Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hong Kong Lutheran Bishop: "Profound Embarassment"

Shrimp here. No, we haven't forgotten the trials of the ELCA. We've been traveling and been away from the internet -- it is a good thing, when able, to step away from the fray for a bit to be spiritually recharged.

Meanwhile, Pastor Richard Johnson of the ALPB's
Forum Letter has posted the following letter from Bishop Nicholas Tai of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong (a sister church in the Lutheran World Federation) to ELCA Presiding Bishop (and LWF President) Mark Hanson about the sexuality task force's recommendations to the next month's ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Read it and ponder. Shrimp out.

Dear Bishop Hanson and Colleagues in ministry,

Grace and peace be with you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Thank you for your letter dated July 6 and a call to prayers for the assembly of the ELCA in August. We do remember you in our prayers.

We are informed about the four recommendations presented by the task force on human sexuality. These recommendations will be discussed and may be accepted by the assembly in August. This matter is also of great importance for us in Asia. Of special concern is the question of homosexual union blessings and the acceptance of ordained clergy in homosexual relationships. A decision to accept these two practices would be a source of profound embarassment for the Lutheran Church in Asia.

Such a decision on the part of the ELCA would affect our companion relationships, as homosexual practice is regarded as sin in the vast ecumenical community in Asia.

Secondly, we live in a morally and ethically shaped society. Non-Christians as well as Christians regard homosexual behavior as immoral. If the Church accepts and practicies homosexual behavior, it will be a big stumbling block for the vast majority of 1.3 billion Chinese, who need the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong regards homosexual practice as a sin and expressly states this in our discipline handbook. If the ELCA accepts such practices, it will be quite an embarassment to explain to our members why our companion Church allows something which goes against the clear biblical norms of our own Church. We as part of the Lutheran Communion could not escape the accusation that the Church is listening to the modern culture rather than to the clear teaching of the Word of God.

Prayers we need in this moment of crisis. We do not know the outcome, but as the sage in the Bible taught us, "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord." (Prov. 21:1) We are in God's hand.

Thank you for your companionship and support in Mission!

Blessings in Christ

Nicholas Tai, Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong

The Absolute Worst Thing

Dear Readers of Shellfish:

What is the absolute worst thing? Well, that would depend on who you are. If you are called into the ministry, the worst thing you could become is an advocate of a false gospel.

If you are a shepherd, becoming a wolf is the worst thing. It would be better for you to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be tossed into the sea than to lead one of the sheep astray.

But that is precisely what is going on today in mass scale. If you are a minister in a denomination that is asked to consider voting on something that is in direct conflict with Scripture you simply must make a decision. You simply must look at the evidence.

Today the evidence to consider is a sermon broadcasted on Day1. Here the preacher plainly advocates not only for a different gospel, he is promoting a different Jesus. This fellow is a great ethical teacher, not someone who became flesh, was crucified for our sake. Look for evidence in the sermon that Jesus laid down his life for the sheep. I don't think you will find it, rather the listeners are asked to turn their back on the doctrine of original sin and the understanding that Jesus died for your sins.

Let's be clear. Deciding to ignore the issue of an active homosexual lifestyle is not the worst thing a preacher can do. Coming to believe in a different gospel so you can make the church more relevant is the worst thing. Preaching a different gospel for any reason is simply not permissible, and doing so in order to feel good about yourself in front of your peers or present yourself well when you meet people is pitiful. When denominations promote radio ministries such as this and do so with the tithes and offerings of unsuspecting members, they are de facto promoting the very thing that they are sworn to not do.

Listen to this sermon at Day 1. What is Day1? It used to be called "The Protestant Hour" but changed its name to be more culturally relevant.

Get back to us and tell us what you think. Have I oversold it? Look forward to your conversation.

Cap'n Bill

PS. Come to think of it, perhaps the next-to-worst thing is having a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing praying that you become one too--that is exactly what this preacher says in the end of the sermon, in my opinion (we all have one, and for the time being we preachers can still express it).

PPS. Yes, we try and use humor here at Shellfish in the same way Samuel Clemens did, but this issue is just too serious for me to put on the pirate schtick.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What A.R.E. They Thinking, Still?

Shrimp here, with an update on this post from a year ago.

A.R.E is A Renewal Enterprise, the outfit whose managing partners include disgraced former-ELCA pastor Kelly Fryer and her life-partner, who also serve as synodically-blessed"co-pastoral leaders" for the ELCA congregation that wanders around the Chicago Loop. Last year we noted that Ms. Fryer was pretty busy speaking about "renewal" at several Synod Assemblies in the ELCA and ELCIC. Remember that her experience of "renewal" led to the ending of her marriage, entering a lesbian partnership with an old friend, and her resignation as an ELCA pastor and seminary professor, all while creating a couple series of "best selling" books for Augsburg Fortress.

For the 2009 Synod Assembly circuit, three ELCA Synods took the title of her No Experience Necessary Bible study series a bit too seriously by inviting Fryer to be Keynote Speaker:Shrimp has received reports that objections to Ms. Fryer's appearance were raised from the floor when the Agenda was presented for the I-K Synod Assembly's approval, with one voting member noting that the Holy Scriptures call her lifestyle "an abomination." Not only did the objection go nowhere, the next day Bishop James R. Stuck reportedly admonished the Assembly and apologized to Fryer for its "rude" behavior. As an preview of the proposed respecting of "bound consciences," Bishop Stuck reportedly said that everyone has agreed to disagree on this issue, so what had been said on the Assembly floor had been beyond the boundaries acceptability.

Of course, Kelly Fryer and A.R.E. do more that Synod Assembly keynoting. A.R.E. reports activities in the last year include:
  • designing and facilitating "a uniquely participative, multi-state process to help the people of the Central States Synod (ELCA) articulate a renewed and broadly owned sense of purpose;"

  • Developing and testing "an innovative process helping college students in the Western Mission Cluster" (that's the ELCA's Pacific and Luther seminaries) "develop a sense of their life’s purpose and direction;"

  • using "an asset-based, grassroots, deeply contextualized process to help the leaders of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (ELCA) discern new strategic directions in which to focus their resources over the next several years;" and, continuing their international activities

  • conducting "teambuilding and leadership training events for newly appointed leaders in the redesigned structure of the Eastern Synod (ELCIC)."
So, what A.R.E. ELCA leaders in some Synods thinking? Apparently that discipline of ministers is capricious.

So, ELCA members, do you know what your synod benevolence dollars A.R.E. up to?

Shrimp out.

The good ship ELCA...

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