Thursday, May 07, 2009

How "Your Father's ELCA" Became "Your Children's ELCA

Shrimp again.

145 of the ELCA's "Teaching Theologians" have signed on to "Appropriate Next Steps for the ELCA," a statement written by Professors Ralph Klein and Barbara Rossing at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago supporting the Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies.

We put "Teaching Theologians" inside the quotation marks because, while there are indeed some pretty significant ELCA theologians among the signers (such as Klein himself, Philip Hefner, Arland Hultgren, and Gordon Lathrop -- and there are others), the main qualification seems to be being on the payroll of an institution of higher learning. Of the Bishop emeriti listed, for instance, only one (Paul Egertson, who was forced to resign over his role in the irregular ordination of Anita Hill in 2001) has anything resembling academic credentials.

We don't think we're being too elitist in thinking "Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life," "Coordinator for Candidacy," "Assistant Professor of Contextual Education," "Director of Diversity and Inclusion," and (as near as we can tell from one college website) "Alumni Relations Staff" are not quite "Teaching Theologian" material -- particularly if someone is trying to distinguish them from any other parish pastor.

Now for...
Appropriate Next Steps for the ELCA

We the undersigned ELCA teaching theologians, and Christian theologians teaching at ELCA institutions, wish to affirm and support the four recommendations on Ministry Policies proposed by the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis (Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies available at:

We take this action on the basis of the rationale on lines 147-212 of the Task Force’s document, and we would specifically highlight the following points:
  • We too affirm the authority of the Scriptures, but the seven biblical texts that are frequently cited on the issue of homosexuality are not directly pertinent to the 21st century discussion because some of them condemn specifically homosexual rape, deal with questions of “clean and unclean” that are not normative in the Christian community, do not take into account issues like “sexual orientation,” and presuppose that all would agree with a particular interpretation of what “nature” teaches.
That is, we affirm Scriptures authority when we agree with it.
  • The Task Force wisely proposes that both heterosexual and homosexual persons are expected to express sexual intimacy within publicly accountable, lifelong, and monogamous relationships. This has long been the expectation for heterosexual couples, and therefore is an appropriate expectation for homosexual couples as well.
  • The first recommendation of the Task Force rightly proposes that acceptance of same-gender relationships among all people of this church is a prerequisite to considering people in same-gender relationships for rostered leadership positions.
Yet this will not mean that if there is any opposition to same-sex relationships in the ELCA, we should not ordain those in or hoping to be in one.
  • While not all Lutheran church bodies are of one mind on these issues, Scandinavian and German Lutherans have already taken similar actions to those being proposed now in the ELCA.
Actually, it's only a couple of the Nordic Lutheran churches at the instigation of secular political forces. And if some of your older brothers jump off the top of the Empire State Building, of course the rest of you should, too.
  • We who favor the changes being proposed pledge ourselves to honor and respect those sisters and brothers within the ELCA who for reasons of theology and conscience choose to oppose these changes.
Yet the ELCA should ordain as pastors those with whom many ELCA pastors will refuse to share ministry.
  • We recognize that the unity of the church is based on one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and that within this unity, faithful members may disagree on individual items of faith and life.
Wow, the ecumenical movement as just been brought to a successful conclusion. Kum Ba Yah, my Lord...
Specifically we make the following affirmations to the questions posed by the Task Force:
  1. Should the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships? Yes.

  2. Should this church commit itself to finding a way for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church? Yes

  3. Can this church as it finds a way to roster people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, and same-gender relationships commit to doing so in ways that bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of those with whom they disagree? Yes

  4. Should the ELCA consider structured flexibility in decision-making to allow in appropriate situations, people in publicly accountable, monogamous, lifelong, same-gender relationships to be approved for the rosters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America? Yes.
Shrimp out.

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The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
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