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:

The good ship ELCA...

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