Sunday, October 26, 2008

That's Some Reformation!

Shrimp here. The 100th issue of Lutheran (True!) Confessions, which was posted in time to be read in preparation for Reformation Sunday, leads off with a report of Saturday's extraordinary ordination of Jodi Barry -- which we mentioned here. All we have to add today is that the presiding minister was Anita Hill, herself a non-rostered co-pastor at Saint Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn. It looks to us as if Miss Hill is the first recipient of extraordinary ordination to preside at one. [Ed. note: see corrective comment below.]

But, the really extraordinary announcement is this:
Another Call, Another Extrordinary [sic] Ordination: On October 19 First United Lutheran Church (SF) voted unaninmously to call Jay Wilson as pastor to the Welcome Ministry where he serves as Assistant Director and works with the poor and homeless.

Jay is a graduate of Wartburg College. He received an MDiv from Luther Seminary ("God could use someone like you") and an MSW with clinical emphasis from the College St. Catherine/University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. At Luther Seminary, he co-founded AGAPE, a group for LGBTQ students and allies, and transitioned female-to-male in appearance while living on campus.

Jay was removed from the ELCA candidacy process for reasons of gender identity and sexual orientation. He is approved for call by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and serves ELM as chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Ellipse.

Jay's ordination extra ordinem will be December 6, 2008 in San Francisco.
Did you catch that? While attending Luther Seminary, Jay "transitioned female-to-male in appearance while living on campus."

Naturally that Reformation caught Shrimp's eye. It also stirred our memories back a few years to when Forum Letter wrote about an unusual internship. Naturally, our copy of that particular issue is (we think) currently "filed" in one of several chests labeled "stuff to be filed" and Forum Letter wasn't online then, so we can't fill you in with (or direct you to) all the gory details. We recall it raising lots of questions, though, and found this follow-up in the December 2004 Forum Letter, recalling the October 2004 issue's "Learning Deficiencies at Luther" article.

Google found us some interesting things, such as this biographical note from something called the "FORGE Forward 2007 Conference"
Jay Wilson identifies as an aspie genderqueer FTM, disabled and postmodern Lutheran, geeky and queer, an activist and popular educator, Flickerite and a Trekker. Jay has worked in supported community living, radical social work, disability rights advocacy, summer camp health services, self-taught photography, information and referral, personal service assistance, church inclusiveness training, pastoral/chaplain ministries, and public speaking. Jay is trained as an emergency first responder, Master of Social Work, and Master of Divinity.
And if that isn't enough for you, here's the description of Jay's seldom used blog, Simul Iustus Et Peccator:
Experiences and questions from a postmodern Lutheran queer aspie genderqueer transguy insulin-pumping Trekker geek academic allergic vegetarian white 3rd-wave-feminist...who aspires to be a Disabled Advocate, photographer, pastor, Anti-Oppression, and power-sharer.

Simul Iustus Et Peccator is the Lutheran belief of being in a relationship of merciful justice with God through Jesus, at the same time being human prone to brokenness living in a very broken world.
Well, Shrimp'll give Jay "simul." Of course, there's a bio from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, which begins:
Jay Wilson is a queer and genderqueer transguy, autistic and disabled, who identifies as a Lutheran postmodern, third-wave feminist, academic geek, disability rights activist, and social justice advocate.
Meanwhile, the e-mail address listed on Wilson's ELM bio lead us straight to this "doctrinal sermon" written by "Jaimie Wilson" for Professor of Systematic Theology Alan G. Padgett's Creation and the Triune God course -- one written for the hypothetical "union blessing" for "Jeannie and Marie." There is no indication of the grade Jaimie got for preaching a "doctrinal sermon" for blessing the union of two women.

And that got Shrimp looking at some 4-year-old e-mails related to that original Forum Letter article, where one correspondent had found articles via Google from the Luther Seminary student newspaper where Jaimie Wilson was, prior to the then-current internship, always referred to as a "she." Remember, "transitioned female-to-male in appearance while living on campus." Google doesn't find these articles today, though.

Which brings us back to the announcement of the ordination extra ordinem of Jay Wilson December 6 in San Francisco. First United Lutheran Church, a congregation ultimately removed from the ELCA for calling Jeff Johnson as pastor, has called Wilson to be a pastor!

Shrimp out, wishing you a happy Reformation Day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008



An address given at La Casa De Cristo Lutheran Church, Scottsdale, Arizona,
sponsored by the Lutheran Coalition for Reform (CORE), October 14, 2008
by Carl E. Braaten.

I will get right to the point. People in the ELCA are riled up about sex. And its not because they wanted to be. This was not the topic of their choice. Its been foisted on them from above. And they are worried about how the lengthy process of discussion and deliberation will end. No doubt many of you here tonight are among those who believe that the future of the ELCA may well be at stake depending on the decisions made at the next church-wide assembly in Minneapolis in 2009.

I. The Deep Underlying Problem

Fifteen years ago James Crumley, former presiding bishop of the Lutheran Church in America, wrote: “To say that the church is in trouble has become almost a cliché today.” James Crumley is no rabble rouser. His statements are always carefully measured and to the point. The trouble he had in mind had nothing to do with sex. The problem was much deeper and more pervasive than that.

Leading up to the merger of the ELCA in 1988 the Lutheran journal of theology, Dialog, of which I was the editor, ran a series of columns entitled, “Merger Watch.” We were monitoring the procedures and negotiations between the LCA, the ALC, and the AELC that resulted in the merger. We saw the handwriting on the wall, trouble was a-brewing, but we did not foresee that it would have anything to do with sex and the nature of marriage.

When I was teaching theology and ethics at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, I planned a conference that we called, “How New Can the New Church Be?” Special interest groups were chanting their mantras, “We want the church to be so new, no one will be able to recognize it.” Our conference dealt with the paramount theological issues, such as, the confession of faith, ecumenism, authority in the church, the ordained ministry, the episcopal office, the vocation of the laity, inclusiveness, and so forth. But again, the issue of sex did not get a mention in a single lecture or discussion group.
A few years after the ELCA was organized, many pastors and laity were alarmed by the new directions church headquarters was taking the church. The editors of the three leading Lutheran theological journals, Lutheran Quarterly, Lutheran Forum, and Dialog, convened a conference at St. Olaf College in 1991, only three years after the ELCA came into being. We called the conference, “A Call to Faithfulness.” It struck a chord; over one thousand pastors and lay persons attended. We addressed the neuralgic issues already troubling the church at that time: the traditional threefold office of ministry, pastors, bishops, and deacons, the ecumenical policy of the ELCA, the mission of the church to preach Christ as the only way of salvation, the church’s responsibility to society, and so forth. But again the matter of sex and the ordination of practicing homosexuals was not on anybody’s radar screen.

I rehearse all of this early history to show that the theological issues troubling the ELCA were looming large long before the ELCA took up Hollywood’s favorite topic as its chief preoccupation. The underlying theological problem in the ELCA is much deeper than sex. The lack of consensus in the church on the ethics of sex is epiphenomenal, that is, it is a secondary complication of a much deeper condition that the ELCA shares with all other mainline Protestant churches in North America, especially the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ. I would further add that the condition about which I will be speaking is one that also affects Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals, but in different ways. I want to talk about this deeper underling theological problem that affects all of Christianity in America, because if we do not grasp and deal with that in a fundamental and systemic way, nothing that the ELCA church-wide assembly decides one way or the other next year in Minneapolis will make any difference in the long run.

Our beloved church, the ELCA, is awash in the culture of American religion but, as I said, we are in the same boat with many other churches. By all the polls America is a very religious nation, but its religion is predominantly not New Testament Christianity but neopagan gnosticism. We must pause to explain what we mean by gnosticism. Gnosticism was the ancient form of pagan religion that the early church had to fight tooth and nail for its very survival. The word gnosticism comes from the Greek word “gnosis,” which means “knowledge.” The knowledge in question concerns the secret mystery of life that arises from within the self. The God of gnosticism is the experiential God identical with what seems most authentic and real in each individual soul. The God of the Bible is exactly opposite from that and comes from the outside through the Word that he speaks. The God of the Gnostics and the God of the Bible are mortal enemies. It was so in the Old Testament when Elijah, the prophet of the God of Israel, defeated the prophets of the pagan gods of Baal. It was so in the New Testament when the apostles had to combat the false prophets who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. That’s gnosticism. It was so in the early church when Irenaeus had to reject the second century heresy of Marcion who taught that the Old Testament God who created the world is not the same as the New Testament God who redeemed the world through Jesus Christ. That’s gnosticism.

This thesis about the connection of gnosticism with religion in America is admittedly not original with me. In his book, The American Religion, Harold Bloom demonstrates that for its two centuries of existence the American religion is irretrievably gnostic.1 Bloom writes, “Gnosticism is now, and always has been, the hidden religion of the United States, the American Religion proper.”2 This is kind of hard for us to swallow, because we hear politicians claim so often that American is a Christian nation. The truth is that gnosticism that is deeply embedded in the culture of American religion has found a happy home in the mainline denominations of Protestant America.

The most horrific modern example of gnosticism invading Christianity, Protestant and Catholic, was the complicity of the churches and their leaders in the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews. The “German Christians” wanted to get rid of the Old Testament and everything Jewish that remains in historic Christianity. That’s gnosticism. The Protestant churches are filled with millions of Americans whose spiritual priorities violate the normative principles of classical Christianity based on the Bible. Gallup-style findings show that American believers are religious in a general sense with scarcely no correlation to the specific beliefs of historic Christianity. They do not realize how little they share with the core contents of Christian doctrine. That is because churches and their teachers have lost the will or the ability to teach the Christian faith to those who enter through the front door, and so they have only themselves to blame for the masses who are now exiting the churches through the back door. All the Protestant churches are losing members, and they wonder why.

Not all who write about the predicament of American Protestantism would trace it to gnosticism, as I have done. Their diagnosis of the deep division in the Protestant churches is that a different gospel is being preached, precisely in the sense of the apostle Paul who wrote to the churches of Galatia: “I am astonished that you are so quickly. . .turning to a different gospel -- not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1: 6 & 7) Preaching a different gospel is not only heresy, but it leads to apostasy and then schism.
Christianity is like a bucket brigade. It is something handed down from generation to generation. Each generation of believers must take responsibility to pass on the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) The cumulative result of churches doing that for 2000 years is the mainstream of the Christian tradition. That’s where we want to situate ourselves. We have received that tradition, founded on the Bible, and it is our turn now to pass it on to our children and grandchildren without abbreviation, without compromise, and without tailoring it to suit our own whims and fancies. In other words, we are called to be faithful. But today something of a paradigm shift is occurring in American Lutheranism, such that the church we are passing on to our children is vastly different from the church we received from our fathers and mothers in the faith. I saw a griffito that said, the church is not what it used to be.

Of course the church must change since it lives in history. Nothing remains exactly the same. The church must change in order to remain the same. But some changes are good and some are not, and that is what the controversy in the church is all about. We must discern the spirits. Not everything is up for grabs. We have sound criteria to tell what kinds of change are good for the gospel and what are not. We do have an agenda faithful to our confessional Lutheran tradition, a tradition that claims to be true to the classical teachings of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, standing firmly on the pillars of Holy Scripture and the orthodox Creeds. This is not an agenda of a right-wing coalition of conservatives trying to turn back the clock. Martin Luther was not a right-wing conservative in his day. His reform movement was an attempt to retrieve the tried and tested truths of the Bible and the classical Christian tradition. That’s what his Short and Long Catechisms were all about.

Our central concern is theological, what we believe about the triune God, salvation through Christ alone, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, true preaching of the Word and faithful administration of the Sacraments, the divine institution of the holy ministry signified by the sacred rite of ordination, the ecumenical work to promote the unity of the church, the Great Commission of our Lord to preach the gospel of salvation to all the nations, to teach and to baptize people from all religions or no religion at all, so that they may become disciples of Christ and members of his body. This is not all strange stuff, is it? This is Christian Dogmatics 101, encompassing the core convictions that all churches affirm in their constitutions and confessions of faith. These are the central truths in the Great Tradition of evangelical, catholic, and orthodox communities down through the centuries and across all cultural boundaries.

II. The Pervasive Issues and Isms

The ELCA Constitution and Confession of Faith are just fine. We have no quarrel with them. But they are often treated as just a piece of paper. Even some bishops ignore them. We know the rules of the game, but there is no penalty for ignoring them, and no discipline, no accountability. That’s the end-product of rampant individualism, again the hallmark of ancient and modern gnosticism. Article 28 of the Augsburg Confession states: “According to divine right, it is the office of the bishop to preach the gospel, forgive sins, judge doctrine and condemn doctrine that is contrary to the gospel.” We do not have time to cite the many shameful examples of bishops, from New York to California, flaunting the rules, openly thumbing their noses at the governing documents of the ELCA.

All of this criticism may seem rather vague and lacking in specific identification of the theological challenges facing the ELCA, as well as all the Protestant churches in the same leaky boat. So let me give you a laundry list of the hot button isms shaking the foundations.

1. The first is the doctrine of the Triune God and the challenge of radical theological feminism. Let us be clear, we are totally in support of egalitarian feminism that champions the equality of women and men, in society, in the church, in families, in schools, in the work place, everywhere and always. There may be some who have a problem with the ordination of women, but we are not among them. We want equal justice, honor and respect for our mothers, wives, and daughters. But to change the proper name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is something else and totally unacceptable. The church’s liturgies, hymns, prayers, and Psalms are now being edited to conform to the demands of radical theological feminism. It makes preachers talk funny too, like, “God sent Gods only child so that God might have mercy on those who call upon God.” God, God, God, and forget the pronouns, because masculine pronouns have become dirty words. All male-referring terms for God or Christ must be legalistically avoided, terms like father, son, son of man, son of God, Lord, master, king, and so forth.

At the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where I taught for thirty years, one professor baptized the child of a student in the triune name of God -- Parent, Child, and Spirit. A few years ago I addressed a conference of pastors in Minnesota, and during the Q and A and a woman asked me this question: “If a pastor baptized a baby in some other name of God than “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” would the baby be saved? My answer was that I believed the baby would go to heaven, but the pastor would surely go to hell. At LSTC I quit going to chapel because I could not be sure of the identity of the God being worshiped and glorified.

2. The second major issue challenging the ELCA and other churches, again a symptom of the disease we have called gnosticism, is the uniqueness of Christ and the challenge of radical religious pluralism. From the start Christianity entered a world of many religions, but not one of the apostles believed that they are all equally valid as ways of salvation. But that is exactly what the Protestant gnostics of today are teaching in the name of the pluralistic theology of religion. All religions, they say, are so many bowls of the same religious soup, all equally valid pathways to God. Jesus may be the right way for Christians, but he’s not the only way for everyone else. So wave the missionary movement goodbye! We have no need for missionaries if Christ is not necessary as the way of salvation for all.

What we used to call “world missions” is virtually dead in the mainline Protestant churches, including the ELCA. Why evangelize, if all religions attain the same goal? If my father and mother would have believed that, they could have been spared going to the harsh bush country of Madagascar and making me grow up in what I felt at the time was a god-forsaken place. But, of course, I was wrong to feel that way. Today almost half of the 16 million Malagasy people are Christian, and half of those are Lutheran. On any given Sunday more Malagasy Christians attend church than all the Lutheran Christians in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland put together. The Malagasy Lutheran Church is a missionary-sending church. The missionaries taught them well. But all that sort of thing is becoming by-gone history for the ELCA.

3. The third critical issue has to do with the authority of the Bible and the challenge of historical relativism. Another name for it is reader-response hermeneutics. Truth is in the eye of the beholder. You italicize the words of Scripture that turn you on, and chalk all the rest up to the primitive notions of an ancient Semitic people. The Bible becomes a wax nose, so much putty in the hands of the artist who makes it conform to the culture of modernity. Thomas Jefferson did that in a big way. Two hundred years ago he took a pair of scissors to the King James Bible and cut out all the parts he could not believe, like the miracles of Jesus, and the most important one, the resurrection. Today we don’t use scissors, but we use alien modes of interpretation to make the Scriptures speak our language, our ideology, our religious beliefs, and our moral sensibilities. Jesus is modernized to look and sound like the Dalai Lama.

The ELCA is just now embarking on a five-year campaign of Bible-reading, first proposed by a resolution of the North Carolina Synod and approved by the 2007 Church-wide Assembly in Chicago. Some weeks ago I was speaking to a group of Lutherans in North Carolina and during the discussion period a pastor asked me if they should feel guilty for having made the proposal. He had just read the book put out by Augsburg Fortress entitled, “Opening the Book of Faith, Lutheran Insights for Bible Study.” He was not encouraged. He saw the little book as a way of softening up Lutherans so they will fall in line with the agenda church headquarters is pushing. Who can be against reading the Bible, and with Lutheran insights to boot? Reading the Bible as a book of faith sounds like a Lutheran thing to do. “Faith” is a big little word in our Lutheran vocabulary. We teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone. But the Bible is not primarily about faith, not primarily about the faith of the patriarchs and prophets and evangelists and apostles. The Bible is about God, the mighty acts of God, the word of God. Faith is a human response to the initiative of God, to the divine indicatives and imperatives, the words of the law and the gospel of God inspired and transmitted to us through the Old and New Testaments, which we call Holy Scripture. And to encumber our reading of the Bible by traditional Lutheran insights is to shortchange our understanding of Gods Word. That may sound strange for a Lutheran theologian to admit, but the truth is, reading the Bible that way is a sectarian thing to do, no better when Lutherans do it than Baptists or Pentecostals. We understand, don’t we, that Lutheranism began only in the sixteenth century, less than five hundred years ago, whereas Christians were reading the Bible centuries before that. Should not Lutherans today read the Bible as a book of the whole church reaching back centuries to its birthday on the first Pentecost? I do not want to be a sectarian Lutheran in an ecumenical age.

4. The fourth issue is of concern to every pastor, the absolute gospel and the challenge of American religion, the neo-pagan gnosticism infiltrating the practices of worship. Religion sells when it can satisfy the search for self-fulfillment. Gnosticism is all about the self; it appeals to the sovereign autonomous self. It’s all about me. The churches that grow best in a mass culture engage in Christianity-Lite, throwing over-board all the excess baggage like traditional dogmas, liturgies, hymnody, and moral codes of conduct. Success is quantifiable in terms of numbers -- members, budgets, buildings, and programs. The new pagan masses do not understand the meaning of things like pulpits, altars, baptismal fonts, hymnals, prayer books, clerical vestments, stained glass windows, Bach chorales and organ preludes. These things make the church seem so other-worldly, bedecked with icons that tell the story of a pilgrim people “not of this world.” Well, isn’t that who we are supposed to be, in but not of the world? American religion is a consumers delight; it can be altered and tailored to meet the taste of the individual consumers. Traditional creeds, ceremonies, symbols, sacraments, and practices are set aside for the immediacy of experience, leaving our people adrift in a narcissistic culture of decadence and death. The bottom line of American religion is all about what I feel. It had better express my experiences or Ill stick with Yoga. No one can tell me what is right and good and true. Ill find my own way to God, a nice God who makes me feel good inside.

5. The fifth issue is about the Church as a divine institution and the challenge of the democratic cult of egalitarianism. We live in a democracy, and we have a right to be thankful for that. Democracy is a form of government, as Abraham Lincoln orated in his Gettysburg Address, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But the church is not a democracy. It is not “of the people and by the people.” It is of God! Christ is king, the Lord of the church. Mistakenly we often take our doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers” to mean that we are all equal in the church. The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is important; it means that we all have equal access to Jesus Christ who is the sole Mediator between God and human beings. It is not a definition of the church. Ordination is a sign that God calls certain ones to be leaders. Hebrews 13:17 says: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls.” Some are shepherds, some are sheep. Authority in the church must be a function of the ministry to which God has given special responsibility to make the church the church, where the gospel is truly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. Gnostics don’t like that and never have. It does not square with the spirituality of the new age mysticism that was grotesquely exhibited at the various “Reimagining God” conferences in Minneapolis some years back and the new Christianity being invented by the “Jesus Seminar” that puts more trust in the ancient gnostic gospels than in the canonical Gospels of the New Testament.

When the Commission for the New Lutheran Church wrote the Constitution for the ELCA, they did it without any clear notion about the nature of the church. I get this from James Crumley, one of the 70 commissioners. He wrote, “We did not agree on a basic ecclesiology.”3 When Bill Clinton campaigned for the office of president, one of his managers wrote on the blackboard, “Its the economy, stupid!” Someone should have done something like that for the 70 Commissioners, the Sanhedrin, we called them. “It’s the church, stupid!” Instead, pragmatic and political decisions were made without any prior agreement on the nature of the church. One of the most questionable was the adoption of a church polity based on the quota system. The membership of the Commission itself was mandated by an arbitrary scheme of quotas, some of these, some of those, and a few of those others, etc. In truth it was a coalition of special interest groups fighting to advance their own identity agendas. The ripple effects of those decisions are still being felt adversely throughout the church. The former editor of the Lutheran Magazine, Edgar R. Trexler, wrote this about the merger process, “No one ever put a church together the way the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches did in the mid-1980s.” (Edgar R. Trexler, Anatomy of a Merger, Augsburg Fortress, 1991, ix)

6. The sixth issue has to do with ecumenism and the challenge of modern Protestantism. The ecumenical commitments of the ELCA have been extremely controversial and still are. As a Lutheran I feel bound to be an ecumenical theologian. But we cannot make any sense of ecumenism without having a clear doctrine of the church in mind. So there we are stuck. There is no consensus in the ELCA on any of the ecumenical agreements we have reached with other churches. This is such a huge topic that we can only scratch the surface and then go on. With Roman Catholics we have adopted a “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.” I am for it, many of my friends are not. With the Episcopal Church we adopted a “Call to Common Mission.” I am for it, many of my fellow theologians are not. Nordic Lutherans adopted the Porvoo Statement with the Anglican Churches of England and the British Isles. I am for it, some Lutherans are not. Are all these statements perfect? No, they are not. Do I agree with them theologically 100 %? No, I do not. If I wished to belong to a church with which I was in 100% theological agreement, I would be the only member of that church. That is not the purpose of an ecumenical concordat of agreement. Its purpose is to foster the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed in his high priestly prayer, that all of his followers may be one, that the world may believe. (John 17: 20-21) The criterion of such unity is that Christians love one another and come together, welcoming each other in eucharistic fellowship, eating and drinking together with Jesus at the Table of which he is host. It is a scandal that we are forbidden to commune at the altars of some churches whose members are our brothers and sisters in Christ, who confess the same Lord and belong to the one undivided body of Jesus Christ. It is a scandal! And that’s why as a Lutheran I am unapologetically an ecumenical theologian.

But there are limits to unity. We cannot be for church unity at all costs. There are sects with which we cannot be in altar and pulpit fellowship. Where there is heresy and apostasy in the church, that calls for separation. There is one thing worse than schism, and that is commingling with idolaters and blasphemers. It has come to that at previous times in church history. It reached that point under Hitler when Karl Barth and his friends put forth the Barmen Declaration. It reached that point in South Africa when the Lutheran World Federation met the challenge of systemic racism by pronouncing status confessionis, in effect excommunicating white churches that would not commune their black sisters and brothers in Christ. We in the ELCA have not reached such a point, but let there be no mistake about this. It could happen here and there in American Christianity, triggering a kind of realignment of churches that some are already calling for. I have warned against the ELCA becoming just another liberal Protestant denomination, and with others I am watching to see whether anyone is putting on the breaks.

7. The seventh issue has to do with the integrity of the church and the challenge of confusing the law and the gospel of God, of failing to make the proper distinction between law and gospel. Such a failure means that we end up legalizing the gospel, on the one hand, and substituting the gospel for the law, on the other hand. The end result is what Luther called “antinomianism.” Antinomianism literally means “against the law.”
This brings us to the big elephant in the room, the issue of homosexuality that is causing some of the mainline Protestant churches to teeter on the brink of schism. The world-wide Anglican Communion is in the process of splitting over the unresolved issue of blessing homosexual unions. The Presbyterian Church is next in line, engaged in a lengthy constitutional fight over whether to allow the ordination of practicing homosexuals. Circulating throughout the ELCA is a draft of a “Statement on Human Sexuality.” It fails utterly to observe the proper distinction between creation and redemption, law and gospel. The Statement improperly builds the ethics of sex on the gospel of the incarnation and justification by faith alone, the twin pillars of the Christian doctrine of salvation. Lutheran theological ethics is based on the law of God which comes to us through two channels, through the Bible and through the structures of creation. By reason and conscience people can know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, by the way “things have been made.” (Romans 1:20) People do not need to believe in Christ to learn what is against the law of nature. Humanists can be quite moral people without confessing Christ. When God created the world and human beings, he designed all things to obey certain laws. To ignore the law of God and to replace it with the gospel is pure antinomianism, something Luther condemned when it reared its head among some of his closest disciples. They said that since we are saved by faith in the gospel, we are free from doing the works of the law. Antinomianism is the step child of gnosticism.

Marcion, as I said, was the second century heretic who threw out the Old Testament because it contains the story of Gods creation and the giving of his law -- the Ten Commandments. He wanted to keep only a few New Testament books and the sweet honey of the gospel and the love of God. He was a Gnostic. The ELCA “Draft Statement on Human Sexuality” follows in Marcion's line. It ignores the Old Testament, the doctrine of creation, the Ten Commandments and appeals only to the New Testament gospel of the incarnation and justification by faith. It is so wrong.

III. Where Do We Go From Here?

How did we get to the point where our church is being inundated by the onrushing waters of a neopagan, gnostic culture hostile to the core convictions of orthodox Christianity? As in the case of Katrina, the traditional levees that kept Lutheranism from conforming to the surrounding culture of American religion no longer hold. They are broken. We will leave it to church historians to explain the paradigm shift that is occurring to transform a confessionally based church into just another liberal Protestant denomination. We don’t have time to do that here and now.

Some ELCA pastors, theologians, and even some congregations, are looking for the exit, choosing to join other churches or associations. I have expressed myself clearly and often, that I am not in favor of shopping around for another church. It is a romantic notion to think that there is a more perfect church out there. Every one has its own share of problems. Our situation is not altogether bleak and hopeless. Thousands of pastors and congregations are doing things just about right. Many reform-minded confessors are doing ministry faithful to the common core of evangelical faith and orthodox doctrine. We have the Bible; it is the Word of God. Who knows what will happen when we take the initiative to actually read it? Those who interpret the Bible with an alien hermeneutics will not necessarily succeed in muzzling it. Theologians may get tired of doing boring theology in captivity to the trends of the times, and instead do theology under the authority of Scripture for the church, in line with its Creeds and Confessions.
Ecclesia semper reformanda! That is a Latin slogan of our Lutheran tradition. The reformation of the church must continue. When the church finds itself living in the dark ages, as it is today, we trust that God will create movements for renewal and reform, as he has always done in the past. We have his promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. We must understand that we are back into the raw missionary situation of New Testament Christianity, one in which true Christian faith cannot count on its cultural plausibility in a neo-pagan environment. The only thing that matters in true Christian worship is the presence of the living God through the audible words of preaching according to the Scriptures and the visible words of holy communion according to our Lords institution. Such worship will not cater to the worldly gurus who tell us that it must be simple, fun, and entertaining, to make people feel good about themselves.

The church should always be in the business of reaching out to add new members, of course, but more importantly today it needs to re-evangelize the members it already has, to make clear its difference from the world, stressing that the Christian faith is utterly unique and fundamentally different from other religions and ideologies, and that what she has to offer the world cannot be provided by any other agency or community in the world. To pray and work for a new reformation is not to wait for things to happen elsewhere than in each of our local congregations. That is where the action is. Don’t think it is in Chicago or Rome or Geneva. We meet Christ at home in our local parish, not in the church bureaucracy that we create to do some of the things we cannot do on our own. Every ordinary congregation is endowed with an extraordinary message. It is a message of the dying and rising of Jesus and that all who believe in him share in the salvation he brings. What more do we want? What more do we need?

Carl E. Braaten
16005 Huron Drive
Sun City West, AZ 85375

1 Harold Bloom, The American Religion, Simon and Schuster, 1992, p. 42.
2 Ibid., p. 50.
3 James R. Crumley, “Setting the Church’s Agenda,” Either/Or: The Gospel or Neopaganism, edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p. 116.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

ELCA Bishops: "On the Current Financial Crisis"

Shrimp is back, wondering how anyone can criticize the ELCA because it's part of the "organized church." As an ELCA social service agency defends spending $1 million to compensate its chief, the ELCA Conference of Bishops is offering its prophetic wisdom as the US economy is collapsing before your very eyes.

On the Current Financial Crisis

The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, October 7, 2008
Almighty God, ...teach us how to govern the ways of business to the harm of none and for the sake of the common good; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 78

Grace and peace to you.

As bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we are deeply concerned about the current financial crisis, which is affecting not only our nation but the entire global economy. This crisis is causing fear and loss in our country as thousands of families face unemployment, foreclosure, and uncertainty about savings and pensions. Meanwhile, they struggle to put food on the table and gas into their cars. The future is uncertain for all of us, but it is especially frightening for those who are already vulnerable and struggling to survive. We offer our prayers for those whose lives are being affected and for our national leaders as they seek to address this complex matter.

We call on all people in our own communities of faith and those from every segment of our society who seek the health of our nation to join in conversation and prayer about our collective economic life, our financial behaviors, and the interconnectedness of all life and creation that cries out to be reclaimed.

This church has addressed the issues surrounding economic life in its social statement, “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All", and we encourage the use of this statement as a way to understand more fully how the following theological and biblical principles are central as we respond to this situation.

Concern for People in Poverty
The constitution of the ELCA calls this church to serve by “standing with the poor and powerless and committing itself to their needs.” (ELCA 4.02.c.). We are grateful for the pastors and leaders in our congregations who already have stepped forward to care for those who are suffering, and we encourage them to continue this response and to provide leadership in the task of turning our attention to the causes and effects of this crisis. We are called to work toward an economic system that truly serves the common good and especially the needs of the poor. We look for partnership with all those who seek to address this financial crisis in a way that also recognizes the humanitarian issues involved.

Personal and Corporate Responsibility
The ELCA social statement on economic life calls for individuals to live responsibly and within their means and to beware of the dangers of over-consumption and unnecessary accumulation, which draw us beyond authentic need into excess and destructive indebtedness. We call on businesses and corporations of all sizes to consider the social implications of company policies and to practice good stewardship of creation (Genesis 1:26).

The Need for Good Government
We hold and teach that government has an instrumental and constructive role to play in our shared life. This role includes “limiting or countering narrow economic interests and promoting the common good” (“Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All,” p. 11). We call on government to hold corporations and other powerful economic actors accountable for the effects of their practices on workers, communities, and the environment.

The Benefits and Limits of Free Markets
For many people, the current market-based economy has proven to be effective as a system to meet material need, generate wealth, and create opportunity. However, we hold and teach that any economic system should be measured by the degree to which it serves God’s purposes for humankind and creation. Those who have been blessed by the fruits of our economy are called to be generous in giving to those who have lost much and to advocate for accountability and appropriate regulation in this system.

As people of the God who calls us out of fear into hope and community, we welcome all people into widespread and respectful discussion about this current crisis. In this way we can create partnerships that will help those whose lives are being shattered and encourage responsibility and integrity in our national economic life.

As people of faith we pray:
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ dignified our labor by sharing our toil. Guide us with your justice in the workplace, so that we may never value things above people, or surrender honor to love of gain or lust for power. Prosper all efforts to put an end to work that brings no joy, and teach us how to govern the ways of business to the harm of none and for the sake of the common good; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Conference of Bishops
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
October 7, 2008
For your own pdf copy of the Bishops' Pastoral Letter, click here. You can read today's ELCA News Release here.

Shrimp, wondering this Yom Kippur how a certain ELCA-related social service agency "consider[ed] the social implications of company policies" (see our previous post below), out.

Defending Executive Pay

Shrimp here, with a follow-up to "Nice Work If You Can Get It." That was the news story about the Lower Susquehanna Synod Assembly resolution questioning the compensation of the top executives of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, an ELCA-related social service agency that operates in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. The York Daily Record reports today,
A Lutheran-affiliated social services agency defended its executive pay in a letter to the regional governing body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) last month.

The board of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries said in a Sept. 4 letter that its CEO and president, the Rev. Dr. Daun E. McKee, is "well paid" but his salary is also fair and competitive.

McKee's salary is based on recommendations from consultants who place his $385,947 salary midway on the salary range for executives with similar responsibilities at similar organizations.

"Diakon's compensation policies are very fair and do not represent unjust disparities among varying levels of staff members," the letter says.

The Diakon board sent the 10-page letter in response to a resolution approved at a June assembly of the Lower Susquehanna Synod.

The resolution asked the nonprofit agency to explain its philosophy on executive pay in writing by Sept. 30.

The resolution -- drafted by the York Conference -- cited the Lutheran confessions, Scripture and church social policy, which calls for lessening the disparities between pay for top executives and those under them.

The main concern was that McKee and two other Diakon executives ranked among the top five earners in a report of midstate nonprofit groups. In addition to his salary in 2006, Daun McKee collected $582,925 in benefits and a $63,591 expense account for a total $1.03 million, according to tax records.

Members of the Synod Council, which governs the nine-county body between church assemblies, received the Diakon response at their Sept. 27 meeting but did not act on it.

"It was noted that Diakon board members had offered to discuss this report with the Synod Council as well as the Committee of Deans," the Rev. Thomas E. McKee, synod secretary, said by e-mail.

"There was no discussion and no response to either Diakon's response or to the invitation to come to a Synod Council meeting."

The council could discuss this further at its Nov. 15 meeting, said McKee, who is of no relation to Daun McKee.
Read it all here. Shrimp, thinking that's quite a compensation package for pastors, out.

CORE Connection - October 2008

A PDF version of this newsletter is available online here.

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.

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More than 500 add names to Open Letter on sexuality

More than 500 ELCA lay members and pastors have added their names to the Open Letter calling for major revisions to the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality being considered by the ELCA.

"We are very pleased with the significant response to the Open Letter," said the Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pa., chair of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee.

"We hope that many more people will add their names to the Open Letter in time for us to include them in the list of signers that will be presented to the sexuality task force, the Conference of Bishops, and the Church Council.

"The letter expresses the observations of several prominent Lutheran scholars and church leaders in a way that is accessible to all church members," said Spring, the retired bishop of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod.

"We want to help members of ELCA congregations to be able to understand the significant theological issues involved in this draft and to be able to respond to the draft."

ELCA members are invited to add their names to this Open Letter as a part of their response to the sexuality draft social statement.

The Open Letter was originally signed by the 11 members of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee and the 18 members of the Lutheran CORE Advisory Council. The list of additional signers is posted online at

You may request that your name be added to this open letter by sending a request with your name and address to You may also send your request to: Lutheran CORE; 2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220; New Brighton, MN 55112.

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

Last chance to respond to ELCA sexuality draft is Nov. 1

Members of ELCA congregations have less than a month to respond to the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality. Lutheran CORE encourages ELCA members to submit a response to the draft statement by the Nov. 1 deadline.

The first draft of the social statement was released in March. You may request a copy by calling 1-800-638-3522, ext. 2996. A response form is provided in the draft document. Links to the draft and to the ELCA's online response form are available online at Lutheran CORE's website.

Lutheran CORE has provided resources to assist ELCA members as they respond to the draft statement. Links to detailed reviews of the draft statement and to other helpful documents on human sexuality are available at in the marriage and family educational resources section.

An Open Letter calling for major revisions to Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality was prepared by Lutheran CORE. ELCA members are encouraged to add their names to this Open Letter as a part of their response to the draft social statement.

The Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality is scheduled to meet Nov. 7-8 to review responses to the draft statement and to consider changes to the document. They will provide a report to the ELCA Church Council's Nov. 14-17 meeting.

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.

The ELCA Church Council will decide the form of the proposals that will be considered by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and may edit the proposed social statement and other Task Force recommendations.

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.

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

Lutherans Concerned responds to ELCA sexuality draft

Lutherans Concerned / North America -- the organization advocating change in Lutheran teaching and practice regarding same-sex sexual activity -- is asking the ELCA to remove language that affirms traditional Christian teaching on marriage from a proposed social statement on human sexuality.

Lutherans Concerned released its response to the ELCA Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality on Sept. 16. Its response noted that changes to language supporting the traditional and biblical teaching on marriage are "the most important changes to be made in the Draft Social Statement."

Lutherans Concerned asks that language in the draft that defines marriage as "a structure of mutual promises between a man and woman blessed by God" (Lines 1005-1007) be changed to state that marriage has "historically been understood as" between a man and a woman.

Lutherans Concerned also asks that the affirmation in the draft that "This church recognizes the historic origin of the term ‘'marriage' as a life-long and committed relationship between a woman and man, and does not wish to alter this understanding" (Lines 1151-1153) be changed. Instead it recommends an acknowledgment that "many" ELCA congregations provide marriage and blessing services for same-gender couples.

The 10-page response, notes areas where Lutherans Concerned supports the language of the draft social statement and areas where the organization asks for language that would support its understanding of same-sex sexual activity.

Lutherans Concerned asks that any language affirming or acknowledging biblical and traditional Christian teaching on homosexual behavior or acknowledging traditional pastoral responses to people with homosexual orientations be rejected.

Regarding Lines 1137-1149 of the draft, Lutherans Concerned notes, "These lines seem to suggest that this church acknowledges or accepts forms of counseling or care that would lead people to deny or change their sexual orientation. . . . To advocate ‘repentance and celibacy for same-gender-oriented people is not an appropriate pastoral response."

Lutherans Concerned also asks the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality to recommend changes to ELCA policy that would permit pastors and other rostered leaders to be in same-sex sexual relationships.

The Lutherans Concerned response is available online at

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Lutheran CORE affirms Christian teaching on marriage

Lutheran CORE continues to affirm traditional Christian teaching on marriage -- as a covenant of faithfulness between one man and one woman -- as taught in Scripture and maintained by the Church throughout the centuries.

Lutheran CORE rejects suggestions from Lutherans Concerned that the ELCA should change its teaching and practice regarding marriage and regarding same-sex sexual activity.

Lutheran CORE works to uphold the authority of the Bible as the primary source and norm of the Churchs proclamation, faith, and life, in conformity with the Lutheran Confessions and the Constitution of the ELCA.

The Open Letter from Lutheran CORE regarding the sexuality draft states: "We are very supportive of portions of Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality. We support the affirmation of marriage as a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between one man and one woman and as the most appropriate place for physical intimacy. We appreciate the concern expressed about cohabitation, promiscuity, premarital sex, and our sexualized society and its many victims. We support the call for pastoral care and compassion for all people. . . .

"Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality fails to acknowledge the Scriptural prohibitions of homosexual behavior in both Old Testament and New Testament. It also fails to recognize the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly decision to ‘continue to respect the guidance of the 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops' which clearly stated that ‘there is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship. We respectfully request that you acknowledge both the teaching of Scripture and the content of Christian tradition regarding homosexual behavior."

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

Lutheran CORE Steering Committee discusses vision for future

The Lutheran CORE Steering Committee discussed the future role Lutheran CORE will play in the ELCA at its Sept. 23 meeting at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Abington, Pa. (suburban Philadelphia).

The Steering Committee discussed and reviewed the first draft of "A Vision for the Future," an action plan for the ongoing ministry of Lutheran CORE. This plan was developed by an August summit meeting of leaders of partner reform movements and the Steering Committee in Indianapolis.

The vision draft contemplates a significant expansion of the ministry and role of Lutheran CORE in coming years, and lays out specific paths that might be followed depending on the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

The next step for the draft is for Lutheran CORE's partner reform movements and Advisory Council to review the draft.

Lutheran CORE is a coalition of individuals, congregations, and reform movements within the ELCA. The Steering Committee provides leadership for the coalition.

Other Steering Committee actions included:

+ Reviewed a plan for display tables at 2009 synod assemblies developed by Lutheran CORE Congregations and Pastor Mark Braaten.

+ Continued to plan for the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis and for steps necessary to prepare for the assembly.

+ Voted to receive a new partner organization as a part of Lutheran CORE. Article VII, the new partner organization, is a cluster of congregations and pastors in Orange County, California (Pacifica Synod).

+ Received the new Lutheran CORE brochure. The brochure is available online at

+ Asked the Lutheran CORE Advisory Council to consider the meaning of "status confessionis" at its March 2009 meeting. The Advisory Council is a group of theologians and pastors who provide theological guidance for Lutheran CORE.

The next meeting of the Steering Committee will be Jan. 27 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio.

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'A Different Gospel - Christianity at Risk'

"A Different Gospel -- Christianity at Risk" is the theme of the 2008 WordAlone Network Fall Theological Conference. The conference will be held Nov. 9-11 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fridley, Minn. Speakers will examine the "different gospel" being proclaimed by some in the ELCA and in other denominations and contrast it with the true Gospel.

Episcopal Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison will address the different gospel that has led to such tragic decline and division within The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. In his second presentation, Bishop Allison will address the notion of human free will before God, which has made Anglican and Lutheran theology susceptible to another gospel.

ELCA Pastor Scott Grorud will speak about the different gospel often heard within the ELCA.

The corrosive impact of the different gospel on the ministry, mission and vitality of ELCA churches and the potential for rupturing ecumenical relationships and relationships with other Lutheran churches in the world will be discussed.

A variety of workshops will be offered including workshops with the keynote presenters and others on WordAlone Network ministries.

The WordAlone Network is one of the renewal movements that are a part of Lutheran CORE. For more information on the conference go to

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

Arizona forum to feature Carl Braaten

The Rev. Dr. Carl Braaten will address "Theological Issues Challenging the ELCA" at an open forum at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, at La Casa De Cristo Lutheran Church, in Scottsdale, Ariz. The forum is sponsored by Lutheran CORE.

Dr. Braaten is a prominent Lutheran theologian and is the author of numerous books and articles. He is also a member of the Lutheran CORE Advisory Council.

Lutheran CORE Steering Committee member Ryan Schwarz will also address the forum.

For more information, please call 480-948-1234, extension 1106.

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Resources available to help in responding to sexuality draft

Lutheran CORE has provided resources to assist ELCA members as they respond to Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality.

Links to these detailed reviews of the draft statement and to other helpful documents on human sexuality are available at in the marriage and family educational resources section:

+ "An Open Letter to the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality and the ELCA Church Council and Conference of Bishops."

+ Lutheran CORE's summary response to Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality.

+ "Open Letter to the ELCA sexuality task force and the ELCA bishops about the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Hultgren.

+ "A Response from Lutheran CORE to Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" by retired ELCA bishops Kenneth Sauer and Paull Spring.

+ "A Critique of the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" by the Rev. Dr. Carl E. Braaten.

+ "A Sexual Ethic for Teletubbies, or Lutherans Embrace a Formless World" by Dr. Robert Benne.

+ "Personal Reflections on and Recommendations Regarding Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" by the Rev. Dr. J. Jeffrey Zetto.

+ "Some Critical Observations on the Use of Scripture in the ELCA Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Hultgren.

+ "The Use of Scripture in the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" by the Rev. Dr. Walter F. Taylor Jr.

+ "What Are They Talking About? two reviews of Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" by the Rev. Jonathan Jenkins.

+ "A Pastoral Letter on the Continuing Discussion in the ELCA Concerning Homosexuality" by the Rev. Tom Renquist.

+ "Some Questions and Answers about the ELCA Sexuality Discussions."

+ "Keeping Faith" -- arguments that support upholding the biblical norms for sexuality.

+ "New Testament on Homo-sexuality: Denying God's Purpose by the Rev. Dr. Walter F. Taylor Jr.

+ "The Bible and Sexual Boundaries" by the Rev. Dr. Craig R. Koester.

+ "Law and Sexual Behavior" by the Rev. Dr. Gerhard O. Forde.

+ "The Normative Character of Scripture for Matters of Faith and Life: Human Sexuality in Light of Romans 1:16-32" by the Rev. Dr. Gerhard O. Forde.

+ "Is Orientation the Issue?" by the Rev. Dr. James H. Burtness.

+ "Is it lawful to marry?" by the Rev. Philip Nesvig.

+ "The Authority of Scripture in the ‘Homosex Debate" by the Rev. Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon.

+ "How Bad Is Homosexual Practice According to Scripture and Does Scriptures Indictment Apply to Committed Homosexual Unions?" by the Rev. Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon

+ "The Bukoba Statement" by the Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.

+ "Sexuality: Some Common Convictions," ELCA Church Council Message (1996).

+ "Vision and Expectations -- Ordained Ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America."

+ "Sex, Marriage and Family," A Social Statement of the Lutheran Church in America (1970).

+ "Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior," a Social Statement of The American Lutheran Church (1980).

+ "Teachings and Practice on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage," a Social Statement of The American Lutheran Church (1982).

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Another Extraordinary Ordination

Shrimp here. Lutheran (True) Confessions reports here...
Our friends at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) have announced that Ms. Jodi Barry will be ordained extra ordinem on Saturday, October 25 at Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

What has not (yet) been announced is that Ms. Barry is the first person to receive a call to ministry from ELM: the ELM Covenant Circle voted in August to issue a call to Ms. Barry for the chaplaincy ministry she performs at Mercy Hospital in Minneapolis. Ms. Barry has served as lay chaplain at the hospital for several years.
In verifying the above links, Shrimp observes that the Youth Director for Grace University Lutheran Church is named Jodi Barry. And according to the ELM roster, she is the partner of former ELCA pastor Dr. Jenny Mason.

Shrimp out.

Friday, October 03, 2008

ELCA Sexuality Task Force Update

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This update from the Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality provides a reminder of dates to keep in mind and information to help you stay informed about the work of the task force.

Throughout the summer, task force members have been receiving responses, reports and open letters from many ELCA members and groups. By the November 1 deadline the task force also will have sent task force representatives to more than 110 synodical hearings.

The task force will meet November 7-8, 2008, and again January 23-25, 2009, to consider revisions to the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality and to discuss further the report mandated by the 2007 Churchwide Assembly to address policies that "preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church."

By February 18, 2009, the task force will conclude its work on both the proposed social statement on human sexuality and the report. On this day a confidential preview will be made available to rostered leaders. On February 19 the two documents will be made available publicly, and will be sent to the ELCA Church Council for its consideration and action to place them on the agenda of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, August 17-23, 2009.

Below please find important dates leading to action at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. For updates and additional resources visit

Please continue to lift up the task force and advisory members in your prayers as this church embarks on the final phase of this journey together.

Kind regards,
Rebecca Larson, Executive Director
Church in Society program unit
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

November 1
Deadline for responses to the task force

November 7-8
Task force meets

January 23-25
Task force’s final meeting

February 18 (noon Central time)
Confidential preview for rostered leaders of Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality and Report on Rostering Recommendations

February 19 (noon Central time)
Public release of Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality and Report on Rostering Recommendations

March 27-30
ELCA Church Council reviews work of task force and will be asked to RECOMMEND the finalized text of the Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality with implementing resolutions, and the Report on Rostering Recommendations. It will be asked to direct that these be placed on the Churchwide Assembly 2009 agenda.

April 2
ELCA Church Council‘s finalized text of RECOMMENDED proposed social statement with implementing resolutions and RECOMMENDED report on rostering published online.

April 20 (target date)
Spanish translations of finalized texts published online.

Synod assemblies discuss and respond to both the RECOMMENDED proposed social statement with implementing resolutions and the RECOMMENDED report on rostering.

August 17-23
ELCA Churchwide Assembly considers both the recommended proposed social statement with implementing resolutions and the recommended report on rostering.

The good ship ELCA...

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