Monthly Archives: July 2009

What is the Bible? A metaphorical answer by Walter Brueggemann

On my list of things to do, I plan to compile a list of definitions of the Bible, and now, eminent professor Walter Brueggemann weighs in, and when Walter speaks, church folks listen.  In a post in Theolog, the blog of Christian Century Magazine, Brueggemann suggests that Scripture is “Remembering an Imagined Past.”  Hmm.Walter Brueggemann

All too much Biblical interpretation is about the historicity, or lack thereof, of the Biblical accounts, opines Brueggemann, and what is lost is the “confessional passion—not the passion of religious ideologues, but the passion of those whose risky, faithful obedience attests to their memory.”  Even when the memory is imagined and mythological.  Hmm.

Brueggemann favorably mentions Karl Barth, the German pastor of a century ago, who penned the monumental Commentary, The Epistle to the Romans, that remains a classic of Pauline studies.  Barth’s epic work is a probing theological enterprise that asked no historical questions, which were irrelevant for him … perhaps even a distraction.  “I felt myself bound to the actual words of the text,” wrote Barth: not the historical context, not the cultural assumptions of Paul, not the contingent circumstances addressed by the letter.  

Brueggemann didn’t mention Julius Wellhausen, the preeminent scholar of 19th century historical criticism, but he could have.  Late in his career, Wellhausen ceased teaching the historical critical method, not because he no longer believed in its accuracy but in its utility to uplift the hearts of the faithful.

What is the Bible?  It is certainly not an accurate historical account of either the Hebrew people or of Jesus of Nazareth, and Brueggemann would not disagree.  Brueggemann answers with a metaphor: a memory of an imagined past.

Brueggemann attempts to find his way between unthinking literalism on one side and what he sees as sterile scholarship that strips the Bible of meaning on the other (I think he’s more than a little harsh on the Jesus seminar types).  It is a precipitous path, to be sure.  As Brueggemann suggests, “serious remembering—in a community of self-awareness, moral passion, knowing discipline and generous hope—is thick, elusive and multidimensional.”

Yes, but Walter, what do we say to the folks in the pews who don’t understand the nuance of metaphor and who aren’t disposed to deal with “thick, elusive and multidimensional”?  As the article acknowledges, “In some quarters, there is the hope that ‘church people’ will simply fail to notice the shaky grounds of historicity on which so much is based.”  What happens when they do notice, or ask hard questions? 

It would seem that a necessary starting point must be an honest appraisal of what the Bible is — and what it is not — and that is where the answers of historical criticism must be offered.  And this is the profound difficulty of Biblical preaching.  Honest appraisal will often jar the innocent views in the pews.

Thanks again, Walter, you always make us think.

New Orleans Resident Thanks ELCA Youth

I received a lengthy comment to an earlier post about the New Orleans ELCA youth gathering.  I reprint the words of doctorj2u here.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the ELCA for holding their youth gathering in New Orleans. The biggest hurt to me from the storm was the sense of abandonment by a country I had loved with my whole heart. Unbelievable massive unending devastation, a populace doing its best to survive on an individual, family and community level.

Slowly small groups of volunteers began to appear. Groups of 10, 15 and twenty. Coming to help on their own dime out of the goodness of their heart and their outrage of injustice. But for every volunteer there was an American telling us we deserved the horror of Katrina, that we were stupid to live in our 300 year old city that had parts below sea level, that we were not “really” American.

It was April 2008 when I realized New Orleans would survive. Ever since then, though slow, the progress has been steady. And when I read that the ELCA was bringing 37,000 (!!!) to come and help the city I thought to myself THIS is what I was waiting for. THIS is what I thought would happen after Katrina and the levee breaks.

One speaker of your group said if one person worked 4 hours a day, 365 days a year, it would take him over 900 years to accomplish what your group did in a weekend. That is an AMAZING thought and you should be so proud of yourself, your volunteers and your church. 4 years after Katrina we are now at the halfway point to total recovery. The ELCA is part of that and I cannot thank you enough. It was a very good weekend for New Orleans. We are not forgotten.


A look back at the Philadelphia Eleven and Women’s Ordination

Yesterday was the thirty-fifth anniversary of the “irregular” ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven, a group of Episcopal women who broke the gender barrier and became priests.  Thanks to Susan Russell who sarcastically reminds us of that earth shattering day that threatened to “Destroy Western Civilization as we Know it.”

Russell’s blog post retells the events of that day and that time, and she recalls the names of the eleven brave women.  One on that list is Alla Bozarth, whose memoir is entitled Womanpriest, a Personal Odyssey.Womanpriest   

“[T]he seeds of Christian feminism were planted in my own soul,” Bozarth writes, “by my Christian urban education in the politics of racism.” 

Bozarth reminds us how the torch is passed from one oppressed group seeking justice to the next, a theme that Russell also touches upon in her blog post.   Russell analogizes to the LGBT breakthroughs (gay marriage, gay clergy) at the recent Episcopal General Convention. 

Bozarth continues,

I [had] heard Christ calling me to lay claim on the dignity that is mine as a human being created in the image of God, female … I [had learned] to expand my vision of God, to recognize that God is more inclusive than any human idea of deity has ever been.

But then she encountered a powerful, angry man, in the person of the Dean of her seminary: “we were greeted with indignation gradually blooming into ripened rage.” Later, she was frustrated by the failure of resolutions to authorize the ordination of women at the General Conventions of 1970 and 1973, even though majorities at both assemblies voted in favor of the resolutions, but procedures required a supra-majority.

I began to question the inconsistencies between the Church’s teaching and practice with regard to women.  I perceived that the Church which had taught me to believe in my human dignity had itself denied me that dignity…

I began to understand that I was unacceptable as a woman by the very Church that had taught me to celebrate my womanhood … Eventually, anger subsided into heartache and deep loneliness.  I had no thought of leaving the Church; I felt that it had already left me.  The denial of my calling to the priesthood was the denial of me as a child of God.

Defying convention and The Conventions, the Philadelphia Eleven, along with a few good men, forced the issue.  “What the Episcopal Church needed was a fait accompli.  God was soon to provide.”

That historic day began like any other summer day in Philadelphia.  It was beastly hot and humid when we met in the vesting room of the Church of the Advocate at ten in the morning.  The eleven of us were vested in appropriate garb for the occasion—white albs and red stoles worn over one shoulder in diaconal style…

As we stood behind the sanctuary with the other ordinands and our priest and lay presenters, we heard spontaneous laughter and then applause coming from inside the church.  The sound was our first clue that there was a mighty and joyous throng on the other side to meet us and celebrate with us.

A black man, Dr. Charles Willie, a Harvard professor, offered the sermon in ringing, soaring tones reminiscent of the finest civil rights oratory of Dr. Martin Luther King.  Earlier, Dr. Willie had offered a sermon in Syracuse, in response to the failure of the Conventions to endorse women’s ordination, in which he said:

And so it is meet and right that a bishop who believes that in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female, ought to ordain any … person who is qualified for the Holy Orders.  A bishop who, on his own authority, ordains a woman deacon to the priesthood will be vilified, and talked about, but probably not crucified.  Such a bishop would be following the path of the Suffering Servant, which is the path Jesus followed.  It requires both courage and humility to disobey an unjust law. 

The church is in need of such a bishop today.

Not one, but three bishops answered the call, and they performed the rite of ordination on July 29, 1974.  Soon thereafter, the Church officially changed its policies, and today the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is the The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Bozarth later penned the following poem:

Talitha Cumi  Young woman, I say to you, Arise.” – Luke 8:54

Do not send me, O God, for I am only a woman and do not know what to say.

Do not say “I am only a woman.”  Rise up a New Creation and take the name

I Am.

Am I a stone that my body should be turned to bread?  Am I a little one whom others should not offend?  Am I not dumb and immovable and worse than dead?

You are being and motion, fire in the mountain, storm in the sea-deep, vermillion sky-gilding sun.  Rise up a New Creation and take the name

I Am.

Am I a devil, a danger, a soul-dagger-drudge, a babe, a hag, a desert, a plague?

You are a woman a human a person a prophet a sister a creature an icon-breaker/re-maker a judgment a vision a life.

Rise up a New Creation and take the name

I Am.

Lubna Hussein In closing, I ask all to remember the brave young Sudanese woman, Lubna Hussein, who has chosen to forsake the UN immunity offered her and to willingly stand trial for wearing trousers in public in violation of the country’s strict Islamic laws.  She showed up for trial wearing the same outfit, and several of her supporters also wore pants to the hearing. 

She faces forty lashes if convicted, and the verdict was postponed until next week.

Health care reform: stand up and be counted.

Public option?  Blue dog Democrats?  Mandates?  Subsidies?  Obama’s Waterloo?

Are you following all this?  Do you care?

For a generation, the religious left has railed against the influence of the religious right on public policy.  Has the left taken the separation of church and state arguments too literally?  Shall we not allow our faith to inform our political judgments?  Shall we allow the perplexing minutiae of complex legislation to cloud our moral judgment?

Hold on, it appears that there are voices from the left, crying from the wilderness.  Steven Waldman, the editor of Beliefnet, suggests:

During Republican administrations, the religious right flexed its muscle around issues like abortion and judicial appointments.

As the religious left grew in importance during the election, it was unclear how they would attempt to exert their influence.

It looks like the first big test is health care. They were non-existent players in 1993; this time, they’re trying to have a big impact.

Jacqueline L Salmon, a Washington Post staff writer, adds:

In recent weeks, hundreds of clergy members and lay leaders have descended on the offices of members of Congress, urging lawmakers to enact health-care legislation this year. With face-to-face lobbying, sermons, prayer and advertising on Christian radio stations, the coalitions are pressing the idea that health care for everyone is a fundamental moral issue.

Maybe its ok, maybe we need to stand up and be counted, maybe we should allow our faith to influence our politics.  To borrow an overused and trite expression, “What would Jesus Do?”  Minister, lawyer, and author Oliver Thomas suggests (thanks to Pastor John Shuck for the quotes):

Mixing church and state might be inexcusable, but the influence of religion on our political views is inevitable. Accordingly, the First Amendment does not prohibit laws that reflect our religious values as long as those laws have a secular purpose and effect. So it is curious that, until recently, little has been written about the moral dimension of the health care debate. The focus has largely been on how to pay for insuring 46 million uninsured people in America and whether to provide a so-called public option. At last, religious leaders are stepping forward to explain what our Scriptures and religious traditions have to teach us about the most important domestic policy issue to come before the Congress in recent years.

The answer, it turns out, is a lot. Not directly, of course. Our Scriptures were written long before talk of deductibles, pre-existing conditions and single payers. But indirectly, the Christian, Hebrew and Muslim texts have much to say about the quality, availability and affordability of health care. …

Such "care" extends to health care. The legendary Jewish scholar and physician Maimonides listed health care first on his list of services that a city should offer its residents. …

Good Samaritan by Giordano Luca Christians find similar teachings in the New Testament. One of Jesus’ most famous parables is about health care. A Samaritan traveler happens upon a seriously wounded man lying by the side of the road. The Samaritan attends to the man, dresses his wounds and pays a substantial sum for his care and recovery. Jesus ends the story by telling his hearers to "go and do likewise." …

For Muslims, the Holy Quran contains multiple admonitions to attend to the needy. …

Nevertheless, Cigna insurance executive turned whistle-blower Wendell Potter testified recently that the insurance industry fearing competition is engaged in a campaign to scare Americans away from any sort of public plan.

In truth, says Potter, America’s nearly half-century-old Medicare program has proved itself an efficient choice. Administrative costs of Medicare? Less than 5%. Of the private plans? Closer to 20%, according to Potter.

Jesus admonished his disciples to be as innocent as doves, but he also warned them to be "as wise as serpents." Let’s hope Congress can be the same.

As Thomas suggests, this is an issue for all people of faith, and The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is clearly on board.  The following video is of David Saperstein, “the most influential rabbi in America” according to some.  The article from which this video is copied also references the speeches by “Dr. Sayyid Syeed, National Director of the Office of Interfaith Relations of the Islamic Society of North America; Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK – A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; and Rev. James Forbes, President and Founder of the Healing of the Nations Foundation of New York and Senior Minister Emeritus of the Riverside Church.”


A few weeks ago, a retired pastor in my church preached eloquently in favor of universal health care, but he also was sensitive to appearing to sound pro-Obama or pro-Democrat.  Maybe that’s the hangup for some religious leaders – supporting a cause is one thing but a party is another.  Yet, if the GOP continues to be the Party of NO! and the voice of the pharmaceuticals and the insurance companies, more concerned with scoring political points than solving a problem, this administration and the Congressional leadership appear to be the only ones listening, and they are the direction we should funnel our voices and our support.

Finally, if you want an incisive view of the complexities of the debate, check out the New York Times op-ed piece of Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman.  Krugman supports the Democratic plan in Congress and suggests the Blue Dog Democrats who are not yet on board jeopardize the basic structure of health care reform.

Stand up and be counted.

The Archbishop of Canterbury pontificates

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, but this is largely a ceremonial position without significant authority beyond the power of persuasion.   Following the actions of the recent Episcopal General Convention that allows for “all the sacraments for all the baptized” (gay marriage, gay clergy), Archbishop Rowan Williams has been spouting off, trying to corral the recalcitrant Episcopalians, the American species of his Anglican flock. 

Although it doesn’t appear that his recent pronouncements were intended to speak ill of LGBT persons within the Episcopal Church, two of my favorite bloggers have jumped all over his suggestion that "their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church’s teaching sanctions."

Susan Russell Susan Russell is the Senior Associate of All Saints Church in Pasadena and the President of Integrity USA, the LGBT friendly organization of Episcopalians that led the fight for gay marriage and gay clergy at the recent convention.  She speaks from her blog, An Inch At A Time.  “We don’t "choose" sexuality but we do "choose" hypocrisy. And at the end of the day, I’m happier facing my Maker claiming the former rather than being accused of the latter.”

My one big disappointment — and a point I think we need to keep arguing — is Rowan’s categorizing TEC’s commitment to full inclusion of the LGBT baptized as a "rights" issue rather than a "theological" issue. I’m frankly tired of being told we "haven’t done the theology" when the truth is those telling us that don’t agree with the theology we’ve "done."

But we can keep doing that. We can keep reaching out. We can keep working together with our communion partners on mission and ministry all over this Worldwide Anglican Family of ours with those who will work with us.

And we can stay in conversation with those who won’t.

Elizabeth Kaeton is Episcopal clergy on the opposite coast, serving as rector and pastor of an Episcopal congregation in northern New Jersey.  Kaeton is even more caustic in her comments in her blog, Telling Secrets:

That poor dear! He really, really, really wants to be Pope, doesn’t he?
Would that be considered, "Miter envy?"

Or, do you think it’s more about the whole infallibility thing?

Personally, I think he’s been drinking his own Lambeth Kool-Aid.

Kaeton And then she offered her own insights into the false notion of a “chosen lifestyle.”

Chosen lifestyle? Why would anyone CHOOSE to be hassled at critical moments in their life? Why would anyone CHOOSE to have your basic civil rights denied? Why would anyone CHOOSE to be discriminated against in the church – by otherwise intelligent, highly educated, seemingly spiritual people?

How do you CHOOSE the person with whom you fall in love? With whom you wish to start a family? With whom you want to spend the rest of your life?

And, why should that choice condemn you to a life of discrimination?

Indeed.  Amen, sisters.

ELCA Youth Gathering: the journey to New Orleans

Keith Pearson is the pastor of First Lutheran of Hector, Minnesota … and my brother in law.  He just got back from the ELCA youth gathering in New Orleans, along with a handful of youth from his own parish.  They were part of a larger group of several dozen from the area who journeyed together.  Pastor Keith has consented to a reprint of his five days of blogs, his own first person account.  Check out Keith’s blog, which contains a ton of pictures.

Day One

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Much  of our first day was simply about getting there. We had some last minute schedule changes, some delays, and one lost bag, but in the end we arrived here safe and sound.

Keith's group Once on the ground in New Orleans we checked in to our hotel and then headed to the New Orleans Convention Center where our activities began. At supper time we managed to sample a little taste of New Orleans at “The Crazy Lobster,” a restaurant right on the edge of the Mighty Mississippi. Some were bold in their food orders, others stuck to burgers and fries. We even had a little live New Orleans Jazz music to accompany our meal.

It was pretty exciting to see this big old city filled with teens from around the country. Everywhere you look you could see groups of kids (most in flocks of like-colored shirts) soaking in the sights and sounds. Quick shout-outs happened between the groups, declaring where they came from and inquiring about our group. I have to say, there is something in the air that’s pretty exciting.

After supper it was back the hotel for “Community/Hotel Life.” There was a band in the ball room and swimming at the pool. The kids scattered to their preferred activities before turning in for the night.

Day Two

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 2 was the real beginning or our New Orleans experience. We began the day with our turn in the interactive learning center. There were games for the sake of playing together and there were games and activities that made you think about your role in the world.

We also had our first full day on the streets of New Orleans. That in itself is quite an experience. This is definitely NOT Renville County. You’ll have to ask the kids what they thought and what they saw. All in all the City is very happy to have us here and they are being very gracious and welcoming to this massive influx of teenagers. Although this is still a large city and we are always watchful for dangers and all the other darker sides of humanity that come with this sort of setting, still we have felt quite safe and secure everywhere we have gone.

Our closing event for the evening was our first “Mass Gathering”. Try to imagine 37,000 teens and their adult leaders filling the seats of a major venue like the Superdome. Now imagine a 20 story illuminated cross, pounding music and cheering crowds. It had all the elements of a major rock concert, but the star of the show was Jesus. There were wonderful speakers telling their dramatic stories of faith in action and the power of the Holy Spirit working through simple, often young people. There were teams of teens acting out lessons and preaching the gospel in ways that had the kids cheering, laughing, and struck silent by the power of what they were experiencing. There was definitely something electric about the evening – and it had nothing to do with lights and sound or video projecting jumbotrons. The underlying current was a power of something unseen and yet profoundly felt. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I wish you could have been here.

Day Three

Service Day

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 3 was our service day. It began REALLY early. We had to be at our “launch site” at 6:30 a.m. having already had breakfast and packed for the day. That means we had to leave our hotel by 6:00 a.m. to make the 20 minute walk to the Convention Center where we would pick up the bus that would take us to where our day would begin. We didn’t know what we would be doing exactly, but our category of choice was “Health and Wellness.”

The organizers of the Gathering had explained to us that the situation on the ground was changing daily and so they couldn’t know in advance exactly where we would be or what we would be doing. When we first boarded our bus we were told that we were going to a day-camp where we would be working with children. When we arrived at the site it was actually a high school football stadium that was in need of attention. It seems the field had been a site for helicopters to land and ambulances and other transport vehicles to pull in and get the injured and sick out of the city after hurricane Katrina. All of this activity on wet ground had left ruts in the field and the flood waters had coated the concrete stands with algae and mold.

The first question that came to my mind was, how can this still be a problem after four years? Most of what we have seen in and around New Orleans looks pretty normal. We have not witnessed any blatant remnants of the hurricane damage. Once we started working I began to understand. Our tasks for the day were to paint a swing set, scrape and paint a locker room, fill in the ruts in the field, and power-wash the concrete stadium seating area. We came fresh and eager to dig in and get to work. I dare say we even came with a little attitude (it’s part of that midwest work ethic). Surely we could handle this.

Then reality set in. The tools and supplies we needed were not available immediately, and when they did arrive they were still in short supply. There wasn’t enough paint to cover all the surfaces that needed it. Rather than three or four power washers there was only one. And then there was the heat! I don’t know what the temperature was or what the official humidity level reached, but it was positively oppressive. In a very short period of the physical output required for this work zapped the energy out of everyone. We struggled to keep pouring in enough water to keep ahead of the dehydration. We all kept a high vigil over each other to head off any heat-related problems. Talking with Isaiah, the sole staff person at this facility, he thanked us over and over again. He said if it were not for our help all this work would be his solo task. Keith service

In the end we had to give up the effort a little ahead of schedule. And although we had accomplished much, many left feeling as though we could have done more, disappointed that the job was not finished. I told the group that this was true for just about everything God calls us to do. We rarely get to see the end of the job and there is always more to do than we have time, tools or the ability to do on our own. We have to give thanks for the ability to do what we can with the resources at our disposal and trust God to finish with the job with the hands of others.

At our mass gathering this evening the theme was Hope. Through the compelling stories of this evening’s speakers we heard that it is through small and large acts of kindness and love that hope springs for those who may have felt their situation was hopeless. Hope is the fruit of love, and hope breaks open a world of possibilities.

I am extremely proud of our kids for the gift of hope they provided this day. They served tirelessly and joyfully, and would have worked much harder and longer if we would have allowed them to do so. I did not hear one complaint nor one request to stop.

Day Four

A tour that expanded our understanding.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Our day began with a bus tour of the city’s four major districts. We began with beautiful mansions and lush gardens and finished with the infamous “Lower 9th Ward” – the site of some of the worst devastation. It was quite a contrast going from beautiful historic mansions that were virtually untouched, to one of the poorest areas of the country nearly obliterated by the storm. In fact, if it were not for a few traces of concrete and paved streets you may not know anyone ever lived here.

It has been four years since hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and so much remains to be done. It is humbling and maybe even a little disheartening to look at the tremendous amount of work left to be done. It would be easy to give up and just move on, but God rarely sends us down paths that are easy. When we hear the stories from people who have lived through these past four years, and when they show us photos from those first days I am encouraged. Progress has been made and things are much better, but there is still so much to do.

Our day finished off with another “Mass Gathering” at the Superdome – the same place that became an island of hope for the truly desperate survivors. There to kick off our final big night together we were greeted by the Mayor of New Orleans and received a personal “thank you” from him. That was followed by a letter of thanks and encouragement from none other than our country’s president, Barack Obama. You know you have been part of something truly significant and important when the President of the United States takes notice and is suitably impressed with your actions.

Day Five

Saying goodbye, telling the story.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Our last day in New Orleans would be mostly a travel day. We would not be doing any projects, attending any workshops, or joining in the final “Mass Gathering” that would officially close our event. We would, however, say goodbye to New Orleans and begin reflecting on our experience.

While the kids enjoyed a welcome opportunity to sleep in a bit and then pack up for the trip home I stopped down in the hotel restaurant for a bite to eat. I decided to treat myself to a real meal for the first time since our first night in New Orleans. The restaurant was nearly empty (I was there kind of early), and so my waitress was waiting patiently for more customers to come. I asked her a simple question: “Do you live here in New Orleans?” When she said “Yes” I then asked the question that quite literally opened the flood gates: “Where were you when the flood came?”

Her name was Brenda and she had been on vacation with her family. And so she had to watch the events unfold along with the rest of the world. She couldn’t return home for two and a half months. The Marriott kept her and all the other employees on the payroll and even got emergency money from Mr. Marriott himself (she told all of this with deep appreciation). She lost several friends who were trapped and killed by the flood waters. Most of her family was scattered, thankfully all surviving, but most never to return to New Orleans. “I haven’t seen my one sister since the storm. I used to see her every Sunday. Now she’s just a voice on the phone to me.”

She spoke of her love for New Orleans and how this was where her heart is. She was grateful for the places that had been her temporary home while waiting to get back to the city, but said that nice as they were they were not home.  She also spoke with hope that others would eventually feel the pull of their hearts to return to New Orleans. Still, she said, “I don’t think New Orleans will ever be the same.” I suspect she is right. It will never be the same, but I do believe a new New Orleans will emerge from this experience, and I think I will like that city.

Now it is our responsibility to tell the story of the people of New Orleans. Ask one of the kids or chaperones who attended the 2009 ELCA National Youth Gathering about their experience.

ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans

Ready to Serve

On July 22nd, 37,000 Lutheran youth and youth leaders descended on New Orleans for "Jesus Justice Jazz", the theme of the 2009 ELCA youth gathering, according to a news release from the ELCA. 

“Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you,” said Mayor Ray Nagin to some of the volunteers who spread out to 200 separate work venues the first day.

“You’re welcome!" the volunteers responded.

“God is good!" the mayor said.

"All the time!" the volunteers shouted.

On Friday evening, the Lutherans came together at the Superdome for the opening ceremony, as bursts of dancing, spotlights, and bass notes drove deep through the crowd.  A speaker, covered with tattoos and piercings, spoke “about God accepting people where they are in spite of the mistakes they’ve made.”

“That was the message that distinguished Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago,” he said. "Thank God for grace."

"There are millions of Christians out there suffering because they don’t feel God loves them. They’re dying to know they’re loved."

The official website of the ELCA is chock full of pictures, videos, news releases, and more.  Here is a list of links for slightly less official views from participants.

St Mark’s of West Des Moines, The Lutheran Magazine, Women of the ELCA, Our Saviour’s of Naperville, Lord of Life of Maple Grove, Spiritualevity from suburban Philly, Elim Lutheran of Duluth, Lutheran Church of the Master of Coeur d’Alene, and Our Saviour and St. Jacobus of NY.

Sheer joy

I offer this You Tube video for no reason except for the celebration of life and love that bursts forth.  Thanks to Pam Spaulding on Pam’s House Blend for finding it.



     Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;

praise him in his mighty firmament!

praise him for his mighty deeds;

praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

    Praise him with trumpet sound;

praise him with lute and harp!

     Praise him with tambourine and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe!

     Praise him with clanging cymbals;

praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

     Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150

Pitcher-Pastor Charlie Ruud greets his team

Charlie Ruud 001 Fresh from the mound of the St Paul Saints baseball team and soon to the pulpit of Northfield’s Bethel Lutheran Church, Pastor Charlie shared root beer floats with Bethelites Wednesday night.  An estimated gathering of 75-100 persons listened to Charlie discuss his seminary experience and later greeted Charlie, his wife Becky, and their baby daughter, Lucy, who was clearly more popular than her parents.

Once a star pitcher for St Olaf, Charlie has continued his love of baseball as a record-setting hurler for the St Paul Saints minor league team.  Charlie recently graduated from Luther Seminary in St Paul, and he will join the Bethel team this fall as associate Pastor.  During seminary, Charlie did his clinical, pastoral training at Northfield Retirement Community.

Charlie Ruud 006Charlie and Becky met at St Olaf.  Becky also excelled athletically as an All-American track star, five time MIAC conference champion, and three time St Olaf track team MVP.  She puts her degree in Spanish to use as a high school Spanish teacher, and she has been an assistant track coach at St. Kates.  She is starting a cottage business featuring OwlyBaby handcrafted clothing.

The get together was part of the What’s Brewing at Bethel? summertime socials arranged by Pastoral Minister, Pam Santerre.

Progressive Catholic bits and pieces

In a post last week, I mentioned that a progressive Catholic organization, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), was in danger of closing its national office due to inadequate operating funds.  Apparently, the word got out in a big way, and VOTF has just issued a press release announcing that more than enough has been raised to keep the national office operational.

Boston –One week after announcing an urgent need for financial support, Voice of the Faithful reports that donors have responded with more than $63,000 to date and still coming.

‘We are deeply grateful to our many generous donors and encouraged by their sentiments of support,” said Bill Casey, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Their response is a testament to the important work that Voice of the Faithful does. It also reinvigorates the organization as we work toward the release of new initiatives aimed at transforming the Catholic Church.

The release also referenced the annual meeting of the organization scheduled to take place in Long Island on Oct 30-31.

VOTF is one of the Catholic reform groups that is joining others under the umbrella “American Catholic Council.”  Their first gathering is scheduled for Pentecost in two years, June 10-11, 2011 in Detroit.  According to the Council’s website:

American Catholic Council is a coalition of organizations, communities and individuals (many involved in American Catholic Church reform) calling for discussion at every level of the Catholic Church in the United States to consider the state and future of our Church.  We believe our Church is at another turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance through a radically inclusive understanding of the role and responsibilities of all the Baptized and an engaged relationship between the Church and the World reflecting the true meaning of the Incarnation for our times. This promise is eroding.  We will reinvigorate the Spirit of Vatican II and bring all the Baptized together to demonstrate our re-commitment. We seek nothing short of a personal conversion of all to create a new Church, fully in tune with the authentic Gospel message, the teachings of our Church, and the American context in which we live.   Our reading of the Signs of the Times, our strategic plan, and our agenda are set out in the Declaration set out on this site.  We will educate; we will listen; we will facilitate discussions and encounters; and, we will build toward an American Catholic Council at Pentecost 2011.

The website also quotes the words of Pope John XXIII:

It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have were faced with new tasks in the social order at the start of the century; those who, like me, were twenty years in the East and eight in France, were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.

According to Catholic Online, which speaks critically of the group, other signatories include:  Call to Action, New Ways Ministry, Catholics for Choice, the Women’s Ordination Conference, Women-Church Convergance, the National Association of American Nuns (Sr. Jeanine Gramnick), the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, and Dignity.

The Council has been the subject of competing blog posts here in Minnesota.  Ray of Mn in Stella Borealis refers to those who support the council as “the usual suspects.”

These malcontents are generally referred to by people who accept Church teachings as dissidents, or sometimes, apostates.

"Dissidents" are those who "disagree with beliefs. "Apostates" are people who have abandoned their religious faith.

What I don’t understand is why these impostors aren’t called heretics? "Heretics" are people who hold controversial opinions, especially, those who publicly oppose the officially accepted dogma of the Roman Catholic Church.

C’mon Ray.  Say what you really think!

Michael Bayly of The Wild Reed considers himself a target of Ray’s comments, and further wonders about the right-wing Catholics and their efforts to “evict those who disagree with them by treating them like unruly tenants.”

Lastly, another Mn blog, The Progressive Catholic Voice, announces:

Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest and founder of SOA Watch, is a nationally recognized advocate for peace and justice. He will share with us his perspective on the social injustices within Roman Catholicism, and offer a clear and compelling vision of the emerging church.

The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) is sponsoring this event as a major fundraiser for its Synod of the Baptized (“Claiming Our Place at the Table”) scheduled for September 18, 2010. Your generous contribution will help keep our costs (including admission) low. Donations are tax deductible.

DATE: Thursday, August 13, 2009
TIME: 7:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Park Pavilion at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve (North Shelter), Washington County Parks.

No doubt, more of the “usual suspects” will show up.