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:

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