Monday, December 22, 2008

Pope Benedict criticizes homosexual behavior

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict said Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
The Church "should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed," the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration.
"The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound."

The pope said humanity needed to "listen to the language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God's work."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No Mutual Joy: Response to Newsweek

Shrimp here, passing on a fine response to Newsweek's recent cover story, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage" or "Our Mutual Joy. Thanks to Lutheran CORE for the original.

No Mutual Joy:
Response to Newsweek

by Pr. Jonathan L. Jenkins
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
Lebanon, Penn.
Advent 2008

Even many religious conservatives want to be persuaded that they can believe in the Bible and support homosexual marriage. Lisa Miller (Newsweek, Dec. 15) raises their hopes in her opening sentence: "Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does." Religious conservatives would like to be taken at their word, for a change.

But the writer does not try. She says there isn't any biblical definition of marriage, and the very idea is ridiculous. "Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple... turn to the Bible as a how-to script? Of course not..." Apparently Miller hasn't heard about the countless numbers of couples around the world who benefit from doing exactly that!

"First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman." The writer never explicitly defines what she means by "explicitly defines." However, the very first time the Bible speaks of human beings, the command to marry and bear children is made "explicitly." (Genesis 1:27-31): "So God created man (adam — in Hebrew) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth...'"

Humankind is not created "male or female," nor does God first create them "male and female" only to decide later on that the man and the woman could also marry and have children. God creates marriage in the very act of creating humanity, in Genesis 1.

Genesis 2 "explicitly defines" marriage as one man and one woman — not with a "dictionary definition," but by relating a story that draws a conclusion. The LORD God made the woman from the rib of the man "and brought her to him" like the proud father of the bride (Genesis 2:18-25). "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother, and they become one flesh." "One flesh." One flesh in sexual union, one flesh in babies, one flesh in family life — the one flesh that is human history, from generation to generation. Even marriages that do not give birth to children exist in accord with, rather than in opposition to, this definition.

Another "defining" moment is Jesus' rejection of divorce as a violation of God's original intention (Mark 10:6-9): "But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.' ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'" Jesus makes "one man and one woman" a matter of principle: "So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate." A husband and wife need all the support they can get to maintain a stable marriage in which to raise the next generation. To depict gay relationships as comparable is to blur society's vision of the common good.

Does Jesus ever speak against homosexuality? "Yes" is the answer, despite repeated claims to the contrary. Jesus himself proscribed homosexual practice when he condemned not only "fornication" (porneia - in Greek) and "adultery" (moicheia - in Greek), but also the licentiousness" (aselgeia - in Greek) that elsewhere includes homosexual relations (see Mark 7:21-22 and 2 Peter 2:7).

Miller accuses religion of bigotry: "Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, but in custom and tradition (and to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument)." If so, Jesus is included in the indictment, too. In his teaching on sex and marriage, Jesus, the Jewish rabbi, never departs from the Scriptures of Israel. The Gospels are consistent with the remainder of the New Testament, in which some of Leviticus' laws are reaffirmed and reapplied to the new life in Christ.

"No sensible person," asserts Miller, "wants marriage — theirs or anyone else's — to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes." On the contrary, the apostle Paul's instruction to husbands in particular, that they "should love their wives as they do their own bodies," has transformed marriages for the better (Ephesians 5:28).

The writer's gratuitous insult exposes the vast difference between the church's way of reading Scripture and her own. A helpful term for her approach is "historicize": she reads "history" in order to "relativize" its claim on the present. Miller historicizes Genesis 2, for example, when she quotes Dr. Segal: "If you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world." ‘That was then, this is now' is how she reads the Bible.

Her approach imposes severe restrictions on the ways in which Scripture informs its hearers: "We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future." Even a casual reader of the Bible quickly recognizes, however, that "universal truths" are uncommon. The "universal truths" are tightly woven into a particular story. Indeed, the "universal truths" are specific promises and specific commands to a specific people, Israel.

Instead of timeless wisdom that applies to every time and place, the church reads Scripture for the narrative that now includes us among the people of Israel's God. To us, ancient, as well as contemporary practices are brought into focus through the lens of the whole story, from beginning to end.

Writers like Miller historicize the Bible in order mute its authority: "The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours." "Rules" are not the main subject of the Bible, as Miller ought to know, and their "face value" depends on their location in the narrative. The degree to which the ancient world is unlike our own must not be underestimated — or overstated, either. Miller's helter-skelter selection of examples is devoid of context and begs the question of continuity and discontinuity.

From the first page of Scripture to the last, marriage is the "gold standard" — the reality principle by which all sexuality is evaluated. Biblical prohibitions against fornication, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, adultery, lust, divorce, and homosexuality are made from the standpoint of marriage. The fact that monogamy did not become the norm in the Christian world in the 6th century is no more to the point than the fact that Christians regularly fall short of the norm. The "one man and one woman" norm must be received anew in every generation, and in our generation is under intense assault from several directions.

The most important question to ask writers like Miller concerns Jesus. Is Jesus alive or dead? The answer is decisive to the reading of Scripture. It is difficult, if not impossible to receive "inspiration" from a rabbi who has been dead for 2,000 years. But the church believes that Jesus is alive and is coming to complete his Father's kingdom on earth as it already is in heaven: therefore Scripture inspires us to know and to live for the world's true and ultimate good. Is Jesus alive, or does Miller historicize Easter, too? It's hard to tell what Miller believes, in view of her remark about what Jesus "would" do "if Jesus were alive today." The church believes the future belongs to Jesus: that makes Scripture relevant, no matter how old it is.

Miller correctly points out that Jesus "preaches a new kind of community, a caring community of believers, whose bond in God superseded all blood ties." So, too, she draws attention to the promise that in the resurrection there is no need for marriage, because life will be eternal and death will be no more (Matthew 22:30). But it is a spurious argument to defend homosexuality on this basis.

Marriage is a living image of the one-body-and-Spirit union of Christ and his bride, the church. St. Paul explains, "‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church." Marriage prefigures the final consummation — "I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven as a bride prepared for her husband" (Revelation 21:2).

The strongest consideration is one the writer never considers: human frailty. We live in a world divided by sin and death, as well as circumstance. There might be social value in civil unions — independent of gender — that would extend practical benefits to unmarried friends who desire to form a legal association. Domestic partnerships could grant rights having to do with visitation, taxes, inheritance, and insurance benefits. Such voluntary associations could be beneficial to groups of widows, celibate clergy, or single persons in the absence of family — relationships that do not depend on sexual desire. At least it is worth some discussion. Domestic partnerships are friendships, not marriage and would not endorse behavior that many Americans deem wrong. It's true, as she says, Jesus "does not want people to be lonely and sad" — but Jesus does not want people to sin, either.

All of us know that this response to Newsweek will be dismissed as "homophobia," but such dismissals are unpersuasive and have lost their power to intimidate — as a majority of the citizens of California recently demonstrated.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another Extraordinary Call

Shrimp here. Last All Saints Sunday Calvary Lutheran Church in Minneapolis voted to call Brad Froslee as it's next pastor. His first Sunday will be January 11, 2009. In making that announcement the November edition of the church newsletter, Calvary's Crossroads, reminds the good folk of Calvary Lutheran,
Please join in welcoming Pastor Brad and his partner, Bill.
Shrimp doesn't think they mean business partner.

Froslee is among those listed in A Place Within My Walls, the devotional booklet distributed by goodsoil at the last ELCA Churchwide Assembly. He is Camp Director for The Naming Project, whose Camp Out is the subject of a short documentary (now out -- sorry -- on DVD) of the same title. And he's written this devotion drawn from the scene where Joshua and the Israelites are about to cross into the Promised Land as the 40-year Exodus concludes:
...Having come to a place of wholeness and promise as child of God, I found myself now wrestling with a church trying to make its way through its own wilderness of sexuality and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons serving as clergy. It has been a journey for me…it has been a longer journey for many others…and certainly it has been a long and challenging journey for this community we call the Church.

Yet, now, as I stand as a gay man ordained to serve as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I am well aware of the Promised Land to which we are called. We stand at the banks of the river preparing to cross over. We will carry with us our lived experience, the memory and the promise of those who have gone before us, the profound sense of grace that God instills in us as a church, and most importantly we will look to the God who calls and challenges us to live into promise...
Froslee has been serving St. Luke Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) since his 2004 ordination by the ELCA's Minneapolis Area Synod (and you wondered if the Formula of Agreement had any real impact) and he remains on the ELCA roster of ministers.

Despite our title for this post, Froslee is not on any Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster. He is, though, one of the planners of the new pan-Lutheran LGBT Ministerium founded by Lutherans Concerned just before their Hearts on Fire assembly last summer.

Shrimp out, er, signing off.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Religious proponents of gay marriage routinely ignore or twist the major arguments in Scripture and philosophy against homosexual practice."

"The cover story by Religion Editor Lisa Miller in the Dec. 15, 2008 issue of Newsweek, wholeheartedly endorsed by Managing Editor Jon Meacham, is a perfect case in point."

Prof. Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Dec. 10, 2008,
© 2008 Robert A. J. Gagnon
For a PDF file click here

As its cover story for the Dec. 15, 2008 issue, the editors of Newsweek offer readers a hopelessly distorted and one-sided propaganda piece on “gay marriage” entitled “Our Mutual Joy.” The 2800-word article is by Lisa Miller, religion editor and author of the “Belief Watch” column for the magazine (her academic credential is a B.A. in English at Oberlin College). She claims that Scripture actually provides strong support for validating homosexual unions and no valid opposition to “committed” homosexual practice. She quotes from scholars such as Neil Elliott and “the great Bible scholar” Walter Brueggemann, who are strongly supportive of “gay marriage.”
There is not the slightest effort on Miller’s part to think critically about her own line or reasoning. The lone voice that she cites against homosexual practice is not from a scholar but from a certain Rev. Richard Hunter, a United Methodist minister who offered a short comment for a “roundtable” discussion sponsored by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the thousand pages or so that I have written on the subject over the past decade Miller cites not a word, including my critique of Elliott’s untenable claim that Paul in Romans 1:24-27 was thinking only of the exploitative homosexual intercourse practiced by depraved emperors like Nero and Caligula; and my critique (pp. 11-12) of “Brueggemann’s” use of Gal 3:28 (“there is [in Christ] no ‘male and female’”) as support for homosexual unions (my critique is directed at Prof. Stacy Johnson of Princeton Seminary but it applies equally to Brueggemann’s claim).
Miller’s article reminds me of the equally distorted (but thankfully much shorter) op-ed article put out in The New York Times four years ago by Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof (“God and Sex,” Oct. 23, 2004). My response to Kristof, “‘God and Sex’ or ‘Pants on Fire’?”, showed how bad that piece was. My response to Miller will do the same. This essay has three primary components: a discussion of Scripture apart from the witness of Jesus; a discussion of Jesus’ witness; and concluding thoughts, which takes in also Meacham’s “Editor’s Desk” column.

The Witness of Scripture apart from Jesus
Miller’s strategy is to argue three things: first, that the image of marriage in Scripture is so alien to anything that would be acceptable to us today that we should run as fast as we can from any appeal to Scripture against “gay marriage”; second, that Scripture has little if anything to say against caring homosexual relationships; and, third, that Scripture contains “universal truths” (concerning “what the Bible teaches about love” and family) that are serviceable for promoting “gay marriage.” In a statement that can only be regarded as delusional in the extreme, Miller arrogantly declares as if she were some sort of expert on the subject: “Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.”
To arrive at her ideological objective Miller makes a number of bad moves. She exaggerates discontinuity and downplays continuity between marriage values in Scripture and our own values. She engages in a distorted form of analogical reasoning that elevates distant analogies like slavery and haircuts over close analogies, with far more points of correspondence, like adult-committed incest. She shows little or no understanding of the historical and literary contexts of the texts that she treats. She ignores just about every major argument against the positions that she espouses. And she extrapolates, from certain “universal truths” in Scripture, illogical conclusions that would have appalled the scriptural authors, like assuming that generic love is a sufficient prerequisite for sexual relationships.
A Strong Male-Female Prerequisite throughout Scripture
A male-female prerequisite is powerfully evident throughout the pages of Scripture. Every biblical narrative, law, proverb, exhortation, metaphor, and poetry that has anything to do with sexual relations presupposes such a prerequisite. Even the male-dominated society of ancient Israel imaged itself as Yahweh’s wife so as to avoid any connotation of a marriage between members of the same sex (an image replicated in the New Testament as regards Christ and his bride, the church). There are plenty of laws in the Old Testament delimiting acceptable and unacceptable sexual relationships between a man and a woman. Never is there any attempt to make such a distinction for same-sex sexual relationships, for the obvious reason that no homosexual relationships are deemed acceptable.
Miller makes much of the fact that the Bible condemns homosexual practice only in “a handful of passages,” while neglecting a number of relevant texts: the narratives of Sodom and of the Levite at Gibeah; the texts from Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History dealing with cultic figures known to play the female role in sex with men (the qedeshim); the interpretation of the Sodom story in Ezekiel, Jude, and 2 Peter; Jesus’ discussion of marriage in Mark 10 (parallel in Matthew 19); and Paul’s mention of “men who lie with a male” in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10 (for a discussion of why these texts indict homosexual practice per se go here, pp. 46-50, 56-57, 72-73).
What of Miller’s argument based on frequency of explicit mention? Bestiality is mentioned even less in the Bible than homosexual practice and incest gets only comparable treatment, yet who would be so foolish as to argue that Jews and Christians in antiquity would have regarded sex with an animal or sex with one’s mother as inconsequential offenses? Infrequency of mention is often an indicator that the matter in question is foundational rather than insignificant. You don’t have to talk a lot about something that most everyone agrees with and that few persons, if any, violate.

Scripture’s male-female prerequisite for marriage and its attendant rejection of homosexual behavior is pervasive throughout both Testaments of Scripture (i.e. it is everywhere presumed in sexual discussions even when not explicitly mentioned); it is absolute (i.e. no exceptions are ever given, unlike even incest and polyamory); it is strongly proscribed (i.e. every mention of it in Scripture indicates that it is regarded as a foundational violation of sexual ethics); and it is countercultural (i.e. we know of no other culture in the ancient Near East or Greco-Roman Mediterranean basin more consistently and strongly opposed to homosexual practice). If this doesn’t qualify as a core value in sexual ethics in Scripture, there is no such thing as a core value in any religious or philosophical tradition.

The Implication of the Creation Texts for a Male-Female Prerequisite
The creation text in Genesis 2:21-24 pictures woman as coming from the undifferentiated human’s “side” (probably a better translation than “rib”), emphasizing that man and woman may (re)unite as “one flesh” because out of one flesh they emerged. The text states four times that the woman was “taken from” the “human” (adam, thereafter referred to as an ish or man), underscoring that woman, not another man, is the missing sexual “complement” or “counterpart” to man (so the Hebrew term negdo, which stresses both human similarity, “corresponding to him,” and sexual difference, “opposite him”). Within the story line may (re)unite into “one flesh” precisely because together they reconstitute a sexual whole. This is a different kind of story from the traditional Mesopotamian story of the creation of woman in Atra-hasis where seven human males and seven human females are formed separately from a mixture of clay and the flesh and blood of a slaughtered god.

To be sure, the story in Genesis 2:21-24 involves images of transcendent realities that do not have to be taken literally in all details. Nevertheless, the story beautifully conveys the point that man and woman are each other’s sexual complement, ordained by God for sexual pairing if sexual relations are to be had (see my discussion here, pp. 8-11). Referring to Alan Segal, professor of early Judaism at Barnard University, Miller claims that Genesis 2:21-24 could not contain any negative implications for polygamy because the text “was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world” and is part of a Bible “written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God.” Most people in the synagogues and churches recognize that the latter description is a false antithesis, that Scripture, while having a human element is not merely the compilation of human ideas. Moreover, in writing about an ideal beginning, it would not at all be unusual for an author to reflect on the fact that “the way of the world” is not necessarily God’s perfect will.

As we shall see, this was certainly Jesus’ understanding of Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. He understood the deep logic of these texts—the fact that God created two sexes out of one flesh and conceived of them as a sexual pair “male and female”—as indicating the self-contained sexual wholeness of the two-in-one union. He predicated his view of marital twoness, along with its incompatibility with both concurrent and serial polygamy, on the very twoness of the sexes ordained by God at creation. Paul, in his two main indictments of homosexual practice (Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9), clearly echoed the same two creation texts stressed by Jesus as normative for sexual ethics.

Miller also dismisses any negative implications for “gay marriage” in Genesis 1:27-28, where “male and female” are spoken of as a sexual pair (compare Genesis 5:2; 6:19; 7:3, 9, 16) and commanded to “be fruitful and multiply.” “The Bible authors could never have imagined the brave new world of international adoption and assisted reproductive technology—and besides, heterosexuals who are infertile or past the age of reproducing get married all the time.” Her argument misses the point. The author of Genesis 1:27-28 would not have viewed an infertile male-female union with the abhorrence associated in ancient Israel toward a man-male union. Male-female complementarity exists independently of whether any procreation actually takes place.

Miller’s argument is comparable to reducing the argument against adult-committed incest to the increased likelihood of birth defects. The inherent biological incapacity for two men or two women to reproduce, like the higher incidence of birth defects in the offspring of an incestuous union, is the symptom of a root problem: too much structural sameness or likeness among the participants in the sexual union.

While not reducing “the image of God” to being “male and female,” the author of Genesis 1:27 indicates that God’s image and human sexual differentiation and pairing are uniquely integrated: “And God created the human in his image, in the image of God he created it [or: him], male and female he created them.” As Nahum Sarna notes in the Jewish Publication Society commentary on Genesis, “No such sexual differentiation is [explicitly] noted in regard to animals. Human sexuality is of a wholly different order from that of the beast…. Its proper regulation is subsumed under the category of the holy, whereas sexual perversion is viewed with abhorrence as an affront to human dignity and as a desecration of the divine image in man.” An attempt at uniting sexually two males or two females would threaten to mar the image of God stamped on humans as complementary sexual beings.

Paul’s indictment of homosexual practice and view of marriage
In Romans 1:24-27 Paul portrayed homosexual practice as “sexually impure,” “unnatural,” and “indecent” or “shameful” behavior that “dishonors” the participants. How does it dishonor the participants? The logic of a male-female sexual bond is that the two primary sexual halves are united into a single sexual whole. But the logic of homosexual unions is that two half-males or two half-females unite sexually to form a whole person of the same sex, whereas the true missing sexual element of a man is a woman and vice versa. It is, at one and the same time, sexual narcissism and sexual self-deception. One may be in need of structural affirmation as a male or female, but not structural supplementation.
1. Was Paul’s indictment of homosexual practice limited to violent forms?
Miller tries out the argument that Paul’s remarks against homosexual practice in Romans 1:24-27 were directed only at certain exploitative (“violent”) forms of homosexual practice (citing Neil Elliott). This argument won’t work, for many reasons (online readers can see a more extended discussion not only in my critique of Elliott posted several years ago here, but also in my more recent discussions here [pp. 5-10], here [pp. 12-18], here [pp. 3-15], here [pp. 62-85], and here [pp. 206-65]).

First, in Romans 1:23-27 Paul intentionally echoed Genesis 1:26-27, making eight points of correspondence, in the same tripartite structure, between the two sets of texts (humans/image/likeness, birds/cattle/reptiles, male/female). In establishing this link to Genesis 1:26-27, Paul was rejecting homosexual practice not in the first instance because of how well or badly it was done in the Greco-Roman milieu but rather because it was a violation of the male-female prerequisite for sexual relations ordained by the Creator at creation. Moreover, Paul contended, it was a violation that should be obvious even to Gentiles without the Jewish Scriptures since God had given obvious clues to male-female complementarity in the anatomical, physiological, and psychological makeup of “male and female.”

This brings us to the second point: the kind of nature argument that Paul employs in Romans 1:18-27 isn’t conducive to a distinction between exploitative and nonexploitative forms of homosexual practice. According to Paul in Romans 1:19-20, “the knowable aspect of God is visible [or: apparent] to them [i.e. Gentiles] because…. ever since the creation of the world his invisible qualities are clearly seen, being mentally apprehended by means of the things made” (1:19-20). Such a nature argument in the first-century milieu is hardly surprising. As Thomas K. Hubbard notes in his magisterial sourcebook of texts pertaining to Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: “Basic to the heterosexual position [in the first few centuries A.D.] is the characteristic Stoic appeal to the providence of Nature, which has matched and fitted the sexes to each other” (p. 444).

Third, the way Paul words the indictment in Rom 1:27—“males, having left behind the natural use of the female, were inflamed with their yearning for one another”—precludes a limitation to coercive relationships.

Fourth, there is plenty of evidence from the Greco-Roman milieu, both for the conception and for the existence, of loving homosexual relationships, including semi-official “marriages” between men and between women. Moreover, we know of some Greco-Roman moralists who acknowledged the existence of loving homosexual relationships while rejecting even these as unnatural (indeed, we can trace this idea back to Plato’s Laws). And it should go without saying that Jewish writers in Paul’s day and beyond rejected all forms of homosexual activity. For example, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus stated the obvious to his Roman readers: “The law [of Moses] recognizes only sexual intercourse that is according to nature, that which is with a woman…. But it abhors the intercourse of males with males” (Against Apion 2.199). It is hardly surprising, then, that even Louis Crompton, a homosexual scholar, acknowledges in his massive work, Homosexuality and Civilization (Harvard University Press) this point. “However well-intentioned,” the interpretation that

Paul’s words were not directed at “bona fide” homosexuals in committed relationships…. seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian.

Fifth, Paul’s indictment of lesbianism in Romans 1:26 further confirms that his indictment of homosexual practice is absolute, since female homosexuality in antiquity was not primarily known, or criticized, for the exploitative practices of sex with slaves, prostitutes, or children. And there can be little doubt that Paul was indicting female homosexuality, as evidenced by: (1) the parallelism of the language of 1:26 (“females exchanged the natural use”) and 1:27 (“likewise also the males leaving behind the natural use of the female”); (2) the fact that in antiquity lesbian intercourse was the form of female intercourse most commonly labeled “contrary to nature” and paired with male homosexual practice; (3) the fact of nearly universal male opposition to lesbianism in antiquity, even by men engaged in homosexual practice; and (4) the fact that lesbian intercourse was the dominant interpretation of Romans 1:26 in the patristic period.

Miller is full of mistakes on the issue of lesbianism. She claims: “Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire” as male homosexual practice. In the Greco-Roman milieu it generally raised more ire; it was thus a less debatable point and could be taken for granted that it was wrong (as lesbian New Testament scholar Bernadette Brooten notes in her book Love between Women). Miller adds: “In its entry on ‘Homosexual Practices,’ the Anchor Bible Dictionary [sic—ABD has no such entry; Miller must be referring to the entry “Sex”] notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women.” The last time I checked, Romans 1:26 was part of the Bible. The author of the entry, T. Frymer-Kensky, was speaking only about the Old Testament, not about the New Testament, much less about Jews in the Second Temple Period and beyond. Miller cites Frymer-Kensky’s reason for the lack of an explicit prohibition of lesbianism in Israelite law: "possibly because it did not result in true physical 'union' (by male entry)." Yet it is just as likely that it went unmentioned simply because in the tightly-controlled, male-dominated societies of the ancient Near East lesbian activity by women was virtually impossible or at least, to judge from the dearth of texts on the subject in the ancient Near East, virtually unknown by males.

In short, there is no realistic possibility that Paul’s indictment of homosexual practice—or, for that matter, the indictment by any Jew in antiquity of such behavior—was limited to certain exploitative, “violent” homosexual acts.

To read the rest return to the top and click for pdf file.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage and the Failure of Justificatory Liberalism

Same-Sex Marriage and the Failure of Justificatory Liberalism
By Francis J. Beckwith

On November 4, 2008, the people of California—in a 52 to 48 percent vote—placed in the state’s constitution an amendment that reaffirmed that marriage consists of one man and one woman. The amendment, Proposition 8, overturned the California Supreme Court’s May 2008 ruling that invalidated a statute that was passed in 2000 in a statewide referendum by a 61 to 39 percent vote. That 2008 opinion held that limiting marriage to one man and one woman, as required in the 2000 statute, violated the equal protection rights of homosexuals under the California constitution.

Following the Proposition 8 victory, thousands of its opponents protested in a number of California venues including in front of the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange County. The rage and anger exhibited toward the Latter-day Saint and Evangelical believers who were present during the protests was palpable. The protesters were clearly blaming their loss on the effort and organizational and financial support of LDS citizens as well as Pastor Warren’s vocal backing for Proposition 8.

There is a certain irony in seeing those who speak so often of tolerance and understanding using the occasion of a political loss to unleash a torrid of vitriol that no one would ever confuse with tolerance and understanding if the perpetrators were burning crosses or Dixie Chick CDs. And yet the perpetrators in this instance, the losers in the Prop 8 election, do not see it that way. They see the absence of same-sex marriage from our legal regime as a grave injustice that must be remedied by any means necessary. For them, tolerance does not extend to injustice.

But then the initial argument, offered to the general public several decades ago—the call for the wider society to be tolerant of homosexuality—was something of a ruse. Many of us were under the impression that the requirement of tolerance entailed that citizens were in fact permitted to offer negative or positive judgments about the objects of their toleration, and in some instances shape policy consistent with those judgments. After all, one does not tolerate that with which one agrees; one embraces it. One can only tolerate that with which one disagrees. This is why the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles is misnamed. One ought not to be merely tolerant of one’s fellow human beings; one ought to embrace them as persons with intrinsic dignity made in the image of God. Of course, what these persons believe and practice for a variety of subjects—including religion and human sexuality—are the proper objects of tolerance.

See it all at today's First Things: On the Square.

Three new resources:

From Christianity Today:

"Last week Newsweek published their cover story on gay marriage, attempting to offer a religious defense of gay marriage. In response, this week Christianity Today provides an in-depth look at why marriage was designed for male and female only. Read "What God Hath Not Joined," and then take a look at Glenn Stanton's thoughts on why it's worthwhile to publicly argue for traditional marriage in "Up for Debate."

"Then in a new article from Marriage Partnership, Gary Chapman shares how Jesus' life and teachings relate to marriage and how we can live them out daily. Read his thoughts in "The Gospel Truth."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

CORE Connection - December 2008

A PDF version of this newsletter is available online at

We encourage you to read the newsletter in its PDF form if possible.

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

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

Lutheran CORE opposes different standards in each synod

Leaders of Lutheran CORE have drafted an Open Letter calling on ELCA leaders to affirm and to maintain current standards for pastors and other rostered leaders limiting intimate sexual relations to the marriage relationship of one man and one woman.

The Open Letter - addressed to the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, the ELCA Church Council, and the ELCA Conference of Bishops - specifically rejects changing ELCA structure to allow individual synods or congregations to have separate standards for clergy. Some consider this type of proposal - usually called "synodical option" - the most likely recommendation to come from the task force.

The task force issued a similar recommendation in 2005 which would have allowed a synod bishop to grant an exception to ELCA standards to permit a pastor to be in a committed same-sex relationship. That recommendation was rejected by the 2005 Churchwide Assembly.

The 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted "to direct the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality specifically to address and to make recommendations to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any church policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church."

The task force is scheduled to release its recommendations on whether the ELCA should change its teaching and policy to allow pastors and other rostered leaders to be in same-sex sexual relationships on Thursday, Feb. 19. Its proposed text of an ELCA social statement on human sexuality will also be released that day.

The Open Letter is signed by the 11 members of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee and the 18 members of the Lutheran CORE Advisory Council. These groups include ELCA pastors, prominent theologians, and retired bishops. The open letter with the list of signers and is online at

Following is the text of the Open Letter:

An Open Letter on Synodical Option
to the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality
and the ELCA Church Council
and Conference of Bishops

A debate continues in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America about whether to change church teaching and policy to allow pastors and other rostered leaders to be in same-sex sexual relationships. The 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted "to direct the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality specifically to address and to make recommendations to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any church policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church."

As members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - both pastors and lay people - we care deeply about the life and ministry of the ELCA. Because of our commitment to Christ, the Word of God, and the Church, we call on the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, the ELCA Church Council, and the ELCA Conference of Bishops to affirm and to maintain the clear standard that the ELCA and its predecessor churches have held for the sexual behavior of pastors - that intimate sexual relations are to be reserved for the marriage of one man and one woman. This is the standard that has characterized Christian teaching on marriage from apostolic times and is maintained today by the overwhelming majority of Christians worldwide.

Some have suggested allowing synods or congregations to set their own standards for pastors. Such an approach - usually called synodical option - would effectively dissolve the ELCA. The chaos described in the book of Judges could then describe the ELCA - "all the people did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 17:6). A similar recommendation, which would have allowed synod bishops to grant exceptions to ELCA behavior standards to permit pastors to be in committed same-sex relationships, was defeated by the 2005 Churchwide Assembly. The ELCA must reject such an approach.

Synodical option is not a real compromise at all. Its adoption would force synods and congregations to agree that there are multiple biblical teachings on these matters. Synodical option would represent a real change in the teaching of our church. Even those synods and congregations that might not agree with this change would be forced by synodical option implicitly to accept the notion that Scripture is not clear on this subject.

If the ELCA is to continue as one church, it must have one Office of Ministry, one roster of pastors, and one set of expectations for pastors and other rostered leaders throughout the ELCA. Without a common roster of pastors and common expectations for pastors and other rostered leaders, it would be very difficult for pastors to move from one synod to another. Such an approach would effectively divide the ELCA into 65 separate church bodies - each with its own standards for clergy and its own clergy roster.

The interdependent relationship between the churchwide, synod, and congregational expressions of the ELCA requires one standard for clergy throughout the ELCA. Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America correctly states that "Pastoral identity carries with it expectations and accountabilities that are determined by the whole church and not simply by a given congregation, synod, institution, or agency served by the ordained minister."

Vision and Expectations also states that "the ordained minister is to be an example of holy living, so that the ordained minister's life does not become an impediment to the hearing of the gospel or a scandal to the community of faith. . . . Ordained ministers, whether married or single, are expected to uphold an understanding of marriage in their public ministry as well as in private life that is biblically informed and consistent with the teachings of this church." We affirm this commitment of the ELCA.

We understand the desire of some ELCA members for a compromise on same-sex sexual relationships given the debates raging in some ELCA synods. However, given the Bible's clear affirmation of marriage as between a man and a woman and its clear rejection of homosexual behavior, it is not possible for the ELCA to allow its pastors to be in same-sex sexual relationships without rejecting biblical teaching on sexuality and thus rejecting Scripture as "the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life" (ELCA Confession of Faith - ELCA Constitution 2.03). The question of the authority of the Bible in the Church is not something on which a compromise can be reached. The ELCA either remains committed to Scripture as "the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life" or the ELCA will have chosen to deny its Confession of Faith and chosen to function with a different source and norm for its faith and life.

It is also important to note that a significant majority of ELCA members (57 percent) opposed the ordination of those in same-sex sexual relationships and the blessing of same-sex relationships, according to responses to the 2004 Journey Together Faithfully study on homosexuality. Only 22 percent favored the blessing of homosexual relationships or the rostering of people in those relationships, according to the study's responses. While popular opinion is not a reason to make decisions in a confessional church committed to Scripture as "the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life," the faithful confession of such a significant majority of ELCA members should not be ignored or rejected.

The words of Jesus are an important reminder for those who suggest that we celebrate the divisions in the ELCA regarding homosexual behavior: "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand" (Matthew 12:25). We have seen the truth of Jesus' words in the divisions taking place in The Episcopal Church and in other church bodies that have adopted, in effect, a synodical option. The teaching of Scripture and of the Christian Church throughout the ages is clear on these matters. The only question is whether the ELCA will acknowledge this reality.

We offer this letter because of our commitment to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We will continue to pray for the ELCA and for all those entrusted with leadership in the Church.

Lutheran CORE
Steering Committee

Lutheran CORE
Advisory Council

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

ELCA council says majority enough to change sexuality standards

By Mark C. Chavez
Director of Lutheran CORE

The ELCA Church Council decided at its meeting Nov. 15-17 in Chicago to recommend a simple majority vote at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on recommendations from the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality and the ELCA Church Council regarding the rostering of practicing homosexuals as pastors and ministers.

The Constitutional and Legal Committee of the Church Council had voted unanimously prior to the meeting, with some abstentions, to recommend a two-thirds vote on all resolutions or memorials that relate to the subject of the social statement on sexuality, including the rostering proposals. The committee gave four reasons for recommending a two-thirds vote:

1. It sets a clear rule for all matters and heads off potential confusion and ambiguity.

2. Since the social statement needs a two-thirds vote all matters relating to it should also require a two-thirds vote.

3. If the council wants the Churchwide Assembly to move toward communal discernment, then a two-thirds vote helps move the Churchwide Assembly in that direction.

4. The Church Council (and Churchwide Assembly) will have to deal with the rules anyway, so the committee's recommendation was a starting point for discussion.

During the council's discussion of the committee's recommendation, an amendment was offered to lower the bar from two-thirds to 60 percent, but that amendment was overwhelmingly defeated.

Next an amendment was offered to delete the two-thirds rule, thereby making it a simple majority decision. After much discussion the council approved the amendment 19-10, with one abstention.

Council member Mark Helmke, from San Antonio, Texas, then offered an amendment to restore the 2005 Churchwide Assembly two-thirds rule, which applied to changes in existing ELCA policies (the 2005 rule was narrower in scope than the two-thirds rule recommended by the Constitutional and Legal Committee).

A council member requested a written ballot (not normally used) for the vote on the Helmke amendment. The amendment was defeated 18-14 with two abstentions.

The Constitutional and Legal Committee did very good work. The committee's arguments for the two-thirds rule were articulate and logical, and the committee demonstrated great care for the well being of the ELCA.

However, a clear majority of the council wants the ELCA to approve of rostering practicing homosexuals as soon as possible - this was stated in the discussion - and voted for a simple majority rule even though the decision flies in the face of all the council's other priorities.

Most of the council meeting was taken up with serious matters - how to reverse the steady decline in benevolence from congregations to the synods and churchwide organization; how to reverse the steady and accelerating loss of ELCA members; what to do about the worst ever drop in average worship attendance; how to increase the multiracial and multicultural composition of the ELCA; how to move toward communal discernment at Churchwide Assemblies so there is less vying for votes and outcomes with winners and losers; and how to strengthen ecumenical relationships.

The majority on the council that is dead set to get the ELCA to change its standards for ministry is apparently willing to sacrifice just about everything to attain its goal.

The ELCA suffered a big loss in benevolence after the fiasco in 1993 with the first draft of a social statement on human sexuality and ELCA leaders know it could happen again if the 2009 assembly approves ordaining practicing homosexuals.

The council heard a report from churchwide staff and a consultant about a possible five-year major initiative (appeal for funds) in conjunction with the ELCA's 25th anniversary. The consultant said that in working with the churchwide staff it was clear that the major initiative would need contingency plans for the possible outcomes of the 2009 assembly. He said the ELCA could be a very different church after next August, a clear reference to the decision on rostering practicing homosexuals.

Does the majority on the council not realize that by pushing its homosexual agenda it could lead the ELCA into deeper financial troubles?

Every other denomination in North America that has approved of practicing homosexuals as ministers has suffered huge membership losses - 30 to 50 percent. Most have done nothing more than approve of the equivalent of a local or synodical option. Does the majority on the church council think that the ELCA will be the exception and not suffer a huge membership loss?

The Rev. Stephen Bouman, executive director of the Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission churchwide unit, told the council that the ELCA's new mission congregations have not thrived, especially those connected with ethnic strategies. He said that thus far "ethnic strategies are just words" in the ELCA. Action and results are needed.

ELCA Secretary David Swartling reported that most of the increase in the multi-racial composition of the ELCA is the result of marriages - in other words, not drawing in new members and families who are not Caucasian.

Does the majority on the church council not know that non-Caucasian people - Christians and people of other faiths - overwhelmingly disapprove of homosexual behavior?

If the ELCA changes its standards for ministry it will make it all the more difficult for ELCA congregations to reach Latinos, Asians and African Americans, not to mention immigrants from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Is the majority on the council willing to sacrifice its multicultural and multiracial goals for the sake of one narrow goal?

The Church Council is disturbed by the divisive votes of recent Churchwide Assemblies, but the surest way to increase the divisiveness is to lower the bar to a simple majority for very important decisions. The Legal and Constitutional Committee had it right - raise the bar higher, not lower. Is the majority on the council unable to see that its decision will make assemblies even more contentious and divisive?

The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches have made it very clear that their relationship with The Episcopal Church is severely ruptured because of the local option by diocese that exists in The Episcopal Church.

Lutheran churches in the Lutheran World Federation in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America have made it very clear that if the ELCA and other Lutheran churches approve of homosexual behavior, the unity of the Lutheran World Federation is at stake.

Does the majority of the council not know that its single-minded focus on homosexuality may well undermine more than 50 years of ecumenical work and cut off the ELCA from most of the Christian churches in the world?

Perhaps the most tragic dimension of the majority's decision is the certain damage that will be done to ELCA congregations should the ELCA change its ministry standards. Many congregations will lose members and many will be deeply divided - some already are.

The majority on the council is concerned about pastoral care for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, but seemingly oblivious to the overwhelming pastoral care that will be needed for millions of members and thousands of congregations should the majority on the council have its way.

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

What's next for the ELCA sexuality social statement?

ELCA members still have two opportunities to shape the social statement that will be considered by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

On Thursday, Feb. 19, the Task Force will release its proposed text of an ELCA social statement on human sexuality and its recommendations on whether the ELCA should change its teaching and policy to allow pastors and other rostered leaders to be in same-sex sexual relationships.

Synod Councils may respond to the Task Force recommendations and offer advice to the ELCA Church Council through resolutions prior to the council's March 27-29 meeting.

2009 ELCA Synod Assemblies may respond to the church council's recommended social statement text and to its recommendations regarding standards for pastors and other rostered leaders through memorials and resolutions.

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

Lutheran CORE planning tables for 2009 Synod Assemblies

Lutheran CORE is planning to have information tables at 2009 ELCA Synod Assemblies.

In order to make this possible, Lutheran CORE is seeking volunteers in each of the ELCA's 65 synods to request and to set up a display table for their synod assembly.

"It should be a great way to publicize the work in the reform movement, get information out to key church leaders, and to put a warm, human face on our work," explained the Rev. Mark Braaten, pastor of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Tyler, Texas, who is coordinating the project. Pastor Braaten is also chair of Lutheran CORE Congregations also known as LC3 - Lutheran Churches of the Common Confession.

Lutheran CORE will provide the resources for the table and will cover any charge for the table by synods.

"We are in the process of assembling everything needed for the display tables. We are getting brochures, posters, articles, handouts, etc. We will mail these items to people who host the display tables," Pastor Braaten said.

"I'm excited about this possibility. I see this as a great opportunity to publicize our work, and to connect with more people and congregations. We do have a number of synods where we already have volunteers to do this," he added.

If you have questions, or would like to volunteer, please contact Pastor Braaten at or 903-561-1865.

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

"A Different Gospel Christianity at Risk"

"A Different Gospel - Christianity at Risk" was the theme of the 2008 WordAlone Network Fall Theological Conference Nov. 9-11 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fridley, Minn. The conference addressed the depth of the theological crises within the ELCA and other Protestant denominations in North America.

The Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, retired Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina, made two presentations: "The Episcopal Church: The Canary in the Culture's Coal Mine" and "Free Will: The Human Pretension to Autonomy." The Rev. Scott Grorud, an ELCA pastor and Lutheran CORE Steering Committee member, presented "Wresting the Wheel from God: Theological Roots of the Current Crisis in Christianity."

The WordAlone Network is one of the renewal movements that are a part of Lutheran CORE. The papers are online at

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

Please support the work of Lutheran CORE

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

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

Lutheran CORE is grateful for your prayers and support. As a grassroots organization, we are constantly looking to partner with those who wish to work together for positive reform in the ELCA. Lutheran CORE is a way for us to work together toward our common goals.

Please join us and work with us in your congregation and synod. We can provide resources and help connect you with others in your synod who share our goals.

We are grateful for the number of ELCA congregations that are including Lutheran CORE in their budgets or taking special offerings for Lutheran CORE as a way to support the ELCA by working to keep it faithful to Christ and to biblical teaching.

Lutheran CORE depends on financial support from those who share our commitment to work for positive reform in the ELCA. You may give online at or send gifts to:

      Lutheran CORE
      c/o WordAlone Network
      2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220
      New Brighton, MN 55112-2202

Please make checks payable to WordAlone Network and indicate Lutheran CORE on the memo line.

Brochures and information for sharing the work of Lutheran CORE with your congregation are available at Lutheran CORE's brochure was reformatted to provide a possible page for congregations to include in their annual reports.

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

Canadian Lutheran congregation suspended for illegal call

Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket, Ontario, was suspended by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada's Eastern Synod Nov. 17 for calling a man in a committed same-sex relationship as its pastor.

The congregation ordained Lionel Ketola May 16. The ordination was "approved" by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. ELM is an organization that "approves" the ordinations of individuals who refuse to abide by the ELCA's standards for the sexual conduct of pastors.

This was the first time ELM had "approved" an ordination in Canada.

The letter of suspension from Eastern Synod Bishop Michael J. Pryse notes that the suspension came because of actions by the congregation "which are contrary to the constitutional requirement that congregations 'assure that only those on the roster of this church serve it in a pastoral capacity.'"

Bishop Pryse sent a letter May 9 reminding the pastors of his synod that participation in Ketola's ordination would violate their responsibilities as Lutheran pastors.

Bishop Pryse noted that participating in an unauthorized ordination "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."

Bishop Pryse's decision to exercise 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.

The 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to "request the Conference of Bishops to enter into discussion and consideration of the matter of the accountability of bishops to the adopted policies, practices, and procedures of the ELCA and to formulate a clear statement of such accountability for consideration and adoption by the 2009 assembly of this church."

This request came, in part, because some synod bishops have refused to enforce ELCA policies including policies regarding pastors in same-sex sexual relationships.

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

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

Philadelphia congregation defies ELCA constitution

Jay Wiesner - a gay man who was ordained in 2004 in defiance of ELCA teaching and standards for pastors - was installed Sept. 27 as pastor of University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, an ELCA congregation in Philadelphia.

The Rev. Louise Johnson, an ELCA pastor and the director of admissions for the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, preached for the service.

According to the ELCA constitution, ELCA congregations must "agree to call pastoral leadership from the clergy roster of this church in accordance with the call procedures of this church except in special circumstances and with the approval of the synodical bishop.

"A congregation . . . that calls as its pastor one who has not been approved for the roster of ordained ministers may be removed from the roster of congregations of this church."

"Congregations shall be subject to discipline for . . . willfully disregarding or violating the provisions of the constitution or bylaws of this church. (ELCA Constitution 9.21.d; 9.23; 20.31.01).

It is unknown what action Southeast Pennsylvania Synod Bishop Claire S. Burkat will take in response to the congregation's action.

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

Anglicans organize alternative church in North America

Four dioceses that have left The Episcopal Church will join with other traditional Anglicans to form a new Anglican church in North America. The new denomination will be an alternative to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada.

The Common Cause Partnership - a federation of more than 100,000 Anglican Christians in North America - has scheduled a constitutional convention in Wheaton, Ill., Wednesday, Dec. 3, to form a new Anglican province in North America.

"One conclusion of the Global Anglican Future Conference held in Jerusalem last June was that the time for the recognition of a new Anglican body in North America had arrived," said Bishop Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pa., and moderator of Common Cause Partnership. "The public release of our draft constitution is an important concrete step toward the goal of a biblical, missionary and united Anglican Church in North America."

By overwhelming margins, two dioceses voted in November to leave The Episcopal Church. Four Episcopal dioceses have now voted to leave The Episcopal Church in the last 12 months.

The dioceses are amending their constitutions to affiliate with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America until an alternative North American Anglican province is formed and recognized.

The Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, voted to end its affiliation with The Episcopal Church by 78 percent Nov. 15. Clergy voted 73-20 and lay delegates voted 98-28.

The Diocese of Quincy in west central Illinois voted Nov. 7 to leave The Episcopal Church. The clergy vote was 41-14 (75 percent); the lay vote was 54-12 (82 percent).

"The time has come for a new path," said the Rev. Jack Iker, bishop of Forth Worth. "The Episcopal Church we once knew no longer exists. To contend for the faith as traditional Episcopalians has brought us to this time of realignment in the Body of Christ."

"This diocese has not deviated from the historic faith and order of the catholic church. We are not the cause of division or schism; we are a part of the solution. We are a part of the realignment that is shaking up and reshaping the Anglican world. We are for preserving the unity of the church and for mending the tear in the fabric of our beloved communion," Bishop Iker told convention attendees.

"We feel the Episcopal Church has been on a fast, major drift away from scriptural authority and historic Christian teaching," said the Rev. John Spencer, spokesman for the Quincy diocese and vicar of St. Francis Church in Dunlap, Ill. "We could not continue to drift away with them and go in the direction that they've gone theologically."

On Dec. 8, 2007, the Diocese of San Joaquin in central California became the first diocese to leave The Episcopal Church and to affiliate with the Province of the Southern Cone. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pa., voted to do so Oct. 4.

The Episcopal Church has taken a hostile stance toward departing dioceses, congregations, and clergy. The denomination has filed lawsuits to try to claim church property and taken actions to depose clergy.

"There is something deeply disturbing about a church that would prefer to litigate and depose rather than to negotiate a peaceful, amicable separation among brothers and sisters in Christ who can no longer walk together," Bishop Iker said.

"I call upon the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and her colleagues to halt the litigation, to stop the depositions, and to cease the intimidation of traditional believers. Instead, let us pursue a mediated settlement, a negotiated agreement that provides for a fair and equitable solution for all parties, and let us resist taking punitive actions against our opponents. Christians are called to work out our differences with one another, not sue one another in secular courts."

Information on the Common Cause Partnership is available online at

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's My View

Shrimp here. The "My View" section of The Lutheran magazine strikes again with "Let's eat! All are welcome" by a Kathy Schuen, who "serves as worship leader of the ALIVE! emerging church service at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Portage, Mich."

Writes Ms. Schuen,
Historically the sacrament of communion has been offered only to baptized members of the church for the purpose of strengthening their faith. Used in this way there's solid theological ground for offering the bread and wine to all the baptized, including children (as readers noted in The Lutheran, March, "A feast for all").
Can you guess where this is going. Hint: this monthly guest column is entitled "My View," not "The Church's View." Ready?
However, at our alternative worship gathering we offer the word and the eucharistic feast to anyone who comes to the table, whether baptized or unbaptized. In addition to strengthening the faith of the baptized, we pray it will provide a point of entry for those who initially have little or no faith to strengthen.

Can the sacrament of communion create faith where there is none?

Consider the example of Sara Miles, who wrote about such an experience in Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion (Ballantine Books, February 2007). Miles initially experienced the life-transforming presence of Jesus Christ in her first taste of communion bread, which she encountered as an unbaptized adult. She has since begun, and currently maintains, many food pantries. The first one was opened at her home church. No inquiries are made regarding income level or resident status of those who come for food. Faithful to the spirit in which their church's eucharist is offered, all are welcome at their table.
Yup, "their church's eucharist." As for the Lord's Supper, well, we know better in this enlightened age. As for Sara Miles, did you click the link to see how Ballentine Books describes her book?
Early one morning, for no earthly reason, Sara Miles, raised an atheist, wandered into a church, received communion, and found herself transformed–embracing a faith she’d once scorned. A lesbian left-wing...
[sigh! Ya just knew that was going to get in somehow...]
...journalist who’d covered revolutions around the world, Miles didn’t discover a religion that was about angels or good behavior or piety; her faith centered on real hunger, real food, and real bodies. Before long, she turned the bread she ate at communion into tons of groceries, piled on the church’s altar to be given away. Within a few years, she and the people she served had started nearly a dozen food pantries in the poorest parts of their city.

Take This Bread is rich with real-life Dickensian characters–church ladies, millionaires, schizophrenics, bishops, and thieves–all blown into Miles’s life by the relentless force of her newfound calling. Here, in this achingly beautiful, passionate book, is the living communion of Christ.
But Shrimp digresses. Back to "My View" in The Lutheran, where Kathy Schuen concludes,
We can emulate that spirit of hospitality in our worship. As Jesus says in John 6:35: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

We can, through communion, make this bread of life freely available to all—if we so choose. Let's eat!
Indeed, it is all up to us. How dare we exclude anyone, for we know that Jesus welcomed everyone. Right?.

For more about "ALIVE!" see this article from the Kalamazoo Gazette and this article from the August 2008 issue of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod newsletter.

Isn't is grand to know that well-thought out Lutheran theology continues to reign at The Lutheran? (Or is that, "Isn't it grand to know that well-thought-out theology is reined in at The Lutheran?) Shrimp out.

The good ship ELCA...

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