Thorns Former professor James Nestingen has long been a pricking thorn in the side of the ELCA. 

Perhaps his deep seated resentment goes back to the formation of the ELCA a generation ago when the new constitution mandated gender, laity, and racial quotas for voting members–those most likely to be included are the manageable, those eager to please–instead of the elites–those with wisdom, fidelity and zeal (emphasis mine but the words are his).

Perhaps it was the full communion agreement with the Episcopal church more than a decade ago, when he was instrumental in the formation of the WordAlone Network whose initial raison d’être was resistance to the Episcopal dilution of Lutheran confessional purity.

Perhaps it was his failed candidacy for ELCA presiding bishop at the 2001 Church wide assembly when he received approximately 22% of the vote.  Ironically, his concession speech included a call to unity; “fraction is terrible”, he said then.  How quickly he forgets.

Perhaps the murky circumstances of his early retirement from his tenured professorship at Luther Seminary a few years ago have grated upon his grudges.

Whatever the reason, he continues to spew foul drivel that stretches the truth.  I blogged earlier about his “whoppers”, but they keep on a’comin’.   A hat tip to Both Saint and Cynic for pointing out Nestingen’s latest missive, which I then found on WordAlone’s website in their latest newsletter.

Nestingen starts in a familiar place, the recurring mischaracterization and diminution of the Biblical interpretation of those who support the revised ELCA policies regarding gay clergy.  He suggests, per usual, that the ELCA is now “in direct opposition to God’s biblical Word,” again dismissing, not merely the exegetical abilities of many, but the very legitimacy of the ethical discernment of his opponents.  It’s as if he says, if you don’t read the Bible my way, then you don’t read the Bible.  Then, in a perverse twist of logic, Nestingen suggests it is he who supports the ECLA constitution against the unconstitutional decision of the ELCA voting members (well, maybe it’s not twisted logic; if the constitution is flawed for its inclusivity, then it follows that the flawed voting members would reach a flawed decision).  Using one of his favorite words, Nestingen suggests that he and his ilk have been “unchurched” by the unconstitutional actions of CWA09.

Nestingen then jumps into a discussion of “the office of the keys” and “binding and loosing”, the idea of naming and judging sin: “pastors must be free to use the power of the keys to bind and loose—to challenge inappropriate behaviors and forgive the penitent,” Nestingen writes.  Is this the crux of the matter?  Curtailment of the pastor’s prerogative to judge and condemn?

Nestingen was against the constitution before he was for it, but then he turned against it again.

“[T]he assembly action must be rejected,” he states, and he offers two modes of resistance.

The first is not unconstitutional but redundant.  He suggests congregations amend their constitution and bylaws to ensure that their congregation will not call gay clergy or bless same gender relationships.  Ok, fine, but that is already the congregational prerogative, and such constitutional amendments or bylaws do not increase the “local option” policies already in effect.

Nestingen’s second proposal is more onerous … the wedge policy of withholding financial support of the ELCA.  Even Nestingen allows that this is a questionable practice, “Withholding funds is an inherently scattershot form of resistance that instead of focusing on the particulars diffuses into all aspects of the church’s activities,” but he quickly overcomes his own objections because “the ELCA is particularly vulnerable at this point,” and he concludes that a financial boycott is warranted.  His end justifies his means.

While some individuals and congregations would leave the ELCA, Nestingen apparently plans to stay and to continue as a pricking thorn irritant.  Whoopee.  At least I’ll have plenty of fodder for my blog.