Monthly Archives: November 2009

Pre-holiday bits and pieces: #ELCA, #Lutheran, #Catholic, #Presbyterian

As we head into the extended Thanksgiving weekend, here are a few bits of miscellany.

Under the category, “Much ado about nothing”, The ELCA NE Iowa synod council made news this week by passing two resolutions contrary in spirit to the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, as if to say “don’t force gay clergy on us.”  Pastor Joelle from the synod suggests in her blog that the congregations of her synod need not worry:

I don’t see a bunch of leaders in same sex relationships chomping on the bit to come here. I don’t see a lot of pastors, period, chomping at the bit to come here.

It is a bit of a head-shaker why congregations would fear that a gay cleric would willingly go to an inhospitable environment.  Ministry is difficult enough as it is.  I think it speaks to irrational paranoia and conspiracy theory.

Blogger Susan Hogan at Pretty Good Lutherans has a post with a lively discussion about this news from Iowa.

Under the category, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”, Minnesota Public Radio is soliciting information about the ELCA / Lutheran Core issues through an online survey.  They are apparently hoping to present a major story.  As a survey participant, I received a preliminary report, to wit (emphasis added):

Over the past four days, more than 1,200 Lutherans (150+ of whom are pastors or retired pastors) from all over the U.S. and beyond have written us about why you will or will not remain in the ELCA, and how a church split would affect you, your congregations, and your communities.

We’re overwhelmed at the response. Clearly (though not surprisingly), this is an issue that matters deeply to you. Thank you for being willing to talk with us about it.
We’re now reading through responses and planning reporting around what we’re reading (and may contact you again in the upcoming weeks and months to ask you for further insight).

Of the people who wrote to us, most said they haven’t considered leaving the church over the ELCA’s stance allowing people in committed same-gender relationships to be pastors. In fact, many were concerned that we are giving too much attention to those who want to leave, rather than focusing on the story that most individuals and churches plan to stay with the ELCA. Some wrote to say that this change will bring them back to the church, or keep them from leaving.

People who have considered leaving or have already left the ELCA said they can’t be part of a church that disobeys God.

Many, many people would be deeply saddened should the church split. Some said losing congregations would impair the ELCA’s ability to do missions work overseas (though one person stated he now can evangelize gay friends here in the U.S. without feeling like a hypocrite).

Under the category, “Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition”, comes word that a monk has been suspended for ordaining women.  What, you thought I was talking about Catholicism?  Turns out that Buddhism suffers from the same streams of misogyny as Christendom.  Regarding the Vatican’s ballyhooed survey of American nuns, considered by many as an attempt at repression, a post in National Catholic Reporter tells us that the women religious are resisting:

The vast majority of U.S. women religious are not complying with a Vatican request to answer questions in a document of inquiry that is part of a three-year study of the congregations. Leaders of congregations, instead, are leaving questions unanswered or sending in letters or copies of their communities’ constitutions.

“There’s been almost universal resistance,” said one women religious familiar with the responses compiled by the congregation leaders. “We are saying ‘enough!’ In my 40 years in religious life I have never seen such unanimity.”

It turns out that the present controversy in the ELCA is the fruit of ordaining women a generation or two ago … at least that is what some within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) or Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) believe.  In comments following a Lutheran Core blog post, CORE spokesperson Steven King acknowledged that the “justice” and “equal rights” analogies to women’s ordination can be problematic for LGBT ordination issues.  But, he assures the anti-women’s-ordination commenter that “there are many Christians who base their understanding of the ordination of women on theological and biblical grounds.”  He failed to mention that Biblical passages condemning women leadership are clearer than any supposed anti-gay passages.  Hmmm.  CORE appears to be Biblical literalists regarding LGBT issues but contextualists regarding women’s ordination.  At least the LCMS and WELS are consistent.

Finally, I close with a wedding announcement. The Rev Laurie McNeill of Central Presbyterian Church of Newark has been ordained since 1989 and a former moderator of the PCAUSA Presbytery of Newark.  At the conclusion of the Nov 14th Presbytery business meeting, Rev McNeill announced she had been married to Lisa Gollihue on Cape Cod on October 17th.   The Presbytery unanimously voted to support her marriage despite official Presbyterian church policy against gay marriage or gay clergy.   Stay tuned.

Shuck and Jive blog, The Presbyterian Outlook, and Religion Dispatches blog have excellent posts about the newlyweds.

Roman #Catholic Women Priests

Although I was registered with press credentials for the recent Call to Action (CTA) Conference in Milwaukee, I was not able to attend due to a family emergency.  However, my registration has opened my inbox to a wide array of items from the progressive branch of Catholicism.

For instance, I have learned of Roman Catholic Women Priests—not recognized by the Vatican, of course, but they are out there nevertheless, pushing against the patriarchal hierarchy that many find oppressive.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) is an international initiative within the Roman Catholic Church. The mission of Roman Catholic Womenpriests North America is to spiritually prepare, ordain, and support women and men from all states of life, who are theologically qualified, who are committed to an inclusive model of Church, and who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister within the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement is an initiative within the Church that began with the ordination of seven women on the Danube River in 2002.  Reclaiming our ancient spiritual heritage, womenpriests are shaping a more inclusive, Christ-centered Church of equals in the twenty-first century.  Women bishops ordained in full apostolic succession continue to carry on the work of ordaining others in the Roman Catholic Church.  We advocate a new model of priestly ministry united with the people with whom we serve.  We are rooted in a response to Jesus who called women and men to be disciples and equals living the Gospel.

Bridget Mary was ordained into this communion in 2006, and she blogs.  Her post of November 10 reports on the CTA Conference where Womenpriests maintained a well received booth and exhibit.

The Roman Catholic Womenpriest Movement was well- represented at Call to Action Conference ( approximately 2000 attendees) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Nov. 5-7, 2009. RCWP had a booth in the exhibit hall. Here our members gave out our prayer for vocations and shared information about our growing movement. The response was heart-warming! Many Catholic leaders in the reform movement expressed support for our vision of a renewed priestly ministry.

Here’s Looking at you, kid. #Lutheran Core and #ELCA

Casablanca poster Please indulge me with some more Casablanca analogies.  Last week, I sarcastically used iconic Casablanca movie lines to criticize the Lutheran Core announcement that they are taking their football and leaving.  Well, that’s not exactly what they said.  In a rhetorical slight of hand, they claimed that the rest of us ELCA types remaining on the field of play are the ones who have left them.  Whatever.

So how are we to respond?

One approach is to wring our hands and cry in our beer.  This is the anxiety laden, sky is falling, response.  A fellow named Jim Smith offered a comment on Pretty Good Lutherans blog that exemplifies this attitude:

This is a very difficult time in the ELCA, and it is far worse across this nation in terms of congregations in conflict and pain than many imagine. I have many friends across the ELCA and served on some national efforts and what I am hearing is frightening in terms of congregations laying off staff, closing, having to merge, or just imploding. Not a few, not just one or two in a Synod, but hundreds, and yes, probably thousands.

I don’t know Mr. Smith, and his comment is all I know about his views.  His concern for the ELCA appears legitimate. and he doesn’t appear to be a CORE rabble rouser.  But, I take issue with his blame game and priorities.

I was a CWA voting member. At the assembly, I met over 10 voting members who were for the changes, but voted no because they knew it would destroy the church.

I applaud them. We need to move beyond what we want to what is best for the whole church.

The implication is that the majority of voting members who supported the various resolutions were selfish (how demeaning is it to dismiss the LGBT fairness claims as merely “what we want”).  Should church unity be the paramount concern rather than righting a wrong and seeking justice?  Is the most important thing to stick together even at the expense of perpetuating bias, prejudice, and inequality?  Don’t blame the CORE and WordAlone types for leaving, blame the rest of us for forcing their hand.  CORE had threatened to leave, we should have listened to them and knuckled under to their threats.

Emily Eastwood, the Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned North America (an LGBT advocacy group), offers a cogent rebuttal to this view in a Nov 19 press release.

It seems with yesterday’s [CORE] announcement that some ELCA Lutherans cannot even tolerate being in the same church family with congregations who accept us.  Anger and fear have overtaken the great commandments from Jesus himself: to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

For 35 years LC/NA has never isolated itself from those who disagree with us. Nor have we threatened to lead an exodus from the denomination by those congregations who found the wait too long or the social statement well short of the advocacy needed for LGBT people in church and society.  We have never called for congregations to withhold giving to the ELCA; in fact, we encourage additional stewardship, especially in times like these.

Mr. Smith is correct: there is lots of worry in the ELCA these days over defecting members, defecting congregations, and especially withheld funds that have impacted the mission and ministry work of the ELCA. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: CORE knows how to inflict pain, but do they know how to heal?

So, how do we move forward?  Where do we go from here?  Minneapolis is history.

ELCA presiding Bishop Mark Hanson issued a statement and a video last week:

The presiding bishop quoted Romans 5: 1-2a in his open letter: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.”

Hanson wrote: “We stand together in God’s grace, but we are not standing still. We proclaim Jesus Christ and are fully engaged in this mission by actively caring for the world that God loves.”  He added that in serving God’s mission, members bring their diversity, tradition and disagreements.

“We go forward in this mission trusting that ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:5b),'” he wrote.

Blogger Doug Kings criticized the statement as mere public relations, lacking in substance but heavy in fluff:

Obviously the release of the letter and video is an attempt to balance the “negative energy” surrounding last week’s mass layoffs at the ELCA churchwide office, stories of withheld mission support and departing congregations, and the CORE announcement that it would be forming a new Lutheran denomination. All of that, however, is barely acknowledged in the letter itself.

As so often happens with institutions in trouble, the assumption is made that the real problem is public perception. All we have to do is manage the news cycle. We’ll drown out the bad news by shouting good news even louder.

Bishop Hanson’s letter then listed some positives to suggest business as usual. “Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake.”  But it’s not business as usual.  The characters of Bogart and Bergman aren’t in Paris anymore, they’re in Casablanca.

Bogie’s first response was to cry in his beer, but by movie’s end he had embraced the new reality, and his character rose to new heights of social consciousness.  We must do the same.  Instead of ignoring the momentous changes of Minneapolis, we should embrace them.  Instead of apologizing for our new policies, we should shout from the rooftops.  Let’s stop being embarrassed about what was accomplished, and let’s be proud of what was done.  There is a whole generation of youngsters out there that has been turned off by the hypocrisy of the church.  Tell them what we have done

Consider this.  A week ago, at the semi-annual meeting of the ELCA Church Council:

the Church Council by voice vote overwhelmingly approved the waiver of the prohibition forbidding application for reinstatement until 5 years had passed since the removal or resignation.  The five-year waiting period is a general policy applying to anyone who had been removed for any disciplinary cause or who resigned voluntarily. The waiver granted by today’s action only applies to those removed and those who resigned solely for the reason of their being in a same-gender, committed relationship.   Applications to begin the reinstatement process can now be submitted immediately.  The process is individual and can vary in the length of time for completion.

This action by the Church Council is the first official enactment of the church council pursuant to actions at the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis that ordered the elimination of the policy that precluded service in the church by ministers in committed, same-gender relationships.   Also today, the church council soundly defeated a proposed amendment to policy that would have required an additional step of approval for candidates in same-gender relationships by 2/3 of the synod council’s executive committee in order to be reinstated.

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid BergmanAnd how do we hear this news?  Does the ELCA boldly proclaim its actions?  No, it comes in a press release and blog entry from Lutherans Concerned North America.  Why should the ELCA be embarrassed when it does a good thing?

Perhaps it’s too soon, and we’re still grieving the loss of members.  Bogie and Bergman can’t be together, but Bogie sees that it’s for the good, and he promises Bergman that she’ll come to that realization also, “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”

News Flash: Galileo arrested! #Catholic #LGBT

Copernicus expressed the view that the earth circled around the sun and not vice versa.  The 17th century astronomer Galileo Galilei agreed:

Galileo’s championing of Copernicanism was controversial within his lifetime, when a large majority Galileo by Giusto Sustermansof philosophers and astronomers still subscribed (at least outwardly) to the geocentric view that the Earth is at the centre of the universe. After 1610, when he began publicly supporting the heliocentric view, which placed the Sun at the centre of the universe, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to the Roman Inquisition early in 1615. Although he was cleared of any offence at that time, the Catholic Church nevertheless condemned heliocentrism as “false and contrary to Scripture” in February 1616, and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it—which he promised to do. When he later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

When the Catholic Church of the twentieth century experienced a crisis of priest sexual predation, homosexuals were scapegoated.  According to Thomas C Fox, editor of National Catholic Reporter:

It has been so unfair. Elements in our Catholic community have repeatedly placed the blame of the sex abuse scandal that has rocked our church at the feet of a gay clergy.

It has been a case of guilty until proven innocent.

But wait, a new scientific study commissioned by US Catholic Bishops and conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice researchers reports a contrary view:

The study, which is due to be completed next year, was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after the scandal overtook the U.S. church in 2002.

In a presentation to the bishops on Tuesday, Margaret Smith of John Jay said: “What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse. At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the gay Catholic group DignityUSA, called the report “very welcome news for gay people, gay priests, and our families and friends.”

She said the John Jay report confirms other studies in concluding that sexual orientation is not connected to pedophilia or other sex crimes. “We hope that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church will finally accept this finding, since it has been borne out through their own study,” Duddy-Burke said.

Surely, the bishops will accept this scientific finding.  Surely, the church will promptly and expeditiously exonerate Galileo.  Or not, as progressive Catholic blogger Terence Weldon suggests:

The fact that this report confirms what the rest of the world knows [i.e., that homosexuality is not a factor in the cases of abusive priests], is welcome, but not earth-shattering. Don’t hold your breath for the bishops to announce that they accept the report, or will act on this finding, or even for them to release the full report when it has been concluded.

The real causes of the problem lie within the church’s own structures, as numerous observers have noted: the appalling monopoly and abuse of power, compulsory clerical celibacy, and a deeply flawed, seminary based training system that is a hangover from the Middle Ages, leaving priests with minimal understanding of human sexuality, their own or anyone else’s.(Reports elsewhere state that this same interim John Jay report concludes that priests with the better training in human sexuality were the least likely to offend).

The naysayers within the hierarchy were quick to dismiss the scientific report, according to Beliefnet News:

“I wouldn’t put a lot of credence in it,” said Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

After the abuse crisis rocked the church in 2002, Nienstedt helped lead a Vatican investigation of U.S. seminaries aimed at rooting out homosexuality, and served on a committee that drew up new sex abuse prevention policies for U.S. dioceses. He has also written that homosexual orientation is the result of childhood trauma.

And blogger Mark Silk adds:

[Nienstedt promoted] the idea being that if you got rid of the gays, the abuse would stop. Not that Nienstedt doesn’t have a fall-back position; to wit: “a priest has to be accessible to all his people, and someone with a strong same-sex attraction would not be good to have in the pastoral care of people.” As opposed to a priest with a strong opposite-sex attraction?

The bishops’ problem with the John Jay study goes beyond Nienstedt’s species of homophobia, however. If, as the study suggests, sexual abuse by priests is the result of not homosexual orientation but the availability of certain types of people (i.e. altar boys), then someone might be led to the conclusion that clerical celibacy is a big part of the problem. The horror, the horror!

I’m shocked, just shocked! #Lutheran Core to exit #ELCA

In the classic movie, Casablanca, the Claude Rains character speaks the immortal line, “I’m shocked … SHOCKED to see that there’s gambling going on in this establishment … Round up the usual suspects.”  Of course, the humor lies in the fact that the character was not surprised at all, a point made when the croupier handed him his winnings.

For those who have been listening to the incendiary rhetoric of Lutheran Core, it comes as no surprise that they have announced the formation of a new Lutheran denomination.

Leaders of Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal) have voted to begin work on a proposal for a new Lutheran church body for those who choose to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, they announced Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The proposed new church body is intended to provide a place for congregations that desire a more traditional denominational structure.

And, the announcement comes with CORE’s typical judgmental, self-righteous, self-congratulatory tone of voice:

We are not leaving the ELCA. The ELCA has left us. 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.

And, with big elephant tears that barely mask their glee:

We grieve that it has become necessary for so many to leave the ELCA.

If they are truly saddened by ELCA defections, why has CORE been the rabble-rousing cheerleader?

Nor is it surprising that the announcement should come from the offices of the WordAlone Network, the conservative group that has been an ELCA irritant for over a decade, formed initially to resist the ELCA’s ecumenical agreement with the Episcopal Church.  For many, the decisions at the 2009 ELCA assembly are merely the occasion to press long-standing anti-ELCA resentments.

CORE’s press release favorably mentions Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), a loose affiliation of congregations that is something less than a denomination.  “Lutheran CORE has been in conversation with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ …and will continue to work closely with LCMC,” states the CORE press release.  LCMC’s website includes a list of seminaries from which their congregations may seek Pastors, but they are mostly Baptist or non-denominational!  So much for maintaining a purer stream of Lutheranism.

Pretty Good Lutherans blog has a post with links to numerous newspaper articles about the CORE press release.  One of the comments to the post offered the following insight:

Lutheran CORE said that it would wait a year to make any decision about leaving the ELCA (see their Sept 26 press release). Clearly they’ve been moving in this direction, but accelerating their formal plans for creating a new denomination, and abandoning their own calls for a deliberative, slow, cautious move, is a rather swift change in policy. Though surely a lot of trust was already broken between Lutheran CORE and those of us committed to staying in the ELCA, this breach of their own self-imposed commitment to wait one year surely doesn’t give any reason for those who are suspicious of Lutheran CORE to believe a word that they say.

  Round up the usual suspects.

Rest in Peace, Char Taylor

For those who noticed the lack of posts on this blog for the last week, I have been out of state for the funeral of my sister-in-law, Char Taylor.  Char passed after five difficult months following complications of surgery.  Finally at home in Green Valley, Arizona under the care of hospice, she passed quietly with her husband and three adult children with her.

A dozen of us from Minnesota and two more from Iowa (Char’s siblings, their spouses, and Char’s nieces and nephews) gathered in the Tucson area for a long weekend in a bittersweet family reunion centered around Char’s funeral.  Author Elaine Pagels wrote the following in her book Beyond Belief, which seems apropos:

—the soaring harmonies of the choir singing with the congregation; and the priest, a woman in bright gold and white vestments, proclaiming the prayers in a clear, resonant voice.  As I stood watching, a thought came to me: Here is a family that knows how to face death.

Here was a place to weep … here was a community that had gathered to sing, to celebrate, to acknowledge common needs, and to deal with what we cannot control or imagine.  Yet the celebration in progress spoke of hope; perhaps that is what made the presence of death bearable.

Rest in peace, Char.  We will miss you.

National Council of Churches (NCC) new leadership team #Episcopal #ELCA

Peg Chemberlin The incoming President and President-elect of the National Council of Churches (NCC) both have Minnesota ties.  Episcopal priest, Rev. Peg Chamberlin, will serve a three year term as President beginning Jan 1, 2010.  She presently serves as Executive Director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, and she is a frequent contributor to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the state’s leading daily newspaper.  She also serves on President Obama’s faith council

According to a press release from the ELCA, the incoming President Elect is Kathryn M. Lohre, the daughter of Rev. John and Mary Lohre.  John serves as senior pastor at Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Pine Island, Minn.Kathryn Lohre

The governing board of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) elected Kathryn M. Lohre on Nov. 10 to become the 26th president of the NCC in 2013. Lohre is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and assistant director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 

Lohre becomes NCC president-elect on Jan. 1, 2010, and president three years later. The current president-elect, the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, will serve those three years as NCC president. They will be installed in their respective new positions tonight, Nov. 12, 2009, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis.

Lohre, 32, will be the second youngest president of the NCC since the Rev. M. William Howard, an American Baptist, became president in 1979 at the age of 33.

Veteran’s Day: Thinking of Viet Nam teammates on Romeo 18

Obie Holmen On this Veteran’s Day, I’m thinking of my Viet Nam buddies from 1969-70.

The mission of our outfit (K company, Ranger, 75th Infantry) was Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP: pronounced lurp).  We worked in four man teams that were flown by helicopter into remote areas and dropped off in the jungle for reconnaissance.  After four or five days, the choppers would return to pick us up.  Because subterfuge was our primary defense, we would be retrieved by the birds ASAP in the event we were exposed.  We played hide and seek well.

Mark EstopareFor 5-6 months, I worked with the same three teammates—Mark Estopare, Billy Powers, and Gary Heald—operating as R-18 (Ranger 18 or Romeo 18 according to the  phonetic alphabet).  We were stationed in the central Highlands of Viet Nam, in conjunction with the 4th Infantry Division, and lived in base camps near An Khe, Pleiku, and Ban Me Thuot when we weren’t in the field.

Mark was barely 18 and from St. Louis.  I haven’t seen him since Viet Nam, but we have spoken by phone a couple of times.  I understand he has had a hard time of it with PTSD.

Billy Powers Billy wasn’t much older and spoke with a Texas twang.  I saw Billy in Kansas City at a Ranger reunion about three years ago, and the drawl was still there as well as his buoyant humor.  He suffered a back injury from a work accident a few years earlier and was receiving worker’s comp.  Still in Texas with grown kids.

Gary Heald Gary was the oldest at 23 (I was 21).  Gary flew to Minnesota to be one of the groomsmen in my wedding in 1971, I had dinner with him in Los Angeles in 1987, and he was at the same Ranger reunion in KC three years ago.  We stay in touch via email.  Gary grew up in Oklahoma but settled in California.  Remarried with adult kids.

We have animal stories: a rat perched on my shoulder as I pulled midnight guard duty; a tiger silhouetted against the moon as he sauntered along the edge of our night location; and monkeys passing by in the treetops, sounding like the whole God damned North Viet Namese army crashing down on us as we hunkered to the ground, butt muscles tight, and lungs unbreathing.  We have drinking stories, and drugs, too.  Filipino bands singing rock and roll; movie stars and football players snapping photos of us and we of them; the Beatles partying late on the Panasonic bought at the PX; poker players with military script; and personal AO’s.  We have stories of searing sun and monsoon rains.  Ponchos.  Poncho liners.  Prick 25s.  Rucksacks.  C4.  Fragmentary grenades.  Smoke grenades.  White phosphorous grenades.  Later, Bronze stars with V devices.  We have flying stories of door gunners and cobra gunships and hot LZs.  We have mountain stories, river stories, hooches under triple-canopy jungle stories, and stories of elephant grass much taller than our head.  In our stories, there are many faces with names long forgotten.  We have shooting stories that come to us in the pale light between wake and sleep, and non-shooting stories, too, of young men from the north passing unknowing in front of our claymores and M16 muzzles, smokin’ and ajokin’ down the mountain, alive still and so were we.  We became fathers and grandfathers with stories; I think they did, too.


#Lutheran Eva Brunne consecrated as first lesbian bishop #ELCA

Brunne's consecration

Yesterday, Sunday the 8th of November, Eva Brunne was consecrated as the Bishop of Stockholm during an ordination ceremony at the Cathedral of Uppsala.   Swedish Archbishop Anders Wejryd conducted the ordination.  Not only was the ceremony historic because Brunne is a lesbian in a committed relationship with a female pastor (they are parents of a three year old child), but also because a second female was consecrated as bishop at the same time.  Tuulikki Koivunen Bylund was ordained  as Bishop of Härnösand in northern Sweden

The photo above is taken from a brief news account in the Local, an English language Swedish newspaper, and the photo below is of Bishop Bylund, copied from a Dutch forum, which quoted my Saturday blog post in its entirety.

Bishop Eva BrunneFor Brunne, her sexual orientation is a non-issue in her role as bishop, except for its symbolism:

Yes, it is important to many people who also live with a same-sex partner that a bishop can also do that. But it’s not a big issue at home in Stockholm. I have yet to be in a workplace where it has been an “issue.”

There have been those who’ve tried to make it difficult for me, but I have always lived openly. Had I chosen to hide parts of my life I probably would have had problems. As a bishop you must be allowed to be a whole person 24 hours a day, otherwise I would never have coped to be who I am and function the way I do. 

Radio Netherlands reports that the King and Queen of Sweden attended the ceremony.

Call to Action Progressive #Catholic Conference wraps up

The three day annual Conference of Call to Action (CTA) in Milwaukee is over.  I was unable to attend as I had planned, but Thomas C Fox, editor of National Catholic Reporter, offered several sympathetic blog posts over the weekend, and I pass on his insights here.

Call to Action seeks to reclaim the spirit of Vatican II in the face of a church that has tilted strongly toward the right since those heady reform minded days of the early 60’s.  Fox’s first post speaks to the need of these progressives to come together to rekindle their energy but especially to be healed:

The folks who come here have been hurt, really hurt, in many ways by their church, a church that has turned on them as they have tried to live out its call faithfully, a clergy who have virtually banished them for their care and compassion. Some CTA types have literally been driven out of parishes, others forced out of ministries and careers. Hurt, really hurt. And they come here, recognizing it or not, in need of healing. And the CTA weekend provides this healing. CTA as healer. I like it. Think of it.

Call to Action has a new executive director, Jim Fitzgerald, and he offered his inaugural address, which Fox reprinted in toto.  Here is a portion:

“I don’t think I would be Catholic if it weren’t for Call To Action.” It is a comment I have heard so many times in my 12 years with CTA. While I was a college student at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, I voiced my doubts about remaining Catholic to Sister Nancy Langhart, a Franciscan sister who was my campus minister. I told Nancy that I feel Catholic in my spirit, but I have such difficulty staying in the Church when the Vatican says other religions are deficient, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are intrinsically disordered, and that the priestly women in my life are not suitable to be ordained or serve in official leadership because of their gender. Regardless of what the Vatican said, I knew in my heart and soul that it is not one’s sexual identity or gender that is disordered; it’s homophobia and sexism in the name of Jesus that’s disordered!

Nancy smiled compassionately as if she knew exactly what I was feeling, leaned over and asked, “Have you ever heard of Call To Action?” In 1997, Nancy drove me to Detroit and introduced me to the Call To Action conference experience and I was home! Tonight, I’m thrilled to say Nancy is here and once again we get to share together this wonderful gathering. Thank you Nancy for bringing me home.

The role of women in the church, including women’s ordination, is of prime importance to Call to Action.  Speakers and presenters at the Milwaukee conference included many Catholic feminists.  Fox blogged about a couple of them.

Akers (photo by David Hawlic)Sister of Charity Louise Akers filled in for scheduled keynoter Roy Bourgeois Friday evening because Bourgeois’ father took ill.  Fox reports that “Akers last August was told by Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk to publicly disassociate herself from the issue of women’s ordination or lose her ability to continue making any presentations or teaching for credit in any archdiocesan-related institution.”

Akers remained defiant, and her address claimed that it was she, not Pilarczyk, who was following church teaching.

Fox also blogged about the Biblical reflections of Sister Dianne Bergant on Saturday.  Using the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, Bergant suggested we find the the ways God will bless us through the immigrant.

Finally, Fox blogged about Bob and Margaret McClory, founders and mainstays of Call to Action, and their recent visit with reform theologian Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx of Holland who is nearing his 95th birthday.

As the conference came to a close on Sunday, over 2,000 attendees unanimously approved a resolution of support for American nuns who are under pressure from the Vatican.  The resolution is reprinted below (from CTA’s press release):

Since January of 2009, the Vatican has investigated and sought to silence Catholic sisters in the United States. They have set a deadline of November 20th for the women religious’ communities to respond to its probing questionnaire. Now more than ever we must speak out against the few bishops who continue to wield the sword of division, rather than extend the hand of unity.

To our fellow Catholics in the United States and around the globe, women religious have taught us how to live the gospel and open our arms until they embraced all of God’s people. It is now our responsibility to put into action the lessons we have learned and ensure that our sisters in faith are not ripped from the church’s embrace,

To our courageous sisters, you who have been the bedrock of our church and country, know that the people you have faithfully served stand beside you as you have stood with us.

To those who are doing the investigation, your actions do not reflect the welcoming and embracing love that Jesus demonstrated in the gospels. We invite you to have a conversion of heart and join us in standing with the women religious.

In every generation God raises up prophets to point the way towards the gospel vision of inclusion. Women religious are these prophets. Today we stand not with those who cling to the gates of exclusion but with the prophets who open the gates and call us to live as one.