Monthly Archives: October 2010

What the Lutheran Magazine printed and didn’t print

cover (11-10).indd

The Lutheran Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the ELCA.  In the latest issue, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson proclaims “Days of Timidity are over”.  The Bishop does not mention the present controversy with Lutheran CORE/NALC (North American Lutheran Church) and LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ), but undoubtedly that was on his mind.  He writes,

In these uncertain and challenging times, I have pondered Paul’s words to Timothy: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7; New International Version).

Timidity is not one of God’s gifts to us, but we must assess it if we run the risk of becoming a timid church body.

A timid church focuses on what is lost or lacking: members, financial assets, numbers of congregations, or the number of students in programs and schools. A timid church battens down the hatches and tries to hold on to what and who remains.

A timid church defines itself (or lets others do so) on the basis of controversies or partisan divisions. Yearning for a life without tension, a timid church faces the future with fear and foreboding.

Most of all, a timid church has lost confidence — faith — in the gospel and the power of the Spirit to work through the gospel. A timid church has lost its trust in God’s promise to be faithful to God’s promise, and each part becomes preoccupied with its own survival. A timid church does not entrust its whole life to the power and promise of Christ’s death and resurrection.

As I said to synod bishops, synod vice presidents and seminary presidents in early October, I believe it is time for us to declare together: “In the name of Jesus Christ, our days of timidity are over!”

It is time for us to say with confidence: “By the power of the Spirit, we are a church confident that we have all we need. We have the treasure God has entrusted to us: the treasure of the gospel, incarnate in Jesus Christ.”

So, in response to the title of this post, this is what the Lutheran has printed.  What is it that it did not print?  Daniel Lehmann is the editor of the Lutheran, and he wrote a statement of policy in the September issue in which he said that NALC would receive no special treatment:

Page 8 of this issue contains a 203-word article (“Another Lutheran body formed”) on the founding of another Lutheran denomination. No more, no less.

The North American Lutheran Church came about in response to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly decisions on sexuality. Its leadership hails from the ELCA roster. Many of the 18 churches that signed on before the actual creation of the NALC were once ELCA congregations.

What we have here is a classic case of schism — a formal division or separation in the Christian church. That cleaving causes pain as your editor knows, having left the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod decades ago in another schism.

So now the NALC becomes, in the eyes of this magazine, one more Lutheran denomination. Just as the staff follows major events in the life of the LCMS, the same will be true with the NALC. The Lutheran won’t give it any special coverage just because of its heritage. This group, like Elvis, has left the building.

Octogenarian Carl Braaten is an esteemed elder of Lutheran academia; in his later years, he has grown fond of bashing the ELCA.  He is one of the coterie of theologians who attempt to provide academic cover for the CORE/NALC dissidents, but his hyperbole has too often drifted into name-calling and petulant whining.  Recently, in response to Editor Lehmann’s statement above, Braaten has written an open letter:

  • he accuses Lehmann and the magazine of being lackeys of the ELCA leadership, taking “the side of the bureaucrats”
  • he suggests the policy announced by Lehmann is “petty”
  • he whines about the refusal of the magazine to accept advertising for CORE’s theological conference, protesting that the conference was coincidental to the formation of a new denomination a month later
  • he disagrees that CORE/NALC is schismatic [how many times have we heard “we did not leave the ELCA, the ELCA left us]
  • he again takes the opportunity to swipe at the ELCA quota system for voting members and “radical theological feminism” [is that a euphemism for ordaining women?]
    There’s a very small country church near Northfield that had a part time pastor.  Early on, it became obvious that the church would vote to leave the ELCA, and the pastor made it clear that she would remain an ELCA pastor and would not leave with the congregation.  When the day came for the final vote, everyone knew that would be the pastor’s last day.  After the vote to leave became official on a Sunday afternoon, the congregation called the ELCA synod office that week requesting assistance with pulpit supply for the following Sunday.
    Braaten expresses the same naiveté.  When you choose to leave, and not without mean-spirited parting shots, it would appear self-evident that doors close behind you.  Just as it was silly for that congregation to expect ELCA assistance with arranging pulpit supply, Braaten and CORE shouldn’t expect the Lutheran Magazine, the official publication of the ELCA, to beat the drum for CORE/NALC.

Minnesota Public Radio and anti-gay bullying

With kudos to Locally Grown Northfield blog and its commenters, here is a link to yesterday’s program on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), which continues the discussion regarding religion’s role in fostering anti-gay attitudes that are manifested in bullying and teen sexual angst.

Consider Justin Anderson, who graduated from Blaine High School outside Minneapolis last year. He says his teenage years were a living hell. From sixth grade on, he heard the same taunts.

“People say things like, ‘Fags should just disappear so we don’t have to deal with them anymore’; and, ‘Fags are disgusting and sinful,’ ” he told the Anoka-Hennepin School Board. “And still, there was no one intervening. I began to feel so worthless and ashamed and unloved that I began to think about taking my life.”

Anderson told his story at a public hearing last month — a hearing convened because in the past year, the district has seen a spate of student suicides. Four of those suicides have been linked to anti-gay bullying.

Justin Anderson survived. Justin Aaberg did not. Aaberg, 15, loved the cello, both playing and composing numbers like “Incinerate,” which he posted on YouTube. Justin was openly gay. He had plenty of friends, but he was repeatedly bullied in his school. In July, his mother, Tammy, found her teenage son hanging from his bed frame.

“They were calling him, ‘Faggot, you’re gay,’ ” she recalls. ” ‘The Bible says that you’re going to burn hell.’ ‘God doesn’t love you.’ Things like that.”

But a representative of the Minnesota Family Council (the same group behind the flyer that appeared in my mailbox directed to “serious Catholics”—see yesterday’s post), disagreed:

she wants to keep the neutrality policy because she says that controversial topics like sexual orientation should be taught in the home or church — not in school. And she believes that changing the policy to allow such discussions is a ploy to normalize homosexuality for kids.

“It becomes homosexual advocacy when you allow this curriculum to come in under the guise of anti-bullying,” she says.

I actually agree with her in part.  Sexual orientation issues ought to be openly discussed in our churches; unfortunately, I sense that the message in conservative churches only reinforces the gay angst, and the silence of many moderate and progressive churches, borne of fear of giving offense, is a sin of omission.  Listen again to the words of Cody Sanders quoted in an earlier post:

These messages come in many forms, degrees of virulence, and volumes of expression. The most insidious forms, however, are not those from groups like Westboro Baptist Church. Most people quickly dismiss this fanaticism as the red-faced ranting of a fringe religious leader and his small band of followers.

More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay).

If anti-gay bullying has, at any level, an embodied undercurrent of tacit theological legitimation, then we simply cannot circumvent our responsibility to provide a clear, decisive, theological response. Aside from its theological base, anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it calls for acts of solidarity on behalf of the vulnerable and justice on behalf of the oppressed.

I’ll be voting for …

I’m ready to vote now in the Minnesota election for governor, aided by a helpful piece of campaign literature. 

In today’s mail I received a flyer entitled, “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics”.  “Serious” is an interesting choice of adjectives.  I have some very good Catholic friends, organizers of the recent Synod of the Baptized, and they certainly are serious about their faith and their Catholic tradition; yet, I don’t think they are the folks this flyer has in mind.  In fact, they’re probably too serious and thus not likely to be easily persuaded to vote according to marching orders.  I suspect  that “serious” in the flyer is a euphemism for “good”, “real”, or “true”.  Or, to put a finer point on it, if you don’t vote for this flyer’s endorsed candidate then you’re “bad”, “not a real” Catholic, or a “false” Catholic.

In the midst of the Great Recession, certainly the flyer would offer some insight into the economic policies of the candidates.  Or, the candidate views on health care.  Or, education.  Or, …?  Certainly there are “serious” (there’s that word again) issues to be debated, and if this “real” Catholic organization truly wants to inform the electorate, perhaps just a word or two about “serious” issues, but no, nary a peep.

But, they’re expanding.  The folks behind this flyer used to be called “single issue”, and that issue was abortion.  It’s still abortion, but now they have added a second: “protection of marriage”.  I guess they’re branching out, but on both issues they would seek to impose their will on the sexual behavior of others.  Through government intrusion.

If you’re interested, the flyer was prepared and paid for by the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council.  And their preferred candidate?  Republican Tom Emmer.

I’ll be voting for Democrat Mark Dayton.

Conservative Christianity driving a generation away from religion

A week ago, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Minnesota announced a reorganization plan that will eliminate twenty-one congregations in the metro, merging them into fourteen existing parishes.  Stated another way, thirty-five current congregations will be downsized into fourteen.  Some have suggested that if it wasn’t for the influx of Hispanic immigrants, the Roman Catholic church nationally would  be suffering even greater declines in membership.

Of course, the problem of declining religious participation is not confined to Catholicism.   Indeed, statistics suggest the decline in Americans who identify with religion is startling.

That shift is the decline in participation by all Americans, but particularly young adults, in churches. In 1990 only 7 percent of Americans indicated “none” as religious affiliation. By 2008 that number had grown to 17 percent. But among young adults, in their twenties, the percent of “nones” is reaching nearly 30%. The new “nones” are heavily concentrated among those who have come of age since 1990.

But wait, aren’t many conservative Christian denominations growing?  Many evangelical churches thrive but at the cost of theological depth—“a mile wide and an inch deep”.  Some are thinly veiled entertainment ministries.   Joel Osteen Ministries is merely the most blatant example of the appealing “prosperity gospel” that too often characterizes the mega-growth churches, and makes charismatic leaders such as Osteen very wealthy. 

But it is the judgmental scapegoating that is turning off this generation of young adults according to an article out of Seattle last week.  Blaming the public perception of Christianity, as espoused by the religious right, for the stark decline in those identifying with religion, the article discusses a poll and a book entitled American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, which:

makes the case that the alliance of religion with conservative politics is driving young adults away from religion …. Among the conclusions [of a major survey] is this one: “The association between religion and politics (and especially religion’s intolerance of homosexuality) was the single strongest factor in this portentous shift.”

Twenty somethings are walking away from the church, the article concludes, because of a skewed “public perception of religion as largely socially conservative,” and the perception of religion as homophobic is especially responsible for the growing percentage of “nones.”

An unrelated poll out last week suggests similar conclusions, and correlates with this blog’s recent theme of suggesting that conservative Christian policies are part of the problem of gay bullying and critically low self esteem for many young gays.

Most Americans believe messages about homosexuality coming from religious institutions contribute to negative views of gays and lesbians, and higher rates of suicide among gay youths, a new poll reports … Americans are more than twice as likely to give houses of worship low marks on handling the issue of homosexuality, according to a PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll released Thursday (Oct. 21).

After a recent spate of teen suicides prompted by anti-gay harassment and bullying, the poll indicates a strong concern among Americans about how religious messages are impacting public discussions of homosexuality.

Once again, there is a significant gap between the attitudes of younger versus older adults which mirrors very closely the higher percentage of “nones” among young adults.

Nearly half of Americans age 18-34 say messages from places of worship are contributing “a lot” to negative views of gay and lesbian people, compared to just 30 percent of Americans age 65 and older.

I’ll close by repeating the words of a young woman spoken at the ELCA Church Wide Assembly in 2009 (CWA09),

“Give us honesty,” she said.  “My generation is turned off by what they see as hypocrisy in the church. ‘Love your neighbor’ is on the lips of the church, but a cold shoulder is what my generation sees.”

The bones of James the Just on trial

James, the brother of Jesus, sometimes known as James the Just, is in the news.  A dealer in antiquities, Oded Golan,  is on trial in Israel.  It is alleged that he fabricated the evidence of the authenticity of an artifact possibly connected to James.

A bit of background is in order. 

Many are surprised that Jesus had siblings, and some would deny it altogether, but the Bible contains several clear references.  Here’s a partial list, which includes references in each of the four gospels, Acts, and Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

  • Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Mt 13:55-56
  • Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us? Mk 6:3
  • Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd Lk 8:19
  • After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples Jn 2:12
  • All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers Acts 1:14
  • but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. Gal 1:19  

Acts and Paul’s letters make it quite clear that James became leader of the Jerusalem based, Jewish followers of Jesus after the crucifixion, and he remained in charge until his unlawful death over thirty years after the crucifixion, an event recorded by the contemporary historian, Josephus.

Finally, Acts and Paul’s letters also report the ongoing disagreement between James and the apostle Paul over the question of Gentile inclusion into the movement.  James was reluctant to allow Gentiles unless they agreed to follow Torah, including circumcision, dietary rules, and calendar observances.  This ongoing conflict between these two leaders forms the plotline of A Wretched Man novel.

Now to the current news of James.

Defendant and the ossuaryIt was the Jewish custom during the 1st century (among the Pharisees and others who believed in the resurrection of the dead) to rebury the bones of deceased family members a year or more after death.  The bones would be carefully placed in a stone box, called an ossuary, and placed in the family tomb.  Nearly a decade ago, an Israeli antiquities dealer claimed to possess an ossuary with the inscription, “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus”.  No one questions that the ossuary and the bones date from the correct time period, and it also appears that the first part of the inscription is authentic.  But, prosecutors claim that the defendant skillfully added the words, “brother of Jesus”.

It appears that the academic community is split over the authenticity issue.  The judge in the case is now considering his verdict, but the scientific controversy will hardly be settled by his decision in the criminal trial of Oded Golan.  In a later post, I will offer a book review of The Jesus Dynasty by James Tabor which considers the James ossuary controversy in depth.

 

The law is a ass

Mr. Bumble Mr. Bumble of Oliver Twist is one of Charles Dickens many quirky characters.  Bumble is a meek little soul, dominated by an overbearing wife.  But, when the magistrate informs him that he is legally responsible for her actions, that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction,” the brow-beaten Bumble replies,

If the law supposes that … the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.

Dicken’s insight has lately been pricking at my thoughts regarding the recent spate of teen suicides, focusing our attention on bullying and teen angst over sexual identity.  We have repeated former ELCA presiding Bishop Herb Chilstrom’s challenging question here several times already, but here it is again:

What will you say to your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and others in your churches when they tell you they are homosexual?

“What would Jesus do?” is ‘90s speak for discerning God’s will.  Torah, as broadly understood, is the divine will revealed for the benefit of humankind.  More narrowly construed, Torah is law.  Jesus repeatedly castigated the religious authorities for allowing the letter of the law to interfere with its spirit.  To some, myself included, it is painfully obvious that many who would speak for Christendom offer the letter rather than the spirit, offer Torah as law rather than revelation, offer hurt instead of healing.  My post earlier today contained such an example in the words of the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who pontificated that in spite of the evidence of teen struggles over sexuality … “The church cannot change its understanding of the sinfulness of homosexual acts unless it willfully disobeys the Scripture and rejects the authority of the Bible to reveal the truth about sin and sinfulness”.

Does this Christian leader really believe it is the will of God that our gay youth should be brutalized in body and spirit even to the point of suicide?  For the sake of upholding the authority of Scripture?  Here the voice of Dickens sounds like a clarion, “if the law supposes that … the law is a ass”.  Is it time to step away just a bit, as Bumble implores, from high minded talk of word alone and allow the eye of the law to be “opened by experience—by experience.”  The experience of our gay youth is begging to be seen.

It gets better

 

Continuing the theme of whether you, your congregation, or your denomination is part of the problem or part of the solution, here is a quote from Dr R. Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

The homosexual community will argue that these boys were oppressed by the fact that so many believe that homosexuality is sinful. They respond with calls for the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality. Their logic is easy to understand. If the stigma attached to homosexuality were to disappear, persons who are convinced that they are homosexual in sexual orientation, along with those who are confused, would be free from bullying, the threat of exposure, and injury to their parents and loved ones.

Of course, Christians committed to biblical truth will recognize this as a demand to lie to sinners about their sin. The church cannot change its understanding of the sinfulness of homosexual acts unless it willfully disobeys the Scripture and rejects the authority of the Bible to reveal the truth about sin and sinfulness.”

What do you think?  Are the ELCA gay-friendly policies “a demand to lie to sinners about their sin,” as Mohler suggests?  Although perhaps not as brazen as Mohler’s words, do not the policies of LCMC, Wordalone, and CORE sound the same message?  Is there no way round such Biblical rigidity?  How will that message be received by the kids in the pews?  Will some feel threatened?  Their angst deepened?  Will others feel enabled to bully by the words of their pastor, their parents, their elders, or the policies of their congregation?

Monday miscellany

I spent a couple of days in Milwaukee over the weekend attending the Milwaukee Episcopal Diocesan Convention.  I enjoyed meeting many new Episcopal friends, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori, and I managed to sell a few books.

In addition to the comments in this blog following the posts, I occasionally receive emails.  I’ll reference a few here.

Awhile ago, I received a link to the blog of the new ELCA Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community (SAWC) in Hutchinson, Minnesota, called River of Hope.  Check out the blog that is filled with plenty of good news and certainly plenty of Hope.  Leave a personal comment and best wishes.

Another blog follower from Florida keeps me posted on the local activities of Lutheran CORE.  Seems the CORE email newsletter is encouraging litigation by linking to a Legal Assistance Agency.  The CORE newsletter also offers boilerplate resolutions for congregations to exit the ELCA and join CORE/NALC.

Finally, a blog follower from Maryland sent a link to the Carroll County newspaper article which discussed the activities of former Delaware-Maryland Synod Bishop George Mockro, who the blogger refers to as “a former ELCA bishop who is now stirring up trouble while claiming to regret it.”

Oh, the humanity! UPDATED

Hindenburg In a near sob, radio reporter Herb Morrison spoke these memorable words as the Hindenburg Zeppelin burst into flames and crashed, killing 36 helpless passengers in May of 1937.  Somehow, the words seem appropriate today as we witness one teen suicide after another associated with anti-gay bullying.  On an even greater scale, the suicides are merely the  most extreme consequences of gay angst over self-identity and self-worth, borne of a bullying culture … “an oppressive and unjust reality in which every LGBT person is always and everywhere at risk of becoming the target of violence solely because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A recurring theme of recent posts here is the question whether individual Christians, congregations and denominations are “part of the solution or part of the problem.”  This question, in turn, was triggered by the challenge of former ELCA presiding Bishop, Herb Chilstrom.

What will you say to your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and others in your churches when they tell you they are homosexual?

Although this blog is regularly visited by persons with distinctly differing viewpoints and opinions, few from the conservative side have offered even a meager answer to these questions.  Pastor Tony from Wisconsin, a frequent commenter and an unofficial spokesperson for Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), tepidly offered the letter of a Pastor Sorum that has received quite a bit of blogosphere attention, mostly for its harsh judgments of the ELCA and ELCA clergy, but which also offered the following answer to Bishop Chilstrom’s question.

It may also be true that, in our present fallen condition, they experience sexual desire primarily toward those of the same sex and that this is not something they have chosen. But these feelings do not constitute an identity, to which they must conform. Instead, Jesus gives them their true identity as children of his Father and shows them the way of life in his Word. Perhaps that way will include sufficient healing for marriage to be possible. But if they must go the single way, then Jesus will be enough and more than enough for them and will fill their lives with love and every good gift. Sex, after all, is not the end-all and be-all of life.

This answer seemingly suggests the following points: a) being gay is not an issue of identity, b) proper exposure to the “Word” may result in changing the gayness (pray the gay away), but if not, c) gays must remain single and abstinent, and d) sexual intimacy is not an integral component of human love, anyway.

Ann, a regular commenter here, responded forcefully to Pastor Tony’s endorsement of this answer to the Chilstrom question.  Ann said,

But we are talking about young people who are in such despair that they choose to take their own lives, or to harm themselves in other ways. Tony’s response is not one that helps the vast majority of LGBT youth, and that’s inexcusable to me. They deal with enough trouble without their churches adding to the problems they face.

For a lot of LGBT folks, the church is the single institution that condemns them the most, and destroys their self-worth the most. That makes me sad and angry because it doesn’t have to be that way. There are young gay and lesbian kids at my church who learn that they are God’s children and God loves them. What a gift that is.

Today, I came across a blog previously unknown to me, and I don’t know the background of the blogger, Cody J Sanders, but several comments echo Ann’s response.  The post is entitled, “Why anti-gay bullying is a theological issue.”  Here are several quotes from the post, which claims that many Christians, many congregations, and many denominations are, indeed, part of the problem—and not just the Westboro Baptist lunatics:

These suicides are not acts of “escape” or a “cop-out” from facing life. When LGBT people resort to suicide, they are responding to far more than the pain of a few individual insults or humiliating occurrences. When LGBT people complete suicide it is an extreme act of resistance to an oppressive and unjust reality in which every LGBT person is always and everywhere at risk of becoming the target of violence solely because of sexual orientation or gender identity. They are acts of resistance to a perceived reality in which a lifetime of violence and abuse seems utterly unavoidable.

While a majority of LGBT people may avoid ever becoming the victim of a violence, none will be able to avoid the psychic terror that is visited upon LGBT people with each reminder that this world is one in which people are maimed and killed because of their sexual and gender identities. It is this psychic terror that makes life so difficult for many LGBT people. It is this psychic terror that does the heavy lifting of instrumental, systematic violence. It intends to silence and to destroy from within.

Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base. I find it difficult to believe that even those among us with a vibrant imagination can muster the creative energy to picture a reality in which anti-gay violence and bullying exist without the anti-gay religious messages that support them.

These messages come in many forms, degrees of virulence, and volumes of expression. The most insidious forms, however, are not those from groups like Westboro Baptist Church. Most people quickly dismiss this fanaticism as the red-faced ranting of a fringe religious leader and his small band of followers.

More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay).

If anti-gay bullying has, at any level, an embodied undercurrent of tacit theological legitimation, then we simply cannot circumvent our responsibility to provide a clear, decisive, theological response. Aside from its theological base, anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it calls for acts of solidarity on behalf of the vulnerable and justice on behalf of the oppressed.

To those readers out there who generally disagree with this blog, I urge you to let down your defenses for just a moment and to stop arguing about who is right and who is wrong; about whether the church is following the confessions of the 16th century; about whether this Biblical interpretation is more accurate then that one; about whether you’re allowing reason, science and human experience to intrude into your sola scriptura; and ask yourself—quietly, studiously, prayerfully—and honestly–are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

Oh, the humanity!

UPDATE

Executive Director of the Religious Institute (a multifaith organization dedicated to sexual health and justice), Deborah Haffner, offers an op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post that resonates with the themes of this article.  Thus, this post is updated to include several quotes from the Haffner piece with a link to the whole.  In the first paragraph below, Haffner identifies the problem, and in the second, she raises similar challenging questions to those we have raised here:

All of us have teens and young adults who are gay or lesbian in our congregations, many who are suffering in silence and are at risk. A study done by my colleagues at the Christian Community, found that 14% of teens in religious communities identify as something other than heterosexual. Almost nine in ten of them have not been open about their sexuality with clergy or other adult leaders in their faith communities. Almost half have not disclosed their sexual orientation to their parents. And nonheterosexual teens who regularly attend religious services were twice as likely as heterosexual teens to have seriously considered suicide. We have known for more than thirty years that at least one third of all suicides to teens are to gay youth.

Our young people are dying because we are not speaking out for them. Ask yourself honestly, do the LGBT youth in your community know that you welcome and support them? How would they know? Would they come to you as their minister, rabbi, or imam to talk about these issues? Would a LGBT youth feel welcome in your faith community’s youth group? What have you done to make sure that these youth know they are loved and supported, that you understand that they too are God’s children?

Finally, Haffner issues a call to clergy to bravely speak to the issue, from their pulpits, this coming Sunday.  Please read her full article and consider how you and your congregation may become part of the solution.

Friday shoutouts

Platz ordination Did you know that it’s been forty years since the first woman was ordained in a North American Lutheran denomination (a predecessor to the ELCA)?  Here’s a link and a quote from the ELCA news release:

In 1970 the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) ordained [Rev. Elizabeth A. Platz] at U Maryland’s Memorial Chapel, where she serves today.  Platz, the first woman ordained a Lutheran pastor in North America, has served her entire ministry as UM Lutheran campus pastor.  On Nov. 22 this year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will mark the 40th anniversary of her ordination.

Pastor Sarah Scherschligt, who blogs as Barefoot Pastor, offers an excellent retrospective as well as questioning whether female clergy are all the way the way to full acceptance yet.

I have blogged extensively about the Rites of Reception for LGBTQ clergy who were formerly ordained extraordinarily.  In particular, I focused on the San Francisco Rite a few months ago and the St Paul Rite a few weeks ago.  Other, less publicized, Rites are also proceeding forthwith.  

Pastor Jen NagelLast Sunday, September 26th, Pastor Jen Nagel was welcomed to the roster of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA in a Rite of Reception at Salem English Lutheran Church of Minneapolis where Pastor Jen has served since 2003.  Actually, the service was held at a nearby theater due to construction issues at Salem, which will soon move into new space in a shared ministry with Lyndale United Church of Christ (of course, the United Church of Christ is a full communion partner with the ELCA). Pastor Jen was ordained at Salem English Lutheran in January of 2008.  Minneapolis Area Synod Bishop Craig Johnson presided at the Rite of Reception.

Pastor Lura GroenOn November 7th, Pastor Lura Groen of Grace Lutheran Church of Houston, Texas will be added to the roster of the Gulf Coast Synod in a Rite of Reception at Grace.  Gulf Coast Synod Bishop Mike Rinehart will preside at the Rite, which is being called “No Longer Strangers”.  On the homepage of Grace’s website, Pastor Lura offers her gratitude to the courageous pioneers of Grace for extending a call to her:

Dear People of Grace-

Two years ago, you made the bold and Spirit-filled decision to call the best pastor for you, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. And being the person you called, I’m awfully glad you did! But also, as your pastor, I am so proud of your witness.

It is a good thing to see the Spirit at work in the church, and to celebrate what God has done at Grace. And even more beautiful to know this is only one of the great things God is doing here!

I hope you see the Holy Spirit working in your own, individual lives too! In addition to the presence that calms and comforts you, I hope you experience God calling you into new, risky, beautiful things. And- I hope you’re sharing them with each other, and with me, when it happens!

I am always proud to serve such a justice-loving congregation, and such wonderful people.

Pastor Lura