The Christian Century is a non-denominational biweekly magazine that has long been recognized as the preeminent independent publication of mainline Protestantism. Its prestigious status is reflected in the list of esteemed contributors to the magazine’s pages. Recognizable names from the past include Jane Addams, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King Jr., Richard John Neuhaus, and Albert Schweitzer. More recently, the list includes Martin Marty, Carol Zaleski, Walter Brueggemann, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Will Willimon.
The magazine also offers a blog of similar high repute called Theolog:
Welcome to Theolog, the online community of the Christian Century, a biweekly journal of news, commentary and opinion. At the Century we believe that the Christian faith calls Christians to a profound engagement with the world. We think Christians can and must articulate their faith in a way that is meaningful and intellectually compelling to those around them.
Theolog will allow conversation between writers and readers to take place at the speed of the Internet. Although some of this conversation will be in response to articles in the magazine, Theolog will also offer original material—material that does not appear in the magazine or on the Century’s Web site.
Since the conclusion of the ELCA churchwide assembly in Minneapolis last month, Theolog the blog has offered a post and Century the magazine has offered an editorial on the convention actions which approved gay clergy and possibly gay marriage.
First, the editorial:
Leave it to Lutherans to address the issue of gay clergy with repeated references to a “bound conscience.” The term echoes the words of Martin Luther, who when he was put on trial for his critique of the Catholic Church declared that he would not recant, for he was “bound in conscience by the word of God.” Respect for the bound consciences of opponents helped foster a civil debate last month in Minneapolis, where the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow noncelibate gays on its clergy roster.
The editorial ponders the delicate balancing of opposing views and wonders whether the two camps will stay together. Don’t we all. I have recently blogged on the view of conservative theologian David Yeago that those who disagree with the Convention actions should nevertheless stay close and also on the upcoming Convocation of Lutheran Core that sounds the ominous drum beat of internecine warfare. Based on the harsh rhetoric spewing from the Lutheran Core / WordAlone camp, it is doubtful that they would agree with the concluding comments in the Century editorial:
The church has not abandoned moral law; it is saying that the crucial biblical standard for sexual relationships is faithfulness (“lifelong, monogamous”), not heterosexuality. So let that standard be applied. Given the sometimes nonexistent legal status of gay relationships, that may be no simple task. As for gospel: the church will need to demonstrate in a compelling way what Lutherans are good at asserting: that Christian identity is based neither on sexual orientation nor on one’s convictions about sexual orientation or any other moral issue, but on the promises of God made known in Christ. Drawing on their rich tradition of law and gospel, Lutherans can make a unique witness of love and justice toward gays.
The blog entry veers from the Convention action and ponders the question whether there is a Protestant bias toward married clergy, quite apart from the issue of gay or straight and marriage equality. Blogger John Dart notes that the resolution fine print makes “a commonsense allowance that not everyone can be expected to have found a compatible true love by the time they are educated and ready for professional ministry.” From this, Dart muses about the veiled skepticism toward single clergy that may be present during the call process to a Protestant congregation:
Does the (stereo)typical congregation desire a pastor and spouse who will be models of married love? Or do they fear that an attractive and vivacious pastor who is unattached might alienate the affections of some married people in the pews? Or that a single clergyperson raises the risk of scandal?
Catholics require their clergy to be celibate single men. Protestants require their pastors, it seems, to be happily married.