Saturday, May 24, 2008

More Serious than You Think

Shrimp again. In the light (darkness?) of the California Supreme Court's creatio ex nihilo of homosexual marriage, Pastor Zip has posted an interesting quote from a Mars Hill Audio conversation last fall with John Witte, Jr., author of God's Joust, God's Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition. Prof. Witte concludes,
[T]hat’s not to say that there's a preordained result about how these marriage and family debates are going to work out at the State level. But it is to say that, if we're going to have a real, serious discourse about changing 2500-year-old patterns about how marriage and family life come together in the West, we better do that with full ventilation of all of the philosophical, theological, moral, economic, sociological issues at stake.
Let us emphasize that: 2500-year-old patterns! Pretty serious, ya think? Read here how Witte reaches that conclusion.

And while at Pastor Zip's Blog, you can read statements from Roman Catholic and Episcopal bishops in California, and note the apparent silence of the ELCA's local bishops. Shrimp out.

Lutheran CORE notes correction

Shrimp has, at the request of Lutheran CORE, included a correction to the Shellfish posting of News from Lutheran CORE - May 2008 article on the "Unauthorized ordination held in Minneapolis." The article's original final paragraph mistakenly stated that Jen Rude, ordained last November, is in a same-sex relationship. In fact, it is Jen Nagle (the primary subject of the article) who is in a relationship with a female UCC pastor. (Too many "Jens," apparently, for the CORE editor.)

The conclusion of the article now reads:
Nagel’s ordination was the fifth unauthorized ordination of a gay or lesbian person since 2006.

On April 27, Grace Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, voted to call Lura N. Groen, a candidate not approved by the ELCA. An unauthorized ordination is scheduled for July.
Read it all here. Shrimp out.

...Signifying Nothing?

(continuing from here...)

Meanwhile, a correspondent kindly sent us this link to Bishop's Pryse's June 2008 edition of
The Bishop's Journal. We think that those disobedient pastors who, after Mr. Ketola's ordination, donned Lone Ranger masks for photos in order to protect their identities need not fear, for Bishop Pryse writes...

It’s Time We Agreed To Disagree

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS article, it is quite likely that the ELCIC will have experienced the first “irregular ” ordination of a self-declared and practicing gay man. Despite fervent admonitions from my office, a congregation of our synod will have hosted such a service and been publicly supported through the presence of several synodical pastors and lay people. Press reports will have been filed, internet forums bombarded and disciplinary procedures initiated, and all to what end?

The fact is that we, like most of North American society, are deeply divided concerning the moral status of homosexual persons. Some believe that such individuals are engaged in a lifestyle that is intrinsically sinful, while others believe that sexual orientation is in itself a morally neutral component of an individual’s total personhood. In our church, these differences are profound and are based on quite different understandings of how portions of the Christian scriptures are to be read and interpreted. So, what to do?

For the sake of our much larger common mission, I think it’s time for us to recognize and accept our differences on this question, and to allow different expressions of our church to follow alternate paths. I am of the opinion that an individual’s sexual orientation should not impact his/her ability to participate in the church’s approved candidacy processes. Congregations should be free to call or not call any approved candidate that they wish. Congregations and pastors should have the freedom to marry or not marry whoever they wish according to the dictates of conscience.

Similar local options inform much of our church’s life. Some element of local option governs our church’s confirmation, baptism, communion and funeral practices. Likewise with our liturgical, stewardship and governance practices. Each of these things are important expressions of how we exercise our Christian faith and local clergy and congregations make important decisions concerning them on the basis of their interpretation of biblical and scriptural principals. How or why would we expect questions concerning the very complicated realm of human sexuality to be addressed any differently?

Too much of our church’s energy is being expended in seeking church-wide resolution to an issue over which we will long continue to disagree. This is energy that is being diverted from addressing an infinitely more important mission agenda upon which we do agree! We should certainly continue to pursue a common understanding. We should certainly continue to debate
and engage these not-insignificant differences. However, in the meantime, we should not constrain those of our wider church community who wish to take a different path from that which you or I might chose. Our dogged insistence on maintaining the status quo is hurting all of us and contributing to the furthering of unnecessary and hurtful divisions among us.

At the end of the day, we all have much bigger fish to fry. God has a mission to, in and for the world that we have been called to discern, support and advance. Our ability to do so collectively and effectively is not predicated upon being in full agreement on every question of faith and discipleship. Sometimes, when addressing our differences, the most faithful response is to agree to disagree. Let’s get on with it!

Shrimp wonders: Could an Eastern Synod pastor and congregation get away with re-baptizing all the adults and refusing to baptize infants? Shrimp out...

Full of Sound and Fury...

Shrimp here. We found on the Eastern Synod ELCIC's front page a link to Bishop Michael Pryse's letter to the rostered ministers of his synod the week prior to the extraordinary ordination of Lionel Ketola.

May 9, 2008

Dear Colleagues in Rostered Ministry,

On April 20, 2008, Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newmarket, ON voted to issue a call to a candidate who has not been approved for ordination through the candidacy processes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). This action marked a serious breach of the constitutional obligation of all congregations and rostered persons to “abide loyally by the constitution, administrative bylaws and enactments of this church and those of the synod of which it becomes a part.” ELCIC Constitution Article VI, Section 3.

Since that time, I understand that many of our rostered personnel have been invited to attend an irregular service of ordination and to participate in it by vesting for the service and/or participating in the rite of laying on of hands. In response, several of you have contacted me to request clarification of any implications such participation might have. Hence, I have written this letter.

After much soul searching and considered reflection, I have come to the conclusion that any rostered person who vests for this service and/or participates in a rite of laying on of hands will have chosen to publicly participate in an action that our church prohibits and, as such, would be subject to subsequent disciplinary action. I have not made this determination lightly nor am I intending to threaten those of you who are considering participation in this liturgy. I am simply trying to clearly and forthrightly inform you of the potential consequences that your participation in this service will bring. This, I believe, is my responsibility, both to you and to the entire church.

As noted in my April 30, 2008 letter to Holy Cross congregation, “I am committed to working toward ending practices that preclude the full participation of all God’s people in the life of the church, regardless of sexual orientation.” I realize that many of our synod’s rostered personnel share a similar commitment and might see participation in this service as a way of giving public expression to this position. Indeed, when viewed from a very local perspective, some may be tempted to think this is an appropriate way to proceed.

However, when viewed from a wider perspective, I believe that this action requires participants to abandon several foundational and confessional principles which inform our church’s understanding of ecclesiastical polity and the role, identity and functioning its rostered leaders. In short, these are principles whose affirmation we owe to one another as we engage important questions as a wider community of faith.

Our individual belief in the justness of any individual cause does not in itself justify the use of any and all means to achieve a particular end. At some point there needs to be a measured deliberation concerning the potential harm or benefit of a particular course of action. In this regard, it particularly distresses me to consider what it would mean if others - as is presently happening in partner churches both here in Canada and around the world - were to follow a similar path to achieve any number of alternate reforms in the life of our church.

In recent years, our synod has advanced the cause of full ecclesial inclusivity for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) persons in a number of ways. We have done so honestly and with integrity in a way that is respectful of the opinions of our partners in the life of the wider church. Given our present context - a context that may not be fully understood by some who are supporting this action from beyond the ELCIC - I am unable to discern that this proposed course of action can advance this cause further. Rather, I have come to the conclusion that it may well undermine the considerable, albeit slow, progress that has been made toward that goal while simultaneously doing irreparable damage to the already fragile connecting fabric of the ELCIC.

Simply stated, I do not believe that this proposed “irregular” action will bring us any closer to achieving the full “regular” inclusion of GLBT persons in the life of the ELCIC, a goal that I share with many of you. I believe that ongoing efforts to advance this cause will ultimately lead to an end that is beyond question. As such, I would encourage those who may be inclined to participate in this service to refrain from doing so and rather, to continue the difficult work of engaging the legitimate decision-making processes of our church in all its expressions. These processes, though not without fault or frustration, are ultimately the only effective means of achieving the reform that you and I might seek.

In conclusion, I hope and pray that you can receive this counsel from your bishop as also coming from a colleague who is not insensitive to the significant dilemma this situation presents for many of you. May God grant each of us generous gifts of wisdom and insight in this present moment.

With all best wishes,

Bishop Michael J. Pryse
cc:   Eastern Synod Pastors and Diaconal Ministers
        Eastern Synod Council
        Eastern Synod Ministry Directors
        ELCIC Bishops
        ELCIC National Church Council

More here...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More on Tomorrow's "Ordination"

Shrimp here. As a public service, we highlight how Eastern Synod, ELCIC, officials are being portrayed by the media in response to the "extra-ordinary ordination" of Lionel Ketola, whose position as Associate Pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Newmarket, Ontario, (and who is being "deployed as an Ambassador of Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21) in the ELCIC") is being funded to a "major" extent by Evangelical Lutheran Ministries, an organization we wrote about on Friday.

In the National Post article Cap'n Bill linked in yesterday's entry, we observe a stern response by Eastern Synod Bishop Michael Pryse:
In a letter last month, Bishop Pryse warned Holy Cross it would face repercussions if it took part in the ceremony and went ahead with the hiring.

"I am fearful that your actions have the potential to do irreparable damage to the already fragile connecting fabric of our church," the letter said. "When I met with you earlier this year, I clearly detailed the processes I would be obliged to administer in response to this proposed action. Should the service on May 16 proceed as planned, I will have no choice but to initiate those processes, albeit with a deep and profound sadness."

Those consequences could include public censure, suspension or expulsion, he said Wednesday.
This despite the Bishop's expression that...
...he has met Mr. Ketola and thinks he would make a fine minister, but not now.

"I think the Church's current policy should change and I think many others are coming to the same conclusion," Bishop Pryse said. "But that's something we decide not as individuals but as a Church community."

He said he is not willing to sacrifice Church unity for the sake of one man or a single parish.

"I'm afraid [this ordination will be] a sign of people's worst fears for the Church and that our unity and commonality is no longer as important as it once was." He added that only a bishop can perform ordinations.
The local pastor and the ELCIC National Bishop are quoted, too.
Dawn Hutchings, the pastor of Holy Cross, believes Mr. Ketola is the ideal person to become the first openly gay Lutheran pastor.

Rev. Hutchings said she knows her parish will face consequences but she thinks going ahead with the ordination will be a benefit for the entire Church.

She said most people who are against gay ordination are opposed to it in theory. But she said it is harder to be against the idea when you work with someone like Mr. Ketola.

In fact, she wants Mr. Ketola to be an "ambassador" for gay ordination throughout the Church.

Susan Johnson, the National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, also would like to see gays ordained but she is against this ordination because it is a break with the Church as a whole.

Bishop Johnson said this is an odd situation for her because she remembers when women were not considered worthy to be ministers - so she knows what it is like to be on the outside. But she still feels that it is better that the Church come to a consensus before change takes place.
Again, read it all here.

That's the National Post. The Era-Banner is a thrice-weekly local paper for Newmarket, Ontario, published under the banner of the York Region Media Group, which at the moment has Mr. Ketola's "ordination" highlighted on its front page and reported on here.
A local Lutheran church is braving the consequences to ordinate an openly gay man as one of its own.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket has announced it will disobey the wishes of its order and go ahead with the ceremony to ordain Lionel Ketola, an openly gay married man, even though the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s policies forbid the ordination of “self-declared and practicing homosexuals.”

Holy Cross pastor Rev. Dawn Hutchings said she isn’t concerned about the consequences of ordaining Mr. Ketola as her associate pastor, because it’s just the right thing to do.

“This started in 2005 when our congregation offered a statement of welcome to gays and lesbians,” Ms Hutchings said. “The following year, Lionel came to us and asked about ordination and the internship to become ordained, which he did, and is now certified for call.”

In addition to serving as an associ ate pastor for Holy Cross, Mr. Ketola will also become an ambassador of reconciliation, Ms Hutchings said.

In essence, he’ll travel to other like-minded congregations to provide resources and assistance on how to better welcome gays and lesbians into the fold.

Still, that’s not a popular notion with everyone in the hierarchy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada denomination.
Shrimp takes note here that the "statement of welcome to gays and lesbians" led directly, and almost immediately, to the calling of a gay Associate Pastor. You might chew on that a bit the next time Lutherans Concerned approaches you about becoming a Reconciling in Christ congregation, synod, or other Lutheran church-related organization. Then again, Holy Cross doesn't look like your grandfather's Lutheran church. More from York.
For its actions, the church could be subject to suspension, censure, admonission or exclusion from the denomination, Ms Hutchings said.

Furthermore, Ms Hutchings said she, herself, could face being removed from the church’s roster.

“Our Eastern Synod meets in July and we’ll be asking for them to urge our bishop not to apply disciplinary action,” she said.
Sound familiar?
“At the moment the bishop has sent some letters detailing some of the possibilities for us.”

Even so, Ms Hutchings said she does hold out some hope that she and the church will go unpunished for ordaining Mr. Ketola.

“The policy is that if you are practicing and open about your sexuality you can’t be ordained,” Mr. Ketola said. “It forces people to be silent about it.”

The bishop seems to approve of the church’s ends, but simply disagrees on the means, Ms Hutchings said.

“The bishop has expressed hope at changing some of the policies we’re going against, but he just doesn’t approve of our methods,” she said. “We’re faithfully disobeying the church.”

The Eastern Synod’s Bishop, Rev. Michael Pryse, said Holy Cross’ decision to go ahead and ordain Mr. Ketola represented a serious breach of the church’s accepted policies and practices.

The whole church, he said, is meant to decide who becomes ordained, not individual congregations.

“Our church doesn’t allow individual units in isolation to determine who gets ordained and who doesn’t,” he said.

“The whole church decides who represents us.”

As things are, Mr. Pryse said individuals such as Mr. Ketola are not eligible to become pastors in the church. It’s a simple matter of policy.

“The church has a policy that excludes self-proclaimed practicing homosexuals,” Mr. Pryse said.

“As a result Mr. Ketola cannot be eligible for ordination by the church.”

‘At the end of the day, I want to see homosexuals have the same rights in the church as heterosexuals, but I don’t think one single act will get us to that day any sooner; it might even put that day off.’

Ms Hutchings is quite correct in saying that the church may be subject to discipline, Mr. Pryse said. If the ordination goes ahead, the ELCIC would likely put together an investigations committee and then, based on that investigation, a disciplinary committee.

From there, the church could face anything from strongly worded objections, to a suspension or even being removed from the church entirely.

Mr. Pryse said such matters would not be up to him, but he hoped the most severe punishment would not be necessary.

“There would be no great urgency in doing this,” Mr. Pryse said.

“A lot of people are very passionate about this, so right away might not be the best time to make those kinds of decisions.”

Mr Pryse went on to state he sympathizes with the goals of Holy Cross and could understand their frustrations, however, he warned hasty actions may end up hindering, rather than helping, the cause in the long run.

“My great concern is about people in the moderate middle who are moving to positive effect towards progressive views on this matter and might not be very happy about a small group doing this on their own,” he said.

“At the end of the day, I want to see homosexuals have the same rights in the church as heterosexuals, but I don’t think one single act will get us to that day any sooner; it might even put that day off.”
So, the threat of strong discipline remains, though Bishop Pryse also does not want to be a bad guy, either.
Whatever happens, Ms Hutchings said the ordination ceremony will go on as planned on at the Trinity United Church located at 461 Park Ave. in Newmarket tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Ms Hutchings said she, along with colleagues from the Anglican Church, the United Church and from other congregations from across North America will then perform the ordination ceremony and let the consequences be, well, damned.

“In a Lutheran church, the power rests with the congregation, but they cede certain powers, in our denomination, to the gathered assembly of bishops who run the church in the interim,” she said.
Read it all here. And soon we'll find out if Bishop Pryse and company have a spine, or if "the various individual expressions of the church are intrinsically linked to one another" is, as it seems with gay clergy serving in ELCA congregations, just a bunch of noise.

Oh, since the last link is of Bishop's Pryse's, uh, threats to Holy Cross Lutheran, it is only fair to link their response. Nothing particularly extraordinary in it, but it reminds us that the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, founded in 1864 as a confessional alternative to S. S. Schmucker's Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, has a formal relationship with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Shrimp expects there's a lot of spinning in the graves of American Lutheran giants.

Shrimp out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Toronto-area Lutheran church to ordain gay minister

Cap'n Bill here: Talk about border crossings!

A Toronto-area Lutheran church parish plans on ordaining a married gay man despite warnings it is breaking church teachings and it will face disciplinary action, including expulsion, if it goes ahead.

Lionel Ketola will be ordained Friday night by a non-traditional American Lutheran group that ordains gay candidates. Their ordinations are not officially recognized in Canada or the United States. But despite that, he will then be hired by Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket, Ont., as an associate pastor, where he has interned for the past two years. Members of Holy Cross will also take part in the ordination ceremony.

Guess the name of the "non-traditional American Lutheran group that ordains (sic) gay candidates..."

Read it all:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Holy Trinity Sunday in the ELCA?

Shrimp here, with a headline hearkening back to an earlier entry here. Dig this currently on the ELCA home page:
ELCA members are observing May 18 as a “Sacred Day of Dialogue and Discussion” on the topic of racism, as designated by the National Council of Churches – USA.
You may need to wait a moment for it to come up; look for the stop sign.

On the other hand, Augsburg Fortress bulletin service seems to think May 18 is the festival of The Holy Trinity, so we expect more ELCA members will be observing that. A lot more.

Good catch by Pastor Zumwalt on ALPB Forum Online and Pastor Zip who also notes this sort of thing happened earlier this year.

Shrimp out.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Simply Extraordinary

Shrimp here. Thanks in part to Cap'n Bill's post last Sunday of the report of two more extraordinary calls by ELCA congregations, we clicked the link to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
ELM provides financial, pastoral, and legal support to sexual minority pastors and to the congregations and organizations that support them. In addition we encourage congregations to consider calling sexual minority clergy approved by the Candidacy and Credentialling Ellipse. ELM has provided assistance to scores of Lutheran pastors, often after their congregations, colleagues and bishops have deserted them. Annually, ELM provides financial support to congregations who call our pastors.
On the front page you'll find the announcement of ELM's first Canadian venture.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) is proud to announce that the members of the Newmarket Ontario, Holy Cross Lutheran Church (ELCiC) voted to call Lionel Ketola, which will result in the first extraordinary ordination in Canada.
ELM's announcement of its Canadian invasion is here. Learn more about Mr. Ketola here.

A bit further down is the music CD Out of the Extraordinary...
...a compilation album project to raise visibility of the issue of ordination of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer (GLBTQ) pastors and raise funds for scholarships and debt relief for the GLBTQ pastors that have chosen to be or have been forced outside of the ELCA roster of pastors.
Shrimp confesses to being rather impressed that the artists on the album include the Indigo Girls and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. The other artists we'd never heard of. Except for one that we are familiar with because of a long association with the ELCA's national Youth Gatherings, other youth-oriented ELCA-related events, Lutheran Men in Mission, etc. The group: Dakota Road.


And then there's the highlight of the entire ELM site: its roster of ordained clergy, those "approved" for ordination, and seminarians. With only a few exceptions, each has a short biography on the ELM site there for all to read. Many offer quite interesting testimonies.

One of them includes this paragraph:
Gruel is currently affiliated with Peace Lutheran Church, Lake Como, Florida, a congregation of the Association of Free Lutheran Churches (AFLC). With full support of the congregation’s current minister, he functions there with full recognition of his sexual orientation and his ordained and rostered status. In addition to leading a weekly Bible study and preaching, he served as Eucharistic celebrant on Reformation Sunday in 2006, the first time he had been allowed to do so in a congregational setting in over 25 years.
Now that is truly extraordinary: a homosexually partnered man functioning as a pastor in a congregation of the Association of Free Lutheran Churches. Read it here!

It's not just the ELCA folks. Shrimp out.

Rob Gagnon on his Open Letter

Dear friends,

I have written an open letter to the President of the University of Toledo, Lloyd Jacobs. Jacobs suspended a black female administrator (Crystal Dixon) for lovingly questioning, in a newspaper editorial, a comparison between being homosexual and being black. In my open letter I cite six scientific studies that show the fallacy of comparing homosexuality to race and make a brief philosophical case against incentives for homosexual practice. You can read the letter at, along with my response to a critic of my letter (who subsequently reconsidered his stance) and a link to a worldnetdaily interview of me for this open letter.

Think about the audacity of Jacobs’ actions.

Although identifying herself in passing in the newspaper editorial as an employee of the university, Ms. Dixon did not claim to be representing the official university stance on homosexual practice. But apparently President Jacobs thinks that he can control the public expression of religious and moral values of his employees, not only in the workplace environment (that would be bad enough) but also outside the workplace. Of course, if I worked under Jacobs' totalitarian regime I would be suspended or fired for daring to make the arguments that I make in my open letter and that President Jacobs does not have the ability to answer.

When will Christians wake up to the seriousness of the threat to our civil liberties posed by the homosexualist agenda and vote accordingly? Jacobs can attempt such outrages only because he lives in a political culture that on a state, local, and increasingly national level is becoming bold in affirming homosexual practice and abridging the liberties of those who disagree. Just ask yourself whether it makes sense to vote for someone who thinks that you are a hateful, ignorant bigot and the moral equivalent of a racist because you believe that it is unloving to support the dishonoring of one's maleness or femaleness through same-sex intercourse. Ask yourself whether it makes sense to vote for someone who will work to pass legislation (and/or appoint judges) that can get you or your children fired, fined, incur massive court costs, denied educational opportunities or career advancement, denied adoption rights, and/or be forced to teach or be taught the homosexualist agenda.

Also new on my website is an article on “Neglected References for a Forum on Homosexuality and the Church at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.” This gives a good overview of the resources that I have made available on the Bible and homosexual practice.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

News from Lutheran CORE - May 2008

CORE Connection
News from Lutheran CORE - May 2008

Please copy this newsletter and distribute it as widely as possible. A pdf version is available online at

(Note: This copy has been revised for a correction to the conclusion of this article.)

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Lutheran CORE and LC3 are coming together

Lutheran Congregations of the Common Confession (LC3) and Lutheran CORE have decided to combine their efforts. A proposal for LC3 to become a part of Lutheran CORE was approved April 14 at the annual gatherings of both groups in Golden Valley, Minn.

LC3 and Lutheran CORE were formed at the same time for somewhat different tasks and to serve different constituencies. Over time, LC3 leadership realized that the separate existence of the two groups created confusion and was probably unnecessary.

The LC3 leaders approached Lutheran CORE with the suggestion that the goal of congregational networking and renewal could better be accomplished if LC3 operated under the Lutheran CORE umbrella.

Pastor Mark Braaten from Texas, who had been on the LC3 steering committee, was added as a non-voting member of the Lutheran CORE steering committee. Pastor Eric Swensson from LC3 is a member of the Lutheran CORE advisory board.

Lutheran CORE also adopted a new goal (to be numbered as its second) of "Making Disciples for Christ: To reassert Christ's Great Commission to make disciples of all nations as a priority in the life of the ELCA, through emphases on congregational renewal, church plants and global missions." We will highlight this goal in next month's newsletter.

Many specific details remain to be worked out, and the LC3 leadership will be communicating with the congregations that have accepted the Common Confession. LC3, perhaps under a different name, will continue as a list of such congregations, as a part of Lutheran CORE.

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ELCA acknowledges relationship with Lutheran CORE

The ELCA Church Council voted to recognize Lutheran CORE as an independent Lutheran organization that relates to the ELCA through its Vocation and Education Program Unit at its April 11-13 meeting.

Lutheran CORE applied for the acknowledgment, and the Rev. Dr. Stanley N. Olson, executive director, ELCA Vocation and Education, recommended the relationship be established.

Since our goal as Lutheran CORE is the reform and renewal of the ELCA, we thank Pastor Olson for his recommendation and the church council for its acknowledgment. We look forward to sharing our story and mission at various ELCA-sponsored events as we work together to create a stronger witness to the Gospel throughout this church.

We remain convinced that we are the "Core" of the ELCA and not a fringe group, and that we represent the vast center who, while very diverse in many matters, agree on the basics of the faith "once delivered to the saints" and the Confession of Faith upon which this church was founded.

Lutherans Concerned, one of the organizations advocating for the acceptance of pastors in same-sex sexual relationships and the blessing of same-sex relationships, was recognized as an independent Lutheran organization that relates to the ELCA several years ago.

Lutheran CORE is one of several independent Lutheran organizations to receive this designation from the ELCA. Some of the other organizations include Global Health Ministries, Lutheran Peace Fellowship, World Mission Prayer League, and the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians.

The ELCA Church Council approved the relationship with Lutheran CORE by a vote of 18-13. The ELCA News Service reported that "some council members raised specific concerns about the proposal, noting that the WordAlone Network, which has been critical of the ELCA churchwide organization and its leaders, is a member organization of Lutheran CORE."

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CORE facilitates open forums in Michigan and Colorado

Lutheran CORE sponsored an open forum on Sunday, April 13, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, Canton, Mich. Interested persons in the greater Detroit area were invited. About 50 persons were in attendance.

Professor Marc Kolden of Luther Seminary spoke on the Lutheran interpretation of the Bible. Pastor Paull Spring, Lutheran CORE chair, addressed the work of Lutheran CORE and the current sexuality discussion within the church.

Following the presentations, there was formal and informal discussion about next steps in support of the cause of orthodoxy in the ELCA.

In February, more than 60 people from the Denver area gathered at Lord of the Hills Lutheran Church, in Centennial, Colo. (suburban Denver).

Pastor Paull Spring, Lutheran CORE chair, was the keynote speaker for this gathering. He spoke about the Bible and the ELCA and the need for people to remain within the ELCA and work for the church's renewal. A lively question and answer session followed Spring's presentation.

At the conclusion of the gathering, a small planning group was formed into a leadership team. This team will follow up the gathering and develop strategies for electing voting members from the Rocky Mountain Synod to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Earlier that day Pastor Spring preached the sermon at the worship services of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, and led a discussion for the congregation during the Sunday School hour.

We encourage local groups to schedule informational gatherings and events to discuss the concerns Lutheran CORE is raising. We will try to help you enlist speakers. Members of the steering committee are happy to attend. Contact information is available online at

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Unauthorized ordination held in Minneapolis

Three former ELCA bishops presided over the unauthorized ordination of a woman in a same-sex relationship Jan. 19 in Minneapolis.

According to the March 2008 edition of Metro Lutheran newspaper, Salem English Lutheran Church ordained Jennifer Nagel, who lives in a committed same-sex relationship.

Three retired bishops who remain on the ELCA clergy roster - the Revs. Darold Beekmann, Lowell Erdahl, and L. David Brown - presided over the ordination. The Rev. Hans Lee of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Minneapolis presided at the liturgy.

More than 90 vested clergy attended the unauthorized ordination. Nagel was presented with a stole worn at each of the 13 unauthorized ordinations since 1990, according to the news report.

Nagel was not approved for ordination in accordance with the standards and process outlined in the ELCA constitution (C7.31.13).

The ELCA constitution states that "Ordained ministers shall be subject to discipline for . . . willfully disregarding the provisions of the constitution or bylaws of this church" (C20.21.01).

The participants in this liturgy have acted in ways that violate the ELCA constitution. We are not aware of any official disciplinary action taken against the participants in the unauthorized ordination. The "restraint" resolution passed by the 2007 Churchwide Assembly does not apply to participants in unauthorized ordinations.

Even a statement from someone in authority in the ELCA or from the synod condemning the action would be refreshing to us who have been asked to "journey together faithfully" in the ELCA.

As long as unauthorized ordinations continue with no serious objection from those in authority in the ELCA, it is inaccurate to speak of the ELCA as having one clergy roster or one set of ordination standards. It will also be increasingly difficult to encourage the core of faithful ELCA members to support ELCA programs and emphases.

Nagel's ordination was the fifth unauthorized ordination of a person in a same-sex sexual relationship to serve an ELCA congregation since 2006.

On April 27, Grace Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, voted to call Lura N. Groen, a candidate not approved by the ELCA. An unauthorized ordination is scheduled for July.

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Disturbing news from Arizona sexuality hearing

While we believe that most of the ELCA leadership is sincere in its desire to have open, honest discussion around the "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality," we were disturbed at a report from Jim Lindberg, our CORE contact in the Grand Canyon Synod, of a recent hearing held in Tempe,

Jim wrote to his bishop saying, "This one hour 'hearing' quicklydegenerated into an attack on those members of the ELCA who hold traditional Christian understandings of human sexuality."

Jim described what he witnessed: "Although there was a moderator and a person recording the comments on her computer, the so-called hearing was more like a kangaroo court complete with emotional witnesses. It appeared to be a well-planned gripe session where people were encouraged by the moderator to air their personal grievances, tell sob stories, and make the unmitigated charges that those people who disagreed with them were being judgmental.

"The moderator even called on two people whom he identified as members of the Roman Catholic Church and had not even seen the draft statement. One testified that the ELCA needed to change its policy on same-sex marriage and the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians because the Catholic Church wasn't about to change its position.

"In his closing instructions to the court, the moderator made an impassioned statement which exposed his real bias. He said that, 'since there are only a few passages in the Bible that talk about homosexuality, we have to do the right thing as Christians and we can't exclude them.' He then asked the question, 'Would Jesus exclude people and their gifts?' He then answered his own question by reminding those present that, 'we need to go forward and let the spirit work.'"

We commend Jim for communicating with his bishop. If there are other such violations of good faith in the process of considering this statement, we urge you to contact your bishop, ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson, and Lutheran CORE with the information.

The 2005 report of the ELCA Task Force for Sexuality Studies showed that a significant majority (57 percent) of ELCA members who responded to the study on homosexuality opposed change to accepted Christian teaching on homosexual behavior to allow for the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of persons in committed same-sex relationships.

Only 22 percent of those responding to the study favored change in church teaching to allow for the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of persons in committed same-sex relationships.

These percentages are admittedly unscientific results. They probably understate the number of ELCA members with traditional beliefs.

Folks like Jim represent the center of the ELCA and deserve better treatment than he and those who agree with him received in Tempe.

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Generous financial support enables program increase

Ryan Schwarz, who leads Lutheran CORE's fund-raising efforts, was able to report with gratitude many generous donors among individuals, congregations, and partner reform movements at Lutheran CORE's annual gathering April 14.

In response to the generous support, Lutheran CORE's budget proposal was amended to add $50,000 to support additional staff to coordinate our efforts.

We continue to solicit your gifts in support of our work. You may donate online at or send your gifts to:
    Lutheran CORE
    c/o WordAlone Network
    2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220
    New Brighton, MN 55112

Please make checks payable to the WordAlone Network and write "Lutheran CORE" on the memo line. Contributions to Lutheran CORE are tax deductible as permitted by law.

Our relationship with the WordAlone Network allows us to avoid many distractions from our mission of reform. While we still hope to secure our own 501(c)(3) non-profit status in the future, for now we operate administratively within WordAlone.

We thank all those who have supported our work together.

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Essay explains Lutheran CORE position on sexuality questions

Lutheran CORE has prepared an essay to help ELCA members to understand why we believe, along with most Christian churches in the world, that the biblical norms for sexuality should be upheld.

"After careful and prayerful consideration, the members of Lutheran CORE have concluded that those seeking changes in the Church's understanding of human sexuality have not met, and almost certainly cannot meet, their burden of showing that those changes are consistent with the foundational tenets of the Christian faith," the document states.

The essay offers four key points:
  • "The Church discerns its teachings from Scripture."

  • "As even advocates of a new sexual ethic admit, Scripture does not approve same-sex sexual relationships."

  • "Because Scripture prohibits same-sex sexual relationships, advocates for the blessing of such relationships contend that it is not binding."

  • "The advocates of the new sexual ethic urge the ELCA to replace the Christian Gospel with a new and very different religion."
"Keeping Faith," was written by a Lutheran CORE writing team led by James Gale of Washington, D.C., Pastor David Baer of Whitewood, S.D., and Pastor Russell Saltzman of Kansas City, Mo.

In March Lutheran CORE released a Question and Answer resource that is designed to help members of ELCA congregations to participate in the process leading to an ELCA Social Statement on Sexuality and to enable them to better understand some of the questions on human sexuality that will be considered at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

The Q & A document, written by this same writing team, addresses basic questions about the process and about current ELCA policy. It also responds to some of the arguments made for changing teaching on homosexual behavior. Questions are addressed in a basic way that is easy to understand.

Both resources are available online at

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Check out Lutheran CORE online

Lutheran CORE's website - - is the place to find the latest information on our work together as Lutheran CORE.

New resources are posted to the website on a regular basis, and most Lutheran CORE statements and resources are available at the website.

One of the features of our web site is Lutheran CORE's blog. Interesting comments and articles continue to be posted on the blog. One of April's blog highlights is an article entitled "This Is Our Opportunity" by Pastor Russell Lackey of Westminster, Calif. We urge those questioning their future in the ELCA to consider what he has to say.

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What is Lutheran CORE?

Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) is a coalition of individuals, congregations and reform movements in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that speaks for the historic center of Lutheranism.

We seek to preserve within the ELCA the authority of Scripture according to the Lutheran Confessions.

Lutheran CORE's members and participants represent the vast middle of American Lutheranism, spanning geographical regions, vocations, and political and theological viewpoints. We are united by our common commitment to the authority of Scripture in the life of the ELCA.

Lutheran CORE seeks to be a voice for the solid, faithful core that is the majority of ELCA members, pastors and congregations.

We are a way for those who care about the ELCA to work together for the good of the church and for the sake of its future.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Trouble at Augsburg Fortress?

Shrimp here. All through 2007, we heard about how sales of Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW), released in October 2006, were so much better than anyone had anticipated. It seems those forecasting ELW sales are again way off the mark, the ELCA News Service reports here. It's not looking very pretty for 2008. Shrimp out.

May 6, 2008

Sales of Worship Resources to Impact ELCA Publisher in 2008

           MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- Sales of the pew edition of "Evangelical Lutheran Worship" (ELW) for the first quarter of 2008 were slightly more than half what was projected by Augsburg Fortress, the publishing ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  The ELCA publisher expects this trend to continue for the remainder of the year and revised its pew edition sales forecast to about $3.4 million for 2008, down from the $5.5 million in sales it originally projected, said John A. Rahja, chief financial officer, Augsburg Fortress, in a report to the board of trustees which met here April 25-26.
     Augsburg Fortress is the publisher of ELW resources, which were introduced in 2006 to the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.  The resources are available in both print and in electronic form.  More than 1 million copies of the ELW pew edition have been sold since it was introduced in October 2006, said Beth A. Lewis, president and chief executive officer, Augsburg Fortress.
     For the first three months of 2008, Augsburg Fortress posted a net loss of $206,000, Rahja reported.  Overall first quarter sales were $728,000 below forecast, all due to decreased sales of the ELW pew edition, he said.  Operating expenses were $729,000 less than budgeted.  Rahja attributed the lower expense total to new product development expenses which are likely to be incurred later in 2008 than expected.
     For the 2007 fiscal year Augsburg Fortress reported $2.5 million in net income, much of it driven by stronger than anticipated sales of ELW resources, Rahja said.  This money will be reinvested in 2008 to improve the infrastructure for the organization and in the development of several new faith formation and worship resources, Lewis said.
     Augsburg Fortress entered 2008 with a plan to improve and upgrade its information technology systems. The board was told of the progress of the project, which is aimed at making all of the publisher's systems compatible.  So far Augsburg Fortress has improved or replaced systems for collecting customer information, created a central repository for its image library and overhauled its intranet systems, said Sandy Clifford, director of information technology and marketing, Augsburg Fortress.  Significant system upgrades and improvements are still to be completed over the next several months, she said.  Augsburg Fortress has allocated up to $2.3 million for the entire project, Clifford said.
     Janet Thompson, board vice chair, Eagan, Minn., told the board that a decision had been made to put "on hold" fundraising through the One Mission Endowment Fund, established by the trustees in 2006.  The fund is still open to receive gifts, but staff will focus greater attention on other priorities, she said.
     Augsburg Fortress has several new faith formation and worship resource projects in process, said Tim Blevins, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Augsburg Fortress. These include an adult Bible study curriculum; new Sunday School materials; new Web-based contemporary worship materials; sacramental resources; new textbooks; and a Lutheran study Bible, part of the "Book of Faith" initiative adopted by the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
     Blevins said the Book of Faith initiative has resulted in strong relationships and regular consultation between Augsburg Fortress staff and staff at the ELCA churchwide office, Chicago.  Board members discussed specific concerns about the ELCA publisher's role in the Book of Faith initiative, and they appointed a task force to address those concerns. The task force was asked to work with Lewis and the Rev. M. Wyvetta Bullock, executive for administration, ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop.
     The board also discussed details of the publisher's 2008-2010 strategic plan in closed and executive sessions.
     Information about Augsburg Fortress is at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

Sunday, May 04, 2008

More and More Extraordinary...

From Lutheran (True) Confessons:

On April 27, Grace Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas voted to call Lura Groen to serve as pastor. Founded in 1922, Grace is an ELCA congregation in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod

Lura Groen holds a MDiv degee from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. The ELCA refused to accept Groen’s application for candidacy because of her sexual orientation. She was approved for call and admitted to the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM).

Pr. Groen will be ordained extra ordinem in late July.

On April 20, University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation in Philadelphia voted to call Pr. Jay Wiesner to serve as pastor. University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation is an ELCA congregation that also serves as campus ministry for Penn, Drexel, Temple, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Pr. Wiesner was ordained in 2004 and is rostered with ELM. He has served Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Methodists Vote To Retain Policies on Homosexuality

But some international delegates oppose denomination's anti-homophobia push.

Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

The United Methodist Church held to its traditional rules on homosexuality Wednesday (April 30), refusing to support or celebrate same-sex unions and maintaining language that calls homosexual activity "incompatible with Christian teaching."

While many Methodists gathered here acknowledged sharp disagreement within their church on sexuality and biblical interpretation, delegates voted down efforts that would reflect that division in church rules or social policies.
A measure to remove the "incompatible" phrase and replace it with a mandate to "refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices as the Spirit leads us to new insight" was defeated 517 to 416.

Nearly 1,000 delegates here at the quadrennial General Conference spent almost all day debating Methodist policies on homosexuality, continuing a sometimes contentious discussion the church has held for almost 40 years.
Many Methodists rose to speak in favor of a clear continuation of traditional teachings, especially for the purpose of evangelizing to a world that they said is beset by moral confusion.

"Friends, this is serious business," said the Rev. H. Eddie Fox, director of evangelism for the World Methodist Council. "It is an urgent matter for our church. It matters what we believe and what we practice and we do not meet here in isolation."

Indeed, several delegates warned that actions taken here directly affect Methodists in Africa and Asia, many of whom are conservative and whose churches are experiencing explosive growth. About 30 percent of the 11.5 million-member church now lives outside the U.S.

The good ship ELCA...

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