Tag Archives: Poverty

How Can This Be? ELCA Assembly Opening Sessions

Opening plenaryThe morning and early afternoon of the first day of CWA11 were dry and boring—a lot of “how-to” instructions on procedures as well as introduction of matters to come later.  But, with the afternoon worship, the Assembly began to soar.  Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson’s sermon was interrupted by “amens” and applause as he offered powerful words of hope and encouragement based upon the Lucan gospel theme of Mary’s annunciation.

“How can this be?” asked Mary, shocked by the angel’s revelation, and this phrase became the bishop’s refrain as he challenged the Assembly to hear Mary’s song and to dare to follow the call of the Spirit to do mission in the 21st century.

So are we ready for the Holy Spirit to move us with Mary? I believe that, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we are being moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to sing Mary’s song of God’s disrupting, dislocating, relocating power.

Friends, you know and I know that religious leaders singing Mary’s song are not packing people into sports stadiums for so-called religious rallies. In a consumer-oriented, competitive, what-has-God-done-for-me-lately? religious marketplace, we are not going to hear much about God dismantling structures that marginalize and exclude people in poverty or those whose race or gender or citizenship or sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities or health make them unwanted, unnoticed.

But that is Mary’s song, and it is Mary’s song that the Holy Spirit will give you the courage and voice to sing. It is Mary’s song of God bringing the despised and the marginalized, the outcast and the downcast, the defeated and the denied, and even
the dead into a new place. The place where God is building the new creation—the new community in Christ.

When we have been disrupted by God’s grace, when we have been dislocated, when we have been knocked off balance by God’s word of judgment and left wondering, “How can this be?” the Holy Spirit moves us. The Holy Spirit relocates us into God’s
abundant mercy, into a community of faith that with Mary believes “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

Oh yes, this is who we are as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—a community freed in Christ to serve. So let this assembly unfold. Come, Holy Spirit. Come with your power, Holy Spirit. Move us as you moved Mary. Move us to sing, to live Mary’s song. Move us to faith. Move us to a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. Move us to respond with Mary, “Here am I—here we are. Let it be to me—let it be to us, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, according to your word.”


If the opening worship was the main act, there was also a sideshow.  The clownish Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, the same who protest at military funerals, attempted to picket our Assembly, but the host Convention Center refused to let them on the grounds.  Thus, their demonstration went unnoticed a mile away, and after an hour they departed.

Malaria CampaignAfter worship and after dinner, the Assembly returned for Plenary Session II Monday evening, and the main item on the agenda was the kickoff of the ELCA Malaria Campaign.  The presentations roused the voting members to the point that I half expected a motion from the floor to raise the appeal to a higher level than $15 million.  Despite the fact that malaria is both preventable and treatable, a child dies from malaria every 45 seconds.  Every 45 seconds!

Here are the opening paragraphs of the resolution adopted by a vote of 968-19.

To launch the ELCA Malaria Campaign under the auspices of ELCA World Hunger as a major fundraising effort of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, its synods and congregations, and its affiliated ministries, auxiliaries, and individual members, that will encompass the best efforts of this church to join companion churches in Africa and
ELCA full-communion partners to contain deaths related to malaria by 2015;

To join with domestic and global partners to address malaria as a disease intensified by poverty within the context of comprehensive and sustainable community development and in close cooperation and partnership with this church’s companion churches in Africa and The Lutheran World Federation;

To invite every congregation, synod, affiliated ministry, auxiliary, and individual member of this church to make a contribution toward the goal of $15 million over the next four years (2011–2015) while emphasizing that gifts to the ELCA Malaria Campaign are not intended to replace giving to ELCA World Hunger but demonstrate commitment above and beyond normal ELCA World Hunger giving;

Over $1.5 million was pledged before the Assembly opened, and another $150,000 or so was pledged during the assembly.

After the plenary, I fired up my laptop in the lobby (the only place wireless was available without an exorbitant fee), but I barely checked my email before I was swept up in an engaging conversation that lasted late into the night—thus setting a precedent that would continue for the duration.

In celebration of St. Martin’s Table

St Martins Front In 1984, a new restaurant opened in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, between the west bank campus of the University of Minnesota and Augsburg, a private liberal arts college of the ELCA.  Restaurants come and go, and this new start was hardly noteworthy except that the goal was not to make money but to give it away, and they have succeeded beyond the founder’s wildest imagination.  By the time that St. Martin’s Table serves its final customers this December, 26 years after it first offered delicious, homemade vegetarian fare, it will have gifted over $700,000 to alleviate hunger locally and globally.

St. Martin’s Table is an outreach ministry of the Community of St. Martin. It is a bookstore and restaurant open to the general public. St. Martin’s Table strives to be a center for peacemaking and justice seeking. This focus springs from the Community’s faith, centered in the life and teachings of Jesus, and so we seek to provide hospitality to all people in their journeys toward peace, justice and wholeness.

St Martin's TableThe existence of St. Martin’s Table was one of those things that lay somewhere in the recesses of my mind.  I knew about it, but I didn’t really know about it.  Thus, when I stopped in for lunch for the first time a month or so ago, my response was “why haven’t I been here before” and “I can’t wait to come back.”  The homemade gazpacho and generous wedge of carrot cake were part of the attraction, but it was much more than that.

The food served is a celebration of God’s gifts to us. To that end, St. Martin’s Table serves vegetarian meals with and emphasis on locally grown and organic food. Volunteer servers not only contribute their time, but also contribute their tips to programs that alleviate hunger in the global community.

Conversation takes place not only around the table at noon, but also during programs centered on peacemaking, justice issues and community-building through the arts. St. Martin’s Table is also available for study, worship, fellowship and special events for the wider community.

St. Martin’s Table strives to be fiscally sound and to be a good steward of all resources, especially as they relate to the long-term vitality of the Table. As an alternative business, it is our priority to model a more just way to live and have that reflected in the relationships we cultivate. The Table strives to be a place of peace where creative visions for a world of justice are welcomed and nurtured.

And who is St. Martin, the namesake of the community and the restaurant/bookstore?

The restaurant/bookstore, like the ecumenical community, was named for five Martins who have been models of change, truth and resistance in the Christian faith:

  • Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer who taught the theology of the cross
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., for his leadership in nonviolent protest to end racism and injustice
  • Martin of Tours, a fourth century Roman soldier turned pacifist
  • Martin de Porres, a Spanish-Indian healer who served the poor of Peru in the 1600s
  • Martin Niemoeller, a German pastor imprisoned for his nonviolent resistance to the Nazis during World War II

On August 25th, I received an email that announced that The Table would serve its last meal this coming December.

It is with thankfulness for all of the hospitality that has been shown here for 26 years, and also with great sadness that we announce that St. Martin’s Table will be closing in December, 2010.

Bookstore manager Kathleen Olsen encouraged people to continue to support The Table between now and Christmas. “We hope that our loyal clientele, in addition to those who have never been to The Table, will join us in the upcoming months for good food, good books, and good conversation. Help us celebrate a great 26 years!”

Drop in for lunch or leave a greeting on the Facebook page ( which lists the Thursday menu as “Soups: Creamy Curry Split Pea and Chilled Cucumber Yogurt followed by Cashew Carrot (cold). Spreads: Swiss Dill, Tofuna and Bunny Luv”).

What is “progressive Christianity”?

A lengthy essay by Brad R Braxton (Baptist minister and seminary professor) appearing in the Huffington Post seeks to answer this question.  Since this blog purports to be about “progressive, religious themes”, we’ll pick up this thread.  Braxton writes:

According to some accounts, the term “progressive Christian” surfaced in the 1990s and began replacing the more traditional term “liberal Christian.” During this period, some Christian leaders wanted to increasingly identify an approach to Christianity that was socially inclusive, conversant with science and culture, and not dogmatically adherent to theological litmus tests such as a belief in the Bible’s inerrancy. The emergence of contemporary Christian progressivism was a refusal to make the false choice of “redeeming souls or redeeming the social order.”

Progressive Christians believe that sacred truth is not frozen in the ancient past. While respecting the wisdom of the past, progressive Christians are open to the ways truth is moving forward in the present and future for the betterment of the world. Progressive Christianity recognizes that our sacred texts and authoritative traditions must be critically engaged and continually reinterpreted in light of contemporary circumstances to prevent religion from becoming a relic.

During the recent biennial convention of Lutherans Concerned North America, I attended a breakout session for “progressive clergy” (I was a usurper since I’m not clergy), and the threshold question was raised, “what does it mean to be a religious progressive?”  Since time was limited, we didn’t explore all nuances of the question, but we quickly focused on the prophetic.  Braxton also stresses the the prophetic nature of religious progressivism.

Prophetic religion involves a willingness to interrupt an unjust status quo so that more people might experience peace and prosperity … Prophetic evangelicalism insists that Jesus came to save us not only from our personal sins but also from the systematic sins that oppress neighborhoods and nations. Jesus presented his central theme in social and political terms. He preached and taught consistently about the “kingdom of God” — God’s beloved community where social differences no longer divide and access to God’s abundance is equal.

Braxton quotes Biblical scholar Obery Hendricks:

In our time, when many seem to think that Christianity goes hand in hand with right-wing visions of the world, it is important to remember that there has never been a conservative prophet. Prophets have never been called to conserve social orders that have stratified inequities of power and privilege and wealth; prophets have always been called to change them so all can have access to the fullest fruits of life.

Rev Dr. Serene Jones In response to Fox News resident idiot Glen Beck, who foolishly suggested that social justice is not in the Bible, the President of Union Theological Seminary, the Rev Dr. Serene Jones, penned a tongue in cheek response (quoted here from Telling Secrets blog):

Dear Mr. Beck,

I write with exciting news. Bibles are en route to you, even as we speak!

Kindly let me explain. On your show, you said that social justice is not in the Bible, anywhere. Oh my, Mr. Beck. At first we were so confused. We couldn’t figure out how you could possibly miss this important theme. And then it hit us: maybe you don’t have a Bible to read. Let me assure you, this is nothing to be ashamed of. Many people live Bible-less lives. But we want to help out. And so, as I write this, our students are collecting Bibles from across the nation, packing them in boxes, and sending them to your offices. Grandmothers, uncles, children, co-workers — indeed, Bible-readers from all walks of life have eagerly contributed. They should be arriving early next week, hopefully just in time for your next show. Read them with zeal!

Oh, I almost forgot: we’ve marked a few of the social justice passages, just in case you can’t find them.

What does this mean in actual practice?  How do progressive Christians live out the prophetic call to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Of course, one could cite the progressive march toward full inclusion of the LGBTQ community that is occurring in our mainline Protestant churches.  For instance, seven LGBT pastors who were previously ordained by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries but not by the ELCA will be received as ELCA rostered pastors through a “Rite of Reception” this coming Sunday, July 25.Seven California Pastors

Here’s another example gleaned from today’s blogosphere.  Blog friend Susan Hogan reports that “Pastors for peace head to Cuba” (ELCA critic and WordAlone President Jaynan Clark will likely flip out again in response to this report).

A caravan carrying 100 tons of “humanitarian” aid is scheduled to cross into Cuba today, leaders of Pastors for Peace said Tuesday at a news conference at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in McAllen, Texas.

The [group] has broken the U.S. embargo against Cuba 20 times previously. The embargo includes travel and trade restrictions.

Pastors for Peace is an outreach of the New York-based Interreligious Foundation for Community, which delivers aid to Latin America and the Caribbean.

And another from fellow blogger Terence Weldon on Open Tabernacle in an article entitled “Authentic Catholicism”.  While discussing the water relief efforts of an African Catholic diocese, Weldon offers the following indictment of the patriarchal, clerical, hierarchal structures of the Vatican:

To judge from either the most outspoken voices of the Catholic right, or from the anti-Catholic opposition, you could easily think that Catholicism’s most distinctive features are an insistence on blind obedience to the Pope and Catechism, and puritanical sexual ethics.  The empirical evidence from actual research, shows a very different picture … [Weldon cites two reports which gauge parishoner’s own sense of what it means to be Catholic] Once again, I do not see in there any reference to automatic obedience, still less to compliance with “official” sexual ethics. But in both these characterizations of Catholic “identity”, a sense of social responsibility and concern for the poor ranked high (emphasis added)- which is what the Ghana contribution to clean water is all about.

And then there is the silly charge by conservatives that progressives don’t uphold the moral standards of the Bible.  Jesus called his followers to a higher morality that upheld the spirit of the law often in conflict with its letter, to uplift the alien and the outcast, and to love one’s neighbor.  Braxton quotes author Amy-Jill Levine who imagines Jesus chiding a narrow minded, exclusivist Christian who wrongly believes his status is based on offering an appropriate creedal confession:

If you flip back to the Gospel of Matthew … you’ll notice in chapter 25, at the judgment of the sheep and the goats, that I am not interested in those who say ‘Lord, Lord,’ but in those who do their best to live a righteous life: feeding the hungry, visiting people in prison …  [Jesus continues] I am saying that I am the way, not you, not your church, not your reading of John’s Gospel, and not the claim of any individual Christian or any particular congregation. I am making the determination, and it is by my grace that anyone gets in, including you. Do you want to argue?

ELCA Lutheran Disaster Relief to Haiti swells

As the week draws to a close, the ELCA announced that total contributions received for Haiti now exceed $4.6 million!

CHICAGO (ELCA) — Since the earthquake in Haiti one month ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has received over 27,000 gifts totaling more than $4.2 million to support humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. According to ELCA Treasurer Christina Jackson-Skelton, the ELCA received an additional $320,000 in a matching grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, bringing the overall total to more than $4.6 million in gifts to the ELCA.
     “We’ve seen a phenomenal response,” said the Rev. Daniel Rift, director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal. Rift said members of the ELCA have been “faithful in their giving, bearing witness to the hope for the Lutheran church and communities in Haiti.”
     One-quarter of Haiti’s population has been directly affected by the earthquake and that presents an overwhelming challenge for those responding with humanitarian aid, said Rift. “The only way to truly, effectively respond is to build long-term partnerships with Haitians,” he said.
     Financial gifts from the 4.6-million-member ELCA are used to purchase and distribute medicine, drinking water, food, emergency shelter, sanitation and hygiene kits and other materials to aid survivors of the earthquake. Lutherans are also working to provide psychosocial services and other support.
     The funds are distributed to three partner organizations of the ELCA working on the ground in Haiti — The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Geneva; Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Baltimore; and Church World Service (CWS), New York.

ELCA Lutheran Haiti disaster response

On January 12th, two and 1/2 weeks ago, the earthquake disaster hit Haiti.  Immediately, on the 13th, the ELCA announced an immediate commitment of $250,000 toward disaster relief and also promised another $500,000 in anticipation of receipt of sufficient donations from ELCA members and member churches.

On January 15th, the ELCA announced it would keep a phone bank open to receive contributions and also announced a “strong and generous response from members” that could soon raise the ELCA contribution to $1 million. 

On the 19th, the ELCA announced it had received at least $1.2 million or more when all the checks were counted.

Haiti relief On the 20th, the first convoy of Lutheran World Federation (LWF) relief supplies arrived in Port au Prince.

Also on the 20th, Lutheran CORE spokesperson Erma Wolf broke with CORE’s financial boycott of the ELCA, stating, “I am going to make a suggestion, request, perhaps plea is the best word for it, now,” she wrote.  “Send an offering to the ELCA Vision for Mission Fund.”

On the 22nd, the total gifted to the ELCA reached $1.6 million.

On the 29th came the announcement that the state of Florida had enlisted the services of Lutheran Disaster Response to assist with processing Haitians with US passports through Florida airports into the US.

Bishop Hanson forum Also on the 29th, presiding bishop Mark Hanson issued a letter to ELCA constituencies announcing the ELCA gifts had reached $2.5 million, summarizing the ELCA efforts to date, and encouraging further member contributions.  His letter is printed in full below:

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it;
if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
–1 Corinthians 12:26

Almost two weeks have passed since the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The outpouring of gifts from members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to ELCA Disaster Response has enabled a swift response on behalf of this church. 

Thank you for your generous financial support which now totals more than $2.5 million. Many gifts are still being counted. Our community-based partners are already providing:

  • Two water purification systems to bring clean water to 25,000 people.
  • Emergency food and medical supplies to thousands.
  • Blankets and tents to shelter 10,000 people who are homeless.

Funding, distributed through three partners, will increase as giving continues.

  • $300,000 has been sent to The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a key responder and member of Action by Churches Together (ACT). The funds support LWF efforts to provide shelter to people left homeless by the quake. 
  • $150,000 has been sent to Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Baltimore, for material aid.
  • $150,000 will be sent to Church World Service (CWS) for construction of temporary water systems and distribution of water purification materials. 

In addition, $25,000 has been sent to Lutheran Services of Florida for initial support to refugees and Haitian Americans entering or returning to the United States.

We are pleased that Louis Dorvillier, director for International Development and Disaster Response in the ELCA Global Mission program unit, is part of a delegation to his country of origin with LWF and ACT.

Your generosity makes this life-saving work possible. As we celebrate this outpouring of gifts and prayers, we also know that we have a long road to travel together. There is so much more to be done. This church is committed to walking with our brothers and sisters in Haiti for years to come; your continued support is needed to provide ongoing care.

I encourage you to visit the ELCA Disaster Response (http://www.elca.org/disaster) Web site for updated information, worship resources, bulletin inserts and details on how to offer financial support. General mission-support dollars and gifts to ELCA Vision for Mission make it possible for 100 percent of your gifts designated for Haiti Earthquake Relief to be used entirely for this response effort.

To give today, go online (www.elca.org/haitiearthquake) or call 800-638-3522.

In God’s grace,

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Lutheran CORE financial boycott of ELCA revisited

Yesterday I came across a two week old newspaper article from Pipestone, Minnesota, a small city on the prairie of SW Minnesota.  The article reported on Tensions Within the Church Body, referring to the ELCA and the Lutheran CORE opposition.  It was a well written piece which addressed the status of a couple of local ELCA churches, and it also quoted extensively from Pastor Erma Wolf, one of the primary spokespersons for Lutheran CORE.  Although several of her comments merely parroted Lutheran CORE talking points, I was struck by this quote:

“I’m not withholding my church offerings and I would not encourage a congregation to do that,” CORE’s Wolf said. “As long as we’re in the ELCA, we need to be financial stewards of the church.”

This is striking, of course, because Wolf deviated from the Lutheran CORE party line, which has consistently encouraged ELCA congregations to withhold financial support of the ELCA.  On August 22, before the 2009 Church wide assembly had closed, the CORE newsletter stated,  “Lutheran CORE leaders are inviting faithful Lutheran congregations and individuals to direct funding away from the national church body because of the decisions made this week by the Churchwide Assembly.”  Furthermore, the Lutheran CORE website promotes a paper by Pastor Steven King which attempts to provide a justification for withholding financial support of the ELCA.

This morning, Pastor Wolf has taken her views a significant step further.  In an article posted on two blogs, Satis Est, her own personal blog and on Lutheran CORE’s blog, she proposes a radical departure from the Lutheran CORE financial boycott.  “I am going to make a suggestion, request, perhaps plea is the best word for it, now,” she writes.

“Send an offering to the ELCA Vision for Mission Fund,” Pastor Wolf pleads.

Haiti Of course, one could minimize Pastor Wolf’s radical departure from the Lutheran CORE position by pointing out the exceptional circumstances of the Haiti earthquake, which is the occasion of her appeal.  Yet, her own stated rationale goes further than Haiti (bearing in mind, her newspaper quote before Haiti, “As long as we’re in the ELCA, we need to be financial stewards of the church.”):

Why? Because the main reason the ELCA International Disaster Relief Fund can dedicate such a high percentage of the offerings it receives to those who are most in need is because the ELCA Churchwide budget covers the cost of offices, lights, office machines, and staffing expenses. That is part of the mission work of this denomination. The Disaster Relief folks don’t have to pay for that stuff, so their money can go to places like Haiti. (And the flood victims in Iowa, and the hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast, and the tornado victims in Oklahoma, and you name the places where the ELCA has been in the past 10 years.)

Kudos to Pastor Wolf. 

One can only hope that her good sense and compassion rubs off on her cronies at Lutheran CORE.  Perhaps she sees that the CORE financial boycott has been a classic “cut off the nose to spite the face” effort from the outset.  Perhaps she understands that the financial boycott affects those who need ELCA missions and ministries the most.  Perhaps she senses that the boycott serves only to depict Lutheran CORE as mean-spirited, vindictive, and manipulative.  Certainly, Wolf’s plea reflects an adult understanding of the positive benefits that flow from the denominational infrastructure of the ELCA, something which Lutheran CORE as a separate denomination can only aspire to years down the road.

Most importantly, let’s hope that we can mark this as a breakthrough in the acrimonious relationship that has developed between CORE and the ELCA.  Again, kudos to Pastor Wolf.

ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans: the Journey Continues #ELCA #Lutheran

For many in the ELCA, the biggest event last summer was the Youth Gathering in New Orleans and not the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis.  Here is a list of earlier blogposts about the 37,000 who gathered in Louisiana in July, 2009:

ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans July 25

ELCA Youth Gathering: the journey to New Orleans July 28

New Orleans Resident Thanks ELCA Youth July 31

The theme of the gathering was “Jesus, Justice, and Jazz.”  During the gathering, the youth raised over $150,000 toward world hunger relief, and that effort continues with the “JJJ Music Tour” featuring several of the musicians and the music that pulsated through the New Orleans Superdome.Lost and Found

The “JJJ Music Tour” is an extension of the challenge. It features the hip-hop sound of “Agape” (David Scherer), the singing voice of Rachel Kurtz, and “Lost and Found” — the musical comedy experience of George Baum and Michael Bridges.

A cheap date:

Those who attend the concerts are challenged to raise $20 each. Lutheran congregations, colleges, universities and seminaries are underwriting many of the expenses of the events, so “the money raised can go directly to ELCA World Hunger,” according to the tour’s Web site: http://www.ELCA.org/jjjtour

Coming soon to a venue near you:

  Remaining stops for the JJJ Music Tour:
+ Oct. 24 — Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, Texas
+ Oct. 25 — Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, N.C.
+ Nov. 7 — Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn.
+ Nov. 8 — Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.
+ Nov. 14 — Trinity Lutheran College, Everett, Wash.
+ Dec. 5 — St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Lexington, S.C.
+ Feb. 13-14 — Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Episcopal mid convention report

Roughly half way through the Episcopal convention, excitement and tension is building as the repeal of the 2006 moratorium on gay bishops moves forward.  As part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the proposed change faces resistance from without as well as within.  When conservatives within the Church of England raised the suggestion that a conservative, breakaway group in the US (ACNA) might receive official recognition, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church warned that such action would only promote schism, according to an article in the Washington Times.

ANAHEIM, Calif. | The presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church warned the Church of England not to foment schism in America, responding to a threat made over the possibility that the U.S. church will start ordaining actively gay bishops.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said Sunday, in response to questions from The Washington Times, that calls by conservatives in the Church of England for recognition of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) over gay-related issues would wound her church, already split by the secession of conservative dioceses and congregations to form the ACNA.

She urged Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to remember the "pain of many Episcopalians in several places of being shut out of their traditional worship spaces, and the broken relationships, the damaged relationships between people who have gone and people who have stayed." 

"Recognition of something like ACNA is unfortunately likely only to encourage" further secessions, she said, reminding the Church of England that "schism is not a Christian act."

The parliamentary procedure of the Episcopal convention posits a bicameral approach.  On Sunday, The House of Deputies passed Resolution D025 (70-31 in the lay order and 74-35 in the clergy order).  Among other things, the resolution provides: “Affirm that God has called and may call partnered gay and lesbian people to any ordained ministry,” according to Walking with Integrity, the official blog of Integrity USA.  The measure must also be passed by the House of Bishops to become official.

In her personal blog (An Inch at a Time), the President of Integrity, Pastor Susan Russell, speaks to both optimism and pessimism as the convention waits on the Bishops.  The excitement is also palpable on a couple of weekend postings on the Integrity Blog: We Could have Danced All Night offers a glowing report of the Friday night Eucharist of 1200 LGBT Episcopalians and the stirring sermon of Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris (the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion).  The Integrity Blog also offers a daily YouTube update. 


Of course, there are many other items of business at the convention, and the blog of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation provides daily updates on issues pertaining to poverty and hunger.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Speaks to Antipoverty Activists

WASHINGTON (ELCA) – The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), spoke to more than 1,200 faith-based and antipoverty activists here at the Mobilization to End Poverty event, April 26-29. He called on participants to “hold each other accountable” for the work they are doing to end poverty. The event was held to engage participants in making antipoverty work a political priority.

Hanson was one of six speakers at the “Church Leaders Roundtable — Uniting and Mobilizing the Church in the Fight Against Poverty” plenary session at the event. Other organizations represented on the panel were the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Convoy of Hope, Reformed Church in America, Micah Challenge and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. The Rev. Brian D. McLaren, author and speaker, moderated.

During the plenary panelists were asked a series of questions regarding obstacles to overcoming poverty, pastors’ reluctance to engage in advocacy, congregational members’ accountability and ways to continue the work to end poverty back home.

Hanson said if he were serving in a parish he would have adults engage in a “community mutual accountability and discernment” hour. “We would hold each other accountable to publicly live out the mandate of serving the poor or spreading the justice of peace,” he said.

“We would confess it didn’t go as well as God intended,” Hanson said. “Then we would become a community of moral discernment, not splitting conservatives and liberals, but engaging the Word in the world as this community of faith in this context.”

Participants also visited members of Congress and advocated for cutting domestic poverty in half in 10 years.

The Rev. Matthew Lenahan, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Akron, Pa., explained that the mobilization was an “equipping” event.

“We are called to initially go back and ask that one question, ‘What is God calling me to do and be now as a result of this mobilization?'” he said. “I have great hope after my day on the (Capitol) Hill that things can actually change when people of faith care enough to step out of their comfortable place and confront systems of injustice with a word of Scripture and a word of hope.”

Hosted by Sojourners, a progressive Christian network, the Mobilization to End Poverty was supported by 23 denominations, religious societies and groups. The ELCA was a financial sponsor of the event.

The Mobilization to End Poverty blog is at http://blog.sojo.net/ on the Web.
Information about the Mobilization to End Poverty is at http://www.sojo.net/mobilization on the Web.

The Mobilization to End Poverty

The Mobilization to End Poverty will be a history-making gathering. Christians from across the country will come together in a powerful movement committed to the biblical imperative of reducing domestic and global poverty.

Join a movement rooted firmly in Christian faith that has the will and capacity to reduce poverty by half within 10 years both domestically and globally.

April 26 – 29, 2009
Washington Convention Center
801 Mount Vernon Place, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Hosted by Sojourners Magazine. Click here for more info from the Sojourners website and review registration info.