Monthly Archives: August 2009

ELCA Full Communion with Methodists: Followup #CWA09 & #Goodsoil09

Overshadowed by the ELCA decision to allow gay clergy in committed relationships, the full communion agreement with the United Methodist Church would normally have drawn greater attention.  Here is my original post on this ELCA convention 2009 action on the full communion agreement.

The blog of the Independent Methodist weekly newspaper, United Methodist Reporter, offered an initial report of the agreement with mixed comments.

Perhaps the most significant practical aspect of a full communion agreement is the possibility of shared clergy.  Now that the ELCA has opened the door for rostered clergy in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships”, could such persons be called by a Methodist congregation contrary to UMC ministry standards?  The answer is no, according to the United Methodist Church website:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s acceptance of pastors in same-sex relationships does not pave the way for noncelibate gay clergy to serve in United Methodist churches, officials from the two denominations said.

The Lutheran vote Aug. 21 to drop its ban on gay clergy, coming a day after the denomination approved a full communion pact including the sharing of clergy with The United Methodist Church, raised the question of whether practicing homosexual Lutheran pastors would be permitted in United Methodist pulpits.

Leaders from both churches said Aug. 26, however, that The United Methodist Church’s ban on noncelibate gay clergy is unchanged.

Palmer speaks at a press conference.

“Our Book of Discipline on that subject did not become null and void when they took that vote," said Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops. "It still applies to United Methodist clergy."

He said there is an expectation that the church’s stance "would need to be respected" by clergy appointed to serve United Methodist churches.

On the Lutheran side, Michael Trice, associate executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the full communion agreement on Aug. 20 “did not compromise” United Methodist ministerial standards.

If clergy in “same-gendered, long-term relationships in the ELCA … want to serve in a United Methodist Church, The United Methodist Church can say we are sorry but that does not fit our protocols," Trice said.


#CWA09 & #Goodsoil09

Missouri Synod, WordAlone, and Lutheran Core react to the ELCA Convention #CWA09 & #Goodsoil09

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) was an invited guest at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly last week.  However, during his address to the convention, he chose to admonish the ELCA:

The decisions by this assembly to grant non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA and the affirmation of same-gender unions as pleasing to God will undoubtedly cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA. It will also negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies. The current division between our churches threatens to become a chasm. This grieves my heart and the hearts of all in the ELCA, the LCMS, and other Christian church bodies throughout the world who do not see these decisions as compatible with the Word of God, or in agreement with the consensus of 2,000 years of Christian theological affirmation regarding what Scripture teaches about human sexuality. Simply stated, this matter is fundamentally related to significant differences in how we [our two church bodies] understand the authority of Holy Scripture and the interpretation of God’s revealed and infallible Word.

Now, on the LCMS website, he acts as cheerleader for ELCA dissent, and he offers “appropriate support” in a thinly veiled invitation to defect from the ELCA to the LCMS.

We recognize that many brothers and sisters within the ELCA, both clergy and lay, are committed to remaining faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, are committed to the authority of Holy Scripture, and strongly oppose these actions. To them we offer our assurance of loving encouragement together with our willingness to provide appropriate support in their efforts to remain faithful to the Word of God and the historic teachings of the Lutheran church and all other Christian churches for the past 2,000 years.

Whether ELCA conservatives are willing to embrace the Biblical literalism of the LCMS or the overt patriarchy that does not allow women clergy remains to be seen (in some LCMS congregations, women are not even entitled to vote).  More likely, I think, are the inchoate organizational impulses of WordAlone and Lutheran Core.  What comes of this alliance of ELCA rebels remains to be seen.  WordAlone has long been a conservative voice crying in the ELCA wilderness dating back to their formation as the opposition to the full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church a decade ago.  The big question for WordAlone and Lutheran Core is whether they will merely seek a loud voice as the loyal opposition within the ELCA or whether they will foster a splintering away.

The latest missive on WordAlone’s website pulls no punches:

The ELCA assembly has now voted against the authoritative Word of God. The assembly has swapped His Word for human words that are neither based on sound reason or good order. In fact, the assembly voted against the Word of God, sound reason and the good order of creation.

That is not only not Lutheran, it is not Christian and it is not the work of the church but of a misguided , shrinking, sideline denomination whose leadership’s ears cannot hear and can no longer even discern or recognize, let alone revere, God’s direct warning and intervention.

God will not be mocked.

The article also references the tornado that touched the Convention Center and Central Lutheran Church in a tone reminiscent of the infamous right wing evangelist John Hagee blaming sinful New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina (comments that caused candidate McCain to run away from Hagee’s endorsement as fast as he could).  If WordAlone chooses to engage in such silliness, at least they could be honest and point out the tornado was before the vote, and the sun came out after the vote.

The pontificating of Lutheran Core is no less confrontational:

“Lutheran CORE is continuing in the Christian faith as it has been passed down to us by generations of Christians. The ELCA is the one that has departed from the teaching of the Bible as understood by Christians for 2,000 years,” said the Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pa., chair of Lutheran CORE.

“I am saddened that a Lutheran Church that was founded on a firm commitment to the Bible has come to the point that the ELCA would vote to reject the Bible’s teaching on marriage and homosexual behavior. It breaks my heart.”

Breaks your heart?  Why do you sound so gleeful in your invitation to schism?

“We can no longer in good conscience participate in this relationship with the [ELCA] offices in Chicago,” Spring said.

“We are encouraging individuals and congregations to join us in Indianapolis to discuss what the future for faithful Lutherans in the ELCA might look like and how faithful congregations and individuals can work together,” [former] Bishop Spring said. “It is crucial that those ELCA Lutherans who uphold the authority of Scripture work together. We need each other. We urge people to come to Indianapolis.”

“We intend to gather the largest possible body of faithful Lutherans so that we might collectively plan a united common future. For that reason it is important that congregations and individuals not make hasty decisions about their future in the ELCA,” Spring added.

Would you like to be bishop of your own church, Rev Spring?

Call to Action calls progressive Catholics to conference

Call to Action is one of the major Catholic reform groups in the US.  As “Catholics working together for Justice and Equality,” their motto for their November 6, 2009 national conference is “Everyone at the Table: Rejoicing as the People of God.”  The three day convention will be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and here is a video announcement from the Executive Director, Jim Fitzgerald:


One of the keynote speakers will be Maryknoll Priest, Roy Bourgeois, an outspoken advocate for Women’s ordination.  Father Bourgeois has been the subject of several recent blogposts that have come across my desk.  Pulitzer Prize winning newspaperman Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe writes in his Articles of Faith blog,

I was struck by his fiery certainty. Rather than backing down, or quieting down, he is becoming more forceful. "I have no choice,” he told me. "I have a deep love for my church and my ministry, but at the same time, I know an injustice when I see it.”

Earlier this month, Bourgeois was guest speaker at the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform event here in the Twin Cities, which was discussed at The Progressive Catholic Voice blog.  The same blog has a more recent entry on the Ordination of Women in Minneapolis.

The local Roman Catholic diocese of St Paul and Minneapolis “lovingly cautions” against such activities:

The Archdiocese wishes it to be known that the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, the 2010 synod, and individuals endorsing the same, are not agents or entities of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis or the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, the Archdiocese wishes to lovingly caution those members of the faithful participating in the ‘work/study groups’ and intending to attend the synod of the potential that the issues on which CCCR will seek reform are magisterial teachings of the Church, and are therefore to be believed by divine and catholic faith. The Archdiocese also wishes to remind the faithful of its need to shun any contrary doctrines, and instead to embrace and retain, to safeguard reverently and expound faithfully, the doctrine of faith and morals proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church.

Love that smothers.

Blue Monday “Theology” table

As a Northfield newbie, I am eager for the opportunity to meet some of the many interesting persons in this community.  A month or two ago, retired Pastor Phil Eaves invited me to a Monkey Read bookstore book club, and I have participated in two delightful discussions (Unaccustomed Earth & The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).  Last week, as a result of my ELCA convention blog posts, Pastor Keith invited me to visit the theology table, a 
Goodbye Blue Monday coffee house weekly gathering of ELCA pastors to discuss the lectionary texts and … whatever else comes up.

Today, I arrived early (local blogmeister Griff Wigley was hard at work at his laptop in the corner) and finished a mug of coffee and cream cheese croissant before the others began to arrive:  Pastor Keith, Pastor Paul from St. Peter’s Lutheran, Pastor Joy of Wangen Prairie, University of Mn bound Jake, and Pastors Steve and Joanna of Our Savior’s in Faribault.  I also met old friend Pastor Howard of Old Trondhjem Church.  Nearly fifteen years ago, Howard worked as the professional fundraiser during a new church building fund drive at my Gethsemane Lutheran congregation in Upsala at a time that I was the congregational president.

I hope I got the names of everyone right and didn’t leave anyone out.  I’ll be back.

ELCA Convention: What other bloggers are saying #CWA09 & #Goodsoil09

Last week, I bumped into several other folks who were live blogging from the ELCA 2009 Churchwide Assembly and I also came across other Lutheran (and Lutheran friendly) bloggers from around the country.

You may check their blogs by clicking below:

Inside Nancy’s Noodle

Idle Ramblings of the Lutherpunk


Rev Dawn

Father Jake

Goodsoil Central

Friends of Jake


Sexuality and Religion


Dallas Morning News

ELCA Convention Postscript #CWA09 & #Goodsoil09

That was the the week that was, to borrow a line from a 60’s TV show.  I spent the weekend winding down after a busy and emotional week at the 2009 ELCA convention as a volunteer for Goodsoil, an LGBT friendly advocacy group.  I offered regular posts throughout the week as the events unfolded, but I suggest two posts, in particular, that reflect the mood on the ground regarding the two critical votes: passing the human sexuality statement and passing the recommendation to allow persons in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.”

Immediately after the Friday vote to allow gay clergy, I saw Lutheran Core representatives “spinning” the press (I talked to a young reporter from the New York Times right after she had been “spun” with the Core talking points).  It’s hardly surprising that the media tends to focus on the negative, the conservative backlash, the prospect that some may leave the ELCA, when Lutheran Core chooses to fan the flames of dissent.  The Core press release sounded an open call to schism:

Lutheran CORE leaders are calling on faithful Lutherans to meet in Indianapolis in September to begin an expanded ministry that draws faithful ELCA congregations and members together. They are also encouraging ELCA members and congregations to direct finances away from the ELCA churchwide organization to faithful ministries within and outside of the ELCA.

Since they call on “faithful Lutherans” and “faithful ELCA congregations”, by implication they accuse those who voted with the majority to be faithless.  This is no conciliatory, unity seeking group; they are hard liners and power hungry.

Governor Quie speaking And, I do not believe they are representative of the many who resisted the assembly actions who nevertheless will remain faithful members of the ELCA.  Former Governor of Minnesota and assembly voting member Al Quie is typical.  Quie had been a leading spokesman on the assembly floor against the various resolutions, yet, he cautioned against overreaction:

After the vote on the third resolution, when another opponent of the rule change threatened to pull out of the ELCA in protest, it was Quie who returned to the microphone to chastise such reactions.

"I was opposed to this [change], too, but that’s my problem," he said. "You can’t say now that you’re going to leave the church. We have to live with this change for a while and see how it works out."

Back home in Northfield, Mn at my Sunday worship service at Bethel Lutheran Church, I heard an inspired sermon from my Pastor, Tim McDermott, based on the gospel text from John, chapter 6.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said.  “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” … Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went with him.  So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

And therein lies our unity, though we are male and female, rich and poor, of many rainbow colors, gay and straight, and often of a different mind.


Presbyterian Pastor John Shuck in his Shuck and Jive blog, demonstrates the media’s flippant disregard of the carefully crafted language of the resolutions regarding committed relationships. Instead of referring to persons in “publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships” (the correct language), the media prefered its own terminology “sexually active gays”:

“Sexually active? As if they are a bunch of horny teens making out in the back of the church van.”

The media tends to titillation whether in reporting disagreement or sex.

They called the question! ELCA Convention approves gay clergy. #CWA09 & #Goodsoil09

“They called the question!”

When the facilitator in the darkened computer room made this announcement, many abandoned their computer screens and scrambled back to the floor of the assembly.  Others, tweeters mostly, remained at the ready to release the news – what news? – into cyberspace.

Up in the Goodsoil Central room, LGBT folks, some volunteers but others gathered from around the twin cities to share in this moment, clustered around a big screen TV monitor, clutching the prayer scrawls wrapped warmly around their shoulders.  A horde of red vested volunteers left their desks or their floor monitoring stations and assembled around the big screen in the registration area.

Was this another false alarm?  The question had been called at 11:00 a.m. but the vote to stop debate failed.  The plenary session was adjourned for the midday worship service and those with differing views shared bread and wine together.  Then came the lunch break followed by other scheduled business.  In mid-debatersafternoon, the question was called a second time, but again the motion to end debate failed and emotional three minutes speeches continued rapid fire, first from the red mike, then the green, then red again. 

The tone of some was harsh: “Are you willing to jeopardize your mortal soul?” asked one, but that was the exception; most expressed the angst of interior wrestling, along with Jacob at the ford of the Jabbok, to discern the will of God.  Some reached across the aisle to touch their brother as if to say, “I disagree, but I know your heart, and it is pure.”

The motion to end debate and call the question succeeded on the third try, and the hall hushed as Bishop Hanson said, “Let us pray.”  And then came the electronic vote, “push one for yes, two for no,” intoned the bishop.  Seen only by him, the tally appeared on the Bishop’s monitor; he hesitated for a moment, and then said, “when the results appear on the big screen, please do not respond with clapping or cheering but with prayer.”

559 yes, 451 no. 

prayers No one was surprised, but the moment had arrived.  Gays who love their God but also love another would be allowed to serve as ordained, rostered leaders of their church.  Openly.  Recognized and supported.  The reaction among a thousand voting members and another thousand assembled guests and observers was muted.  By twos and threes and fours and fives, the children of God huddled together in tears and prayer, some in joyous thanksgiving and others in grief. 

Thy will be done.

Flash: The ELCA commits to gay and lesbian clergy! #CWA09 & #Goodsoil09

In a historic vote, the ELCA 2009 Churchwide Assembly has authorized the ordination of gays and lesbians. This action has passed by a margin of 559 to 451 or 55% to 45%

Here is the text:

Resolved, that the ELCA commit itself to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.

This is the big one, the remaining recommendation contains more specific implementing policies, but this recommendation authorizes gay ordination in principal.