Monday, August 17, 2009

"Augustana Day" at The College

Shrimp here, with a little something to divert you from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Say "Augustana, Rock Island" and some in the ELCA grow quite misty-eyed. They are thinking of the old Augustana College and Seminary, Dr. Conrad Bergendoff, and all the "wonderful things" of the Augustana Synod, the home of most Swedish-American Lutheran across the USA and Canada until it merged in 1962 with the United Lutheran Church in American to form the Lutheran Church in America and the Seminary was shipped off to Chicago. Things just haven't been the same since. "Ahh, Augustana! Now, that was a Lutheran Church!"

So, with the announcement of "The First Annual Augustana Day" that has appeared in the mailboxes of pastors in the general area of Augustana College, we can expect those of Augustana heritage to be momentarily wistful, as they set the messiness of this week's Churchwide Assembly aside.

Well, at least until they read it.

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The First Annual Augustana Day*
*A gift of Augustana College to our colleagues in the ministry of the ELCA, sharing the richness of the college in a way that will nourish your ministry

Thursday, October 8, 2009
Westerlin Residence Center Lounge
Augustana College

Learning From Islam

 9:00 a.m.  Welcome
Steven C. Bahls, Augustana College President

 9:15 a.m.  Why Christians Need Muslims.
Exploring what makes Islam and Christianity unique, along with our deep connections.
Dr. Jason Mahn, Augustana College Religion Department

 9:45 a.m.  Islam 101.
Everything you've always wanted to know about Islam but were afraid to ask.
Imam Saad Baig, Islamic Center of the Quad Cities

10:30 a.m.  Break

10:45 a.m.  Learning from the Sufis how to love God.
Resources for faith from Jelalludin Rumi and other Sufi mystics.
Dr. Cyrus Ali Zargar, Augustana College Religion Department

11:30 a.m.  Lunch

12:30 a.m.  How to begin pursuing interfaith connections where you live.
Models of interfaith relationships that have worked in the Quad Cities, at Augustana College, and elsewhere.
Dr. Lisa Zaynab Killinger, Palmer College, Davenport, Iowa

 1:15 p.m.  ELCA rostered leaders as college recruiters!
An unabashed pitch for encouraging your youth to consider Augustana.
W. Kent Barnds, Vice President of Enrollment, Augustana College

 2:00 p.m.  Departure

The program, including lunch, is completely free of charge to all ELCA rostered leaders. We do ask you to RSVP by October 1, please, so that we may have adequate materials and food available. Please RSVP via e-mail to Connie Huntley, Augustana College Campus Ministries, or by calling her at 309/794-7213. After you contact Connie Huntley to reserve your space at this event, she will send you directions to Westerlin Residence Center and instructions for parking.

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Ya, sure. Just what our pastor is looking for from Augustana College: "Learning from the Sufis how to love God."

Pastor Svensson, do you have any suggestions for a Lutheran College for our Shirley?

Shrimp out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

South Carolina Bishop: Yes on #1

Shrimp here.

If you know where to look it actually is on the South Carolina Synod's website (at least until the next synod newsletter is published). We first we had to download it (watch, this is a 12-page pdf newsletter) from the link provided in a Charleston (South Carolina) Post and Courier article in today's Sunday edition, "Church tackles sexuality," to figure that out. "It" being Bishop Herman Yoos' reflections on the four ministry proposals.

Tip o' the claw to TitusOneNine. And an alert newspaper reporter. Shrimp out.

From the desk heart of Bishop Herman R. Yoos

At our 2009 Synod Assembly I was asked by Pastor Marion Brazell and Pastor James Addy about where I stood in relation to the four ministry proposals based on the Human Sexuality Statement. This article is my attempt to share with you where I am on this difficult and complex issue that is facing the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. It has been a journey for me over the years of wrestling with scripture, tradition and our Lutheran theology.

For me, our Lutheran understanding of human sexuality is grounded in Genesis 1, where we read that God created us male and female in God’s own image. Here we learn that God’s first intention in creating us as sexual beings was the importance of bringing new life into this world and giving the family a firm foundation of safety and protection. In Genesis 2, we learn from the story of Adam and Eve in the garden a second blessing which included the gift of intimate trust with one another and with God that the biblical writers described as walking naked in the garden with God and not being ashamed. I believe that God intended from the beginning for marriage to be a gift of a lifelong faithful relationship of husband and wife, for procreation and also for the development of the most intimate bond of trust that is possible on earth between two people.

In moving on to Genesis 3 and 4, we read about humankind’s disobedience and fall from God’s plans for his creation, which affected everything and everyone. All of life became less than what God intended it to be from the beginning, including the gift and purpose of human sexuality. Even the goodness of human sexuality in marriage has become distorted by sin, including power struggles, manipulation, game playing, bargaining for favors, extramarital affairs and divorce. The misuse of human sexuality inevitably includes seeing persons as objects to be used, rather than persons of worth created in the image of God. Because of this brokenness, nothing is as God intended.

Therefore, I believe that one’s sexual orientation is not primarily a conscious choice, but rather is a deeply ingrained part of one’s identity. It seems to me that gays and lesbians no more choose their sexual orientation than heterosexuals do. Given that between 4 and 8% of the population enter this world with a gender attraction for the same sex person, the church continues to wrestle with the question of what is the most fair and just way to respond to these our baptized brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and other family members who share this fundamental attraction to the same sex.

When I consider that in our legal context today, gays and lesbians are still discriminated against and not treated equally under the law when it comes to taxes, to medical decisions, and end of life decisions, then it seems to me that there is a legitimate issue of justice that calls for us as Christians to support gays and lesbians who desire to live in a monogamous, committed and publicly accountable relationship. For me this takes nothing away from God’s gift of marriage as God’s first intention for creation, but it does allow for the recognition of a deep bond of intimate trust that can be found among same gendered couples who want to live in faithful committed relationships.

As I wrestle with Romans 1 and other scriptures that condemn homosexuality, I keep coming back to Romans 3:23-24. "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." In Galatians 3, Paul writes, "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." Our Lutheran theology refers most often to sin with a capital S as the universal condition we all face as humans living without trying to rank order the individual acts of sin.

In reading and wrestling with scripture, I also take seriously the call of the prophet "to set free those who are oppressed," "to let justice roll down like a river," and "to proclaim liberty to the captives."

For all of these reasons, if I were voting today on the four ministry proposals before the ELCA I would vote "yes" on Motion #1 "to find ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize and support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships."

At the same time, I would vote "no" against motions 2, 3 and 4, which advocate for structured flexibility in allowing for the ordination of same gendered persons in lifelong publicly accountable relationships. For me, ordination is not a justice issue, nor an issue of civil rights; but it is an issue of spiritual discernment and accountability.

I share these thoughts with you to let you know where I am before the Churchwide Assembly. These are certainly not new thoughts or original ones, but rather come out of the readings I have done along with the many conversations that others have shared with me. I told the assembly that my election to this office does not give me any ex cathedra knowledge or additional wisdom, but rather these are my best reflections that I share with you for further discussion in the future.

I continue to pray for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit for all the voting members of this Churchwide Assembly, and for all the decisions that are before us, and I encourage you to do the same.

Peace, Herman R. Yoos

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Goodsoil's "A-list Bishops" to Meet for Assembly

Shrimp again, with a preview of events at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly that begins this Monday. For instance, the "full inclusion" forces have put on their website,
Goodsoil intends to have a presence during all parts of Churchwide. From graceful engagement with voting members during meals to a large, public worship service, Goodsoil intends to be involved with every aspect of the Assembly.
That page and the Goodsoil schedule for the Assembly give us a good hint of what they'll be up to.

One activity doesn't show up, but an ALPB Forum Blog entry offers information on an additional Goodsoil gathering:
To: A-list Bishops in support of full inclusion
From: The Rev. Christopher Berry and Emily Eastwood of the Goodsoil Legislative Team

Several of you have asked that we convene with you for updates and strategies regarding opening night, the social statement and the rostering recommendations.

You are hereby invited to a meeting on Monday, August 17th, at Central Lutheran in the Lower Narthex Usher's Room from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm for a very light lunch, make your own sandwiches and beverages. We will have all the fixin's. Use the large doors on the north side of the building which faces the access to 35W. Trusted volunteers will meet you at the door.

There will be a second meeting with allied bishops Wednesday night immediately following the Goodsoil worship in the Fireside Lounge at Central. We know that some bishops are vesting and you are invited to do so if you feel so called. Even if you do not vest, please attend and invite your voting members. The color of the day is green.

We recognize that at this point you have an agreement amongst yourselves regarding participation in debate at the Assembly. We ask that you take whatever actions are necessary within the conference to enable your full participation as the Spirit leads.

We will be discussing strategies and tactics for debate for the week. We reaffirm our support for the social statement as submitted as well as the policy recommendations. We will be holding voting member meetings at 1:00 pm and 9:30 pm on Monday in Goodsoil Central Room 200 in the Convention Center. Daily voting member briefings will be held in the same room each evening.

Both of us are available for discussion at any time with you or your voting members. We look forward to working with you toward passage of both the social statement and policy change. In these last days of preparation the Spirit has been palpably present amongst us. We hold you, the voting members, those who would oppose full inclusion, and indeed the whole church in prayer.

The Rev. Christopher Berry (voting member) XXX-XXX-XXXX Cell
Just Plain Emily Eastwood (visitor) XXX-XXX-XXXX Cell
So if you are one of those ELCA Churchwide Assembly Voting Members charmed by the Goodsoil Singers as you walk through the Skyways to the Convention Center, remember that they've got a lot of ELCA power on their side, too.

Shrimp out.

Friday, August 14, 2009

NW Minnesota Bishop: Squandered Opportunity

Shrimp here. In February we posted reactions of several ELCA Bishop's to Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, the ELCA's proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality. We've now discovered (thanks to the Editor of Forum Letter) a response to the statement by Bishop Larry Wohlrabe of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod and posted on his blog on Wednesday.

You'll want to read the whole thing, but we want to highlight the latter part:
... Make no mistake: sex is a big deal!

So, I ask, how have we in the ELCA done in formulating a social statement on human sexuality? Has our great church produced a great document that does justice to the gravity and grace of human sexuality? Have we in the ELCA addressed as powerfully and as richly as possible the real social issues that arise from our life as sexually-differentiated human beings? Are we now poised to be a church that has something powerful to say to our society in the early 21st century about the wonder of human sexuality and the tremendous possibilities of well-ordered sexual lives, for the sake of our human future? Are we ready to speak confidently, compellingly to our society as a church that still believes that “the Lord God in his goodness created us male and female, and by the gift of marriage founded human community in a joy that begins now and is brought to perfection in the life to come?”[2]

Alas, as I read Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, I cannot honestly say that we have done our best to plumb the heights and depths of human sexuality so as to say something meaningful and compelling to the society in which we live. As a colleague in ministry put it, only we Lutherans could take something as exciting as sex and write about it in such a pedestrian way.

Let me name three deep concerns that I have about Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.

1. Framing the Issue. Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, although proposed to us as a theological teaching document consistently fails to exhibit a deep engagement with and thoughtful appropriation of the Lutheran theological treasury. The rich law-gospel dialectic for which Lutherans are known is not the “operating system” in this teaching document. The document sets aside—in a footnote, no less![3]—our time-honored understanding of “orders of creation” as deep, dynamic, caring structures that God has built into the Creation to bring forth and sustain human life in all its multi-form abundance. In the place of such profound theological and ethical categories, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust sees everything sexual through the sociological lens of “trust in relationships” or “social trust.” (The word “trust” shows up nearly two hundred times in the document!) Now, to be sure, social trust is a very good thing! Even thoughtful pagans will agree to that. But “social trust” is scarcely a suitable “lens” for a distinctively Christian or churchly word about human sexuality.

2. Sidestepping the Question of Form. The Western Christian tradition has consistently held that human sexuality has about it a normative shape or form. By privileging one form of sexual expression—the one-flesh bond of a man and a woman united in marriage—the tradition has ruled out every competing form of sexual expression. Although this strikes our modern sensibilities as being unfair, the heterosexual structure of human sexuality is actually a divine gift, intimately bound up with the civilizational task of bringing forth and rearing the next generation of human beings. Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, however, sidesteps the notion that there even is a normative form of sexual expression. All that counts is the quality of sexual relationships (be they heterosexual, homosexual or whatever)—that they be loving, committed, monogamous, lifelong, etc. Driven by the desire to normalize gay and lesbian relationships, this document effectively removes our grounds for critiquing, let alone ruling out, other forms of sexual expression. Perhaps, therefore, we should not be surprised that the following words don’t show up even once in this document: bestiality, bisexual, incest, masturbation, or polygamy. (By the way, “singles” are mentioned only three times in the document!)

3. Downplaying the Fruitfulness of Sexuality. Although Human Sexuality: Gift and Task speaks often of families (the word “family” shows up nearly fifty times), it says little about just how such families come into existence. An extra-terrestrial could read the section on Marriage: Shelter and Context for Trust (lines 607-750) and still not realize that procreation is integral to marriage. Again, the vocabulary of the document is telling: the words “conceive” and “intercourse” each show up just once, “birth” appears four times, and “mother” and “father” are each mentioned three times. It is amazing to me that a proposed social statement on sexuality can speak so often about intimacy but so seldom about generativity. What a rare opportunity we are missing to teach our young ones about the marvelous crucible for begetting and nurturing children that God graciously gives to us in the “first institution” of holy matrimony!

So, with regret, I must register my deep disappointment with this proposed social statement. Our church has invested tremendous “capital” in this project—both money and human capital—with precious little to show for our efforts. The fault here should not be laid solely at the doorstep of the task force that has drafted this document. They are good and decent people, charged with a daunting task, and asked to discharge their duties in the unsettled atmosphere of a society-wide debate over one small aspect of human sexuality, i.e. the place of persons who identify themselves as gay and lesbian within our church and our society. For far too long, our over-focus on homosexuality has been the “tail wagging the dog”—making it hard, if not impossible, for our church to address adequately the whole gamut of human sexuality.

By dwelling on peripheral matters, we have squandered the opportunity to speak compellingly to the heart of the most important issues of human sexuality in our time. We have failed to muster the maturity and thoughtfulness needed to address adequately the issue at hand. We as a Lutheran church body are capable of doing so much better than this!

[2] Liturgy for marriage, Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 203.
[3] Footnote 11 in Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.

Again, read it all. Shrimp out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Survey: ELCA Clergy Support Gay Clergy and Relationships

Shrimp here, with a press release from Public Religion Research about a 2008 survey of "senior clergy from the seven largest Mainline denominations: United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, American Baptist Churches USA, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)." Tip o' the claw to ELCA News.

We don't know much about Public Religion Research other than that their motto is "Bringing expertise and insight to the intersection of religion, values and public policy" and that their analysis of the survey (pdf) suggests a progressive, pro-gay perspective. You can see the actual survey here. Now without further ado, Shrimp out.

Survey Shows Lutheran Clergy Support Ordination of Gay and Lesbian Clergy

Survey Shows ELCA Clergy Support Performing Same-Sex Marriages Where Legal

Contact: Dr. Robert P. Jones, President, 202-425-0277,
For the PDF version of this press release, click here.

A majority of clergy who belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) support ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, and a plurality (46%) support performing same-sex marriages in states where they are legal, according to a recent national survey by Public Religion Research. The Clergy Voices Survey is the most in-depth study ever conducted of Mainline Protestant clergy and contained nearly 60 questions related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues in the church and society.

"ELCA clergy are generally supportive of a range of rights for gay and lesbian people both inside and outside the church. Nationwide, a majority of ELCA clergy support ordaining gay and lesbian clergy, and only a minority of ELCA clergy opposes performing same-sex marriages in the states where they are legal," said Dr. Robert P. Jones, President of Public Religion Research, who conducted the study. "ELCA clergy also strongly believe that the gospel message requires full inclusion of gay and lesbian members in the life of the church, and support for ordination and participation in marriage ceremonies of gay and lesbian parishioners are concrete expressions of that theological conviction."

Seven-in-ten ELCA clergy say that the gospel message requires full inclusion of LGBT people in the church, and a majority of ELCA clergy supports ordination of gay and lesbian clergy . A solid majority (54%) of ELCA clergy says that gay and lesbian people should be eligible for ordination with no special requirements. About one-third (32%) says that gay and lesbian people should be eligible for ordination only if they are celibate, and only 14% say gay and lesbian people should not be eligible at all.

A plurality of ELCA clergy support performing civil marriages where legal. By a significant margin, ELCA clergy disagree with the statement, "Even if it were legal, I would not be willing to perform a civil union or marriage for a same-sex couple" (46% disagree vs. 37% agree). As a matter of public policy, the overwhelming majority of ELCA clergy support either same-sex marriage (37%) or civil unions (44%), and only 1-in-5 (19%) says there should be no legal recognition for same-sex relationships. ELCA clergy are also strongly supportive of other rights for LGBT families and individuals, such as adoption rights, hate crimes laws, and workplace discrimination protections.

A majority (53%) of ELCA clergy report that their views on LGBT issues are more liberal today than they were a decade ago. One-third (33%) says their views have not changed, and only 14% say they have become more conservative.

The Clergy Voices Survey was conducted by mail among a national random sample of senior clergy serving congregations in the seven largest Mainline Protestant denominations. The survey contained over 250 separate questions and generated 2,658 respondents with a response rate of 44%. The Clergy Voices Survey was funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. Full results of the study can be found at

"Jesus came for sinners, but he did tell us not to sin." (click title)

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
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