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


Paul McCain said...

Well, there's a fine way to say, "Merry Christmas"

But then again, the ELCA media gang have been deeply involved in advocating for homosexuality.

Be careful what you ask for, you may get.

The ELCA hasn't even begun to feel the consequences of the fateful decisions they made last summer.

Best advice anyone could give to Lutherans in the ELCA at this point is simply, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate."

Anonymous said...

Amen. What Paul said. Also note this word from our Lord found in Revelations. "Come out of her my people, lest you take part in her sins..."

A word that I believe many ELCA Lutherans are hearing and acting upon either as whole congregations or as individuals.

Peace in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Rob Buechler

Steven said...

What fine examples of Lutherans at Christmas time Paul and Rob are. I bet they havent sinned a day in their lives! Get up on that pulpit and preach, Paul!

Anonymous said...

We can pick Bible verses all day to prove one another's point, however doesnt the overall message of the Bible teach love?

Rhonda Givens

Rev. Spaceman said...


The message of the Bible does indeed teach love, but not in the way that most people commonly think. The message is about *God's* love, which includes judgment of sin and the call to repentance and faith as we trust in his good news in Jesus Christ that frees us from our sin.

The idea of loving one another is indeed present in the Bible, but it needs to be placed within the context of God's relationship with the world. By itself, the concept of "love one another" is simply a religion based on human ability and achievement, not on God's grace given and shed for us.

Furthermore, discerning between right and wrong in life is not promoting hate. It may very well be another expression of love. One can be opposed to acceptance of a particular act while being a very caring person indeed.

The good ship ELCA...

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