Friday, March 06, 2009

2 ELCA Seminaries Consider "RIC" Status

Shrimp here, having received reports that two ELCA seminaries are currently discussing afffilating with the "Reconciling in Christ" Program of Lutherans Concerned/North America. Lutheran congregations, synods, and other organizations affiliate with the program by offering a "statement of welcome" to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered believers.

The two seminaries are the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. Both seminiaries have already had for several years agreements with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to provide education and other oversight of candidates for ministry who do not accept the ELCA/ELCIC official stance ("please don't") on homosexual activity.

Recently alerted to a "series of conversations" at Philadelphia that are currently in progress, this is what we have gleaned from our source and Mt. Airy's student newspaper, The Seminiarian. The conversations began in the opening session of the seminary's Spring Convocation, "Scripture and Public Theology.” The February 24th session's theme was "Orienting our Sexual Conversations) where Dr. Erik Heen presented a lecture, "Biblical Resources for a Conversation about Homosexuality." A source tells us the lecture included nothing unexpected (at least in an ELM-affiliated, ELCA context), "although the contextualization through the use of social science criticism was actually very helpful." The lecture was followed by brief small group discussion. Says The Seminarian, "A second broadcast of this presentation will be on March 4th at 5:45 with conversation to follow."

Our source then quotes the student body president:
The second Event is currently scheduled for Tuesday March 31. It will be a presentation on the science behind sexual orientation from a sociological, biological and psychological point of view. This presentation will be lead by professor (s) from Weidner College Department of Human Sexuality. Discussion will follow in a similar format.

The final presentation, not yet scheduled, will be about the particularities of the RIC designation, what it actually means and what specifically it requires of an institution. This will be made by a presentation will be made by regional officers of Lutherans Concerned, the organizing body behend the RIC designation. Discussion will follow in a similar format.
That, so far, from the seminary founded by the Ministerium of Pennsylvania in 1864 that highlights Charles Porterfield Krauth, Luther Dotterer Reed, John Reumann, and so many other giants in the history of the General Council, the United Lutheran Church in America, and the Lutheran Church in America. Shrimp would report more of substance should it come to our attention.

(As a sidelight, Shrimp observes from the February 2009 issue of The Seminarian that this year's controversy at Mt. Airy seems to be over whether the hooded albs used in the Chapel are too associated with the Ku Klux Klan. But we digress.)

Meanwhile the PLTS Board Chair has just today e-mailed the school's alumni:
Dear PLTS Alums,

Current PLTS students have requested that the PLTS board consider establishing a PLTS affiliation with the national "Reconciling In Christ" (RIC) Initiative. This January, our students organized, self-funded ($3,500) and conducted a course concerning this. I look forward to their further consultation with board members at our April 26 board meeting. They will be working with the board's Community Life & Academic Affairs Committee on an appropriate motion for us to consider.

In preparation for that Committee meeting and subsequent board conversation, knowing that our agenda will be full and time-limited, I've directed all board members to the RIC website as well as to an informative work by our professor David Balch.

Two weeks ago, PLTS hosted a conversation to share thoughts on the proposition that we become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) seminary. Over fifty members of our community were able to be present and to share both excitement and reservation about this prospect.

Please click here to see the highlights of the conversation: hopes, fears, benefits, and risks of seeking an RIC designation, but also our thoughts about the possibility of PLTS not becoming an RIC seminary.

In recent days I've been canvassing the board to gather up and organize their concerns around this decision prior to the April 26 Board Meeting.

And I am [sic] welcome and encourage faculty, students, staff and alums to share their thoughts with me via email.

Enjoying with all of you the anticipation of Lent, thank you.
PLTS is the youngest of the ELCA seminaries, founded in 1950 by the ULCA's California Synod to provide Lutheran pastors in the western US. For those of you who have forgotten, the ELCA's homosexuality debates began in January 1988 when 3 gay male PLTS seminarians announced they had the month earlier been officially approved for ordination (presuming they passed their remaining classes) by the PLTS faculty and/or their LCA Synod's Professional Preparation Committee despite being publicly gay and either being, or hoping to be, in homosexual relationships.

Shrimp, also wishing you a contemplative Lent, out.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Trinity isn't involved. There was a fairly vocal pro-homosexual sex party there when I went to that school.

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler

Pastor Zip said...

I believe it is another case of symbol rather than substance, Rob. Openly lesbigay folks are welcomed as integral parts of all of our seminary communities -- it certainly was that way at PLTS 20 years ago. As Shrimp notes with the ELM relationship, in one sense all RIC does is declare in another way what already is.

On the other hand, while not changing its words, RIC became something a lot more than a simple, symbolic "welcome" in the early '90s. One can see that clearly in the new version of LC/NA's roster of RIC congregations. It's a symbol representing a new power, a new spirit, a new commitment.

At PLTS all that was there in 1987 when the faculty approved a practicing gay ALC seminarian for ordination (to which the PLTS raised no protest). The ingredients have been cooking ever since. An RIC declaration means PLTS is done.

As an alum who has always deeply cared for PLTS' mission, as a child of the (U)LCA who is proud of the past giants from Mt. Airy, it is so sad.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Zip!

Agreed. I will keep you and all who fight for the faith in the ELCA in prayer.

Peace in the Lord!

Clam said...

RIC is also, one might note in passing, an(other) example of the LCNA folks doing a very effective job on strategy and tactics. The actual text of the affirmation is, as Pastor Zip notes, unobjectionable if read a certain way. That makes it difficult for opponents to fight when it comes to a church council or congregational meeting. Yet it has become (and seems quite clearly intended to be) a signal that the
adopting congregation/synod/seminary supports the ordination of non-
chaste homosexuals and the blessing of non-chaste homosexual unions.

Curious how many instances there are of congregations or synods DROPPING the RIC designation, esp as its "meaning" became more clear over the years? I believe that Delaware-Maryland Synod voted to remove the designation a few years back. Are there other cases?

The good ship ELCA...

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