Friday, February 26, 2010

Lutheran Youth Faith Formation

Shrimp again.

The thing about e-mails from synod offices is that they are easier to pass along for wider distribution than newletters and paper.
Discover new resources for ministry at "Sacred Stories: Youth Faith Formation in an Interfaith World" conference

Connect with other youth ministry workers and gain new interfaith youth ministry resources April 12-14, 2010, at "Sacred Stories: Youth Faith Formation in an Interfaith World," Youth in Mission's second annual youth ministry conference at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Hannah McConnaughay of the Interfaith Youth Core, will present Youth Ministry in the 21st Century: Navigating Religious Diversity and Identity." McConnaughay's work in the Outreach Education and Training Department of the Interfaith Youth Core takes her to college campuses and conferences to promote religious pluralism and offer skills trainings. She is developing a nationwide interfaith curriculum for youth in the Unitarian Universalist Association and is a former site coordinator of Inspired to Serve, the first federally funded interfaith service program. McConnaughay is a Christian committed to the call to work for justice. She holds a B.A. in Religious Studies and Economics from the University of Chicago and has worked in the fields of rape crisis, social work, and educational enrichment programming.

Workshops and large group activities include:
  • "Sharing and Extending 'Sacred Stories' to Your Ministry and Community," led by Kristen Glass, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and Katy Resop, Program Assistant for Youth and Young Adult Ministries, both of the ELCA's Vocation and Education unit

  • "The Living Fire: Practical Tips for Organizing Faith Communities and Youth to Meet the Environmental Challenge," presented by Jon Magnuson, Lutheran Campus Pastor at Northern Michigan University and Director of the Cedar Tree Institute

  • "Common Action for the Common Good: How to Organize an Interfaith Service-Learning Event," led by Hannah McConnaughay, Program Associate in the Outreach Education and Training Department of Interfaith Youth Core

  • Interfaith Panel Discussion
Conference registration is $90/per person plus housing and transportation costs. The registration deadline is March 12, 2010. For more information on YIM's youth ministry workers' conference, including registration, please visit the conference website: or call us at 800-635-1116, ext. 725.

In connection with the youth ministry conference, Youth in Mission will host its second annual Silent Auction and Benefit Dinner fundraiser on Tuesday, April 13, with all proceeds benefiting Youth in Mission's ministry at LSTC.

Youth in Mission was originally funded by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., for the purpose of encouraging young people to explore their gifts for ministry and to consider a profession of serving others through the church. Lilly continues to fund the YIM programs through a matching grant, and LSTC continues to seek individuals or congregations who wish to partner with us in this ministry. To invest in the future of YIM programs please contact Jessica Nipp at
We feel much better knowing that a Lutheran seminary is trying to help Lutheran congregations grow youth ministry with the help of one of the Christians in the Unitarian Universalist Association. Don't you?

Shrimp out.

"The Mark Hanson Show" Returns

Shrimp here, quick to point out that this post's title comes from a Forum Letter description of an ELCA Churchwide Assembly a few years back. Apparently the mini-series that shows up every 2 years isn't enough.

A correspondent has forwarded this e-mail from a Synod office:
Second online TOWN HALL FORUM
Save the date!
Join us on Sunday ... March 7 at 4 p.m. CST

You're invited to join Bishop Mark Hanson and ELCA members from across the country in a conversation about the mission and ministries of this church.

There are so many easy ways to participate:
  • Watch the event live from 4-5 p.m. CST at
  • Log in to post questions
  • Post comments using Facebook Connect
  • Tweet about the event using the hashtags #ELCA
    and #BishopHanson
  • Gather members of your congregation for a viewing party
For more information, visit for details.
We can feel the energy already. Shrimp out.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A "common" what?

Shrimp here. While we find ourselves talking about sexuality a lot (indeed, probably waay too much), we at Shellfish have long been asserting that sexual, uh, confusion in the ELCA and other "mainline" (aka "oldline" or "side line") Protestant churches is merely a symptom of deeper troubles.

It has been some time since we noted that we have "Evangelical Lutheran Church in America" as a setting on the Google News page that is the default page for our web browser, and it's a setting that helps us find other symptoms.

What caught our eye today was the headline, "Attend Lenten study of criminals in the bible." This actually intrigued us -- in a positive sense -- so off we went to to find out more:
The congregation of St. Paul's Teaneck invites the community to a weekly Lenten study concerning criminals in the Bible.

The Rev. Gary C. LeCroy will lead a lively discussion about the outcasts, wrongdoers and miscreants that is found in both the common and New Testament. Coffee, refreshments and fellowship will be provided. The series begins Thursday evening Feb. 25 and every Thursday through Lent at 7 p.m....
We were reading the rest of the announcement when a double-take in our mind finally took effect: "common and New Testament"???

We've already been disheartened by Wartburg Seminary, which has the image of being one of the more, uh, mild ELCA seminaries, having professors of the "Hebrew Bible." Which now has us checking out the other ELCA seminaries...



Oh, dear, at Southern (reputedly the most confessional/conservative of ELCA seminaries) it is "Professor of Hebrew Scriptures"...



... well, everybody else manages to get the more usual Christian designation for that section of the Bible in there somewhere.

But if there are local and churchwide ELCA leaders who avoid speaking of the "Old Testament," what else are they avioding when it is time to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints"?

We need to learn about the criminals in the Bible. But what about possible "criminals" of the faith today?

Shrimp out.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Anita Hill Approved for Ordained Ministry

Shrimp here.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries reports that Anita Hill, whose "extraordinary ordination" in 2001 helped kick off the process that led to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly's approval of a social statement on human sexuality and adjusting the standards for rostered ministry to permit the service of those in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same sex relationships, has been approved for admission to the ELCA clergy roster by the St. Paul Area Synod:
The St. Paul Area Synod of the ELCA has approved Rev. Anita Hill for reception to the ELCA roster.

In communicating their decision, the panel wrote: "At the recommendation of the panel that met with you on February 2, 2010, it was moved by Marty Ericson and carried that Anita Hill be received onto the roster of the ELCA for ordained pastors pending the implementation of the Vision and Expectations policy changes approved at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August 2009."

The committee shared the following words with their decision: "Recognizing the intentional, prayerful, parallel process of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries candidacy process, as well as your ministry partnership within the life of our synod, the Saint Paul Area Synod Candidacy Committee celebrates with you as you anticipate being received onto the roster."
Read it all here. Shrimp notes that the phrase used is "received onto the roster," suggesting that the Synod Candidacy Committee desires that her ordination be recognized as being like that of any other Lutheran church ordination.

Tip o' the claw to Lutheran (True) Confessions.

Shrimp out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ELCA Responds to Lutheran CORE Announcement

Shrimp again. ELCA News sent out this release a couple of hours ago.

February 18, 2010

ELCA Churchwide Organization Responds to Lutheran CORE Announcement

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) said it "will continue to respond to those congregations with questions or concerns" related to the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, adding it is "committed to ongoing conversation" with those congregations.

The comments were part of a Feb. 18 statement from the ELCA churchwide organization following an announcement from the Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (CORE). CORE announced its proposal for "the reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America," in a Feb. 18 news release.

"The ELCA is a church focused on a vibrant Christ-centered mission and ministry," the ELCA churchwide organization's statement said. "It carries out its mission through the daily vocations of its 4.6 million members, the ministries of its 10,239 congregations, through response to disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti, and through deep commitments to global and ecumenical partners throughout the world."

"As the ELCA carries out the directives of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, we continue to encourage congregations, synods and the churchwide organization to remain in conversation about these matters," the statement said. The churchwide organization statement said it regretted the decisions "of a few congregations" to leave the ELCA.

Lutheran CORE's proposal calls for the continuation of the organization as "a community of confessing Lutherans" and for the formation of a new Lutheran church body, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).

CORE’s Sept. 25-26, 2009 convocation in Fishers, Ind., asked that a proposal for the "reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism" be prepared and brought to CORE’s 2010 Convocation Aug. 26-27 in Columbus, Ohio, CORE's news release said.

"The proposal released Feb. 18 is a response to that request. It was released now so that Lutheran CORE members can provide input to aid in drafting the proposals that will be considered by the 2010 Convocation," the CORE release said.

CORE's announcement is a response to the decisions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The assembly created the possibility for Lutherans in committed, lifelong, monogamous and publicly accountable same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA clergy and professional lay leaders. It also adopted a social statement on human sexuality.

The 2010 ELCA Yearbook reports that there are 10,239 congregations in the ELCA. As of Feb. 4 the ELCA Office of the Secretary reported that 220 congregations had taken initial votes to terminate their relationship with the ELCA. Sixty-four of those congregations failed to achieve the required two-thirds vote to continue in the process. Through Feb. 4, 28 congregations had taken a second vote. The Office of the Secretary confirmed that seven congregations have officially left the ELCA.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

Shrimp again. Does anyone know where the actual "Feb. 18 statement from the ELCA churchwide organization" can be found? We don't find it anywhere the ELCA web site yet. Shrimp out...

Lutheran CORE's Vision

Shrimp again. Lutheran CORE's new "Vision and Plan" for itself and a new North American Lutheran Church is now online. The entire document runs 20 printed pages. We're posting the "summary" here, but you'll want to read the whole thing -- pdf format for download and printing or as a webpage for reading in your browser.

February 18, 2010
Commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther, Renewer of the Church, 1546

Dear Friends in Christ,

We are living in an exciting time for confessing Lutherans in North America! Pastors and laypeople increasingly are engaged in the life of the Church beyond their congregations. Many are returning with new zeal to the true mission of the Church, the sharing of the Good News of Christ Jesus. Many are eager for new fellowships, new structures, and new ways of doing common ministry. And all this is happening in a society that has become once more a mission field, a culture desperately in need of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior.

In September 2009, Lutheran CORE's national convocation, meeting in Fishers, IN, committed us to pursue the "reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism," by providing for the needs both of those who plan to leave and those who plan to remain within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) in this season of challenge and opportunity. This document summarizes our vision and plan for pursuing these goals.

Lutheran CORE affirms the faithful call of confessing Lutherans, some of whom will remain in the ELCA and ELCIC and some of whom are now called to different affiliations. We envision a reconfiguration that maintains the highest degree of ongoing unity and cooperation possible among those who leave and those who stay. A primary vehicle for this unity will be the continuing ministry of Lutheran CORE, reconfigured as an association of confessing Lutherans spanning denominational bodies. However, after hearing the hopes and requests of many of those who plan to leave their current church bodies, we are now also proposing the formation of a new denominational body for confessing Lutherans: the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).

The NALC will be a faithful and innovative Lutheran church body that spans national borders. It will hold at its heart the Great Commission of Jesus to "make disciples of all nations." It will utilize networked ministries of local congregations and parachurch organizations, rather than the large bureaucracy of a denominational body. It will be governed by a convocation of representative delegates from its congregations, and it will submit major decisions to congregational ratification. It will stand in continuity with the 2,000 year history of "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church," marrying the classical form of the church catholic with flexible structures appropriate for its ministry emphases. It will be ecumenically engaged and confessionally grounded.

It will also be a church body bigger than itself, for it will work in close partnership and cooperation with the community of Lutheran CORE. For confessing Lutherans who will remain within the ELCA and ELCIC, Lutheran CORE will offer an alternate ecclesial family, where they can connect with each other and with confessing Lutherans in the NALC and other church bodies. Some will choose to coordinate witness initiatives within the ELCA or ELCIC through this community. Many will choose to organize collaborative ministry initiatives with their partners in Lutheran CORE. Mindful of the objective of ongoing unity, the NALC will conduct many of its ministry initiatives with and through its partners in the Lutheran CORE community. And Lutheran CORE will organize its capabilities to provide resources, advice and assistance to its members in carrying out their local ministries.

Both the NALC and Lutheran CORE will be centered on four key attributes: Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Traditionally-Grounded and Congregationally-Focused:
  • Christ-Centered: We confess the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures. We affirm the authority of the canonical Holy Scriptures as the only source and norm of our faith and life. We accept the ecumenical creeds and the Lutheran Confessions as true witnesses to the Word of God.

  • Mission-Driven: We believe that making disciples for Christ is the core priority of the Church, that congregation planting is often best done through local congregations, and that both external and internal evangelization must be a priority of the Church in the present age.

  • Traditionally-Grounded: We affirm the ecumenical creeds and the faithful witness of the Church across time and space. We endorse the form and practices of the universal Church that are consistent with Scripture, particularly the office of the ministry and the tradition of worship under Word and Sacrament. We seek dialogue and fellowship with other Lutheran churches and with faithful Christians of other confessions.

  • Congregationally-Focused: We envision a new church body and confessing community that are organized to facilitate the ministries of local congregations in a posture of servanthood and a spirit of partnership, through the provision of resources, connections and information.
Finally, both Lutheran CORE and the NALC will seek to foster further reconfiguration and unity among confessing Lutherans by seeking out partnership opportunities with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and with WordAlone and other orthodox Lutheran churchly groups and ministries. While respecting our different roles and church structures, we all share a common confession of faith and a common commitment to the authority of the Word of God and the centrality of the Great Commission in the life of the Church. May God grant us ever-increasing opportunities to serve Him collaboratively.

In the hope that God will use these efforts to His purposes, we offer this plan for review and comment by all confessing Lutherans in North America.

The Lutheran CORE Vision and Planning Working Group
The Lutheran CORE Steering Committee
The Lutheran CORE Advisory Council

Read it all here (pdf format) or here. Shrimp out.

Lutheran CORE Proposes Reconfiguration

Shrimp here. Lutheran CORE has just released "A Vision and Plan for The North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran CORE, a community of confessing Lutherans." Here's the press release.


Contacts: Mark Chavez - - 717-898-0801
Ryan Schwarz - - 202-285-3167
David Baer - - 605-641-2399

Lutheran CORE releases proposal for reconfiguration of Lutheranism
Proposal recommends new Lutheran church and continuation of Lutheran CORE

Leaders of Lutheran CORE released a proposal for the reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America on Thursday, Feb. 18. The proposal calls for the continuation of Lutheran CORE as "a community of confessing Lutherans" and for the formation of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), a new Lutheran church body.

Lutheran CORE's national Convocation Sept. 25-26, 2009, in Fishers, Ind., asked that a proposal for the "reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism" be prepared and brought to Lutheran CORE's 2010 Convocation Aug. 26-27 in Columbus, Ohio. The proposal released Feb. 18 is a response to that request. It was released now so that Lutheran CORE members can provide input to aid in drafting the proposals that will be considered by the 2010 Convocation.

"We are committed to maintaining the unity of as many faithful Lutherans in North America as possible," said Ryan Schwarz of Washington, D.C., who chaired the Vision and Planning Working Group that created the proposal.

Many individuals and congregations are considering whether or not to remain affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) because of what they see as the ELCA's continued drift from the teachings of the Bible and traditional Christianity. "These proposals are a way for those who uphold traditional Christian teaching — both those who are leaving the ELCA to join the NALC or another body, and those who will remain in the ELCA — to work together," Schwarz explained.

"There are deep divisions in the ELCA as a result of the Churchwide Assembly's recent actions," he added.

The actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August to affirm same-sex sexual relationships and to allow pastors and other rostered leaders to be in those relationships in spite of the teaching of the Bible have been seen by many ELCA members as evidence that the Bible no longer functions as the ultimate norm for the faith and life of the ELCA. Similar concerns are being expressed about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).

"These proposals are a way for Lutherans to move forward in carrying out the true mission of the Christian Church — which is sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ — while leaving behind past struggles to reform the ELCA," Schwarz explained.

North American Lutheran Church
"Confessing Lutherans have raised their voices over the past several months, asking for a church body which is faithful in its preaching and practice to the Holy Bible and to the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions. Lutheran CORE has heard these requests and, in response, now proposes to form the North American Lutheran Church (NALC)," the proposal explains.

"The NALC is being established in response to those members and friends of Lutheran CORE who have expressed a preference for completely withdrawing from the ELCA or ELCIC. They are looking for a new Lutheran church body which stands in the tradition of the Church, is denominationally structured for leadership, oversight and accountability, enhances representative governance by congregations and affirms and supports ministry and mission at the congregational level."

The NALC and Lutheran CORE will function cooperatively in shared ministry and mission. To express and build unity amongst their respective members, most ministries of the two bodies will be carried out jointly: domestic and global evangelism, theological education, and human service.

Lutheran CORE
"Lutheran CORE affirms that both staying in and leaving the ELCA and ELCIC can be faithful courses for confessing Lutherans. We envision a reconfiguration that maintains the highest degree of ongoing unity and cooperation possible among those who leave and those who stay," the document states. "A primary vehicle for this unity will be the continuing ministry of Lutheran CORE, reconfigured as an association of confessing Lutherans spanning denominational bodies."

"Lutheran CORE intends to be a community of Lutherans who acknowledge that Scripture is the only and final authority in matters of faith and life, and who accept the Lutheran Confessions as a faithful and trustworthy witness to the Word of God. It will be composed of individuals, congregations, partner renewal movements and church bodies, including the NALC, who agree with its constitution," the proposal explains.

"Lutheran CORE is not becoming the NALC. It is aiding in the formation of this new church body," explained the Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pa., chair of Lutheran CORE's Steering Committee and a member of the working group that prepared the proposal.

"Lutheran CORE will continue as an association of confessing Lutherans spanning denominational bodies. Lutheran CORE will serve those in the ELCA, those in the NALC, and hopefully those in other Lutheran church bodies such as LCMC who share a commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions," explained Spring, the retired bishop of the ELCA's Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod. "The NALC will provide a church body for those who choose to leave the ELCA."

Four Key Attributes
The proposal outlines four "key attributes" of both Lutheran CORE and the NALC: "Christ-Centered," "Mission-Driven," "Traditionally-Grounded," and "Congregationally-Focused."

"The vision statement's commitment to prioritize making disciples of Christ in congregations, communities and in all nations is key. That's the 'main thing' and if Christian churches don't do it, no one else will," said the Rev. Mark Chavez of Landisville, Pa., director of Lutheran CORE.

"The people who drafted the proposals for Lutheran CORE and the NALC come from several different backgrounds and traditions in North American Lutheranism. They are united in a common confession of the Christian faith and commitment to submit to the authority of God's Word over all matters of faith and life. That's hopeful and exciting," Chavez said.

The proposal was drafted by an eight-member working group. It was reviewed and approved by Lutheran CORE's Steering Committee and its Advisory Council of theologians and church leaders.

Members of the Vision and Planning Task Force are two lay people: Schwarz and Carolyn Nestingen, Dallas, Ore.; four ELCA pastors: the Revs. Cathi Braasch, Smithfield, Neb.; Dan Selbo, San Jose, Calif.; David Glesne, Fridley, Minn.; and Mike Tavella, Abington, Pa.; and two retired ELCA bishops: Spring and the Rev. Ronald Warren, Grove City, Ohio, former bishop of the ELCA's Southeastern Synod.

"It is fitting that these proposals are being announced on the day that the Lutheran church remembers the great reformer Martin Luther. Luther brought new life and renewal to the church of his day. We pray that God will use these proposals to bring new life and renewal to the church of our day," Spring said.

Feb. 18 is the date on Lutheran church calendars for the commemoration of Martin Luther as a renewer of the Christian Church. Luther died Feb. 18, 1546.

Congregations already leaving ELCA
Congregations around the country are already taking votes on whether to leave the ELCA. ELCA Secretary David Swartling reported that, as of Feb. 3, 220 congregations in 49 of the ELCA's 65 synods have taken votes to leave the ELCA.

Two votes at least 90 days apart — each receiving a two-thirds majority — are required for a congregation to end its affiliation with the ELCA. Swartling reported that 156 congregations attained the required two-thirds majority on their first vote. Twenty-eight congregations already have taken their second vote. All of those votes attained the two-thirds majority for the congregation to leave the ELCA.

Several congregations have had a significant majority vote to leave the ELCA but failed to reach the two-thirds majority, increasing the crisis and division in those congregations.

Many ELCA congregations are facing divisions among their members and financial difficulties as a result of the ELCA assembly's actions. Revenues to the ELCA churchwide organization and to many synods have decreased as congregations have chosen to redirect their benevolence giving to ministries other than the ELCA.

Additional information and the proposal draft are online at

- 30 -

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bishop Mansholt Lifts Censure

Shrimp here.

While folks at The Lutheran Center (the formal name of the ELCA headquarters at 8765 W. Higgins Road, Chicago) are still trying to figure out how to re-write standards and policies to respect diametrically-opposed "bound consciences," the Bishop of the Central States Synod (originally called the Missouri-Kansas Synod) has acted in the case of a small congregation that called a lesbian pastor unwilling to live in accordance with Vision and Expectations.

Here's the front page of the February 2010 edition of Making Christ Known, the synod's newsletter:
From the Bishop

To paraphrase the writer of Ecclesiastes, there is a time for discipline and a time for healing.

I am announcing to the synod that I have lifted the censure that was placed upon Abiding Peace Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Missouri in 2001.

Abiding Peace Lutheran Church in the spring of 2001 called and ordained Donna Simon to serve as their pastor. They did so, however, in violation of the ELCA constitution and bylaws. Placed under censure according to the ELCA procedures for discipline, members of Abiding Peace have been prohibited from serving as elected members of the synod council, synod committees or teams.

Donna Simon, a lesbian, is not on the roster of the ELCA, but she has served as the pastor of the congregation for nearly nine years. In my letter to the congregation, I write that "...though ordained outside the established processes of the Church, Pastor Simon has been a gracious witness among us in this synod as well as in the larger Church. She has spoken the truth in love, and shared her witness and struggle as a baptized child of God, even as she has prayed for a day of wider understanding and acceptance in the Church."

I announced to the Synod Council Executive Committee on January 29, that I have lifted the censure from Abiding Peace Lutheran Church and welcome them into the full life of the Central States Synod. To the congregation I wrote that I have been grateful for their "...continuing partnership in the Gospel over the past nine years. [They] have steadfastly participated in the life of the Synod, supported the ministries of the larger Church and been a constant presence in our life together."

As the Church studied, prayed and conversed with one another over the matters of gay and lesbian people in the Church, Abiding Peace Church might have walked away. But they remained in the Church and stayed in dialog with brothers and sisters who were trying to make sense of these issues in the light of the Gospel. They kept on praying for a better day, a time of wider awareness and acceptance.

We are still not of one mind on these matters. But we are one in Christ. What makes us one is not the purity of our theological thought, nor the soundness of our moral reasoning. Our unity comes from the God and Father of Jesus Christ who claims us in baptism and blesses us with the Holy Spirit.

With the censure lifted, and the decisions made by the ELCA last year, I know the congregation also longs for the day when their pastor might be welcomed onto the roster of the ELCA.
Miss Simon had written about Abiding Peace's censure shortly after the Churchwide Assembly on her PeacePastor blog:
My congregation already has a pastor in a "same gender, life-long, monogamous, publicly accountable relationship." Okay, I'm fudging "publicly accountable" a little, since we are waiting until we live in the same state to take the ELCA up on its support of our getting married (they'd never say "married," but I can. Married married married. That's what they voted on and they know it.).

Our congregation is under censure by our Synod (the regional body--in this case Missouri and Kansas). Under the terms of our censure, we're not allowed to serve on committees of the synod or churchwide expressions. Which does leave us feeling a little cut off, and provides a great excuse to stop paying benevolence to the Synod--which I'm proud to say we have not done. We have done our best to stay in relationship with the larger church, and I'd say it has been mainly mutual. Bishop Mansholt has been expecially gracious in extending a hand of friendship to Abiding Peace.

But being under censure for eight years kind of sucks, and we'll be glad to have it lifted.

And I will be glad to stop suffering the little indignities that arise so often, especially around the first weekend in June, when the whole Synod meets in Assembly. I'll be glad to receive mail from the larger church addressed to "Rev. Donna Simon." I've been ordained almost nine years; I think it would be nice to be addressed properly. Someone in the Synod office actually works overtime making sure that I know that he or she doesn't recognize my ordination. I get mail addressed to "Ms. Donna Simon." If you left off the "Ms.," I'd just think you weren't using titles, and blow it off. But "Ms." says what it is intended to say: "This is the best you're going to get from us."

We submitted a resolution to the Synod Assembly this year, signed by over a hundred people. When it appeared in the Assembly notebook, I notice that my name was one space off of the line at the left margin. This was because they had deleted "Rev." from in front of my name, and hadn't gotten it pulled all the way back to the margin.
We at Shellfish can imagine just how devastating it is to a small congregation (latest reported average Sunday attendance: 18) not being able to serve on a synod committee. But if Bishop Mansholt appreciates their constant presence, who are we (with "bound consciences" scandalized by Miss Simon serving as a pastor without any sign of repentance on her part) to object to welcoming them back fully?

Shrimp (with tip o' the claw to pretty good lutherans) out.

Friday, February 05, 2010

ELCA Congregational Votes Proceeding

Shrimp again. The following message reportedly from ELCA Secretary David Swartling was forwarded to a Shellfish inbox:
I write to update you on the number of congregations that have taken votes to terminate their relationship with the ELCA. This update is based upon information provided to the Office of the Secretary by synods.

As of February 3, we have been advised that 220 congregations have taken votes to leave the ELCA. In 156 congregations, the first vote passed; in 64 congregations the first vote failed. 28 congregations have taken a second vote, all of which passed. (This does not mean that all 28 of these congregations have been removed from the roster because Synod Council approval is required for congregations established by the ELCA and former congregations of the Lutheran Church in America, and, in some cases, the vote is disputed because questions exist regarding the process.)

It also is worthy to note that 16 synods have not reported any congregations that have voted to terminate their relationship with the ELCA.
Shrimp out.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Northeastern Iowa Synod Council Repents!

Shrimp here. According to The Lutheran Study Bible (the one from Concordia Publishing House, not to be confused with Augsburg Fortress' Lutheran Study Bible) "repent" means "turn around."

Early last December Shellfish posted the resolutions of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council "repudiating" the ELCA Churchwide Assembly's actions to approve the Social Statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust and the four resolutions on ELCA ministry policies and holding to the unaltered Vision and Expectations at least until the next Synod Assembly, which was to be asked to declare the Synod's "bound conscience." We also posted NE Iowa Bishop Steven Ullestad's pastoral letter written soon after the news of the Synod Council's actions spread.

Last weekend, the very next meeting of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council, well, we'll let the good folks of Call to Faithfulness, the reform group that has been working pretty successfully for several years to keep the NE Iowa Synod from succumbing to revisionism, describe it:
The synod Council of the NE Iowa Synod voted to rescind the resolutions it passed in November. You may remember those resolutions, one repudiated the Churchwide votes and called upon the ELCA to do the same. The other expressed the bound conscience of the NE Iowa Synod, seeking to adhere to the 1990 Vision and Expectations. From the firestorm it caused through out the synod and the larger church, it is not too surprizing that the synod council reversed itself. People can stand just so much pressure, then they will turn from the pressure to seek a quieter life. It is hard work being at the center of the maelström, with the winds of discontent swirling about you. Most folk simply cannot stay there for long before the desire to flee takes hold and that which was done is undone.

I do not fault the good folk who serve on the NE Iowa Synod Council. In the weeks following the November council meeting letters, calls, emails and face to face conversations took place pulled back the covering that hides the deep divide we now suffer in the ELCA. For all the talk about ’structured flexibility’ and ‘bound consciences’ that greased the skids of passage in August, we cannot pretend that we are not a deeply divided church. We cannot live as a divided church for long. No organization can survive if its purpose is so compromised in the way we are in the ELCA. We will see more of what we have seen in the NE Iowa Synod Council’s reversal as the ELCA seeks its new equilibrium. Unless approached with the greatest humility and Christlike compassion, the purging of the defeated will continue.

There will be no organized pogroms coming from Higgins Road, no synodical scheme of removal, just the slow, grinding pressure to conform to the new reality of the ELCA. It will come in the Lutheran form of shunning, orthodox clergy and laity ignored as if they do not exist or treated as if they belong to some unenlightened earlier time. It will come in the pop theology of no judgment of any behavior. It will come in the apathy of the majority and the desire to let this storm pass us by and go some other place. It will come when what was once understood to be orthodox Christian faith is set aside in order to maintain ‘peace’ in the church.
Read it all in "The Winter of Our Discontent." Alas, according to comments on ALPB Forum Online, some of the members of the NE Iowa Synod Council affiliated with Call to Faithfulness were unable to attend last weekend's meeting.

Read also the letter from the NW Iowa Synod Council Vice-President Susan Armstrong (try here on the Bishop's son's blog or here on pretty good lutherans or in pdf form on the NE Iowa Synod's website.

Also at pretty good lutherans is a message entitled “Strengthening the Church in Love” from the pastor who introduced the motions to rescind the Synod's Council's actions. Pastor Vince Ramos' rationale:
1. Council members desire to have open and meaningful conversations. The resolutions created barriers to respecting one another and conversation.

I strongly encouraged the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council to create opportunities for conversation instead of resolutions that draw lines in the sand and take our energy and time away from serving the world.

2. The resolution in opposition to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly actions relies on a misinterpretation of the responsibilities each expression (congregation, synod and churchwide) of the church has in serving the world.

Each expression has different responsibilities. A synod does not have the responsibility of creating policy. The 2009 Churchwide Assembly has taken action. Therefore, a synod cannot repudiate or change that action.
Read it all here. We're not sure how this will strengthen the NE Iowa Synod in love, but then we're just not seeing the "love" flowing from the ELCA right now anyway.

Shrimp out...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

And the Theme for Lent Is...

Shrimp here. Whether you saw your shadow or not, looks like the ELCA is in for lots more winter. In our inbox yesterday just in time from the ELCA Washington for those who haven't figured out a theme for this Lent..

...Climate Justice

We were invited to share this widely within our networks.

We know -- the Catechism is just so old-fashioned. But it's not a new sexuality statement. Share and enjoy...

Shrimp out.

= = = = = = =
This year the ELCA is teaming up with the National Council of Churches to offer a Lenten Resource exploring Climate Justice and how it relates to each one of us in our daily lives and communities.

The resource is being written with the help of clergy, activists and friends from around the country.

Each week the series will explore a new issue, lifting up stories from around the globe and providing ways that you and your congregation can help address climate change in your own lives.

Here are the topics that will be covered during Lent:
    - Climate change and Health
    - Climate change and Economics
    - Climate change and Development
    - Climate change and Disaster/Migration
    - Climate change and Food Security
    - Holy week reflections on climate justice

If you would like to receive these Lenten reflections and explorations on climate change, please visit and sign up!

In addition to the Climate Justice series, you will also receive a monthly reflection specifically from the ELCA on caring for creation topics.

Visit to download Lenten environmental worship resources, "Creation Waits with Eager Longing." Originally created to accompany the 2009 Living Earth reflection series, you can adapt the resources to best fit your needs.

ELCA Washington Office

The good ship ELCA...

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