Sunday, June 29, 2008

"FW: Civil Unions Update"

Shrimp here, wondering just what this might mean.

Just a few moments ago we were over at Yahoo! Groups doing a search of groups using "ELCA" and very quickly discovered a public group called "lutheranadvocacyillinois." The group's description begins is a ministry of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois , ELCA Church in Society, and the three synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Illinois. Its purpose is to educate its members about public policy issues and to mobilize them for effective action in the public sphere.
You need to be a member of the group to post messages. But to read the group's messages anyone, even a non-Yahoo! member, just needs to click here. There you'll find that the group was organized last April and has 17 members. Again, this is all very much out in the open.

If you've been reading Shellfish you might guess that we're not particularly enthusiastic about "advocacy" done in the name of the ELCA. You'd be correct, but we'll hasten to point out that it hasn't been a Shellfish hobby horse. Up on the top of this page you will likely find the blogspot "SEARCH BLOG" feature. Put in the word "advocacy" and you'll quickly discover this entry from last January, this from last December, and this from July 2006. That's pretty much it for ELCA advocacy.

But having caught our eyes, we thought we'd take a quick look at lutheranadvocacyillinois just to see what they think is important for the ELCA's Illinois congregations to be advocating. And that's where we discovered today's Shellfish headline -- the most recent message posted on the publicly available lutheranadvocacyillinois Yahoo! group, only last Monday.
FW: Civil Unions Update
This is specifically for those of you who are on the Civil Right/Human Rights working group. Perhaps we should have some discussion of our position on this
That's what appears on the group's front page, a typical Yahoo! Groups message teaser. And we clicked the public link, the results of which we copy below in full below.

But first, Dan Schwick is not only the group's contact as Director of Lutheran Advocacy--Illinois (the website of which seems to have not been updated in the last year or so) , but Assistant to the President of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and "Director, Office of Church and Government Relations." Oh, turns out it's Pastor Dan Schwick.

After reading this, are you wondering just what these folks might want to say to Illinois legislators about "civil unions"?

Shrimp out. Take it away, Pastor Dan!
Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:44 am

This is specifically for those of you who are on the Civil Right/Human Rights working group. Perhaps we should have some discussion of our position on this bill at our fall issues caucus. We already (tentatively) have a presentation on the recently successful effort to abolish the death penalty in NJ. My counterpart, the ELCA public policy director in NY, was a key participant in that effort. He will be here to share their successful strategy.


Daniel Schwick, Assistant to the President

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois

Director, Office of Church and Government Relations


Director, Lutheran Advocacy--Illinois

1001 E. Touhy Ave. #50

Des Plaines, IL 60018


fax: 847-635-6764


"Responding to the Gospel, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois brings healing justice and wholeness to people and communities." [LSSI Mission Statement]

From: Rep. Greg Harris [mailto:greg@...]
Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 4:06 PM
To: Daniel Schwick
Subject: Civil Unions Update

Rep. Greg Harris - Civil Unions Update

June 18, 2008

I wanted to update you on the tremendous progress we've made towards passing civil union legislation in Illinois, and the final steps needed to establish civil unions under Illinois law.

Over the past few months, we have generated nearly 10,000 letters to the Illinois legislature in support of House Bill 1826, which would allow all committed couples in our state access to basic legal rights. This is a monumental undertaking thanks to the tireless efforts of concerned volunteers in every county of Illinois.

Besides support from supportive advocacy groups and progressive organizations, we have a 9,000+ group of students organized on Facebook on college campuses across Illinois, and a grassroots network of statewide senior citizens lobbying for HB 1826. Our innovative, student-led online advocacy model and our press events highlighting the importance of civil unions to Illinois seniors have generated news all over the state. You can see dozens of newspaper, television, radio and blog stories highlighting the statewide organizing efforts, and the editorial support from major newspaper editorial boards here:

Just before midnight on the last day of the Spring Session, House Bill 1826 was moved to 'order of third reading' in the Illinois House of Representatives. This means that the legislation cleared all procedural hurdles (including passage by the House Human Services Committee) and that I can call it for a final vote at the most appropriate time. You can see the final version (House Amendment #4) here:

We are just a handful of votes away from passing this legislation. In the House this means 60 votes plus a small margin in case of unexpected absences or last minute "cold feet". The Senate, we believe, also has the votes needed for passage, and the Governor has indicated he intends to sign the Bill when it reaches his desk.

The legislature is officially scheduled to meet next on November 12 in Veto Session. However, it is highly likely that we could be called back by the Governor at any time this summer. Therefore, we must act now to take advantage of any opportunity that arises to call House Bill 1826 for a vote.

In order to build support for the final vote, we must continue generating messages to legislators through Some legislators are still undecided, and pressure on our supporters is intense. We must continue to organize, because our Right Wing opponents are working tirelessly every day to defeat us. As a bellwether heartland state, Illinois is seen by the opposition as a battleground state in their efforts to stop nationwide acceptance of marriage equality. You may choose to send letters to legislators about civil unions importance to same-sex couples, senior couples or both.

If you know anyone who has not yet sent a message through the site, please forward them this message. And if you are interested in meeting with your legislator about the importance of civil unions, please e-mail Chris Jessup at Chris@... so that we can work together.

It has been a tremendous experience working with so many dedicated supporters across the state on this legislation. I thank you so much for all that you have done, and I look forward to continuing our important work towards equality!

This email was sent to dan.schwick@....

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CORE Connection - June 2008

Shrimp again. From Lutheran CORE comes its June Newsletter. Read on. Shrimp

CORE CONNECTION - News from Lutheran CORE - June 2008

A PDF version is available online at

You are encouraged to copy the newsletter and to share it widely.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

CORE offers summary response to sexuality draft

Lutheran CORE has prepared a summary response to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality to help ELCA members as they consider and respond to the draft statement.

The summary highlights some of the detailed and formal responses to the draft statement that have been offered by ELCA pastors and scholars in a straightforward way to make it accessible to all ELCA members.

The summary is divided into three sections: affirmations of the draft, suggestions for improvement, and concerns about the current draft.

Links to more detailed reviews of the draft and to other helpful documents on human sexuality are available online at in the marriage and family educational resources section.

We encourage all ELCA members to submit a response to Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality by the November 1, 2008, deadline.

Affirmations of Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality:
  • Marriage is affirmed as a covenant of faithfulness between one man and one woman.

  • Marriage is affirmed as the most appropriate place for physical intimacy.

  • The important role of the family is affirmed.

  • Analysis of dominating influence of advertising and the media in our culture.

  • Analysis of our current sexualized society and its many victims.

  • Call for pastoral care and compassion for all people.

  • Concern for cohabitation, promiscuity, and premarital sex.

  • Spirit of civility and moderation in draft's approach to human sexuality.
Suggestions for improvement of Social Statement on Human Sexuality:
  • Affirm human sexuality as a part of God's created order for the world.

  • Affirm marriage as God's intention for humanity "from the beginning of creation" (Mark 10:6-9, Genesis 2:24).

  • Affirm marriage as the touchstone around which Christian sexual ethics are elaborated.

  • Affirm procreation as one of the chief purposes of marriage.

  • Affirm the role of the Ten Commandments in sexual ethics, especially the Sixth Commandment (See 1996 ELCA Message, "Sexuality: Some Common Convictions" for an example of this).

  • Affirm the value of the traditional family while also recognizing other family structures.

  • Affirm that all are sinners who are justified by grace through faith. But also recognize that God justifies sinners rather than justifying sins.

  • Allow Scripture to function as source of the statement's teaching on sexuality by moving clearly from biblical interpretation to practical application in dealing with issues of marriage, family, and sexuality.

  • Allow Scripture to function as norm of the statement's teaching on sexuality by clearly affirming biblical norms for sexuality and sexual behavior.

  • Consider the role of ELCA social statements to provide a framework for ethical decision making by ELCA members. Write in a way that most church members can understand and apply to their lives.

  • Draw content more directly from Scripture — both Old Testament and New Testament.

  • Draw content more directly from traditional Christian interpretation of Scripture and the Christian moral tradition.

  • Draw content more directly from the ELCA Church Council's 1996 message, "Sexuality: Some Common Convictions."

  • Draw content more directly from the social statements of The American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America (the ELCA's predecessor churches).

  • Maintain a consistent definition of marriage throughout the draft.

  • Maintain the relationship of the two great commandments from Jesus: love for God and love for neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). The command to love God first and entirely makes it clear that love for others is more than affirming all of their behaviors.

  • Note the difference between forgiveness and acceptance. God forgives sinners and accepts them. God's acceptance of sinners does not mean that God accepts sins.

  • Provide a clearer application of the first use of the Law — how God orders the world.

  • Recognize Scriptural prohibitions of homosexual behavior in both Old Testament and New Testament.

  • Recognize that Jesus' teaching on sexuality includes affirming woman and man as created in the image of God, upholding marriage, and the law of God he inherited from Jewish tradition, which gives the basic form and content to the sexual ethics he teaches and sometimes sharpens.

  • Recognize the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly decision to "continue to respect the guidance of the 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops."
Concerns about Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality:
  • The most common concern raised by pastors and scholars is that the draft confuses the role of Law and Gospel in addressing human sexuality. The Lutheran tradition places sexuality within the doctrines of creation and the Law. God uses the Law to order the world and to reveal our sinfulness. The draft attempts to place sexuality within the saving work of Christ, the Gospel. Incarnation and justification are key to understanding salvation, but creation and God's Law shape Christian understandings of sexuality and ethics. Christ's birth, death and resurrection are intimately connected with providing salvation and not with sexual morality.

  • Pastoral Care in the Lutheran tradition is understood to be a personal address that is based on God's Word of both Law and Gospel. The draft seems to view pastoral care as merely affirmation and support.

  • The use of "trust" as the central ethical principle for human relations in marriage and family life is confusing. Love would be a better Christian principle. Trust is a more passive quality in which one person allows his or her being to be dependent on the trustworthiness of another. Love is a more active principle that moves outward toward the other.

  • The use of the category of trust in social relationships and institutions is confusing.

  • The draft seems confused and disjointed. It is not always easy to discern how one theme leads to another.

  • The draft lacks internal consistency.

  • The draft seems to intentionally distance us from our biblical heritage — especially from the Old Testament.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What is Lutheran CORE?

Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) is a coalition of individuals, congregations and reform movements in the ELCA.

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.

You may support our efforts to work for positive renewal in the ELCA by donating online or sending a gift to:
Lutheran CORE
c/o WordAlone Network
2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220
New Brighton, MN 55112

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Canadian Lutheran bishop recognizes constitutional role

A North American Lutheran bishop exercised his role as bishop by reminding the pastors of his synod that participation in an unauthorized ordination would violate their responsibilities as Lutheran pastors.

Bishop Michael J. Pryse of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada's Eastern Synod stated his responsibilities as bishop in a May 9 letter to rostered leaders.

Pryse's actions came in response to a decision by a Lutheran congregation in Ontario to call a man who was not approved for ordination by the ELCIC. The man is in a same-sex sexual relationship in violation of ELCIC standards.

Bishop Pryse's decision to recognize his role as bishop stands in contrast to some ELCA bishops who have chosen to ignore the actions of ELCA pastors who have participated in unauthorized ordinations and of congregations that have chosen to call unapproved persons as pastor.

Bishop Pryse personally supports change in church policy regarding pastors in same-sex sexual relationships, but he recognizes his role as bishop.

Bishop Pryse's entire letter to Eastern Synod pastors is available online at Following are portions of the letter:

"On April 20, 2008, Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newmarket, Ontario, 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. 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.'

"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....

"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."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lutheran CORE's Advisory Council meets

Lutheran CORE's Advisory Council met for its first time April 29-30 at Elk Grove Village, Ill.

The Advisory Council is a group of pastors, scholars, and church leaders who have agreed to provide advice and direction to Lutheran CORE on important issues and to provide counsel to the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee when important matters are before the church.

Ten members of the 18-member panel attended the April meeting. The advisory council spent time becoming more familiar with the work of Lutheran CORE and the role of the advisory council.

The council discussed a broad range of concerns facing Lutheran CORE and the ELCA:
  • Salvation in Christ alone.
  • The nature of the Church.
  • Seminary theological education.
  • The doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
  • The importance of prayer in the Christian life.

  • Primary focus for the meeting was on two matters of current importance for Lutheran CORE and the ELCA: Biblical interpretation and sexuality.

    As a part of Lutheran CORE's participation in the ELCA's five-year emphasis on Scripture, a paper on how Lutherans interpret the Bible by the Rev. Dr. Roy A. Harrisville III of Menomonie, Wis., was added to the education resources on Lutheran CORE's website.

    The council asked that a summary response to the ELCA Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality be prepared, drawing on responses prepared by Professors Robert Benne and Carl Braaten and Bishops Paull Spring and Kenneth Sauer.

    A continuing concern remains, whether the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of persons in same-sex sexual relationships is a matter of status confessionis for Lutheran CORE supporters. Discussion will continue on this important matter.

    There was general agreement that Lutheran CORE should continue beyond the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, as a confessional movement within the ELCA.

    Members of the Advisory council are:
    • Mr. Alan Beaver, Salisbury, N.C., member of Lasting Word, North Carolina Synod.

    • The Rev. John Beem, Miltona, Minn., former Bishop of the East Central Synod of Wisconsin.

    • Dr. Robert Benne, Director of the Center for Religion and Society at Roanoke College, Salem, Va.

    • The Rev. Dr. Carl Braaten, Sun City West, Ariz., Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology and Senior Editor of Pro Ecclesia, Professor Emeritus, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

    • The Rev. James R. Crumley, Jr., Chapin, S.C., former Bishop of the Lutheran Church in America.

    • The Rev. Paul Gausmann, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, York, Pa., and member of Lutherans Reform!, Lower Susquehanna Synod.

    • The Rev. Jeffray Greene, pastor of American Lutheran Church, Rantoul, Ill., and Editor of FOCL Point, Fellowship of Confessional Lutherans.

    • The Rev. Gary Hatcher, pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church, Greene, Iowa, and a member of Call to Faithfulness in the Northeastern Iowa Synod.

    • The Rev. George Mocko, Towson, Md., former Bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod.

    • The Rev. Dennis Nelson, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, West Covina, Calif., and member of the Evangelical Mission Network.

    • The Rev. Dr. James Nestingen, Dallas, Ore. Professor Emeritus, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.

    • The Rev. Richard Niebanck, Delhi, N.Y., former Secretary for Social Concerns, Department of Church in Society, Division for Mission in North America in the Lutheran Church in America.

    • The Rev. Russell Saltzman, pastor of Ruskin Heights Lutheran Church, Kansas City, Mo., and former editor of Forum Letter.

    • The Rev. Kenneth Sauer, Columbus, Ohio, former Bishop of Southern Ohio Synod and Chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops.

    • The Rev. Beth Schlegel, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, York, Pa.

    • The Rev. Fred Schumacher, Manchester, N.J., Executive Director, American Lutheran Publicity Bureau.

    • The Rev. Eric Swensson, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, New Rochelle, N.Y.

    • The Rev. Morris Vaagenes, Shoreview, Minn., Pastor Emeritus of North Heights Lutheran Church.

    Thanks to Pr. David Baer for producing this newsletter.

    What A.R.E. They Thinking?

    Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God's will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God.
    Shrimp here. We suspect that you'll recognize that from the Augsburg Confession, specifically Article VI which is titled "Concerning the New Obedience" (Kolb-Wengert edition, page 41). "They" are, of course, the representatives of the churches who signed the the Augsburg Confession. It doesn't get much more "Lutheran" than that.

    Earlier this month, we mentioned that Augsburg Fortress' star writer Kelly Fryer was "plenary speaker" for the Metropolitan Chicago Synod Assembly. Author of the bestselling Reclaiming the ''L'' Word in Augsburg Fortress' "Lutheran Voices" series, she parlayed its success into a faculty gig at Luther Seminary, from whence she launched in 2004 A Renewal Enterprise, or "A.R.E." Through A.R.E. Kelly and her partners are inspiring church renewal.

    You will also recall that while at Luther and forming A.R.E., then Pastor Fryer went through some "cataclysmic changes" in her life which led to her January 2006 resignation from Luther and the ELCA clergy roster, said changes including "the sad and quiet ending of my marriage very early last year" and "a private journey of my own. It has been scary and confusing, but it has also been full of joy." A journey that her "best friend for over ten years" had also taken. The nature of that journey: sexual orientation. The destination: "We are looking forward to our future together...making a home, raising our kids, doing ministry." That was January 2006.

    Part of that ministry, as we reported, includes the former Pastor Fryer and her "life partner," Tana Kjos, becoming the synodically blessed "pastoral leaders" at Christ the King Lutheran Church in the Chicago Loop. The A.R.E. website describes Ms. Kjos as "a transformational leader and engaging speaker with a growing reputation for creative counsel and informed intuition." Indeed.

    When we posted Ms. Fryer's resignation here at Shellfish 2½ years ago, Pastor Zip commented:
    Let us pray that Luther Sem and Ausgburg Fortress, who have invested so much in her the last couple of years, will not yield to the temptation to pick up, her offer to continue teaching in this church. Having set aside her vocations as wife, mother, and pastor, she is hardly in a position to claim a continued vocation as teacher.
    Well, the fruits in her personal life notwithstanding, not only has her publishing status with the ELCA's Publishing Ministry blossomed, we suspect that Pastor Zip never imagined the extent of Ms. Fryer's standing on the Synod Assembly circuit since her disgrace:
    • May 5-6, 2006: South-Central Synod of Wisconsin Assembly featured speaker;

    • April 19-21, 2007: Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod Assembly Renewal Event," leading to the Synod's new mission statement and a follow-up conversation with the A-OK Synod Council (see page 6 of the linked pdf document);

    • May 11-12, 2007 Southeast Michigan Synod Assembly visioning process;

    • May 31—June 3, 2007: Central States Synod Assembly and follow-up consulation with Synod Council;

    • April 24-27 2008 Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod (ELCIC) Convention, presenter at "renewal event";

    • May 2-3, 2008: Southeastern Pennsylania Synod Assembly keynote presentation, “A Wake Up Call” (which the SEPA Assembly blog report headlined, “How have you been changed?" You just can't make this kind of stuff up!);

    • June 6-7, 2008: Metro Chicago Synod Assembly: plenary speaker, with pre-assembly workshop; and

    • June 7, 2008 Indiana-Kentucky Synod Assembly presentation (granted, at 7 am Saturday).
    This doesn't include the various synodically-sponsored workshops and teaching gigs, such as last week's "Being & Doing Church In The X-Box Era" for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago's 2008 Summer Session. "The goal of this course is to help participants (re)imagine what it means to be a missional leader in the 21st century..." Or "Acting Boldly for Mission," the Summer 2007 Bible Study in Lutheran Women Today, the magazine of the Women of the ELCA.

    Then coming up, Ms. Fryer mission for renewing the church takes her to:
    • July 3-6, 2008, Lutherans Concerned/North America biennial assembly; and

    • July 10-13, 2008: Evangelical Lutheran Women (the Canadian equivalent to the Women of the ELCA) Convention keynote speaker.
    Meanwhile, Shrimp has already seen a notice for Kelly Fryer and A.R.E.:
    • April 2009: Northern Texas - Northern Louisiana Synod Assembly.
    Where else on next year's Assembly circuit, with all those Memorial resolutions on a proposed ELCA Statement on Sexuality, will we find this muffin-baking entrepreneur helping transform the ELCA one Synod at a time?

    "The new obedience?" And has anyone brought objections to her appearances to any of the Bishops? Shrimp out.

    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    We Don't Need No Stinking Theology?

    Shrimp here. Courtesy of the latest issue of Lutheran True (who offer some thoughtful commentary of their own), here is an e-mail from Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod Bishop Michael Rinehart regarding Lura Groen's, uh, ordination at Grace Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas (find it here):
    Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,

    Some of you have been calling because you may have received an invitation to the "ordination" of Lura Groen at Grace, Houston. Here's some information in case you are curious.

    Grace Lutheran Church has been a lively Christian community in the Montrose area since 1921. This year (2008) they have chosen to call someone who is not on the clergy roster, in violation of ELCA policy and their own constitution. We are currently in consultation with this congregation.

    Last Fall, the president of Grace and a few members came to the synod office and shared with me that in addition to the names of potential pastors we had provided for Grace, leaders were considering someone who is not on the ELCA clergy roster, Lura Groen, a graduate of Philadelphia seminary who has never been through ELCA candidacy. I shared with the group some of my concerns with this potential action. Orientation is not the issue here, as Lura is not partnered. Rostering is the issue. Here are some of the concerns I raised with them:

    1. Calling someone who is not on the ELCA clergy roster is in violation of the congregation's constitution (*C6.03.c). It is also a breach of their covenant with the other ELCA congregations (9.21 and 9.22 of the ELCA constitution, found at

    2. Calling a pastor who is not on the ELCA clergy roster could open them up to disciplinary action.

    3. She will not be considered an ELCA pastor, and therefore will not be eligible to vote as a pastor at Synod Assembly.

    4. There may be challenges with regards to her health benefits and pension. She would be treated as a lay employee, and therefore not eligible for housing allowance.

    5. Accepting this call could jeapordize a future application to be on the ELCA clergy roster.

    The group did ask me if someone not the clergy roster of the ELCA would be eligible to vote at Synod Assembly as a lay member of the congregation. Lura could vote as a lay member of the congregation. She would have to be elected as one of the lay voting members.

    To be quite honest, availability for press interviews just prior to the event and preferred seating for the press left me and others with the feeling of a publicity stunt. In a subsequent conversation I let Lura know that I will not be available to attend the event. We are curious to know who will be officiating at this event. No ELCA bishop can ordain anyone who has not completed the candidacy requirements of the ELCA, so she would not be ordained into this church or any other church we are aware of.

    Please know that Grace and Lura are in my prayers daily, as I pray every morning for the congregations of this synod.Yours in Christ,

    Mike Rinehart

    Michael Rinehart, bishop
    The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    12707 North Freeway, Suite 580
    Houston, TX 77060-1239
    Yeah, it's all about being on the roster. It's not about why she is not on the roster. It's not about the theology she proclaims. It's not about the way of life she would bless in the name of Jesus. It's just that she's not been approved for ordination by a synod's Candidacy Committee, nothing more, nothing less.

    Questions: Is there a theologian in the ELCA Conference of Bishops? Or is episcopal oversight in the ELCA all about shuffling paperwork around?

    Having not offered any theological/spiritual advice, did Bishop Rinehart inquire with an employment or (clergy) tax consultant when offering legal advice in item #4?

    Will Bishop Rinehart actually seek public discipline of Grace Lutheran Church in Houston should they install Miss Groen as "pastor?"

    Shrimp out.

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    Interviewing a Bishop

    Shrimp back, with more from the York Daily Record, which seems to think Lutherans are newsworthy. For the newspaper also featured yesterday an interview with Lower Susquehanna Synod Bishop B. Penrose Hoover, who took office after being elected last year.
    The new Lutheran bishop had an eventful first 10 months as head of the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

    In September, Bishop B. Penrose Hoover, 61, of Fairview Township took the helm of the denomination's fourth largest regional governing body. The synod comprises 125,000 baptized members in York, Adams and seven other counties.

    Hoover had many plans, but much of his and his staffers' time was spent dealing with fallout from the arrest of the synod's long-time treasurer, who is accused of stealing more than $1 million in church funds.

    Starting today, Hoover presides over his first synod assembly -- a gathering of 900 clergy, staff and lay people at Messiah College that concludes Saturday.
    That's the introduction to an interview headlined, "Lutheran bishop weathers challenging year." Look at the questions:
  • One year after your election as bishop, can you describe the state of the synod?

  • The arrest and charges against former treasurer Barry Herr caused some loss of confidence in the synod for some local Lutherans. Are there any practical steps planned to help restore that trust?

  • I understand that as a result of the synod's handling of the Herr case, some congregations and clergy reacted by decreasing mission (monetary) support for the synod, acting hostilely toward synod staff and volunteers. There was some apathy and further division in the synod. What, if any, good came out of this experience?

  • What if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and change anything regarding the Herr case?

  • I understand the synod is seeking restitution for the money lost. Is there any money that the synod won't be able to collect?

  • Will there be an election for the office of treasurer at the synod assembly next week?

  • Who is handling the accounts now?

  • What were some of your goals for your first year leading the synod?

  • In your annual bishop's report, you issued a challenge to congregations to revisit, revise and reaffirm their statements of mission. Why will this be helpful to churches?

  • At the synod assembly this week, the York Conference will propose a resolution expressing concerns about the executive compensation packages of three top officers at Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, a synod-supported social services agency that covers parts of three states.

    What kind of contributions does the synod make to Diakon? Do you believe large compensation packages for Diakon executives are in conflict, or not, with the mission of this church-affiliated organization?

  • On top of that $2,000 that's given annually to Diakon, I'm guessing there might also be congregations who contribute beyond that to Diakon?

  • What do you think of your new job? Can you see yourself seeking a second term?

  • An article in The Lutheran magazine about your relationship with your daughter, Heidi, who's studying to become a rabbi, drew a lot of letters to the editor.

    Some people questioned why a Christian magazine would highlight the story of someone who had left the faith and questioned whether your approval of Heidi's decision meant church approval of her decision. What did you think of the article and the reaction to it?

  • A few months after you were consecrated, you took a month-long leave of absence to seek treatment for alcoholism.

  • How did you arrive at that decision? How did you know it was time to take action?

  • Did you worry at all that this would reflect badly on your cause or your position as champion and servant of the synod? That it would give your critics a reason to say, "Here's reason why he's not right for the job," or something like that?

  • When you can handle it, it's nice to have a drink at the end of the day to unwind, and that's something you can no longer do. You are a man with a stressful job, so how do you deal with the stress now?

  • Looking forward, can you talk about what your vision is for the synod, the synod office and the community of Lutherans here?
  • Wow. That's a pretty good grilling, and we commend Bishop Hoover for submitting to such an interview. We've never seen an ELCA bishop (or candidate for bishop) questioned so directly. For Bishop Hoover's responses to the York Daily Record, read the interview.

    Shrimp out.

    Nice Work If You Can Get It...

    "Diakon is derived from Greek words that mean service or servant, one assigned by the church to minister to the needs of others. 'But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.' (Matthew 23:11)" You'll find that quote here on the website of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, an ELCA-related social service agency that operates in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.

    Shrimp brings this up because Diakon is the subject of a resolution coming before the Lower Susquehanna Synod Assembly going on right now. A resolution that caught the notice of York (Penn.) Daily Record which yesterday headlined its story, "Lutheran conference questions nonprofit pay of $1M."

    The headline for the brief story in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Penn., is a bit more pointed: York Lutherans question $1 million paid to social services executive. But back to the York Daily Record:
    A local congress of Lutherans wants to know why the top executive of a large, church-affiliated social services agency has a compensation package topping $1 million.

    In 2006, the Rev. Dr. Daun E. McKee, CEO and president of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, collected $385,947 in salary, $582,925 in benefits and a $63,591 expense account for a total $1.03 million, according to tax records.

    McKee's compensation topped all other nonprofit executives in the region, according to the Central Penn Business Journal.

    Diakon officials defend McKee and other executives' pay, saying compensation at Diakon is appropriate and competitive and helps attract and retain leaders who are critical to meeting the organization's goals.

    The local Lutherans also expressed concern about compensation for two other Diakon executives who ranked Nos. 4 and 5 on the Journal's list of nonprofit compensation in the midstate:

    · Mark T. Pile, chief operating officer, $418,499 in compensation

    · Richard M. Barger, chief financial officer, $385,546 in compensation

    On Saturday, the York Conference of clergy and lay representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will take the data to a nine-county church assembly. They want the body to approve a resolution asking Diakon directors to explain their philosophy on executive pay.

    In the resolution, the York Conference cites the Lutheran confessions, Scripture and church social policy, which calls for lessening the disparities between pay for top executives and those under them....

    A charity of the ELCA, Diakon is a 2,300-employee nonprofit organization that operates 50 sites, including 12 senior-living communities, in eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.

    Diakon provides social service programs such as health care, nursing and rehabilitative care, adoption services and programs for at-risk youths to 70,000 clients a year. Its administrative offices are in Mechanicsburg and Allentown.

    During McKee's tenure, Diakon's budget has grown from $35 million at the organization's founding in 2000 to nearly $200 million. Its assets total $500 million.

    Leadership of such a complex organization "requires a level of expertise, a level of commitment and certainly a sense of mission in order for the organization to carry out its mission," said Susan Schellenberg, chairwoman of the board of directors.

    Because of its size and good management, the charity can afford to provide about $1 million per month in free or discounted services to clients who can't pay full price, Schellenberg said.

    "My feeling is if you believe in the organization, what you need to do is tout its mission and not get hung up on executive compensation," she said, referring to the York Conference.

    "I think the focus is wrong. There is nothing untoward here. There is nothing that flies in the face of any social statement of the ELCA."
    The Daily Record reports that Pastor McKee's benefits are nearly all pension related.
    Diakon officials said compensation to the three executives was higher in recent years because it included pension payments to the executives' employee retirement plans that were deferred from 1996 through the early 2000s.

    During that time, the organizations that later formed Diakon were involved in a series of affiliations, mergers and acquisitions, requiring the board's attention and extensive discussions, officials said.

    Once the new organization became more financially stable, the board focused on funding McKee's pension plan - a promise made when McKee was hired in 1995 by Lutheran Services Northeast, one of the two agencies that created Diakon in 2000 - officials said.

    McKee's pension pay in particular is higher because of his age - he'll be 65 this month - meaning Diakon has less time to make up the earlier unmade contributions.

    In 2006, 98 percent of the $582,925 McKee received in benefits was for retirement/pension plans, and the remainder for medical and other insurance, officials said.
    Hmm. Shrimp is a bit curious about how all that has been appearing on Diakon's audited financial statements, as well as the federal income tax consequences of such a compensation package, we'll point you read the entire article here and let you see what kinds of questions come to your mind.

    And if you're not in an ELCA synod that Diakon is affiliated with, you may be interested in this section:
    Compared with 50 years ago, nonprofit management is more challenging and complex in an environment of increased competition and regulation, especially in the health care industry, said Jill Schumann, president and CEO of Lutheran Services in America.

    The Baltimore-based network of 300 Lutheran health and human service agencies recommends its members use an external consultant and compare salary data with organizations similar in size, services and complexity when setting executive pay, Schumann said.

    At least 11 of the network's larger agencies - those with budgets of more than $50 million - reported in a survey last year they have executive salaries of more than $250,000.

    "It's really interesting to see that nonprofit compensation is evolving to look like for-profit organizations over time," Schumann said.
    You might remember that next time your local ELCA-related social services agency comes asking for money from you or your local legislator.

    Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    Reclaiming the "L" Word

    Shrimp here. Apart from having "Evangelical Lutheran Church in America" set as a default for our Google News page, we're not sure when we would have discovered this any time soon. But Google gets the Windy City Times and we thought the headline "Partnered pastors lead Loop Lutherans" worth a closer look.
    Kelly Fryer and Tana Kjos, the newly commissioned pastoral leaders of Christ the King Lutheran Church and partners in life, led worship last Sunday in the church's new summer home at the J. Ira & Nicki Harris Family Hostel on East Congress Parkway. Filling a second-floor meeting room at the hostel, about 30 worshipers sang to the music of Kevin Cline's jazz trio, prayed and celebrated Holy Communion.
    Yes, that Kelly Fryer, whose latest book, Reclaiming the "E" Word: Waking Up to Our Evangelical Identity is being touted at Augsburg Fortress displays during this Synod Assembly season. Kelly Fryer, who the Augsburg Fortress website describes as...
    ...a missiologist with nearly twenty years experience leading congregations in renewal. She is the author of the best-selling Reclaiming the "L" Word: Renewing the Church from Its Lutheran Core (2003, 978-0-8066-4596-4) and Reclaiming the ''C'' Word: Daring to Be Church Again (2006, 978-0-8066- 5319-8), in addition to writing for the No Experience Necessary Bible study series. Kelly taught congregational leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and now serves as executive director of A.R.E.: A Renewal Enterprise, which offers keynote speaking, renewal events, organizational consulting, and leadership coaching.
    The same Kelly Fryer who resigned as a professor at Luther Seminary and from the ELCA clergy roster. See her letter of 2 1/2 years ago which describes the "cataclysmic changes" of her life during her time at Luther Seminary which led to the ending of her marriage and the beginning of a lesbian (yes, the other "L" word) relationship.

    More from the Windy City Times:
    Christ the King Lutheran Church, founded in 1955, has always been a "church without walls," Fryer said, and moved to the Chicago hostel after needing to vacate its previous location at Old St. Mary's Catholic Church. Fryer, whose ministry has focused on renewing and redefining churches, moved to Chicago last fall, having served as assistant professor of congregational leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., since 2004.

    She spoke privately after the service about the changes in her life that led her to the position at Christ the King: "When I got to that point where I was able to just be honest with myself about my sexuality, I knew that I had two choices: I could either stay and fight—and many pastors are choosing to do that, and I honor that decision—or I could just resign from the Roster of ordained ministers. And that was the choice that I made."

    She said the reason for her choice was because "the same things that have always been important to me in ministry are still important to me, namely, to figure out how to do church and be church in a new way in this new culture. And I was really afraid that if I stayed and fought this battle [over being openly lesbian in the ministry] I would be unable to do that work. You know, that that would be the only thing everybody would hear, and they wouldn't hear all this other stuff, which I think people really need to hear."

    As a result, she feels enabled to continue "in creative new ways try to get out the message about the God who really loves, with no walls, no lines … and that's what I'm trying to do."

    Living with Kjos and their children in the Loop, they attended Christ the King Church, which lost its previous pastor at the end of last year. The parish was able to finesse the ban on openly gay clergy by naming them "pastoral leaders" with the full support of the Chicago Metropolitan Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bishop. So far, her new ministry has "been a blast," she said.

    Fryer's fame in the ECLA for thinking about new ways of "doing church" is reinforced by her being invited to be the plenary session speaker at the Chicago Metropolitan Synod's 21st Annual Synod Assembly Fri., June 6.
    Read the entire article here.

    But did you catch that? The same Kelly Fryer who is the plenary speaker for this weekend's Metro Chicago Synod Assembly. Or Bishop Wayne N. Miller's working with the congregation and Fryer to "finesse" ELCA standards.

    A bit more looking around reveals that she did announce it on her Reclaiming the F Word (now, now, she says it stands for "Faith") blog 2 weeks ago:
    I don't think I imagined ever doing this again - for all kinds of reasons - but as of a week ago Sunday I'm on the front lines of the renewal effort in a scrappy little church right here in my neighborhood. I'm serving as one of two "pastoral leaders" (let's be careful about the language here) at Christ the King Lutheran Church (CTK).
    Yes, let's be careful. We wouldn't want anyone to think she's an actual (ELCA) pastor, now, would we.
    Hit the wall about 6 months ago when their pastor resigned and the Catholic church where they've been worshipping for the past several years asked them to move out by summer — they need the room, the office administrator said in her email notice to the council president.

    My family and I had been worshipping at CTK for a couple of months, at that point.

    When we were in the room, we brought attendance up to about 18.

    It's been clear for quite awhile now that something needs to change.

    And, when the crisis hit, they asked us to help.

    We said, "Yes."

    The bishop approved.

    So, here I am. Trying to figure out what it means to help a new church emerge in an urban neighborhood at the turn of this postmodern, multi-cultural, institution-averse, spiritually curious century. Hands on. Again.

    I'm still working my butt off at A.R.E. This gig at CTK is very part-time and, in fact, it's technically an A.R.E. job.
    Read it all here.

    Thrilled yet? The news also shows up on the Christ the King Lutheran Church (ELCA) website, where you can "Meet Our Pastoral Leaders":
    Tana Kjos and Kelly Fryer, partners in life and in work, have been commissioned as the first ever "co-pastoral leaders" of Christ the King Lutheran Church (CTK), a faith community that for fifty years has committed itself to serving the loop/south loop. In addition to their work at CTK, Kelly & Tana are principals in A Renewal Enterprise, Inc., a consulting group that works with organizations of all types and sizes but specializes in helping progressive churches grow. Convinced that the people of CTK are serious about becoming a faith community that makes sense – and makes a positive difference — in this city and in the world, Tana & Kelly agreed to lead the renewal efforts of this "little church that could."

    "We believe that all people — regardless of race, age, ability, sexual orientation, or anything else — are welcome at any party Jesus throws!" Tana says.

    Tana has a background in design, a graduate degree in Congregational Mission & Leadership, and has spent over a decade in church renewal. Kelly served for fifteen years as a Lutheran pastor, seminary professor, and is a renowned author. Her books include "Reclaiming the C Word: Daring to be Church Again" (Augsburg Fortress, 2006) and "Dancing Down the Hallway: Spiritual Reflections for the Everyday" (Augsburg Fortess, 2001).

    Kelly and Tana have three children (between the ages of 15 & 21!) between them, and an appropriately named cat, Blizzard...
    and a link to the Chicago Free Press article, Lesbian couple leading renewal at Christ the King Lutheran
    The South Loop-based Christ the King Lutheran Church commissioned Tana Kjos and Kelly Fryer May 11 as co-pastoral leaders. The two women, who have been a couple for several years, are taking up duties normally assumed by a minister and leading the congregation through a large-scale renewal effort....

    The church serves a number of gay and lesbian members and Fryer expects, given their new home in the South Loop, there will be more.

    "We see increasing numbers of gay and lesbian couples in the neighborhood," Fryer said. Services, she added, usually bring in about 50 participants.

    Christ the King is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which Fryer said is "the most progressive of the Lutheran congregations." But she added the movement "is still divided" on its attitudes towards homosexuality.

    "We spend so much time fighting," Fryer said. "But change is coming. Every time we have a national assembly, we move a little closer."
    Glad to know that, aren't you. Read it all here.

    Anyway, watch for this Augsburg Fortress/ELCA evangelism guru. And when you see her spiel being hyped, don't forget to check out the Shellfish reports and conversation on Kelly Fryer here and here. It's all about the "L" word, after all.

    And you most likely read it here first. Shrimp out.

    The good ship ELCA...

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