Thursday, December 24, 2009

ELCA News' "Merry Christmas" Announcement

Shrimp here. In North America, it is mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve.

The perfect time for the ELCA News Service, "a service for journalists and members of the news media," to take one last shot at the evening news. Who knows, maybe the local TV news crew will pick up the urgent message that just came over the wire, and the mention of "Lutheran Church" will inspire a few folks to show up for one of the Christmas Eve services tonight at a nearby ELCA congregation.

Yes, and as the visitor is greeted at the door, she mentions to the pastor that the ELCA was mentioned on the Channel 4 News. "Oh, really!" replies Pastor Inkvist. "What was the story?"
San Francisco Lutheran Congregation to Celebrate First 'Feast of Hope'

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco, will celebrate its first "Feast of Hope" worship Dec. 27, in celebration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly decision directing changes in ministry policies.

The Rev. Anita Hill, pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Church, Minneapolis, will serve as guest preacher.

Since 1995 the congregation has held a "Feast of Expulsion" in late December, commemorating the date when the congregation was expelled from the ELCA, according to a news release from the congregation.  

On Dec. 31, 1995 St. Francis was removed from the ELCA's roster of congregations for calling ministers in same-gender relationships, a violation of ELCA policy.

The 2009 Churchwide Assembly directed changes to ELCA ministry policies that created the possibility that people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships could serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers. The assembly also adopted a social statement on human sexuality.

St. Francis members were among many others in the ELCA who worked for years for changes in ELCA ministry policies.

The Rev. Robert M. Goldstein, who serves as lead pastor at St. Francis, said the congregation council began discussions about changing the emphasis for the congregation's annual observance.

"We weren't sure what to name it," he said in an interview. "Since the congregation on the whole is very hopeful, and we're still in a holding pattern until we see the details in the (ELCA) Church Council's reformulation of polices, we thought 'hope' was the best and most accurate name to give this."

When it meets in April 2010, the ELCA Church Council is expected to consider revised policy documents implementing the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. The proposed policies will be reviewed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops before any council action.

Goldstein said the congregation wants its event to be "forward-looking."

"It's time to accent the future now, and not live in the past," he said. Most of the congregation's approximately 135 members will likely attend Sunday's event, Goldstein said.

While members at St. Francis celebrate hope for the future, there are some congregations in the ELCA that do not agree with the assembly's decisions.  Many cite biblical authority as their reasons. David D. Swartling, ELCA secretary, reported that as of Dec. 16, about 135 of the ELCA's nearly 10,400 congregations have taken first votes since the assembly to leave the denomination. Ninety-seven congregations achieved the required two-thirds vote and are moving forward in the process; 38 failed to achieve two-thirds.

Goldstein said members of congregations who disagree "are my brothers and sisters as we disagree over something that St. Francis' brothers and sisters feel very strongly about." He said he and St. Francis' members recognize others are in pain over the decisions, but noted many at St. Francis have been in pain for years because of the longstanding policies.

Goldstein added that he hopes one day there can be a "rite of reconciliation" for St. Francis and the ELCA.


Information about St. Francis Lutheran Church is at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
Merry Christmas! Shrimp

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stirring Things Up

Shrimp here. "Stir up your power, O Lord, and come," begins the the Prayer of the Day on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. (We've uses the LBW version here; ELW updates "O Lord" to "Lord Christ.") That was Sunday.

Tuesday came the ELCA News headline, "Lutheran Bishops Offer Ideas to White House to Stir Economy." Begins the article,
In a Dec. 16 letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, a caucus of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bishops acknowledged economic challenges and suggested opportunities for job creation. The group met with Martha Coven, special assistant to the president for mobility and opportunity policy, to present the letter and discuss the status of hunger and economic insecurity in the United States.

In the letter the bishops wrote, "We see firsthand the effects that unemployment has on individuals, families and communities. While we are there to counsel and comfort, we are also committed to encouraging policies that can spur job growth."

The bishops' letter outlined a number of propositions for job creation such as small business development, job retraining, green jobs for low-income people and expanding public service programs.

The caucus asked for particular consideration of sustainable development for low-income communities, as well as sustaining the environment and people living in poverty through investments in green jobs and clean energy technology.
Go ahead, read the news release here. We'll wait...

Stirred up yet? Remember, these are the same church leaders who are unable to publicly express a common word about the proper context for the expression of human sexuality. Leaders in a church that just let 40 of its own employees go in the midst of it's own financial panic. Here's their letter offering economic advice to the President of the United States :
U.S. Hunger and Povery Caucus
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

God's work. Our Hands.

December 16, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's U.S. Hunger and Poverty Caucus, whose purpose is to mobilze biships of the ELCA to speak publicly and prophetically about the problem of hunger and poverty in America and influence legislation aimed at reducing them. We write to you with acute awareness of the effects of the current recession on individuals and families struggleing to make ends meet. We also know that you and your Administration have given particular attention to job creation and the economy in recent days and weeks.

As a church, we are committed to talking with people about the challenges they face in their work, as well as counseling and supporting those who are unemployed, underemployed, and undergoing job transitions. We see first had the effects that unemployment has on individuals, families, and communities. While we are there to counsel and comfort, we are also committed to encouraging policies that can spur job growth. There is no replacement for a good job.

With that in mind, we add our collective voice to the current national discussion about jobs and job creation. We call for the following: public and private sector partnerships to create jobs and job rethention programs; national economic policies that support and advance the goal of low unemployment;
Shrimp can't resist an interruption here: Ya think ELCA Advocacy will now recommend lowering the minimum wage?
and skill and language enhancement training that will enable the most vulnerable, including new immigrants, to become beter prepared for jobs.

As you consider a myriad of ideas, we ask that you give particular consideration to the following two overriding principles:
  • Sustainable development of low-income communities. In many low-income communities — rural and urban — disinvestment and neglect have taken their toll. In contrast, there are examples of sustainable community economic development that take into account the overall health and welfare people, the environment, and the local economy. Such an approach creates jobs, prepares people for work, generates income that is re-circulated several times in the community, and sustains and renews environmental resources, all for the sake of a community's long-term viability
  • Sustaining the environment and people living in poverty through investments in green jobs and clean energy technology. The growth of economic activity during the twentieth century, and the industrialization and consumerism that fueled it, radically changed the relationship between humans and the earth. Investment in clean energy technology and the jobs that such investment create can serve the dual purpose of lifting individuals and families out of poverty and repairing our finite, fragile ecological system upon which human and all other life depends.
We have also attached a complilation of more specific ideas, gathered from among the ELCA's network of 18 state public policy offices.
Shrimp, interrupting again. Those ideas can be found here along with this letter.
Thank you for your consideration, and please contact Robert Francis in the ELCA Washington Office to follow up on this letter or any of the attached Suggestions.


Bishop Michael Burk, Southeastern Iowa Synod

Bishop Jessica Crist, Montana Synod

Bishop Robert Driesen, Upper Susquehanna Synod

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Northeastern Ohio Synod

Bishop Marcus Lorhmann, Northwestern Ohio Synod

Bishop James Mauney, Virginia Synod and Convener of the Domenstic Ready Bench

Bishop David Zellmer, South Dakota Synod.
Shrimp again, wishing you a blessed last days of Advent. Stir up...

Shrimp out.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Evangelical Lutheran leader suggests Bible not the final authority (

Shrimp here.

That's the AP's headline, by the way, not ours. The article (go ahead, click and read; Shellfish isn't an AP agent) doesn't say a whole lot about ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's, uh, responses to questions at the ELCA's Town Hall Forum held in what appeared to be the former Augsburg Fortress store on the ground level at The Lutheran Center late yesterday afternoon. But you can judge for yourself now that the Town Hall Forum's webcast is posted at that link for "on-demand viewing."

Meanwhile, here's the ELCA News take on the Forum. Shrimp out.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Addresses Variety of Subjects in Town Hall Forum


CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) hosted a "Town Hall Forum" here Dec. 6, fielding a variety of questions on topics such as leadership, mission, evangelism, anti-racism and racial justice matters, funding, churchwide staff reductions and actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson responded to 19 questions -- posed by a live audience and members watching online -- during the hour-long forum. Carlos Peña, ELCA vice president, Galveston, Texas, introduced Hanson and posed questions from viewers.

Hanson had said he wanted to use the forum to speak directly to members about priorities for the 4.6 million-member ELCA, look forward and share stories about mission. He also promised to host similar forums in the future.

ELCA Communication Services, which managed the forum along with ELCA Information Technology staff and others, reported the online video player for the forum was launched 3,148 times, with 2,205 unique viewers. Top viewership was in Minnesota, Illinois and Florida. Viewers in several foreign countries also watched, the report said.

The forum was held as some ELCA congregations are considering leaving the denomination or withholding finances as a response to the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

That assembly directed changes to ministry policies, creating the possibility for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as clergy and professional lay workers. The directive has caused some disagreement in the ELCA.

Hanson asked members to continue to discuss the assembly's actions and include those with differing opinions in those conversations; respect other points of view; and remain united as the ELCA.

He addressed congregations that are redirecting or withholding funds to register disagreement with the assembly's actions.

"Let me tell you when that line is cut, mission and ministry is diminished throughout the world and throughout this church," he told the forum audience.

He said the ELCA is a church where all people "can teach and preach" with the integrity of their convictions on sexuality matters. The ELCA is also welcoming people who "are coming to faith or being renewed in their faith" because of the assembly's actions, Hanson said.

"We can be faithful Lutheran Christians and live with that tension in the same church body. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that became our witness?" he said.

He said the concept of "bound conscience" remains a question for many, and there should be an "open" conversation about it. He added that "we live under the authority of Scripture," but members must keep asking each other "What does that mean?"

Hanson also commented on other topics:

+ Leadership: He urged leaders to focus on the complete picture of the ELCA through "a wide-angle lens" versus focusing on human sexuality issues. ELCA leaders and members need to encourage each other in their ministries, Hanson said.

+ Mission: Every synod should convene leaders to study how "vibrant ministries can happen in congregations," he said. Directors of evangelical mission are being placed in synods to help congregations grow as centers for mission, he said.

+ Anti-racism education and racial justice: Hanson said two full-time churchwide positions will be combined into one. That doesn't diminish the churchwide organization's commitment in this area, he said. He invited the audience to advise him on the new job description. Hanson also said that the churchwide organization is building groups to oversee churchwide anti-racism work, and to work with synods and congregations.

+ Multicultural and ethnic-specific ministries: Hanson reported that 13 new congregations will be planted in 2010 in multicultural, ethnic-specific communities throughout the ELCA. The ELCA Mission Investment Fund provided grant funds to make this possible, he said. Hanson also said the ELCA cannot use multicultural, ethnic-specific communities as "pawns" in a struggle over sexuality. He said the ELCA "needs to sustain these vibrant ministries."

+ ELCA restructuring: A task force has been appointed to study church structures and relationships throughout the ELCA, and how changes that have taken place since the church was formed in 1988. Hanson said he was less concerned about structure than he is about mission. "We're in that study now. I can guarantee you that it will not be a top-down decision. It will be a conversation to which we invite the church."

+ Ecumenical and global relationships: The presiding bishop said that since the churchwide assembly, the ELCA has been working specifically to tend relationships with other churches in the United States and globally.

Hanson said he hopes that in the next eight years, the ELCA can train 1,000 evangelists to help the church grow, informed by global companion churches. He also urged congregations to study the ELCA's social statements alongside real-life social challenges, such as health care.


Video of the "Town Hall Forum" is at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:

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

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Northeastern Iowa Synod Bishop's Pastoral Letter

Shrimp here, with a tip o' the claw to Erik Ullestad's koinonia blog, where he posts a pastoral letter from Northeastern Iowa Synod Bishop Steven Ullestad. (Yes, they're related -- the Bishop is the Blogger's father.) The letter is in regard to the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council's actions (posted here and here) on actions of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Shrimp out.

= = = = = = = = = =

December 4, 2009

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Grace to you and peace in this season of Advent anticipation and hope.

At its November 14, 2009 meeting, the synod council passed two resolutions in response to the actions of the churchwide assembly votes on ministry policies and the social statement on Human Sexuality. These resolutions were passed after thoughtful conversation by a majority vote. The resolution addressing the "bound conscience" clause of the churchwide resolutions was adopted by a vote of 10 in favor, 5 opposed and 1 abstention. The memorial requesting that the ELCA church council repudiate and rescind the actions of the churchwide assembly passed by a vote of 8 in favor, 6 who were opposed and 2 abstentions. Both resolutions have been sent to all rostered persons in our synod.

We have received several responses to the actions of the synod council. There are those who are grateful for the resolutions and others that are experiencing deep pain due to the votes. Some are asking questions about the authority of the synod council to pass such resolutions while many are asking about the implications for local congregations in the call process, the candidacy committee and the decisions that are made by the bishop. The resolutions test the implications of the churchwide decisions for our synod. I have been asked by those who oppose the decisions and by those who support the decisions to "make a ruling" in this regard. I have chosen not to do so for the following reasons.

We are Lutherans. We believe that the Christian faith and the implications of the Gospel have not simply been given to the church through an unbroken chain charted back to St. Peter. We believe that the Gospel and its implications for our daily lives have been given to all who confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Consequently, it is the calling of the people of God and not the bishop or Conference of Bishops to determine the ethics of the church. That is why we engage the whole church in the development of social statements and have votes by those who have been elected by the people, the laity and pastors of the churchwide assembly and synod council, in order to determine the policies of the church. An individual bishop, The Conference of Bishops, any unit of the churchwide office and the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA have no legislative authority in this regard. It is the vote of the people that makes this determination.

The people of God, assembled in Minneapolis, determined that local congregations would decide whether or not they wished to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable couples who are in life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships. The church, gathered at the churchwide assembly, also decided to allow for "structured flexibility" in determining whether or not persons in such relationships could be approved for ordination and serve as pastors. The language of the resolutions makes provision for the "bound conscience" of "any congregation, candidacy committee, synod or bishop.”

In the same way that some synods and congregations have voted in the past to be "Reconciling in Christ" synods or congregations, our synod council has voted to continue the traditional standards for ordination and the calling of a pastor. This resolution will be brought to the 2010 Synod Assembly for consideration.

Our synod will now be engaged in conversations about what this means for our life together. What is meant by the churchwide assembly’s action that allows for the bound conscience of a candidacy committee and a synod? Is the action of the synod council and potential action of the synod assembly, a higher authority than the local congregation's authority to call any pastor that it chooses who is on the roster of the ELCA? Is a decision of the synod council or synod assembly a higher authority than the bound conscience of any individual that is serving on the candidacy committee? Standards of discipline for rostered persons are churchwide policies and not synodical. Does the action of the synod council add to, change or challenge those policies, or is it subservient to them?

The resolution passed by the synod council "encourages" the synod bishop to maintain the traditional standards for the roster. If a congregation chooses to call a pastor in a "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same gender relationship", does the bishop have the authority to refuse to sign such a call? If a bishop's signature on a letter of call simply "attests" to an ELCA congregation calling an ELCA pastor and does not indicate an approval or appointment by the bishop, on what basis would a bishop not sign a call? If a bishop’s “bound conscience” would be the basis for such a decision, is that a greater power than a congregation’s call?

My concern continues to be the theology of the church in the midst of this very important conversation. I have asked that we consider a Lutheran understanding of scripture, the manner in which we embrace dialectical tension in our theology and the importance for any consideration to be grounded in scripture and the theology of the church.

I believe that pastors, whether serving in the office of bishop or in congregations, are the "spiritual parents" for the community of faith. As that parent for our synod, it is important for me to allow the family to be engaged in this conversation within certain parameters. I will not solve this problem for our synod or church I will help to maintain the boundaries of the conversation, reminding us of our theology, the implications for the eighth commandment, and the powerful witness of our oneness in Christ in the midst of difficult and challenging times.

Families have been destroyed because they could not find a way to have a conversation on the topic of homosexuality. This is our opportunity to provide a witness to them about how we can remain one in Christ, share our deep faith convictions and remain together for the sake of Christ's mission in the world.

It is my fervent prayer that we will continue to trust the people of God with making decisions about the ministry of their congregations and our church. We remember together that there is nothing that will separate us from the love of God, that our unity in Christ is greater than any disagreement and that none of us will do anything to injure or weaken the remarkable mission of our church. I have no question, that the depth and breadth of that mission is unmatched. I will be working to continue to strengthen our church even further.

Thank you for joining me in that calling.

Your Partner in Mission,
The Rev. Dr. Steven L. Ullestad

Were You Invited to the ELCA Town Hall Forum?

Shrimp here. Sunday's Bears game starts at 1:00 pm EST; the Vikings start at 8:20 pm.

Shrimp out.

Dear friend,

Advent greetings to you! I am pleased to invite you to participate in an online Town Hall Forum with ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson on Sunday, December 6.

The hour-long forum begins at 5:30 p.m. EST (4:30 p.m. CST) in a live Web cast.

Here’s how you can participate:
  • Watch the event via live stream video at
  • Log in to chat and post questions while watching the live streaming video
  • Post comments using Facebook Connect
  • Tweet about the event using the hashtags #ELCA #BishopHanson
  • Gather members of your congregation for a viewing party
I hope you’ll join us in this unique opportunity to talk with Bishop Hanson about the mission and ministry of this church.


Kristi Bangert
Executive Director, Communication Services
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

P.S. Tell friends and family about this first-ever event and encourage them to tune in.

Visit for a video message, bulletin insert and more.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Northeastern Iowa Synod Council Expresses Bound Conscience


WHEREAS, The 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA has adopted 4 Recommendations on Ministry Policies (CA09.05.23; CA09.05.24; CA09.05.26; and CA09.05.27), and

WHEREAS, CA09.05.23 states "that in the implementation of any resolutions on ministry policies, the ELCA commit itself to bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all", and

WHEREAS, CA09.05.27, in the 2nd "RESOLVED" states "that this church, because of its commitment to respect the bound consciences of all, declare its intent to allow structured flexibility in decision-making regarding the approving or disapproving in candidacy and the extending or not extending of a call to rostered service of a person who is otherwise qualified and who is living or contemplates living in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship", and

WHEREAS, the 5th "WHEREAS" introducing CA.09.05.27 states, "other members, congregations, candidacy committees, and synods of the ELCA acknowledge those gifts and skills for ministry, but believe that this church must maintain an expectation of celibacy for any gay or lesbian person, whether or not that person is in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, and thus believe that this church cannot call or roster people in such relationships" and

WHEREAS, the use of "structured flexibility" is portrayed in the "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies" as presented to the Churchwide Assembly on lines 488 – 498 of the Pre-Assembly Report in the following manner:
"To choose structured flexibility does not imply that same-gender-oriented people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships would be able to serve everywhere in this church. The existing discernment processes for approval and call already assume that synods, bishops, candidacy committees, rostered leaders, and congregations will make decisions in keeping with their own conscience and convictions. If structured flexibility were added to the process, this assumption would still protect any congregation, candidacy committee, synod, or bishop from having to violate bound conscience by approving, calling, commissioning, consecrating, or ordaining anyone in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship. Similarly, a structured flexibility process would protect the decisions of a congregation, candidacy committee, synod, or bishop who concludes that mission would be served best by approving or calling a particular candidate or rostered leader who is in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship." (bold added), and

WHEREAS, it is evident from these portions of the materials adopted and presented at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly that the "all" whose "bound conscience" the actions of the assembly have committed the ELCA to honor include "synods", and that this "bound conscience" includes the ability to choose not to approve, call, commission, consecrate, or ordain someone in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, and

WHEREAS, the "bound conscience" of the Northeastern Iowa Synod can most clearly be determined by the actions taken at synod assembly, and

WHEREAS, actions of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly in 2004 (SA04.06.9), 2005 (SA05.06.38), 2007 (SA07.06.33, SA07.06.36, SA07.06.38 & SA07.06.41), and 2009 (SA09.06.15 & SA09.06.18) have declared the position of the Northeastern Iowa Synod to be that "Marriage, an institution ordained by God, is the life-long union of one man and one woman for the creation of human life and for their mutual love and care… Sexual intercourse is part of the vocation of marriage and is misused in any other context" (SA04.06.9); have opposed any changes in the church’s teaching concerning marriage and sexuality (SA04.06.9, SA09.06.15); and have opposed any changes in the ELCA’s standards for pastors and other rostered leaders as expressed in the 1990 documents "Vision and Expectations" and "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline" (SA05.06.38, SA07.06.36, SA07.06.38, SA07.06.41 & SA09.06.18); therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council, recognizing the past actions of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly as evidence of the Northeastern Iowa Synod’s strongly-held views with respect to the approving, calling, commissioning, consecrating, or ordaining of one in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, determines that the standards for rostered ministry as outlined in the 1990 documents, "Vision and Expectations" and "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline" shall remain in effect for the Northeastern Iowa Synod, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council encourage the Northeastern Iowa Synod Candidacy Committee and the Office of Bishop of the Northeastern Iowa Synod to continue to abide by such standards for rostered ministry in the Northeastern Iowa Synod during the period leading up to the 2010 Synod Assembly, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council recommends the following Continuing Resolution to the 2010 Synod Assembly of the Northeastern Iowa Synod:
S14.02 A10 In addition to the standards for ordained ministers in the current "Vision and Expectations" as adopted by the ELCA Church Council, this synod shall continue to maintain this expectation from "Vision & Expectations" (1990) in its candidacy process and in its standards for pastors and other rostered leaders:

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 synod. The expectations of this synod regarding the sexual conduct of its ordained ministers are grounded in the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that ordained ministers are to live in such a way as to honor this gift. Ordained ministers are expected to reject sexual promiscuity, the manipulation of others for purposes of sexual gratification, and all attempts of sexual seduction and sexual harassment, including taking physical or emotional advantage of others. Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.

Northeastern Iowa Synod Council "Repudiates" CWA Actions


WHEREAS, the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA has adopted the social statement, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust", and

WHEREAS, in Part IV (lines 620 – 628 in the Pre-Assembly Report) this statement reads:
The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, reflecting 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. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder." (Jesus here recalls Genesis 1:27; 2:23–24.), and

WHEREAS, in Part IV (lines 740 – 744, as amended, of the Pre-Assembly Report) it reads:
Recognizing that this conclusion differs from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, some people, though not all, in this church and within the larger Christian community, conclude that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships, and

WHEREAS, the statement then goes on to treat these two positions and the variants within them as of equal validity, on the basis of the "conscience-bound beliefs" of those who hold them (Part IV, lines 809 – 868 of the Pre-Assembly Report), and

WHEREAS, on this same basis of the "conscience-bound lack of consensus in this church" (lines 452 – 453 of the Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies in Part V of the Pre-Assembly Report) the resolutions on ministry policies (SA09.05.23 – 24 – 26 & 27) were adopted, and

WHEREAS, neither the Social Statement nor the Recommendation on Ministry Policies present an argument based on Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and with the aid of sound reason either to reject what is admitted to be the position of the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions based on Scripture or to accept a position which is admitted to be contrary to the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, and

WHEREAS, the Confession of Faith of the ELCA (Chapter 2 of the ELCA Constitution) commits the ELCA to accept the canonical Scriptures as the authoritative source and norm of our proclamation, faith and life, and to accept the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church as a true witness of the Gospel and valid interpretations of the faith of the Church, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council, repudiate the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in adopting the social statement "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" and the 4 Resolutions on Ministry Policies (CA09.05.23 – 24 – 26 & 27) as violations of the Confession of Faith, Chapter 2 of the ELCA Constitution, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council memorialize the ELCA Church Council to repudiate these actions as violations of the Confession of Faith, Chapter 2 of the ELCA Constitution, refuse to implement these actions, and begin the process to overturn these decisions at the 2011 Churchwide Assembly.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Presiding Bishop's Pastoral Letter

Shrimp here. In case you've not seen ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's Advent pastoral letter that was released mid-November, here it is below. It's is, as we know now, the opening shot for his "Town Hall Forum" this Sunday afternoon at 4:30 (CST), where "Bishop Hanson will be taking questions from a live audience and online viewers." We may say more about that later. But first, the Presiding Bishop's letter.

An open letter to ELCA members: Standing together in God's grace

Sisters and brothers in Christ of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,

I greet you with the words of the apostle Paul to the Romans: "Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:1-2a).

Where does the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) stand today? We stand together in God's grace, but we are not standing still. We proclaim Jesus Christ and are fully engaged in this mission by actively caring for the world that God loves. God's mission is serious work that calls for serious commitment. We bring all that we are -- especially our rich diversity, our shared tradition and even our disagreements -- in service of God's mission.

We go forward in this mission trusting that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Evidence abounds of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon us and through us:
  • Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Naples, Fla., recently purchased land for new ministry center. They also convened ELCA partners, seminaries, synods, and churchwide staff to envision together a vibrant, evangelical and multicultural Lutheran presence in southwestern Florida.

  • Our new directors of evangelical mission, based in synods, are trained and ready to serve ELCA congregations that they might continue to grow as evangelical centers for mission.

  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi told Global Mission colleagues traveling in the region that they are ready to deepen their relationship with the ELCA so that together we can more generously and faithfully respond to malaria, HIV and AIDS. Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, ELCA coordinator for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, writes, "The ELCA, especially through the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, will be part of a movement that changes the world. It's certainly going to change Malawi."

  • In summer 2009, 37,000 youth, young adults and adult leaders attended the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. They spread throughout the city, wearing orange t-shirts in a witness of service that touched the hearts of residents and has them talking still.

  • ELCA chaplains Michael Lembke, Richard Brunk and Paul Dirksmeyer bore witness to God's mercy at Fort Hood, Texas. They ministered to families, friends and an entire nation grieving the tragic shootings at the nation's largest military base.
These are just a few examples. Think of the signs of the Holy Spirit being poured out in your life and in your congregation! Thanks be to God for this continued outpouring of the Spirit among us.

When the ELCA Church Council faced the reality of reduced financial resources for mission, it made a difficult but necessary 10 percent budget reduction.  The decision, however, does not diminish our resolve and commitment to engage together in God's mission for the life of the world.

We will engage Christ's mission with everyone who stands together in God's grace, using the rich gifts that the Holy Spirit has poured into our lives:
  • Together we will proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord in worship spaces and workplaces, in online conversations and around kitchen tables.

  • Together we will develop new ministries in every synod in multicultural communities and among people living in deep poverty.

  • Together we will raise up and welcome faithful, wise and courageous leaders by sustaining vital and creative seminaries and campus ministries.

  • Together we will send missionaries to accompany new and growing Lutheran churches throughout the world.
I invite you to deepen this conversation with me in an online town hall forum on Sunday, December 6, at 4:30 p.m. (CST); check for more details.

The apostle Paul wrote that where the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us, hope abounds and hope does not disappoint us (Romans 5:4-5). What a wonderful promise this is as we now enter the season of Advent! With our hope in Christ, we face the future together as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, serving the world that God so loves.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Visit for a video message and more.
Shrimp again. If you go to the "Faithful Mission" page (apparently that's what follows a now-completed "Faithful Journey") you'll find not only a link to this letter, but a video message from Bishop Hanson.

Which gives us the opportunity to introduce pretty good lutherans, a blog sub-titled "ELCA News in Real Time" by the veteran religion reporter Susan Hogan. pretty good lutherans caught Shrimp's notice in October with Ms. Hogan's reports of the layoffs at the ELCA's headquarters in Chicago.

Sifting through the blog, it appears that pretty good lutherans is generally sympathetic to the ELCA's revisionists and the leadership of the Presiding Bishop. Ms. Hogan's also a fair reporter -- that is, she gives a story as straight as she can, but doesn't pretend that she's always completely impartial -- who doesn't like to be fed evasive pablum by those she's reporting on. So when she writes about the Presiding Bishop's Advent communications to the ELCA, you should sit up and notice that she begins her own "letter" to the PB,
Dear Bishop Hanson:

Whomever is writing scripts for you, make him or her stop.

Your denomination needs your authentic self back, the one that spoke with heartfelt compassion from the national assembly after the vote to welcome partnered gays and lesbians into the church’s ministries.

Where did that bishop go? Who is this canned persona in the video released this week?

Why dodge issues that church members most need to hear about? For instance, what is your plan for dealing with racism in the wake of the elimination of two staff positions responsible for addressing this issue?
Etc. Really, ya gotta read it all here.

Shrimp out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lutheran CORE to Launch New Denomination

Shrimp here, with an announcement on the Lutheran CORE web site. We'll note that this announcement of a New Lutheran Church is for those leaving the ELCA, and that Lutheran CORE itself intends to remain a "free standing synod" for congregations inside and outside the ELCA. The press release is also available as a pdf document here. Shrimp out.

Lutheran CORE leaders announce that a new Lutheran church body will be formed for those leaving the ELCA

NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. — Leaders of Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal) have voted to begin work on a proposal for a new Lutheran church body for those who choose to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, they announced Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The votes by ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August to allow pastors to be in committed same-sex relationships have created a biblical and theological crisis throughout the ELCA and conflict in local congregations. Many congregations and individuals are considering the possibility of leaving the ELCA or have chosen to redirect giving away from the national church.

More than 1,200 Lutherans gathered in Fishers, Ind., Sept. 25-26 unanimously voted to authorize the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee "to initiate conversations among the congregations and reform movements in Lutheran CORE and other compatible churchly organizations leading toward a possible reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism" and to bring a recommendation for action in 2010. The Lutheran CORE Steering Committee decided Tuesday that a new church body likely will be necessary and directed that work begin on a church body proposal.

"Many ELCA members and congregations have said that they want to sever ties with the ELCA because of the ELCA's continued movement away from traditional Christian teachings. The vote on sexuality opened the eyes of many to how far the ELCA has moved from Biblical teaching," said the Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pa., Lutheran CORE Chair.

"Lutheran CORE will aid in the formation of a Lutheran church body for those congregations and individuals that choose to end their affiliation with the ELCA. This church body will stand where Lutherans have always stood and will center its life on the mission of the church to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ," said Spring, the retired bishop of the Northern Pennsylvania Synod.
A special working group will draft the church body proposal. The recommendations are to be released in February to allow interested individuals and congregations time for feedback. Final proposals will be brought to the Lutheran CORE Convocation Aug. 26-27 in Columbus, Ohio.

The working group will also bring recommendations for the continuation of Lutheran CORE as a free-standing synod that will serve both Lutherans in the ELCA and those in other church bodies. This working group will be in conversation with other Lutheran church bodies about ways to work together. Lutheran CORE has expressed an interest in working closely with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, an association of Lutheran congregations which many ELCA congregations have joined. The proposed church body is intended to provide a place for congregations that desire a more a traditional denominational structure.

"We have not made any firm decisions about what this church body will be or how it will be structured. That reality will come into focus as the working group meets with the members of Lutheran CORE who are looking for a new church body and with other Lutheran church bodies in North America," explained Ryan Schwarz of Washington, D.C., who chairs the working group.

Lutheran CORE to continue as free-standing synod

Lutheran CORE will continue to exist as a free-standing synod. Both those within the ELCA and in this new church body will be able to continue in fellowship through Lutheran CORE.

"Lutheran CORE is committed to be a church fellowship for Lutherans who affirm the authority of Scripture — both those who choose to remain affiliated with the ELCA and those who choose to end their affiliation with the ELCA," Spring said.

"It is important that those who want to uphold the authority of Scripture work together. We need each other. To be an effective witness, Lutherans — both those who remain affiliated with the ELCA and those who end that affiliation — need to work together. Lutheran CORE hopes to continue to provide that church fellowship and serve that common mission," he added.

"This new church body and the Lutheran CORE free-standing synod will make it possible for congregations to work together in mission and to relate to other Lutherans worldwide," Schwarz said. "Lutherans around the world have been scandalized by the ELCA's actions. Lutheran CORE will work closely with Lutherans around the world who share our commitment to Scripture as it has been understood by generations of Christians."

"We are not leaving the ELCA. The ELCA has left us. Lutheran CORE is continuing in the Christian faith as it has been passed down to us by generations of Christians. The ELCA is the one that has departed from the teaching of the Bible as understood by Christians for 2,000 years," Spring said. "The division in the ELCA is not only about sex. It is about the authority of Scripture in the life of the church. The crisis in the ELCA is a direct result of the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly."

"We grieve that it has become necessary for so many to leave the ELCA and for so many others to alter their relationship with the ELCA, but we are heartened by the clear sense of mission and ministry that is motivating these changes," the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee said in a letter to members of Lutheran CORE announcing the decision."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lutheran CORE: Reconfiguration Timeline

Shrimp here, with the latest from Lutheran CORE. Shrimp out.

October 29, 2009

Greetings in Jesus’ Name:

"God is reforming the churches of the Reformation . . . The question for us is not so much whether we ought to re-vision Lutheranism in North America, but rather how will we respond to this clear invitation to re-vision Lutheranism in North America," Ryan Schwarz of Lutheran CORE Steering Committee told the Lutheran CORE Convocation September 25 in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, Indiana.

The next day, the 1,200 Lutheran CORE members at the Convocation unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing a process "leading toward a possible reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism." The Lutheran CORE Steering Committee was charged with developing a recommendation for action. Having been entrusted with overseeing this process, we want to keep you informed as to what is happening and how you can be involved in shaping the future for Lutherans in North America.

A timeline for reconfiguration has now been developed, the detail of which is below. In short, a major statement of the direction of reconfiguration will be published by the Steering Committee following its meeting on November 17-18, 2009. A design for reconfiguration will be created and published by February 2010, and that design will be presented for adoption and implementation to the 2010 Lutheran CORE Convocation, which will be August 26-27, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio.

Seven working groups are being formed. They will address various aspects of the life and work of Lutheran CORE and the work toward reconfiguration. The Vision and Planning working group, chaired by Ryan Schwarz, will serve as the lead unit in developing the reconfiguration proposal. Information on the groups and an application form for those who feel called to serve are available online at

Literally dozens of regional groups and gatherings have been organized post-Fishers. The Steering Committee has prepared a short list of discussion questions for such meetings, seeking input for the reconfiguration process. These questions are available on our website, If you are organizing a regional gathering, please download the questions and plan to provide your group’s ideas for the reconfiguration working groups.

This is an exciting time for faithful Lutherans in North America as we discover the future God has in store for us. A summary of the timeline for our common work over the coming months follows:

Nov 2, 2009 -- Lutheran CORE and WordAlone Network leaders meet for preliminary conversations

Nov 17-18, 2009 -- Lutheran CORE Steering Committee meeting, followed by public statement on reconfiguration

Dec 2009 -- Initial meeting of Vision and Planning Working Group

Early Jan 2010 -- Consultations with partner renewal movements and congregational members of Lutheran CORE

Mid Jan 2010 -- Meetings with movements and Lutheran church bodies that are not a part of Lutheran CORE

Late Jan 2010 -- Preparation of draft proposal by Vision and Planning team

Early Feb 2010 -- Review by Lutheran CORE’s Advisory Council, the theologians and church leaders who advise Lutheran CORE on significant issues

Mid Feb 2010 -- Final review by Steering Committee and publication of recommendation for review by Lutheran CORE members and partners

Mar 2010 -- Constitutional Working Group begins work on constitutional amendments required for implementation of reconfiguration design

July 2010 -- Proposed constitutional amendments published for review by Lutheran CORE members and partners

Aug 26-27, 2010 -- Lutheran CORE Convocation considers recommendation on reconfiguration and proposed constitutional amendments

Please pray for all those who are involved in this process that God might show us His plans for the future of Lutheranism in North America. Also please pray for all those ELCA members, pastors, and congregations who have been hurt by the actions of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. This is a difficult time for many, but it is also a hopeful time as God is calling the faithful to stand together and to work toward the future He is giving us.

Your servants in Christ,

Lutheran CORE Steering Committee
  Bishop Paull Spring - Chair
  Pastor Mark Chavez - Director
  Pastor Scott Grorud
  Pastor Rebecca M. M. Heber
  Pastor Kenneth Kimball
  Pastor Victor C. Langford III
  Mr. Ryan Schwarz
  Pastor W. Stevens Shipman - Secretary
  Pastor Paul Ulring
  Pastor Erma Wolf - Vice Chair

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CORE to Bouman: YES, We're Serious

Shrimp again.

Lutheran CORE has responded to Bishop Bouman's "open letter" of a couple of weeks ago. We've been told that Lutheran CORE first responded with this letter privately to Bishop Bouman, only publishing it on the Lutheran CORE web site after he would have received the letter in person. The letter follows. Shrimp out.

October 16, 2009

The Rev. Stephen P. Bouman
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631

Dear Pastor Bouman,

This letter is in response to your open letter to Lutheran CORE, which you describe as a personal perspective after attending the Lutheran CORE convocation, September 25-26, at Fishers, Indiana.

We share with you a sense of remorse and sorrow over what has caused Lutheran CORE to take the steps we have taken regarding our relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Over the years both of us, as pastors and as bishops, have been strong advocates for the ministry of the ELCA as one church. We, therefore, take no joy in following a process that will likely lead Lutheran CORE to depart from the ELCA's institutional life and ministry.

We also share with you a strong commitment to Christian mission, in obedience to the Great Commission, for the sake of the world. The two of us, as well as Mr. Ryan Schwarz, made numerous references in our presentations on behalf of the importance of mission in the ministry of the Gospel. The constitution that was adopted at Fishers contains numerous and telling references to mission. More to the point was the decision at Fishers to provide financial and other assistance, as needed, for certain ethnic specific and immigrant African congregations. We recognize that some remarks at the convocation were pointed and blunt. Others spoke in an intemperate manner, something which we ourselves regret. We believe, however, that the vast majority who spoke during the public discussions were positive and irenic. Pastor Paul Ulring, in particular, concluded our gathering with an eloquent plea for forgiveness and reconciliation and called us all to look to the future with hope and confidence.

Obviously we in Lutheran CORE are in disagreement with the decisions of the 2009 churchwide assembly. We see those decisions as part of an ongoing failure, within the churchwide expression of the ELCA, to listen to the words of Holy Scripture and the witness of two thousand years of Christian reflection on the Word of God. For these reasons Lutheran CORE is in the process of discerning prayerfully how God wishes to use us in ministry, a ministry that sadly must take place apart from the ELCA.

Since the conclusion of the Minneapolis assembly, Lutheran CORE has experienced a significant increase in support and participation from many quarters. This support has continued to increase following our convocation in Fishers. The number of Lutherans who identify with Lutheran CORE grows daily. New "chapters" within Lutheran CORE are being organized across the country. We are receiving countless expressions of encouragement from individuals and from churches beyond North America. And all of these developments are taking place from the "grass roots," without any direction from the leadership of Lutheran CORE. The steering committee of Lutheran CORE is taking its responsibilities seriously, as it seeks to follow up on the resolutions that were adopted at our convocation.

In your open letter you ask whether Lutheran CORE is serious about our endeavors. Our response is a resounding YES to that question. We are serious about our fidelity to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions. We are serious about strengthening congregational life and ministry. We are serious about witnessing to others in word and deed that Jesus Christ is God's Word of salvation and newness of life for all people. We are serious about the mission to which God is calling us.

As the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us, we place our ministry into the hands of a gracious God, who sustains us with his Word of promise.

Cordially yours,

Kenneth H. Sauer, Chair, Lutheran CORE Advisory Council

Paull E. Spring, Chair, Lutheran CORE Steering Committee

Monday, October 26, 2009

ELCA VP Peña: Why Lord?

Shrimp here. We're not sure how to describe a letter to a church from its lay Vice-President -- "pastoral letter" doesn't quite sound right. Nevertheless, that's what ELCA folks have received. Tip o' the claw to the ELCA News release, "ELCA Vice President Addresses Dissatisfaction with Assembly Decisions." Shrimp out.

Why Lord?

A letter from ELCA Vice President Carlos Peña
Download PDF

October 23, 2009

Dear ELCA Brothers and Sisters,

September 12, 2008, was a day that changed my life and many other lives forever. On that day, Hurricane Ike made a direct hit on my hometown, Galveston, Texas, bringing with it more than 100-mile-an-hour winds and a 16-foot storm surge.

The storm surge did the most damage, putting 80 percent of Galveston Island underwater, leaving massive destruction in its wake and the island in a jumbled mess. Salt water left plant life dried out and dead, even mighty 100-year-old oak trees throughout the city.

What I found at my business filled me with anguish: my building sustained major damage from the seven feet of water that rose up from the bay. Over 95 percent of the contents were mud-soaked, damaged, or destroyed. Years of building up a family business was totally ruined; the future I had planned was forever altered.

Statistically, Ike was the third costliest Atlantic hurricane of all time. It caused an estimated $32 billion of damage and affected areas from the Bahamas to eastern Canada. I’m sure many others across the United States and Canada were thinking the same thing I was:  Why Lord?

The answer did not come immediately. First, there was much cleaning and healing to be done. Lutherans from across the nation helped with physical presence and donations of money, clothing, and household items.

The sustaining power of prayer comforted us and gave us hope for a brighter future. We knew people throughout the world were praying for us.

One year later, I can see the benefits of this experience. Galveston is coming back stronger than before and welcoming citizens and businesses, both old and new. The island has received a face-lift:  homes and buildings have been remodeled, rebuilt, renewed.

My business is better than ever. We just celebrated with a grand re-opening, I am employing more workers, and the business is stronger than pre-Ike levels.

I feel as though I have experienced a resurrection. Good things are coming to light out of the chaos and darkness of what seemed like a hopeless situation.

Why Lord? Because sometimes we discover our strength and God’s amazing grace through life-changing events. Because sometimes it takes a really big push to shake us out of complacency and head toward a new direction to which God calls us.

It is my sincere hope that the good people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America see the actions of the recent churchwide assembly related to human sexuality as a catalyst to further strengthen our church and our relationships with each other. I have lived through vast changes and come out better and stronger for it.  I know with all my heart that, with diligence and hard work, we can come through this together as a renewed church, boldly proclaiming God’s mission for the sake of the world. 

Why Lord? Because it is time for a better understanding of the love of God for all people. 

If you are considering redirecting benevolence, I would urge reconsideration. We must remember that it is our congregations working together through the ELCA that bring about amazing things. Together, we are the church.  If our numbers were to diminish, it would lessen our capacity to carry out God’s mission. It is our benevolence dollars that fund seminaries that educate and prepare leaders for tomorrow and support the work of ELCA missionaries throughout the world. Working together, we help alleviate hunger close to home and abroad. Without our help, people around the world would have a harder time recuperating from disasters. They need us and we need each other.

Of course, the sustaining power of prayer will comfort us and give us hope. People throughout the world are praying for us.

I pray for the continuing efforts of the ELCA, my understanding of people different from me, and the future, though sometimes it is hard to predict. And I pray for my fellow Lutherans that they may have the strength to commit and weather the storm.

Your brother in Christ,

Carlos Peña
Vice President
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Did the Churchwide Assembly Create a Confessional Crisis?

Shrimp here. "Chicago, we have a problem." Thus notes Pr. Marshall Hahn, who presented the following at the last gathering of Call to Faithfulness, the Northeast Iowa Synod reform movement affiliated with Lutheran CORE. You can also find this on the Lutheran CORE Blog. Tip o' the claw to the author himself who posted it at ALPB Forum Online. You'll find it here, too, on the Call to Faithfulness site. We think those intent upon remaining in the ELCA have been handed a good opportunity. Shrimp out.


The decisions surrounding human sexuality made at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly have created a confessional crisis within the ELCA. The controversy over these decisions is not simply a disagreement over a social issue concerning how to treat homosexual relations in the church. These decisions touch upon the issues of the authority of Scripture and the role of the Lutheran Confessions in the life of the church.

The crisis these decisions have created can be shown by examining two crucial passages from the Social Statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. In Part IV (lines 620 - 628 in the Pre-Assembly Report) this statement reads:
The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, reflecting 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. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder." (Jesus here recalls Genesis 1:27; 2:23-24.)
On the next page of the statement, (lines 740 - 744, as amended) it reads:
Recognizing that this conclusion differs from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, some people, though not all, in this church and within the larger Christian community, conclude that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships.
The statement then goes on to treat these two positions and the variants within them as of equal validity, on the basis of the "conscience-bound beliefs" of those who hold them (lines 809 - 868). Moreover, it is on this same basis of the "conscience-bound lack of consensus in this church" (lines 452 - 453 of the Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies) that the resolutions on ministry policies were recommended and adopted.

These actions are contrary to and done in violation of the ELCA Confession of Faith, which reads, in part:
Chapter 2
2.03  This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm or its proclamation, faith, and life.

2.04  This church accepts the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church.

2.05  This church accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel, acknowledges as one with it in faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.

2.06  This church accepts the other confessional writings in the Book of Concord, namely, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise, the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord, as further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church.
The Social Statement and the Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies present the two positions mentioned above as of equal validity in the church, even though it is admitted that the first position - namely, that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman - is the position supported by Christian tradition, the Lutheran Confessions, and Scripture; and that the second position - namely, that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships - differs from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions.

Given the confessional and constitutional commitment of the ELCA to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions noted above, once a position is identified as that of the Confessions and the Christian tradition based on Scripture, there should be only two options for a Social Statement of the ELCA:
  1. State that such is the position of the ELCA, based on our Confession of Faith, which commits us to the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the witness of the Lutheran Confessions; or,

  2. Demonstrate, by an appeal to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions and with the aid of sound reason, that such a position ought to be abandoned or, at the least, present evidence enough to raise serious questions about that position.
Likewise, once a position has been identified as differing from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, there should be only two options for a Social Statement of the ELCA:
  1. Reject such a position on the basis of our Confession of Faith, which commits us to following the witness of the Lutheran Confessions; or,

  2. Demonstrate, by an appeal to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions and with the aid of sound reason, that such a position ought to be adopted or, at the least, present evidence enough to argue that it ought to be considered a valid position within the Lutheran Church.
However, the Social Statement does none of these. It does not present a compelling argument based on Scripture, the Confessions, and sound reason for overturning the stated position on marriage. Neither does it present a compelling argument based on Scripture, the Confessions and sound reason for adopting this alternate position. It does not even attempt to do this. It simply states that within the church there are differing opinions on the matter, and treats both opinions as equally valid. In doing so, it fails to honor our confessional and constitutional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as "the authoritative source and norm of [our] proclamation, faith, and life" and treats the witness of the Lutheran Confessions as a matter of indifference.

Such actions are in violation of our Confession of Faith. The ELCA ought to repent of these actions, take steps to render them ineffectual, and overturn them at the first opportunity. The synods and congregations of the ELCA ought to reject these actions and refuse to abide by them on the basis of our own and identical Confession of Faith. Each pastor in the ELCA ought to oppose these actions and decisions on the basis of the vows taken at ordination to teach and preach in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and in light of the Lutheran Confessions.

If such actions are not taken, it leaves those who oppose the actions of the Churchwide Assembly in a state of confessional resistance to the ELCA, and possibly to the synods of which they are members. Appeals to unity and "churchmanship" are of secondary importance to the confessional commitment which undergirds this opposition. Even if one were to make a compelling argument from Scripture and the Confessions in support of the changes in ministry policies at this point, such an argument must also acknowledge and repent of the violation of our Confession of Faith which the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly have committed. If these actions are allowed to stand, it will undermine the very Confession of Faith by which we are united.

Pastor Marshall Hahn
St. Olaf Lutheran Parish - Marion & Norway Lutheran Churches
St. Olaf, Iowa
NE Iowa Synod, ELCA

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bouman to CORE: Are You Serious?

Shrimp here, thinking Lutheran CORE has struck a nerve at The Lutheran Center, where the ELCA's headquarters are located. The latest ELCA News release is headlined, "ELCA Director for Congregational Mission Addresses Lutheran CORE," and former Metro New York Synod Bishop Stephen Bouman's letter itself appears on both the ELCA website's Our Faithful Mission Together section and as breaking news at The Lutheran magazine.

Shellfish readers may want to join Shrimp (and those who have been attending Lutheran CORE events -- including the Fishers convocation -- and reading its materials the last four years) in responding to Bishop Bouman, "Are you serious?" Shrimp out.

Open Letter to CORE

A letter from the Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bouman to Lutheran CORE

Oct. 12, 2009

(A personal perspective of one who attended the meeting.)

Are you serious?

I attended your conference in Indiana because my heart is with you and I honor and respect your significant place in the fabric of the flawed, beautiful tapestry which makes up the ELCA.

When one member of the body of Christ hurts, we all hurt. I was there to listen, to absorb with the heart as well as the head not only the pain but also the resolve to bear witness and plan for the future. It was a sobering experience.

When Pastor Sauer greeted us all with the announcement of the resurrection I said with everyone else "Christ is risen indeed!" At that moment we were all one in the room, united in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” So much of what was said, articulated my own faith and confessional commitments. We agree on the Gospel. We have been joined together in Christ’s body by our baptism and we find each other at Christ’s table with the baptized everywhere, "in every time and every place."

During the meeting, two mission pastors shared their disapproval in very strong terms, of the actions taken at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis. This is good. It is a time to give expression to conscience. Our church needs the faithful witness which calls us together to scripture, to the great tradition of the church. This witness I also encountered in scores of individual conversations at the meeting. It is my prayer that in the year of discernment to which you have called Lutheran CORE, your witness would continually be made and heard. We need it. It is important to make our witness in relationship and not out of relationship with each other.

The witness made by the two pastors did contain some troubling inferences and statements. It was said that the ELCA is and will punish mission pastors for their convictions of conscience through withholding of funds for their mission. After these untrue statements were made, people passed the hat for these ministries in order to make up funding that the ELCA would withhold. As executive director for the Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission unit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I want to say as publically and as strongly as possible that exactly the opposite is true. Another reason I was at the Lutheran CORE meeting is that I want to do everything in my power to make sure that unintended consequences of withdrawal from mission support as a means of protest do not hurt these precious missions of our church. I was not permitted to speak and correct these allegations.

I want to beseech Lutheran CORE to build your witness and your organization around truthful conversation, and not on caricatures of your church body or unfounded fear. We confess the truth, all of us in the ELCA, in the name of the One who is the way, the truth and the life.

So let me ask you about mission. Are you serious? In all of the speeches and conversation, mission was either not mentioned or mentioned as an afterthought, except when it came to the emotional response to mission pastors. In your year of discernment about whether to leave the ELCA, remain in the ELCA or disengage from the ELCA while remaining, will you be serious about mission? I want to invite you to be in contact and a part of the local mission tables which are being created in every synod through the ministry of the Directors for Evangelical Mission. Mission is local, and your brothers and sisters, including many of you, are involved in prayer, study of scripture and engagement in the community which is leading to new mission starts and renewed mission congregations. I agree with everything the speakers said about the necessity for the word of God, prayer and the faith practices of the disciples to shape the outreach and mission of our church. That is what we are doing. Please get to know the new missions around you, be a part of their birth and nurture. This mission also embraces struggling congregations, which are many in the ELCA. Let us in the coming year dedicate ourselves to walk together in the renewal of faith and mission of every congregation. We can only do this together and it is happening throughout our beloved church.

If after a year you must disengage, please come to know and love the mission from which you will disengage, or engage in new ways. I believe that we can do both these important things together. Number one, make strong, conscience-bound witness around the issues which are tearing us apart; and number two, engage each other boldly in the Spirit’s power around the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. The church, in all of its flawed and diverse forms this side of heaven, is about God’s mission to the world if it is to be a church.

The old and new testaments bear witness to the centrality of mission in the church and I believe that as a movement within Lutheranism, your DNA will be determined by the priority you place on mission. When the children of Israel returned from exile to Jerusalem, they began to reorganize an enclave of the faithful but the Lord, in Isaiah, gave them an even greater commission. The restoration of Israel is fine but now "it is too light a thing to restore Israel; I have called you to be a light to the nations." An enclave of pure Lutherans is too light a thing. God has called us all to a greater commission, to be a light for the world for which Christ died. Our new and renewed missions in the ELCA boldly name the name of Jesus and invite all people into the community of believers at the foot of the cross.

The next time you meet, I pray it is more like the Council of Jerusalem in the book of Acts. Peter had baptized Cornelius. If the Council had demanded uniformity around the keeping of the law including circumcision, it would have had a very different result. But the council began with the mission, with their apostolicity not their uniformity. James had a part to play in calling the Council the faithful to the tradition of their faith, and Peter also had a role to play in calling the church inside out for the life of the world.

You seem ready to engage our African and Latino brothers and sisters and their growing outreach in the life of the ELCA. Again I want to ask you, are you serious? Speakers made fun of Bishop Hanson for his call to "public church," but how dare we welcome our immigrant brothers and sisters and ask them to leave their issues and vulnerability in our society at the door? The church which reaches out to our new neighbors must also be a church which cares about immigration and our broken system. It must be a church that cares when families are torn apart; when people, including children, are incarcerated for the crime of being our new neighbors.

It is not a matter of deciding between clear proclamation of God’s law and gospel to the world, or being a public church which gives witness to the issues which make people vulnerable and suffer. It is both. Let me tell you a story, even as I ask once again, are you serious? Lisa was a 15 year old from the Congo. Most of her family had died in the civil war. Her mother escaped to Canada. Lisa was rescued and on a plane to be reunited with her mother. When she got to Kennedy Airport to transfer planes, she was taken into detention. Dental records were used to try to prove she was an adult but she was 15. When I went to visit her with other religious leaders, she was in tears and ultimately told her story through an interpreter. I asked her one question: "has anyone been here to pray with you?" She fell apart. Through an interpreter she told us she was Roman Catholic and that no one had been to pray with her. The next day the pastor and members of the East African Lutheran congregation in Queens, New York, went to visit her. They came every day. We also accompanied her to her immigration hearings. Every day they prayed with her until finally the authorities let her go and she was reunited with her mother. Mission is all parts of the church working together with singular focus.

Mission is joyful but it is also serious. How will we hold on to one another in the mission of the church in these troubled times?

I finally want to say one more thing. Mission is also how the world perceives the way in which we engage each other around serious issues and disagreements. "See how they love one another" said the surrounding world as they beheld the early Jesus communities in their midst. We live in an ungracious time and it was sad for me to hear the sarcasm and inflated rhetoric directed at our bishop and other partners in the Gospel in the ELCA. The quality of our mutual engagement is also witness to the world. If you are serious about mission, God will find ways for us to continue to support the outreach God has given us in the midst of our communal agony, anger and even sense of betrayal. May the crucified and risen Christ hold us together in love and mutual respect and mission.

In Christ’s love,

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Paul Bouman
Executive Director
Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

ELCA Bishops: "Slow Down!"

Shrimp here, caught (with the rest of the crew here at Shellfish) between keeping our dear readers informed and helping faithful Lutherans rooted in the (now-deservedly maligned) ELCA lift up a common, faithful witness. We are, after all, but one tiny crustacean.

In these unsettled days in the wake of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, when the ELCA's Presiding Bishop cannot decide whether it is better to try to sooth or to chide the faithful, we do not want you to think that we have completely lost our sense of humor. Momentarily forgetting the word "crustacean," we googled "shrimp" to jog our tiny memory and what did we find but God Hates Shrimp.

The authors (who give others permission to post the site's photos on their own websites, so we have) admit the site is a parody, albeit one that falls hook, line, and sinker (sorry about that) for the Silly Shellfish Argument. Like too many revisionist sites, the joke stops being funny even before they hit their stride and their stick-figure caricature of how serious Christians use the Bible in to engage sexuality is both typical and sad. It's actually pretty shallow water there, so you'll not spend much time there....

And now, to the substance of this post, we turn you to ELCA News who posted the following article today. It looks like those in PALMS (publicly accountable, long-term, momogamous, same-sex) relationships are not going to be rostered ELCA pastors and lay ministers in time for Christmas. Proposed rule changes will be on the ELCA's web site next week, but the Conference of Bishops wants to ponder them (with the rest of the ELCA faithful) until next April. Happy Easter? Shrimp out.

October 6, 2009

ELCA Bishops Discuss Drafts of Possible Ministry Policies Revisions


CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) reviewed and discussed drafts of possible revisions to ELCA ministry policies during their Oct. 1-6 meeting here. As a result of their discussions, the bishops requested they have another opportunity to review updated revisions, likely to mean that final action on new policy language will not occur before April 2010.

The Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church, consisting of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and secretary.

The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which met in August in Minneapolis, directed the church to revise its ministry policies. One revision will make it possible for Lutherans in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers. The assembly also adopted a social statement on human sexuality.

The Rev. Stanley N. Olson, executive director, ELCA Vocation and Education, said the drafts were the result of collaborative work between staff of the Office of the Secretary, Vocation and Education, and the Committee on Appeals. An implementing resolution in the social statement affects the ELCA Board of Pensions work, he said.

The bishops discussed possible revisions to "Vision and Expectations" which informs the church's vision for ministry and the expectations it places on professional leaders; "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline," which describes the grounds on which the ELCA's professional leaders may be subject to discipline; plus possible revisions to the policies for reinstatement to the church's official rosters. Draft language for manuals to direct committees that work with candidates for ministry, known as candidacy committees, is yet to be done, he said.

"This consultation with you is critical, vital … very essential," Olson said in introducing the draft changes. The documents are now considered public and will be posted on the Web about Oct. 15, he said. He welcomed comments on the draft changes from throughout the ELCA. "We will be well-served if there are (many) people reading these," he said.

"We intended to make only necessary changes, minimal language, not attempting to cover every possible situation," Olson said, referring to possible revisions in Vision and Expectations. He also said those working on the documents are committed to monitoring the changes to see if the revisions are working as intended.

The Rev. A. Donald Main, Lancaster, Pa., a former synod bishop, chairs the ELCA Committee on Appeals. He presented draft changes to Definitions and Guidelines.

"The committee sought to use language from the social statement, to be consistent, and we sought to be balanced in addressing all future rostered leaders. The committee feels our changes are unifying, not separating, and they establish one standard for all," he said, inviting the bishops to provide suggestions to the draft changes.

The bishops spent several hours providing feedback and in discussion about the drafts. Many asked Olson and Main to be sure the process allowed the bishops an opportunity to see and discuss updated language before the ELCA Church Council takes action making the changes permanent. Olson said the staff will bring a report about possible revisions to next month's council meeting. The Conference of Bishops requested that members review updated draft language to policy documents, most likely to occur at their March 2010 meeting before the council takes final action in April 2010.

Bishops raised and discussed several concerns related to the drafts. Among them, they asked whether the suggested policies affirmed those who, for confessional and biblical reasons, do not agree with the new policies as the assembly actions stated; whether there's a place in the suggested changes that address a bishop's own conscience regarding professional leaders in same-gender relationships; whether forms will indicate if a candidate is in a same-gender relationship and how the church will know if a relationship has ended; how candidates on unofficial "extraordinary rosters" may enter the ELCA's process; and what "publicly accountable" means.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pastoral letter from Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson

Shrimp here. ELCA Rostered Leaders are receiving the following in their e-mail inboxes today.
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September 23, 2009

Dear Colleague in Ministry,

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." (Colossians 3:15-16a)

I give thanks to God for your faithful leadership and your committed partnership in the gospel. I am mindful of the varied responses to churchwide assembly actions on human sexuality -- joy, anger, hope, confusion, ambivalence, perhaps even detachment. In this letter please join me in reflecting on our witness together as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, particularly as we continue to live into the implications of assembly actions.

I am encouraged by the thoughtful and prayerful conversations of people with diverse perspectives who are gathering to discern what the assembly actions regarding human sexuality mean for our continuing life and witness.

My heart rejoices with those who are ready to live into the future of our shared mission. Many who had remained strongly engaged in the ELCA with their time, talent and treasure, despite feeling marginalized or unwanted, now feel more fully embraced.

My heart aches as I listen to the pain and distress of those who feel confused or even abandoned by others, not only in the decisions of the churchwide assembly but also in the decisions that are being made in congregations and by individuals.

I am disappointed that some are encouraging congregations and members to take actions that will diminish our capacity for ministry -- for example, to plant and renew congregations, to raise up and train leaders in seminaries and campus ministries, to send missionaries, to respond to hunger at home and abroad, and to rebuild communities after natural disasters.

Although these actions are promoted as a way to signal opposition to churchwide assembly actions or even to punish the voting members who made them, the result will be wounds that we inflict on ourselves, our shared life, and our mission in Christ. And yet, as devastating as such actions could be for our shared life and for our global and ecumenical partners, my greatest sadness would be if we missed this opportunity: to give an evangelical and missional witness together to the world.

Therefore, I urge each one of you to make this a time to engage one another with honesty and respect in renewed and deepened theological conversation informed by an evangelical, missional imagination. We have the opportunity to think evangelically and act missionally about:
  • Faithfulness: Questions about whether the ELCA has become faithless or heretical are opportunities to re-examine what it is that fills a community with faith. It becomes an opportunity to rediscover who makes us full of faith. Our goal as Lutherans is faithfulness that is both evangelical and missional.

  • Biblical authority: This is a marvelous moment to deepen our engagement with Scripture through the Book of Faith initiative. We can be renewed in our understanding of the authority of God's Word. It is the power to author -- that is, create -- a justifying and living faith in Jesus Christ. Again the goal is a true understanding of the Scripture's evangelical and missional authority.

  • What it means to be Christ's church: In this moment let us not build walls of separation. Together let us be living stones, built into a spiritual house, with Christ Jesus the cornerstone, and proclaim the mighty deeds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Both universally and locally the church is gathered around the means of grace and engaged in mission in Jesus' name. Our goal as Lutherans is a witness that the church is evangelical and missional.

  • Leadership: How we serve in our varied callings and contexts as evangelical leaders of a church in mission calls for shared wisdom and encouragement rather than isolation or separation into like-minded enclaves. The church is a community of faith that is born of the Gospel promise and therefore has authority in the proclamation of the Word -- all the authority that is needed for evangelical, missional leadership.

  • Law and gospel: All of these opportunities for conversation call for a renewed commitment to deepening our fluency in what Martin Luther called "the highest art among Christians," distinguishing between law and gospel. Let us be valued allies in this endeavor and not adversaries in a power struggle for control of a church body, synods, and congregations.
While we engage in these important conversations let our evangelical, missional imagination be marked by the signs of a church that lives in faith, hope, and love through:
  • a continual dwelling in the Word of God and prayer
  • listening that is fully attentive to others, especially to those with whom we disagree
  • leadership committed to and focused on mission
  • a commitment to remain in respectful and caring relationship with one another
  • patient waiting on and breathing in the Spirit, remembering Jesus' command to his disciples to "stay until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49)
  • the creation of safe places for conversation, where it is safe to articulate deeply held biblical, confessional, and theological convictions, where it is safe both to affirm and admonish one another, and where it is safe to explore the questions that come with faithful service and witness
  • an elasticity rather than rigidity in our ways of supporting and carrying out ministry and mission
Specifically, I ask for restraint from decisions that may separate us from one another prematurely, for bearing one another's burdens in continued conversation, and for the long-suffering patience that frees us to remain together in mission. In his two letters to the very conflicted church in Corinth Paul repeatedly spoke of their unity in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. He also spoke of their calling to care for each other as members of one body and to use their spiritual gifts for the common good. Our attentive listening to one another and patient waiting for the Spirit's work in these conversations will be a powerful witness.

In my opening sermon and oral report to the churchwide assembly I asked, "What shall be our witness? What story shall we tell?" I believe those questions remain central for us as ministry is carried out in our varied contexts and in our life together as the ELCA.

I concluded my reflections at the end of the assembly with this conviction that sustains me in my leadership and gives me confident hope: "We finally meet one another not in our agreements or disagreements, but at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ."

In that promise I remain your servant in Christ,

Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop

Find related resources at,
including a new video message that will be posted after 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 24.

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Shrimp again, thinking that this "opportunity" Bishop Hanson is the kind of conversation we at Shellfish and many, many other have been trying to engage in since (okay, he says he wants to "engage one another with honesty and respect in renewed and deepened theological conversation informed by an evangelical, missional imagination," so we offer this with all due honesty and respect for the Office of Presiding Bishop) his election in 2001.

We here at
Shellfish appreciate that he's finally interested in the conversation. But if Pastor Zip's observation on "trust" (posted last April) is in any way representative, we suspect Presiding Bishop Hanson should prepare to be disappointed. Shrimp out.

The good ship ELCA...

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