ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Her text was the Epistle for the day (Acts 10) and the message was: "Listen to the Spirit in Joppa, do God's work in Caesarea, knowing full well there will be fallout in Jerusalem."

We looked for local luminaries, but being from out of state, we were unable to identify any. We can neither confirm nor deny attendance by Bishop Craig Johnson.

We did hear that there was one Minneapolis Area Bishop's Assistant in attendance who did not vest and, unprepared for the unconventional laying on of hands, seemed reluctant to reach out a hand to the shoulder of the next person lest this be misconstrued.

At the reception following the ordination we met The Reverend Susan Engh, ELCA Director of Congregation Based Organizing.
Rev. Davis seems to meet every quota -- blind, lesbian, black, woman, Disciples of Christ (with whom the ELCA is not in any sort of fellowship) -- except the peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which we've decided must be ELCA-GLBT for "kitchen sink").

Oh, and then there's this from a bit later in that same edition of Lutheran (True) Confessions:
Once More With Feeling: A quick look at the Minneapolis Area Synod web site will tell you that Ms. Jen Nagel is a member of the Synod Council.

As of January 19, Jen Nagel is now Rev. Jen Nagel. Although Jen has been called to Salem English Lutheran Church, one of the Synod's congregations, we doubt that the synod will recognize the ordination (most of the time, at least) because Jen is rostered with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and not with the ELCA.

The Synod's constitution stipulates that, among the eight "at large" members of the synod council, four will be clergy and four will be lay people. If Pr. Nagel is an "at large" member of the synod council (we don't know), we wonder how the synod will reckon her membership. This has been a point of contention in other synods where ELM-rostered clergy have been denied the opportunity to run for synod council. (See The Clergy Conundrum.)
Shrimp alerts you that that last web link is to a YouTube video from the last Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly, where a silly-hatted Bishop Mullen (in the chair) engages in conversation with GLBT advocates "Pastor" Jeff Johnson and Pastor Robin Hartwig, apparently as to when in the Sierra Pacific Synod is a pastor a pastor vs. when is a pastor a lay person. Shrimp would try to say more about that confusion, but where we are we don't have high-speed broadband internet access to watch the whole show.

Shrimp out.

Presbytery OKs first step for lesbian's ordination

from Christian Century story:

Pam Byers, executive director of the San Francisco-based Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which favors homosexuals' inclusion in the church, called the vote "wonderful news." She said that one reason it has taken so long for a PCUSA presbytery to apply the new option was that "many presbyteries instantly adopted policies saying in effect that they would not follow the 2006 rule."

In contrast, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which approved a resolution last summer urging local and regional church bodies to refrain from punishing churches that call partnered homosexual pastor candidates, has seen two lesbians ordained in the past three months.

In Chicago, Bishop Wayne Miller publicly stated in November that he would not discipline Resurrection Lutheran Church, which ordained Jen Rude.On January 19 in Minneapolis, Jennifer Nagel was ordained and installed as pastor of Salem English Lutheran Church in what was called an "extraordinary" service outside the guidelines for ordinations, which ban ordination of noncelibate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to the ministry. Three retired bishops took part in the service. It was not immediately known what position Bishop Craig Johnson of Minneapolis has taken in the matter.

On the Episcopal-Hindu Hoo-Rah

Cap'n Bill here. Susan Russell of Integrity writes:

On the Episcopal-Hindu Hoo-Rah

I haven't weighed in on this one up until now but maybe it's time to say a word or two about what I've come to think of as "The Hindu Hoo-Rah."

BACKGROUND: From our Diocesan News Service:
"Indian Rite Mass celebrates ties between two faiths"

In a colorful rite that honored the traditions of both the Christian and Hindu faiths in India, some 260 participants gathered for an Indian Rite Mass on January 19 at St. John's Pro-Cathedral. Bishop Chester Talton, who attended the service, read a statement from Bishop J. Jon Bruno that offered friendship to the Hindu people of the Indian community and apologized for past harsh treatment of the Indian people by Christians.

During the service, trays of flowers were offered to God, as is traditional in India. At the Eucharist, Hindu attendees were invited forward to take a flower as a sign of friendship: Indian Christians, some of whom were also in traditional garb, took part in the Eucharist. Indian, Orthodox and tradition Western church music were offered by the choir of St. John's and two Indian bands.
Sounds like fun. Sorry I missed it. What I didn't miss, however, was the furor by the Communion Police who were horrified that a Hindu might have snuck through and received the bread and wine made holy. (If you missed it, it's been blogged on here and here and here and here ... and the subject of much conversation over at the HoB/D (AKA "House of Bishops & Deputies") List.

My, my, my!

Is it surprising that those on the forefront of changing church policy find the only thing to comment on the judgmentalism of the orthodox believers in this situation of syncretistic worship and statement of decommissioning the Great Commission, and actually says, "Sounds like fun. Sorry I missed it?"

Go here to read it and be sure to catch the picture of Louie Crew in feather boa in the story above it, too. (For goodness sake, the man is on the Executive Committe of TEC, I believe).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Whoopie! Another Gay Extraordinary Ordination!

Shrimp wrote these comments: How many misstatements can you find in this article from the local paper preparing us for the "ordination" of Jen Nagel?

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*Please note, the sender's identity has not been verified.

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Briefly: Exemption allows lesbian pastor's ordination


You only have a few more hours to call Jen Nagel Jen. After her ordination at 2 p.m. today, you have to start calling her the Rev. Nagel -- unless you're a member of the national board of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in which case you probably don't want to call her at all.

Nagel is being ordained despite being committed to a same-sex relationship. The national ELCA doesn't approve of the ordination of gay ministers. But an exemption in the bylaws was passed at the national convention in August allowing local synods to not object to such ordinations, which is what is happening -- or not happening, depending on how you interpret all of this -- with Nagel.

"I still won't be listed on the national ELCA roster" of ministers, she said. "Officially, I will not be accepted as a pastor by the ELCA, but the people of the local ELCA are accepting me."

And why not? She's been serving as the pastor at Salem English Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis for nearly five years doing everything other ministers do except calling herself "the Rev." Technically, she's been a pastoral minister, which means that she has done all the things required to be a minister (she has a master of divinity degree) except have an ordination ceremony.

That ceremony will be held in a sanctuary that Salem shares with Lyndale United Church of Christ, 810 W. 31st St. To provide enough parking, shuttle buses will run from Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 4100 Lyndale Av. S. The fact that shuttles are needed has made Nagel realize this is no ordinary ordination.

"It's a little bit about me, and a little bit about Salem," she said. "But it's a lot about a lot of other people. Subtly, my ministry has always been accepted. But this affirmation by a wider community makes this a bigger ordination than normal."


Shrimp here, again. Curiously, at this moment of posting, that is one of exactly two hits for "Jen Nagel" on a Google News search. The other one is here, at That seems to stand for "Angel City's Devil" -- which is about "Celebrating What Makes the LGBT Different" -- who interprets the Star-Tribune article like this:
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) may not have forseen it actually happening often, but a fine-print exemption has allowed a lesbian in Minneapolis to become a pastor of the church. Reverend Jen Nagel has been serving the Salem English Lutheran Church for five years, doing everything Lutheran Pastors do, except for being ordained with the traditional ceremony affording one the title of 'Reverend'. Until today.

Thanks to a provision in ELCA standards, Rev. Nagel has been ordained as one of the church's few openly gay pastors. She is admittedly in a monogamous same-sex relationship, yet because the ELCA lets local congregations decide if they will accept gay pastors, Nagel has been given the 'okay' from her Minneapolis church. Despite the local support, the ELCA is refusing to acknowledge her place within their heirarchy, as they often do when out pastors are ordained. "Officially, I will not be accepted as a pastor by the ELCA, but the people of the local ELCA are accepting me," said Rev. Nagel. "But this affirmation by a wider community makes this a bigger ordination than normal."
Fine-print exemption, eh?

Shrimp out!

(No, not "out" like that!)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Get your environmental Lenten devotions online!

Shrimp here. One of the nice things about having an early Lent and Easter is that we won't have to worry about conflicts with Earth Day. Nevertheless, this is the ELCA:

Sign up and receive daily environmental Lenten devotions online.

Subscribe to "Living Earth: A 40-Day Reflection on Our Relationship With God's Creation"

Called to be in communion with God's creation, we must live in such a way that is sensitive to precious natural resources and in conscious relationship to the earth, creatures and each other. This 40-day Lenten reflection series will offer a holistic approach to how we live as earthly companions, combining God's caring relationship with creation to our journey in the physical universe. Each e-mail emphasizes individual and communal solutions, resources for further learning and suggestions for how to act or become more educated.

Subscribe to the ELCA's daily 2008 environmental Lenten reflections, "Living Earth: A 40-Day Reflection on Our Relationship With God's Creation" at

This is a limited subscription; the first e-mail will arrive on Ash Wednesday and the last e-mail will arrive Easter Sunday.

Okay. Shrimp wasn't expecting "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." But a Green Lent?

Shrimp out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Restraint Not Enough (This Time).

Shrimp here. Get a load of this from Sunday's Bucks County (Penn.) Courier Times:
On a Sunday afternoon in October, the Rev. David Wagner made an announcement that rocked his congregation. But even the standing ovation he received and the groundswell of support from his flock wasn't enough to keep him at the pulpit from which he had preached for 10 years.

Wagner, now the former pastor of the Lutheran Church of God's Love in Newtown Township, said he's still reeling from the ordeal that began after he confessed that he was gay and had been living with a companion for five years.

His announcement came on the heels of a meeting with several individuals who said they had decided to leave God's Love to attend a more “Bible-oriented” fundamentalist church. They assured Wagner that their departure “had nothing to do” with his lifestyle.

Those words alarmed Wagner, especially after hearing that some church members were “investigating” the 59-year-old clergyman's private life. It was time to come out, he said.

The majority of his flock supported him, but what he called a core of opponents mounted a telephone campaign against him, trying to schedule a formal congregation meeting. That meeting would have required a two-thirds vote of support for Wagner to keep his job, he said.

Early on, officials at the Southeastern Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Norristown had decided not to bring disciplinary action against the pastor.
Ah, yes. Restraint.
“I believe I could have gotten the votes I needed to stay, but I felt the divisiveness that occurred was harmful to the church and that's when I decided to resign,” Wagner said.

Wagner left with dignity, but not quietly.

At his last service on Christmas Eve at God's Love, he introduced his partner, Tom Piccoli, 54, a medical physicist, along with Piccoli's former wife and other family members. Wagner's extended family received enthusiastic applause, he said.
Ah, yes. Dignity and restraint.

Read the rest of the article here. Further along, see how difficult it seems to be to describe the ELCA's policy:
Like many mainstream denominations, the Lutheran church in the United States is grappling with sexuality issues, including how to deal with homosexual clergy.

“Our current policy is that if a pastor or other rostered [lay] leader is homosexual, he or she is not expected to be in a relationship. It's the same policy as for heterosexual, not married, individuals,” said Bob Fisher. He's the communications director for the Norristown-based Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
So, is a gay pastor not expected to be in a relationship? Or is a gay pastor expected to not be in a relationship? Well, Shrimp learned long ago that synod "communications directors" aren't always very effective communicators. Especially when the Bishop is exercising restraint by not answering the phone.
In 2007, after considering several proposals on the issue, a national Lutheran assembly voted not to change church policy. At that time, the assembly encouraged regional bishops to use their discretion in situations like Wagner's.

The national church expects to tackle issues involving sexuality — including homosexuality — at its 2009 general assembly. Wagner said church leaders could agree to the status quo or ban homosexuals in relationships from the ministry.
Like we said, read it here. Shrimp salutes TitusOneNine for bringing this to our attention.

Meanwhile, don't forget this Saturday Jen Nagle grants the Minneapolis Synod the opportunity for restraint.

And now (like Pastor Wagner) Shrimp out!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Schori Uses BBC to Fire a Shot at England

"But the sound that Anglican insiders heard the other day was nervous coughing in England. U.S. Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori has decided not to let gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the mother church sit safely on the sidelines while traditionalists take shots at her flock.

"What about those same-sex union rites?

"Those services are happening in various places, including in the Church of England, where my understanding is that there are far more of them happening than there are in the Episcopal Church," she recently told the BBC.
What about New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, a gay man who is living in a same-sex relationship? According to Jefferts Schori, Robinson is under attack for being honest.

"Bishop Robison, she said, is "certainly not alone in being a gay bishop, he's certainly not alone in being a gay partnered bishop. He is alone in being the only gay partnered bishop who's open about that status. ... There's certainly a double standard."

"What we have here is an attempt to pull British bishops out and into open combat with conservatives in Africa, South America, Asia and other parts of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion. The presiding bishop has played the England card in a high-stakes game of ecclesiastical poker inside the Church of England.

"The tensions were already rising, as Canterbury prepares for its once-a-decade global Lambeth Conference of bishops, this coming July 20-Aug. 3.

Conservatives are planning their own Global Anglican Future Conference, June 15-22 in Jerusalem."

Story by Terry Mattingly here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What is this I see?

I get a weekly e-letter from Dr Martin Marty's center at the Univ of Chicago. Dr Marty, whom many feel is a preeminent scholar and a most respected Lutheran scholar, has long made a career as a sort of culture watcher. For years he released a sort of readers digest of journals for those of us whom I suppose are not smart enough to read all that stuff. He continues on his quest of interpreting the times for all who would listen. The only problem is that Dr Marty sees things one way. He looks at everything through modernity's lens. As Shrimp's sighting of a Herbert Chilstrom spouting, everything liberal is good. They are both on, I hope, the pendulum at the end of its leftward swing.

So here is today's Sightings offering. Read it and tell me what you see:

Sightings 1/10/08
Protecting Freedoms in Alberta -- Wayne A. Holst

"Recent studies released by Statistics Canada and the Conference Board of Canada confirm what Calgarians and many Albertans have suspected for some time: The lure of an unprecedented, prolonged oil boom has made Alberta the most attractive Canadian destination of in-migration from other provinces and a large draw for new Canadians from other countries.

Until 1947, the province of Alberta, which celebrated its centennial two years ago, was largely a "have-not province of farmers and ranchers" where the aboriginal peoples were met by pioneering and homesteading freedom-seekers from other parts of Canada and the world. But sixty years ago oil was discovered at Leduc, just south of Edmonton. In the subsequent six decades, Alberta has evolved into the richest, most dynamic province of Canada. Calgary, a small to mid-sized city for almost a century, recently entered the Canadian metropolitan big-leagues with Toronto, Montreal , Vancouver, Ottawa, and Edmonton when its population surpassed one million. In addition, it was reported in early December that Calgary topped a list of twenty-seven Canadian cities, and enjoyed a North American third-place standing (after Washington and Austin) for attracting "the best and brightest" because of the economy, innovation, environment, education, health, society and housing. Social transformation of this nature and magnitude is bound to profoundly impact established residents and newcomers alike, as it strongly influences politics and public values.

The venerable Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, in power for four decades, is in the midst of a scramble to come to grips with reality, as traditional Albertan values — conservative and strongly influenced by an underlying "bible belt" religiosity — are increasingly under scrutiny. Enter from stage right Craig Chandler and Stephen Boisson. Chandler was selected to represent the riding of Calgary-Edgmont in the provincial election anticipated next spring. Early in December, however, the still-reigning party decided not to allow the controversial talk-show host to represent them. The official announcement was made a day after the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) ruled that a letter written by a former executive director of Concerned Christians Canada (CCC), a group Chandler founded, exposed gay people to "hatred and contempt." Chandler says the media and the Conservatives have unfairly linked him to a letter published in a Red Deer Alberta newspaper, the Advocate, written in 2002 by CCC director Pastor Stephen Boisson. Boisson's article called gay activists "perverse, self-centred and morally depraved individuals" who are "just as immoral" as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps. Two weeks after the letter appeared, a gay seventeen-year-old boy was assaulted in that community.

Darren Lund, education professor at the University of Calgary (a Lutheran, formerly from Red Deer) filed a complaint with the AHRC shortly thereafter, suggesting the Boisson missive fostered an atmosphere of violence and intimidation toward gays. The AHRC stated in its ruling that "the (Boisson) letter serves to dehumanize people who are homosexuals by referring to them in a degrading, insulting and offensive manner." It also stated that "there is a circumstantial connection between the hate speech of Mr. Boisson and the CCC" and the gay bashing of the Red Deer teen.

Thus, within a matter of days, the pastor and the aspiring politician were both condemned by the AHRC: Boisson is no longer in the ministry and Chandler cannot represent the Conservatives in an election. A satisfied Lund says the ruling sends a clear message: "It confirms we all have rights to free speech in Alberta , but there are also responsibilities that come with these privileges if we want to keep this a safe place for everyone. It reminds us that people in positions of authority have a special responsibility to protect the dignity of especially vulnerable people." For his part, Chandler was quoted as saying: "(The Conservative brass) told me my faith in Jesus Christ would interfere with how I could be a good member of the legislative assembly. Is that fair?"

The Chandler-Boisson episode suggests that Alberta 's human rights standards are evolving for the better. But Chandler 's assertion that his religious rights are being curtailed illustrates how variously "for the better" can be understood, and suggests that such evolution cannot be taken for granted, as there will always be those who challenge it. Thus, freedoms require vigilance if our province is to mature as a safe place for everyone.

Wayne A. Holst, formerly from Ontario but a proud Albertan for almost three decades, teaches at the University of Calgary and at St. David's United Church."

Gad! It looks to me like some Lutheran pastor wrote a letter and helped some committees end the careers of a pastor and a legislator! I thought the author of this was getting ready to say how grossly unfair this is, how the ruling crossed the line between Church and State (or whatever line they have in Canada, but no, he writes, "human rights standards have evolved for the better."!

Welcome to our Brave New World. A momentary lapse in judgment and your career is over.

Such a thing in itself would hardly warrant us taking the time to read and think about except the pattern. I understand there is a book out now The Tyranny of Tolerance. The above would be but another chapter...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Chilstrom Spouts Off Again

Shrimp wrote these comments: It's election season and the first Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, a dozen years since being freed from the shackles of his office allowed him to speak his true prophetic voice that he only whispered while in office, isn't happy at all about "Evangelical Christians." The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune once again hands him their bully pulpit. Is this preaching or campaign rhetoric?

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*Please note, the sender's identity has not been verified.

The full Article, with any associated images and links can be viewed here.
Herbert W. Chilstrom: What being evangelical means to me

Am I an "Evangelical Christian"? No, emphatically no. Am I an evangelical Christian? Yes, emphatically yes.

I became an evangelical Christian on Nov. 29, 1931, six weeks after I was born. My parents were farmers on the prairie of south central Minnesota.

Like Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Orthodox, Methodist and many other believers, my Lutheran parents made certain I was baptized. They believed "evangelical" meant that God takes the initiative when we become a Christian, even as an infant. First, foremost, and primarily, God makes the first move.

My parents and sponsors, as an act of faith, affirmed the beliefs of my church and promised to bring me up in a Christian environment. Along the way it became important for me to confirm what had happened on that Sunday in 1931. As a youth and on through the rest of my life I have continued to confess my faith in the presence of a Christian congregation. As an evangelical Christian I try to let that faith be seen in all I say and do. Yes, I fail all too often. But being an evangelical Christian means that I believe God forgives and helps me move on again. It's that simple.

So why am I so emphatic in saying that I am not an "Evangelical Christian"? It's because I now find myself living in a culture where some folks who call themselves "Evangelical Christians" are putting a very different twist on that old and revered term. They have sullied and secularized it by tacking on a political agenda. They tend to identify themselves not simply by what they believe, but by the stance they take on controversial issues. The majority of them are anti-abortion, pro-death penalty, anti-gay rights, pro-preemptive war, anti-immigration, pro-home schooling, anti-Palestinian rights, pro-Republican party, anti-Democratic party, pro-literal reading of the Bible, anti-higher taxes, and so on.

As I look over the list of things these "Evangelical Christians" espouse, I find that in some areas I agree with them. In most, I strongly disagree.

So when one applies all of this to our common life in the public square, what is the difference between being an evangelical Christian and an "Evangelical Christian"? In my opinion, it lies in the emphasis evangelical Christians put on the use of reason in relationship to their faith. A few examples:

• The best auto mechanic I have ever had is a devout Roman Catholic. He never fails to do the right thing. It makes common sense to go to him.

• The best diagnostic physicians I have ever had are a non-practicing Jew and an active Lutheran. Their keen minds have spared me many maladies. It seems reasonable to go to physicians like them.

• The best surgeons I have ever known are a probable agnostic and a practicing Jew. Each knows exactly what to do. It seems reasonable to trust them.

• The best mayor I have ever known was a Lutheran socialist. His city was one of the best-governed in the country. He was reasonable in everything he did.

• The best presidents of the United States, in my opinion, were a non-church member, an occasional Episcopalian, a cranky member of the Christian Church -- Disciples of Christ, and a Mennonite/Presbyterian. They served effectively in times of crisis. They did what was most reasonable. Two were Republicans; two were Democrats.

• In my judgment, the best former president we've ever had is a devout Southern Baptist.

In this election year I will be evaluating candidates, whether they are seeking local office or the presidency of the United States, on the basis of their qualifications as wise and reasonable women and men.

• Do they have compassion for the poor and vulnerable?

• Do they understand that politics at its best is practicing the art of the possible?

• Do they have the capacity to work for compromise on difficult issues?

• Do they have the intelligence to see all sides of a complex question?

• Do they have the physical stamina to endure the rigors of office?

• Do they know how to surround themselves with a capable staff, including people who will tell them the truth?

• In the presidential contest, does the candidate have the potential to become a respected statesperson in the community of nations? And will this person be likely to seek to resolve international conflict by dialogue and political negotiation, using military force only as a last resort?

If I sense that candidates for any office are dancing to the lock-step tune of the "Evangelical Christian" segment in our society, they will not get my vote. If they happen to be evangelical Christians, well and good. But that will not be a primary requirement.

An evangelical Christian? Yes. An "Evangelical Christian"? No. It's that simple.

Herbert W. Chilstrom, St. Peter, Minn., is the former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Future of Sex and Marriage

From First Things: On the Square:

The Future of Sex and Marriage
By Richard John Neuhaus
Friday, January 4, 2008,

Here’s an instructive exchange between Luke Timothy Johnson and Eve Tushnet. Johnson is a distinguished New Testament scholar at Emory University and Tushnet is a writer living in Washington, D.C. She is a recent convert to Catholicism and identifies herself as a lesbian. The exchange appeared a few months ago in Commonweal and was again brought to my attention when I spoke to a meeting of Courage a while back.

Courage is an organization founded by the remarkable Father John Harvey, and its purpose is to help people who are afflicted by same-sex attraction to live chaste lives. In private conversation, a young man at the meeting cited the Johnson–Tushnet exchange in support of his view that Catholics who attempt to accommodate homosexual practice have, in fact, rejected the authoritative sources of Christian teaching. As someone who had, with personally disastrous consequences, bought into that accommodation for some years, he spoke with more than an edge of bitterness.

The Commonweal exchange is titled “Homosexuality & the Church,” and in it Johnson describes how he came to his position through the experience of a lesbian daughter. “I trusted God was at work in the life she shares with her partner—a long-standing and fruitful marriage dedicated to the care of others, and one that has borne fruit in a wonderful little girl who is among my and my wife’s dear grandchildren.” Trust your experience, says Johnson. “When read within the perspective of a Scripture that speaks everywhere of a God disclosing Godself through human experience, our stories become the medium of God’s very revelation.” What does this mean for the authority of Scripture and the Church’s teaching? Johnson does not flinch:

“I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.”

Eve Tushnet responds: “I’m not convinced this is how human love stories relate to the divine love story. Loving one another can be an echo of the love we receive from God; it can be the child of that love; it can be preparation for our own awestruck love of God. (I would argue that my erotic and romantic love of women has been all three of those things, at different times.) But our human experience, including our erotic experience, cannot be a replacement for the divine revelation preserved by the Church. We must be careful not to let it become a counternarrative or a counter-Scripture.”

Tushnet also says this: “So it’s tempting to conclude that prohibitions against homosexuality are culture-bound, no more universally binding than the requirement that women cover their heads in church. It’s true that culture conditions how we read Scripture, and that as Christians we need to be open to the countercultural implications of the gospel. But this fact argues far more strongly against Johnson’s position than against the Church’s. If we seek to overcome any aspects of our culture that conflict with the gospel, I’m not sure why we would expect the gay liberation movement—slightly over a hundred years old, and largely Western in character—to be less culture-bound, and therefore a better guide to the countercultural aspects of the gospel, than the Catholic Church. The Church is bigger and older than you, me, or the very concept of the homosexual person. (The view that sexual orientation is intrinsic and constitutive of a person’s deepest identity comes from a school of psychology that owes very little to the gospel, and a great deal to anti-Christian forms of philosophical materialism.)”

Tushnet is impressed by the “theology of the body” as set forth by John Paul II and the richness of the Catholic tradition on the meaning of friendship, “helping me to express my love of women both sacrificially and chastely. . . . Every week or so I discover yet another hidden treasure of the Church that speaks to me in exactly the way I need in order to deal specifically with my struggles, resentments, longings, and strengths as a woman and a lesbian. We can make the Church’s teaching believable by becoming more Catholic—which is, not incidentally, what we should be doing anyway.”

Homosexuality & the Church

Homosexuality & the Church
Two Views
Eve Tushnet | Luke Timothy Johnson
Scripture & Experience
Luke Timothy Johnson

Is the present crisis in Christian denominations over homosexuality really about sex? I don’t think so. If it were, there would be no particular reason why homosexuals should be singled out for attention; there is more than enough sexual disorder among heterosexuals to fuel moral outrage. The church could devote its energies to resisting the widespread commodification of sex in our culture, the manipulation of sexual attraction in order to sell products. It could fight the exploitation of women and children caught in a vast web of international prostitution and pornography. It could correct the perceptions that enabled pedophilia to be practiced and protected among clergy. It could name the many ways that straight males enable such distorted and diseased forms of sexuality.

Instead, the relatively small set of same-sex unions gets singled out for moral condemnation, while the vast pandemic of sexual disorder goes ignored. In my view, this scapegoating of homosexuality has less to do with sex than with perceived threats to the authority of Scripture and the teaching authority of the church. For those opposed to the ordination of women priests and bishops, or of married people, deviation from the uniform and steady practice of the church (glossing over the fact that it has rarely been steady or uniform) means starting down the slippery slope toward rejecting church authority altogether. And accepting covenanted love between persons of the same sex represents the same downward spiral with regard to Scripture, since the Bible nowhere speaks positively or even neutrally about same-sex love (glossing over the relationship of Jonathan and David, see 1 Samuel 18- 2 Samuel 1). For those who think this way, the world is becoming dangerously depraved; a line must be drawn in the sand somewhere, and homosexuality seems clearly to be the place.

Read the rest here:

As we've been saying here for three years, "It ain't about sex, it's about interpretation of Scripture. That is the way the article begins anyway. Johnson then goes on to explain how at times it is more faithful to elevate our personal experience above Scripture! Why? it is very telling that he, along with many, many others, change their thinking when one of their children tells them they are gay:

For me this is no theoretical or academic position, but rather a passionate conviction. It is one many of us have come to through personal struggle, and for some, real suffering. In my case, I trusted that God was at work in the life of one of my four daughters, who struggled against bigotry to claim her sexual identity as a lesbian. I trusted God was at work in the life she shares with her partner-a long-lasting and fruitful marriage dedicated to the care of others, and one that has borne fruit in a wonderful little girl who is among my and my wife’s dear grandchildren. I also trusted the many stories of students and friends whose life witnessed to a deep faith in God but whose bodies moved sexually in ways different from the way my own did. And finally I began to appreciate the ways in which my own former attitudes and language had helped to create a world where family, friends, and students were treated cruelly.

Experience trumps tradition, reason and Scripture once a loved one brings it too close to home...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Peanut Butter and Jelly Restraint

Shrimp here.

It's sweet, today's Staff Blog entry over at The Lutheran Magazine's blog. An Associate Editrix of The Lutheran tells of sitting in the pew at church last month. In this church, there are 6 copies of the relatively new (for this congregation) Evangelical Lutheran Worship that have the names of her family in them, but they'd not actually seen them yet. But one day last month, well, Shrimp'll let the editrix describe it (without the children's full names) herself:
So on a December Sunday we opened the hymnal and there it was: A hymnal with our family’s name in it. Given in thanksgiving for our children: P, O and A. My spouse held it in front of P’s face and he did a double-take. He visually stuck his neck out and stared.
Yes, it's sweet, a little boy seeing his name in the hymnal. And showing it to his parents: Mommy -- who has been near the top of The Lutheran's food chain for nearly 8 years now -- and her "spouse."

Shrimp has written about this editrix before, most recently on the occasion of her recently published book, Peanut Butter and Jelly Prayers. And now that you've clicked the prior link, you've been reminded that Miss Sevig's "spouse," who is Associate Pastor of their church, also answers to "Mommy."

Yes, it's sweet. Sickeningly sweet.

Shrimp out.

The good ship ELCA...

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