Lutheran eyes are on Indianapolis this weekend and the Convocation of Lutheran Core, the organized opposition to the recent ELCA convention action approving gay clergy and moving toward marriage equality. Will Core breakaway or choose to remain within the ELCA as the loyal opposition? Perhaps we’ll know more on Monday.
In August, the ELCA national convention in Minneapolis approved the ordination of persons in lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships and also opened the door for congregations to support and recognize such relationships (gay marriage?). Lutheran Core maintained a hospitality room at the convention and served as the organized opposition to the various LGBT ballot measures. Defeated at the Churchwide assembly, Core has called for a Convocation this weekend to consider their options.
While serving as host for the 2009 convention, Minnesota is also home to 800,000 Lutherans, about 1/6th of ELCA Lutherans nationwide, according to an article appearing today in Minnesota’s leading newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The article quotes several Minnesotans who will be among the 1200 or so who will gather at the Core convocation, and they express a wait and see attitude.
There are mixed signals coming from the Lutheran Core camp. On the one hand, they have counseled patience and encouraged persons to stay in the ELCA—for the time being. Lutheran pastor Dave Glesne of Redeemer Lutheran in Fridley is quoted in the STRIB article: “I wouldn’t expect any major decisions for at least a year”, he said. According to the article, Glesne “thinks that the short duration [of the Core Convocation agenda] is an advantage because it’s enough time to discuss an action plan but not enough time to implement one.” On the other hand, the harsh rhetoric that sounds from the Core camp raises questions how Core could remain within the ELCA as the loyal opposition while shouting (from their website):
The ELCA is the one that has departed from the teaching of the Bible
We just voted out the Word of God, sound reason, and the good orders of creation
We can no longer in good conscience participate in this relationship with the offices in
It is going to be very hard for faithful Lutherans to support the ELCA when the ELCA is willing to reject the clear teaching of Scripture
and their unofficial spokespersons, retired theologians Carl Braaten and James Nestingen, pen articles accusing the ELCA:
[of] “heresies and heterodoxies now rampant and tolerated in the institutions of the ELCA” [Braaten]
“the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America effectively declared that it is no longer a church” [Nestingen]
And then there is the matter of money. A cynical view suggests that the ELCA pastors who flirt with Core yet remain in the ELCA are unwilling to sacrifice their ELCA pension and benefits unless and until Core is a viable financial alternative. In a controversial move criticized by many, CORE has urged a financial boycott of ELCA ministries, and mission congregations ask CORE to consider who and what is really hurt by such actions. ELCA presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has posted a web video in which he says,
I am deeply concerned when ELCA members and congregations are being encouraged to signal disagreement [with convention actions] by withholding financial support because the unintended consequence is to diminish our capacity for mission.
Blogger Susan Hogan asks:
Is the bishop being smart by going public about the money situation just before the Lutheran CORE meeting? Or is he playing into the dissenters hand, giving them more weight and power than they deserve or have?
Finally, on the eve of the Lutheran Core Convocation, former presiding Bishop Herb Chilstrom invites “churchmanship”.
In response to CORE’s intent to seek other avenues for how it may relate to the ELCA, Chilstrom said the consequences of such action “would be corporate, personal and immediate. We would see the mission of the ELCA in this country and around the globe hobbled and maimed.”
For years many Lutherans had hoped for the kinds of change that came at the assembly, Chilstrom wrote. “During all that time we never tried to organize another church body or some kind of independent entity within the ELCA,” he said. “We never withdrew or reduced our support for the mission of the church. We never changed our wills or estate plans to cripple the seminaries, global missions, or other ministries of the church.”
He ended his statement by asking, “Can we think of a better resolution than the one we reached at our recent assembly, one that allows us to live with diversity in matters that are not central to the proclamation of law and gospel? This is the time to think and think and pray and pray again — as the church did at its assembly — before taking action.”
Will Lutheran Core and its supporters rise to the call for churchmanship?