Thursday, December 24, 2009

ELCA News' "Merry Christmas" Announcement

Shrimp here. In North America, it is mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve.

The perfect time for the ELCA News Service, "a service for journalists and members of the news media," to take one last shot at the evening news. Who knows, maybe the local TV news crew will pick up the urgent message that just came over the wire, and the mention of "Lutheran Church" will inspire a few folks to show up for one of the Christmas Eve services tonight at a nearby ELCA congregation.

Yes, and as the visitor is greeted at the door, she mentions to the pastor that the ELCA was mentioned on the Channel 4 News. "Oh, really!" replies Pastor Inkvist. "What was the story?"
San Francisco Lutheran Congregation to Celebrate First 'Feast of Hope'

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco, will celebrate its first "Feast of Hope" worship Dec. 27, in celebration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly decision directing changes in ministry policies.

The Rev. Anita Hill, pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Church, Minneapolis, will serve as guest preacher.

Since 1995 the congregation has held a "Feast of Expulsion" in late December, commemorating the date when the congregation was expelled from the ELCA, according to a news release from the congregation.  

On Dec. 31, 1995 St. Francis was removed from the ELCA's roster of congregations for calling ministers in same-gender relationships, a violation of ELCA policy.

The 2009 Churchwide Assembly directed changes to ELCA ministry policies that created the possibility that people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships could serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers. The assembly also adopted a social statement on human sexuality.

St. Francis members were among many others in the ELCA who worked for years for changes in ELCA ministry policies.

The Rev. Robert M. Goldstein, who serves as lead pastor at St. Francis, said the congregation council began discussions about changing the emphasis for the congregation's annual observance.

"We weren't sure what to name it," he said in an interview. "Since the congregation on the whole is very hopeful, and we're still in a holding pattern until we see the details in the (ELCA) Church Council's reformulation of polices, we thought 'hope' was the best and most accurate name to give this."

When it meets in April 2010, the ELCA Church Council is expected to consider revised policy documents implementing the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. The proposed policies will be reviewed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops before any council action.

Goldstein said the congregation wants its event to be "forward-looking."

"It's time to accent the future now, and not live in the past," he said. Most of the congregation's approximately 135 members will likely attend Sunday's event, Goldstein said.

While members at St. Francis celebrate hope for the future, there are some congregations in the ELCA that do not agree with the assembly's decisions.  Many cite biblical authority as their reasons. David D. Swartling, ELCA secretary, reported that as of Dec. 16, about 135 of the ELCA's nearly 10,400 congregations have taken first votes since the assembly to leave the denomination. Ninety-seven congregations achieved the required two-thirds vote and are moving forward in the process; 38 failed to achieve two-thirds.

Goldstein said members of congregations who disagree "are my brothers and sisters as we disagree over something that St. Francis' brothers and sisters feel very strongly about." He said he and St. Francis' members recognize others are in pain over the decisions, but noted many at St. Francis have been in pain for years because of the longstanding policies.

Goldstein added that he hopes one day there can be a "rite of reconciliation" for St. Francis and the ELCA.


Information about St. Francis Lutheran Church is at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
Merry Christmas! Shrimp

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stirring Things Up

Shrimp here. "Stir up your power, O Lord, and come," begins the the Prayer of the Day on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. (We've uses the LBW version here; ELW updates "O Lord" to "Lord Christ.") That was Sunday.

Tuesday came the ELCA News headline, "Lutheran Bishops Offer Ideas to White House to Stir Economy." Begins the article,
In a Dec. 16 letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, a caucus of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bishops acknowledged economic challenges and suggested opportunities for job creation. The group met with Martha Coven, special assistant to the president for mobility and opportunity policy, to present the letter and discuss the status of hunger and economic insecurity in the United States.

In the letter the bishops wrote, "We see firsthand the effects that unemployment has on individuals, families and communities. While we are there to counsel and comfort, we are also committed to encouraging policies that can spur job growth."

The bishops' letter outlined a number of propositions for job creation such as small business development, job retraining, green jobs for low-income people and expanding public service programs.

The caucus asked for particular consideration of sustainable development for low-income communities, as well as sustaining the environment and people living in poverty through investments in green jobs and clean energy technology.
Go ahead, read the news release here. We'll wait...

Stirred up yet? Remember, these are the same church leaders who are unable to publicly express a common word about the proper context for the expression of human sexuality. Leaders in a church that just let 40 of its own employees go in the midst of it's own financial panic. Here's their letter offering economic advice to the President of the United States :
U.S. Hunger and Povery Caucus
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

God's work. Our Hands.

December 16, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's U.S. Hunger and Poverty Caucus, whose purpose is to mobilze biships of the ELCA to speak publicly and prophetically about the problem of hunger and poverty in America and influence legislation aimed at reducing them. We write to you with acute awareness of the effects of the current recession on individuals and families struggleing to make ends meet. We also know that you and your Administration have given particular attention to job creation and the economy in recent days and weeks.

As a church, we are committed to talking with people about the challenges they face in their work, as well as counseling and supporting those who are unemployed, underemployed, and undergoing job transitions. We see first had the effects that unemployment has on individuals, families, and communities. While we are there to counsel and comfort, we are also committed to encouraging policies that can spur job growth. There is no replacement for a good job.

With that in mind, we add our collective voice to the current national discussion about jobs and job creation. We call for the following: public and private sector partnerships to create jobs and job rethention programs; national economic policies that support and advance the goal of low unemployment;
Shrimp can't resist an interruption here: Ya think ELCA Advocacy will now recommend lowering the minimum wage?
and skill and language enhancement training that will enable the most vulnerable, including new immigrants, to become beter prepared for jobs.

As you consider a myriad of ideas, we ask that you give particular consideration to the following two overriding principles:
  • Sustainable development of low-income communities. In many low-income communities — rural and urban — disinvestment and neglect have taken their toll. In contrast, there are examples of sustainable community economic development that take into account the overall health and welfare people, the environment, and the local economy. Such an approach creates jobs, prepares people for work, generates income that is re-circulated several times in the community, and sustains and renews environmental resources, all for the sake of a community's long-term viability
  • Sustaining the environment and people living in poverty through investments in green jobs and clean energy technology. The growth of economic activity during the twentieth century, and the industrialization and consumerism that fueled it, radically changed the relationship between humans and the earth. Investment in clean energy technology and the jobs that such investment create can serve the dual purpose of lifting individuals and families out of poverty and repairing our finite, fragile ecological system upon which human and all other life depends.
We have also attached a complilation of more specific ideas, gathered from among the ELCA's network of 18 state public policy offices.
Shrimp, interrupting again. Those ideas can be found here along with this letter.
Thank you for your consideration, and please contact Robert Francis in the ELCA Washington Office to follow up on this letter or any of the attached Suggestions.


Bishop Michael Burk, Southeastern Iowa Synod

Bishop Jessica Crist, Montana Synod

Bishop Robert Driesen, Upper Susquehanna Synod

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Northeastern Ohio Synod

Bishop Marcus Lorhmann, Northwestern Ohio Synod

Bishop James Mauney, Virginia Synod and Convener of the Domenstic Ready Bench

Bishop David Zellmer, South Dakota Synod.
Shrimp again, wishing you a blessed last days of Advent. Stir up...

Shrimp out.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Evangelical Lutheran leader suggests Bible not the final authority (

Shrimp here.

That's the AP's headline, by the way, not ours. The article (go ahead, click and read; Shellfish isn't an AP agent) doesn't say a whole lot about ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's, uh, responses to questions at the ELCA's Town Hall Forum held in what appeared to be the former Augsburg Fortress store on the ground level at The Lutheran Center late yesterday afternoon. But you can judge for yourself now that the Town Hall Forum's webcast is posted at that link for "on-demand viewing."

Meanwhile, here's the ELCA News take on the Forum. Shrimp out.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Addresses Variety of Subjects in Town Hall Forum


CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) hosted a "Town Hall Forum" here Dec. 6, fielding a variety of questions on topics such as leadership, mission, evangelism, anti-racism and racial justice matters, funding, churchwide staff reductions and actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson responded to 19 questions -- posed by a live audience and members watching online -- during the hour-long forum. Carlos Peña, ELCA vice president, Galveston, Texas, introduced Hanson and posed questions from viewers.

Hanson had said he wanted to use the forum to speak directly to members about priorities for the 4.6 million-member ELCA, look forward and share stories about mission. He also promised to host similar forums in the future.

ELCA Communication Services, which managed the forum along with ELCA Information Technology staff and others, reported the online video player for the forum was launched 3,148 times, with 2,205 unique viewers. Top viewership was in Minnesota, Illinois and Florida. Viewers in several foreign countries also watched, the report said.

The forum was held as some ELCA congregations are considering leaving the denomination or withholding finances as a response to the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

That assembly directed changes to ministry policies, creating the possibility for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as clergy and professional lay workers. The directive has caused some disagreement in the ELCA.

Hanson asked members to continue to discuss the assembly's actions and include those with differing opinions in those conversations; respect other points of view; and remain united as the ELCA.

He addressed congregations that are redirecting or withholding funds to register disagreement with the assembly's actions.

"Let me tell you when that line is cut, mission and ministry is diminished throughout the world and throughout this church," he told the forum audience.

He said the ELCA is a church where all people "can teach and preach" with the integrity of their convictions on sexuality matters. The ELCA is also welcoming people who "are coming to faith or being renewed in their faith" because of the assembly's actions, Hanson said.

"We can be faithful Lutheran Christians and live with that tension in the same church body. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that became our witness?" he said.

He said the concept of "bound conscience" remains a question for many, and there should be an "open" conversation about it. He added that "we live under the authority of Scripture," but members must keep asking each other "What does that mean?"

Hanson also commented on other topics:

+ Leadership: He urged leaders to focus on the complete picture of the ELCA through "a wide-angle lens" versus focusing on human sexuality issues. ELCA leaders and members need to encourage each other in their ministries, Hanson said.

+ Mission: Every synod should convene leaders to study how "vibrant ministries can happen in congregations," he said. Directors of evangelical mission are being placed in synods to help congregations grow as centers for mission, he said.

+ Anti-racism education and racial justice: Hanson said two full-time churchwide positions will be combined into one. That doesn't diminish the churchwide organization's commitment in this area, he said. He invited the audience to advise him on the new job description. Hanson also said that the churchwide organization is building groups to oversee churchwide anti-racism work, and to work with synods and congregations.

+ Multicultural and ethnic-specific ministries: Hanson reported that 13 new congregations will be planted in 2010 in multicultural, ethnic-specific communities throughout the ELCA. The ELCA Mission Investment Fund provided grant funds to make this possible, he said. Hanson also said the ELCA cannot use multicultural, ethnic-specific communities as "pawns" in a struggle over sexuality. He said the ELCA "needs to sustain these vibrant ministries."

+ ELCA restructuring: A task force has been appointed to study church structures and relationships throughout the ELCA, and how changes that have taken place since the church was formed in 1988. Hanson said he was less concerned about structure than he is about mission. "We're in that study now. I can guarantee you that it will not be a top-down decision. It will be a conversation to which we invite the church."

+ Ecumenical and global relationships: The presiding bishop said that since the churchwide assembly, the ELCA has been working specifically to tend relationships with other churches in the United States and globally.

Hanson said he hopes that in the next eight years, the ELCA can train 1,000 evangelists to help the church grow, informed by global companion churches. He also urged congregations to study the ELCA's social statements alongside real-life social challenges, such as health care.


Video of the "Town Hall Forum" is at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Northeastern Iowa Synod Bishop's Pastoral Letter

Shrimp here, with a tip o' the claw to Erik Ullestad's koinonia blog, where he posts a pastoral letter from Northeastern Iowa Synod Bishop Steven Ullestad. (Yes, they're related -- the Bishop is the Blogger's father.) The letter is in regard to the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council's actions (posted here and here) on actions of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Shrimp out.

= = = = = = = = = =

December 4, 2009

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Grace to you and peace in this season of Advent anticipation and hope.

At its November 14, 2009 meeting, the synod council passed two resolutions in response to the actions of the churchwide assembly votes on ministry policies and the social statement on Human Sexuality. These resolutions were passed after thoughtful conversation by a majority vote. The resolution addressing the "bound conscience" clause of the churchwide resolutions was adopted by a vote of 10 in favor, 5 opposed and 1 abstention. The memorial requesting that the ELCA church council repudiate and rescind the actions of the churchwide assembly passed by a vote of 8 in favor, 6 who were opposed and 2 abstentions. Both resolutions have been sent to all rostered persons in our synod.

We have received several responses to the actions of the synod council. There are those who are grateful for the resolutions and others that are experiencing deep pain due to the votes. Some are asking questions about the authority of the synod council to pass such resolutions while many are asking about the implications for local congregations in the call process, the candidacy committee and the decisions that are made by the bishop. The resolutions test the implications of the churchwide decisions for our synod. I have been asked by those who oppose the decisions and by those who support the decisions to "make a ruling" in this regard. I have chosen not to do so for the following reasons.

We are Lutherans. We believe that the Christian faith and the implications of the Gospel have not simply been given to the church through an unbroken chain charted back to St. Peter. We believe that the Gospel and its implications for our daily lives have been given to all who confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Consequently, it is the calling of the people of God and not the bishop or Conference of Bishops to determine the ethics of the church. That is why we engage the whole church in the development of social statements and have votes by those who have been elected by the people, the laity and pastors of the churchwide assembly and synod council, in order to determine the policies of the church. An individual bishop, The Conference of Bishops, any unit of the churchwide office and the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA have no legislative authority in this regard. It is the vote of the people that makes this determination.

The people of God, assembled in Minneapolis, determined that local congregations would decide whether or not they wished to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable couples who are in life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships. The church, gathered at the churchwide assembly, also decided to allow for "structured flexibility" in determining whether or not persons in such relationships could be approved for ordination and serve as pastors. The language of the resolutions makes provision for the "bound conscience" of "any congregation, candidacy committee, synod or bishop.”

In the same way that some synods and congregations have voted in the past to be "Reconciling in Christ" synods or congregations, our synod council has voted to continue the traditional standards for ordination and the calling of a pastor. This resolution will be brought to the 2010 Synod Assembly for consideration.

Our synod will now be engaged in conversations about what this means for our life together. What is meant by the churchwide assembly’s action that allows for the bound conscience of a candidacy committee and a synod? Is the action of the synod council and potential action of the synod assembly, a higher authority than the local congregation's authority to call any pastor that it chooses who is on the roster of the ELCA? Is a decision of the synod council or synod assembly a higher authority than the bound conscience of any individual that is serving on the candidacy committee? Standards of discipline for rostered persons are churchwide policies and not synodical. Does the action of the synod council add to, change or challenge those policies, or is it subservient to them?

The resolution passed by the synod council "encourages" the synod bishop to maintain the traditional standards for the roster. If a congregation chooses to call a pastor in a "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same gender relationship", does the bishop have the authority to refuse to sign such a call? If a bishop's signature on a letter of call simply "attests" to an ELCA congregation calling an ELCA pastor and does not indicate an approval or appointment by the bishop, on what basis would a bishop not sign a call? If a bishop’s “bound conscience” would be the basis for such a decision, is that a greater power than a congregation’s call?

My concern continues to be the theology of the church in the midst of this very important conversation. I have asked that we consider a Lutheran understanding of scripture, the manner in which we embrace dialectical tension in our theology and the importance for any consideration to be grounded in scripture and the theology of the church.

I believe that pastors, whether serving in the office of bishop or in congregations, are the "spiritual parents" for the community of faith. As that parent for our synod, it is important for me to allow the family to be engaged in this conversation within certain parameters. I will not solve this problem for our synod or church I will help to maintain the boundaries of the conversation, reminding us of our theology, the implications for the eighth commandment, and the powerful witness of our oneness in Christ in the midst of difficult and challenging times.

Families have been destroyed because they could not find a way to have a conversation on the topic of homosexuality. This is our opportunity to provide a witness to them about how we can remain one in Christ, share our deep faith convictions and remain together for the sake of Christ's mission in the world.

It is my fervent prayer that we will continue to trust the people of God with making decisions about the ministry of their congregations and our church. We remember together that there is nothing that will separate us from the love of God, that our unity in Christ is greater than any disagreement and that none of us will do anything to injure or weaken the remarkable mission of our church. I have no question, that the depth and breadth of that mission is unmatched. I will be working to continue to strengthen our church even further.

Thank you for joining me in that calling.

Your Partner in Mission,
The Rev. Dr. Steven L. Ullestad

Were You Invited to the ELCA Town Hall Forum?

Shrimp here. Sunday's Bears game starts at 1:00 pm EST; the Vikings start at 8:20 pm.

Shrimp out.

Dear friend,

Advent greetings to you! I am pleased to invite you to participate in an online Town Hall Forum with ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson on Sunday, December 6.

The hour-long forum begins at 5:30 p.m. EST (4:30 p.m. CST) in a live Web cast.

Here’s how you can participate:
  • Watch the event via live stream video at
  • Log in to chat and post questions while watching the live streaming video
  • Post comments using Facebook Connect
  • Tweet about the event using the hashtags #ELCA #BishopHanson
  • Gather members of your congregation for a viewing party
I hope you’ll join us in this unique opportunity to talk with Bishop Hanson about the mission and ministry of this church.


Kristi Bangert
Executive Director, Communication Services
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

P.S. Tell friends and family about this first-ever event and encourage them to tune in.

Visit for a video message, bulletin insert and more.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Northeastern Iowa Synod Council Expresses Bound Conscience


WHEREAS, The 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA has adopted 4 Recommendations on Ministry Policies (CA09.05.23; CA09.05.24; CA09.05.26; and CA09.05.27), and

WHEREAS, CA09.05.23 states "that in the implementation of any resolutions on ministry policies, the ELCA commit itself to bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all", and

WHEREAS, CA09.05.27, in the 2nd "RESOLVED" states "that this church, because of its commitment to respect the bound consciences of all, declare its intent to allow structured flexibility in decision-making regarding the approving or disapproving in candidacy and the extending or not extending of a call to rostered service of a person who is otherwise qualified and who is living or contemplates living in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship", and

WHEREAS, the 5th "WHEREAS" introducing CA.09.05.27 states, "other members, congregations, candidacy committees, and synods of the ELCA acknowledge those gifts and skills for ministry, but believe that this church must maintain an expectation of celibacy for any gay or lesbian person, whether or not that person is in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, and thus believe that this church cannot call or roster people in such relationships" and

WHEREAS, the use of "structured flexibility" is portrayed in the "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies" as presented to the Churchwide Assembly on lines 488 – 498 of the Pre-Assembly Report in the following manner:
"To choose structured flexibility does not imply that same-gender-oriented people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships would be able to serve everywhere in this church. The existing discernment processes for approval and call already assume that synods, bishops, candidacy committees, rostered leaders, and congregations will make decisions in keeping with their own conscience and convictions. If structured flexibility were added to the process, this assumption would still protect any congregation, candidacy committee, synod, or bishop from having to violate bound conscience by approving, calling, commissioning, consecrating, or ordaining anyone in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship. Similarly, a structured flexibility process would protect the decisions of a congregation, candidacy committee, synod, or bishop who concludes that mission would be served best by approving or calling a particular candidate or rostered leader who is in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship." (bold added), and

WHEREAS, it is evident from these portions of the materials adopted and presented at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly that the "all" whose "bound conscience" the actions of the assembly have committed the ELCA to honor include "synods", and that this "bound conscience" includes the ability to choose not to approve, call, commission, consecrate, or ordain someone in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, and

WHEREAS, the "bound conscience" of the Northeastern Iowa Synod can most clearly be determined by the actions taken at synod assembly, and

WHEREAS, actions of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly in 2004 (SA04.06.9), 2005 (SA05.06.38), 2007 (SA07.06.33, SA07.06.36, SA07.06.38 & SA07.06.41), and 2009 (SA09.06.15 & SA09.06.18) have declared the position of the Northeastern Iowa Synod to be that "Marriage, an institution ordained by God, is the life-long union of one man and one woman for the creation of human life and for their mutual love and care… Sexual intercourse is part of the vocation of marriage and is misused in any other context" (SA04.06.9); have opposed any changes in the church’s teaching concerning marriage and sexuality (SA04.06.9, SA09.06.15); and have opposed any changes in the ELCA’s standards for pastors and other rostered leaders as expressed in the 1990 documents "Vision and Expectations" and "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline" (SA05.06.38, SA07.06.36, SA07.06.38, SA07.06.41 & SA09.06.18); therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council, recognizing the past actions of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly as evidence of the Northeastern Iowa Synod’s strongly-held views with respect to the approving, calling, commissioning, consecrating, or ordaining of one in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, determines that the standards for rostered ministry as outlined in the 1990 documents, "Vision and Expectations" and "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline" shall remain in effect for the Northeastern Iowa Synod, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council encourage the Northeastern Iowa Synod Candidacy Committee and the Office of Bishop of the Northeastern Iowa Synod to continue to abide by such standards for rostered ministry in the Northeastern Iowa Synod during the period leading up to the 2010 Synod Assembly, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council recommends the following Continuing Resolution to the 2010 Synod Assembly of the Northeastern Iowa Synod:
S14.02 A10 In addition to the standards for ordained ministers in the current "Vision and Expectations" as adopted by the ELCA Church Council, this synod shall continue to maintain this expectation from "Vision & Expectations" (1990) in its candidacy process and in its standards for pastors and other rostered leaders:

Ordained ministers, whether married or single, are expected to uphold an understanding of marriage in their public ministry as well as in private life that is biblically informed and consistent with the teachings of this synod. The expectations of this synod regarding the sexual conduct of its ordained ministers are grounded in the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that ordained ministers are to live in such a way as to honor this gift. Ordained ministers are expected to reject sexual promiscuity, the manipulation of others for purposes of sexual gratification, and all attempts of sexual seduction and sexual harassment, including taking physical or emotional advantage of others. Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.

Northeastern Iowa Synod Council "Repudiates" CWA Actions


WHEREAS, the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA has adopted the social statement, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust", and

WHEREAS, 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.), and

WHEREAS, in Part IV (lines 740 – 744, as amended, of the Pre-Assembly Report) 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, and

WHEREAS, 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 (Part IV, lines 809 – 868 of the Pre-Assembly Report), and

WHEREAS, 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 in Part V of the Pre-Assembly Report) the resolutions on ministry policies (SA09.05.23 – 24 – 26 & 27) were adopted, and

WHEREAS, neither the Social Statement nor the Recommendation on Ministry Policies present an argument based on Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and with the aid of sound reason either to reject what is admitted to be the position of the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions based on Scripture or to accept a position which is admitted to be contrary to the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, and

WHEREAS, the Confession of Faith of the ELCA (Chapter 2 of the ELCA Constitution) commits the ELCA to accept the canonical Scriptures as the authoritative source and norm of our proclamation, faith and life, and to accept the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church as a true witness of the Gospel and valid interpretations of the faith of the Church, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council, repudiate the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in adopting the social statement "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" and the 4 Resolutions on Ministry Policies (CA09.05.23 – 24 – 26 & 27) as violations of the Confession of Faith, Chapter 2 of the ELCA Constitution, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council memorialize the ELCA Church Council to repudiate these actions as violations of the Confession of Faith, Chapter 2 of the ELCA Constitution, refuse to implement these actions, and begin the process to overturn these decisions at the 2011 Churchwide Assembly.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Presiding Bishop's Pastoral Letter

Shrimp here. In case you've not seen ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's Advent pastoral letter that was released mid-November, here it is below. It's is, as we know now, the opening shot for his "Town Hall Forum" this Sunday afternoon at 4:30 (CST), where "Bishop Hanson will be taking questions from a live audience and online viewers." We may say more about that later. But first, the Presiding Bishop's letter.

An open letter to ELCA members: Standing together in God's grace

Sisters and brothers in Christ of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,

I greet you with the words of the apostle Paul to the Romans: "Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:1-2a).

Where does the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) stand today? We stand together in God's grace, but we are not standing still. We proclaim Jesus Christ and are fully engaged in this mission by actively caring for the world that God loves. God's mission is serious work that calls for serious commitment. We bring all that we are -- especially our rich diversity, our shared tradition and even our disagreements -- in service of God's mission.

We go forward in this mission trusting that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Evidence abounds of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon us and through us:
  • Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Naples, Fla., recently purchased land for new ministry center. They also convened ELCA partners, seminaries, synods, and churchwide staff to envision together a vibrant, evangelical and multicultural Lutheran presence in southwestern Florida.

  • Our new directors of evangelical mission, based in synods, are trained and ready to serve ELCA congregations that they might continue to grow as evangelical centers for mission.

  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi told Global Mission colleagues traveling in the region that they are ready to deepen their relationship with the ELCA so that together we can more generously and faithfully respond to malaria, HIV and AIDS. Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, ELCA coordinator for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, writes, "The ELCA, especially through the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, will be part of a movement that changes the world. It's certainly going to change Malawi."

  • In summer 2009, 37,000 youth, young adults and adult leaders attended the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. They spread throughout the city, wearing orange t-shirts in a witness of service that touched the hearts of residents and has them talking still.

  • ELCA chaplains Michael Lembke, Richard Brunk and Paul Dirksmeyer bore witness to God's mercy at Fort Hood, Texas. They ministered to families, friends and an entire nation grieving the tragic shootings at the nation's largest military base.
These are just a few examples. Think of the signs of the Holy Spirit being poured out in your life and in your congregation! Thanks be to God for this continued outpouring of the Spirit among us.

When the ELCA Church Council faced the reality of reduced financial resources for mission, it made a difficult but necessary 10 percent budget reduction.  The decision, however, does not diminish our resolve and commitment to engage together in God's mission for the life of the world.

We will engage Christ's mission with everyone who stands together in God's grace, using the rich gifts that the Holy Spirit has poured into our lives:
  • Together we will proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord in worship spaces and workplaces, in online conversations and around kitchen tables.

  • Together we will develop new ministries in every synod in multicultural communities and among people living in deep poverty.

  • Together we will raise up and welcome faithful, wise and courageous leaders by sustaining vital and creative seminaries and campus ministries.

  • Together we will send missionaries to accompany new and growing Lutheran churches throughout the world.
I invite you to deepen this conversation with me in an online town hall forum on Sunday, December 6, at 4:30 p.m. (CST); check for more details.

The apostle Paul wrote that where the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us, hope abounds and hope does not disappoint us (Romans 5:4-5). What a wonderful promise this is as we now enter the season of Advent! With our hope in Christ, we face the future together as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, serving the world that God so loves.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Visit for a video message and more.
Shrimp again. If you go to the "Faithful Mission" page (apparently that's what follows a now-completed "Faithful Journey") you'll find not only a link to this letter, but a video message from Bishop Hanson.

Which gives us the opportunity to introduce pretty good lutherans, a blog sub-titled "ELCA News in Real Time" by the veteran religion reporter Susan Hogan. pretty good lutherans caught Shrimp's notice in October with Ms. Hogan's reports of the layoffs at the ELCA's headquarters in Chicago.

Sifting through the blog, it appears that pretty good lutherans is generally sympathetic to the ELCA's revisionists and the leadership of the Presiding Bishop. Ms. Hogan's also a fair reporter -- that is, she gives a story as straight as she can, but doesn't pretend that she's always completely impartial -- who doesn't like to be fed evasive pablum by those she's reporting on. So when she writes about the Presiding Bishop's Advent communications to the ELCA, you should sit up and notice that she begins her own "letter" to the PB,
Dear Bishop Hanson:

Whomever is writing scripts for you, make him or her stop.

Your denomination needs your authentic self back, the one that spoke with heartfelt compassion from the national assembly after the vote to welcome partnered gays and lesbians into the church’s ministries.

Where did that bishop go? Who is this canned persona in the video released this week?

Why dodge issues that church members most need to hear about? For instance, what is your plan for dealing with racism in the wake of the elimination of two staff positions responsible for addressing this issue?
Etc. Really, ya gotta read it all here.

Shrimp out.

The good ship ELCA...

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