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.

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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.

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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

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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."

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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.

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