We moved last week, just down the block, but packing, transporting, and unpacking a household is an onerous task regardless of the distance. Still walking around boxes and nursing a stiff old body that will turn social-security-eligible next week. In the middle of it all, I had a book signing on Saturday, and Sunday marked the third installment of a four part series I am teaching at my congregation about the canonization of the New Testament—the centuries long process of determining which writings would become the sacred books of Christianity. A story of conflict and controversy and erecting boundaries to define the outsider. I offer these personal notes as explanation for the dearth of posts on this blog recently. But today I’ll offer my thoughts on a subject that has been festering for awhile.
Pastor Cary and Pastor Jeff are commenters to this blog with a different point of view than my own. I’m decidedly pro-revised-ministry-policies, and they’re both opposed. Pastor Jeff suggests that his Arizona congregation has or will soon leave the ELCA and Pastor Carey is a leader of a SE Minnesota group called “Faithfulness Gathering” whose vision is To create a home for faithful Lutherans in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. The clear implication is that those of us who support the ECLA policies aren’t numbered among the faithful.
Pastor Jeff has twice invited me, via a comment on my blog, to write a post about an ELCA synod that has significant financial difficulties. Pastor Cary writes that the ELCA is a “sinking ship” and the only question posed on his blog is whether to join CORE or LCMC. Why do these two and many others keep pointing to negative ELCA statistics and anecdotal evidence of pain in the parishes? That several hundred ELCA congregations have or will sever their ties with the ELCA is undisputed as is the knowledge that thousands of individuals will also move elsewhere. No doubt about it, these departures and the residual anguish in many congregations are immensely painful for the ELCA.
But why chirp about it?
Some would suggest that it is mean-spirited reveling in the struggles of the ELCA, pleasure in the pain of one’s opponents, but I’ll give them more credit than that. Instead, I think they seek to prove a point, and they cite the pain of the ELCA as proof—of what? That the decisions of CWA09 were wrong? To create a collective “buyer’s remorse” regarding the decisions of CWA09? There’s a certain “you were warned” tone to the comments. The admonition “if the ELCA adopts pro-gay ministry policies, then there will be mass defections” has come true. That’s why it’s also necessary to overstate and hype the defections. Why, some suggest that the ELCA itself is damaged beyond repair (a sentiment Pastor Cary may share). But fear not, Lutheran CORE will leap into the breach with their proposal for a “reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism.” Drum roll, please.
If maintaining unity in the ELCA is a greater priority than enacting justice, then I see their point. Steady as she goes. Don’t make waves. Avoid controversy. Refrain from challenging the folks in the pews with enlightened notions of human sexuality; after all, the gays left their church a long time ago. Don’t talk about sex at all.
Change can be painful. Don’t free the slaves, Mr. Lincoln, or we’ll secede from the union. And when we do, it’s really you who leave us. Must our kids remind us that doing the right thing is not always popular? So, the next time someone flaunts the latest congregation to vote itself out of the ELCA, I ask what does that prove other than that the ELCA was willing to risk, to take a stand, to do the right thing despite the self-fulfilling threats of the secessionists?
BTW, I’ll ask my canonization class on Sunday if we’re unbiblical.