Tag Archives: Race

The ELCA and Ecumenical Partners

Bishop Hanson with Dr. SayeedThe 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA11) was hopeful, spirited, and frequently emotional.  I was often moved to tears, and I was not alone.  Assembly speakers routinely received standing ovations.

The ELCA believes in ecumenism, the expression of unity and cooperation with other religious bodies.  Wet eyes and and a long, loud ovation filled the assembly hall when Bishop Hanson embraced Dr. Sayyid Sayeed, the National Director of The Islamic Society of North America.  Similarly, the voting members rose to their feet to greet Bishop George Walker of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion) when he addressed the Assembly.

Bishop Walker’s presence was both the culmination of five years of dialogue with the AME Zion Church, and also the prelude to scheduled meetings in Salisbury, North Carolina between leaders of the two denominations.  Bishop George Walker

Last Friday, the 16th of September, leaders of the two denominations celebrated what promises to be  an “unprecedented agreement between historically white and black churches” in a communion service at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Salisbury.

The mutuality expressed at the religious service and also at the discussions the following day are the result of a fortuitous geographical commonality.  Salisbury is home to AME Zion’s Hood Seminary, Livingstone College, and the ELCA’s North Carolina Synod Headquarters.  Rubbing elbows together in the same small city led to friendships which in turn led to the current discussions.Bishops Hanson and Walker depart the Covenant Service

Georene Jones, a St. John’s member and student in the theological studies program at Hood Theological Seminary, called Friday’s service an “absolute affirmation of what I believe.”

“It gives me great hope for the future of the church,” she said. “This is a culmination of my hopes and dreams.”

See reporter Nathan Hardin’s excellent report in the Salisbury Post.

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”).

Anti-ELCA Benne makes the case FOR the ELCA

This blog has previously posted on three theologians who have attempted to provide intellectual cover for the the ELCA schismatics of WordAlone, Lutheran CORE, and LCMC.  (Click here for prior posts regarding Carl Braaten, here for James Nestingen, and here for Robert Benne). 

Now, Benne, one of the “neo-cons” who influenced Bush Iraq policy, is at it again in a May 27 article entitled “Lutherans in search of a church”.

A common theme of these three ELCA irritants is that their opposition goes way back to the very beginnings—the merger of three prior Lutheran bodies into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that became a reality in 1988.  For each dissident, the focus of their dismay is the polity of the ELCA that mandates a) that voting members shall be 60% laity and only 40% clergy, b) that lay and clergy voting members shall each consist of 50-50 male and female, and c) that 10% of the voting members shall consist of persons of color.  For these three white-male-elites, the ELCA allows too much minority influence, too much female influence, and too much lay influence but not enough influence for the good old boy network.  A subtle subtext to this theme is that Lutheranism got onto the wrong track when some  denominations began to ordain women half a century ago.

Benne’s latest missive suggests this system “insured that the more ‘progressive’ elements of the church would be overrepresented.”  As opposed to the regressive-white-male-elites?  Who does Benne expect to persuade with this argument?

For those of us who support the ELCA generally and the decisions of CWA09 in particular, we can be thankful for the public statements of the “intellectual” spokesmen for the schismatics.  They make our case for us.

For Facebook users, there is a discussion of Benne’s article on the “Lovin’ the Lutheran Church” page.  Here’s a sprinkling of the comments:

Kate Wulff says, “Well, it apparently ruined things for ordained straight white men who are mad the church isn’t their personal fiefdom.”

Robert Lewis says, “And speaking as a white male ELCA pastor, I’m quite thankful that my role has been reduced in this denomination. I personally … and we as a denomination … are richly blessed by the women and people of colors and races other than white … as well as the clergy that fit that description.”

Kirsten A.S. Mebust says, “How odd that Benne defines the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church as primarily white (presumably Euro-descended) and male! It’s as if history and orthodoxy began and ended with the first half of the 20th century in the Upper Midwest of the United States! And even then, it excludes the women who established many of the mission churches, including the one I belong to. The church of his fantasy never existed.”

Shelley Barnard says, “Is he really saying that only white males can provide adequate theological guidance? That’s just… bizarre…”

Jim McGowan says, “If CORE and NACL are the ‘last, great efforts to live out the promise of Lutheranism as a church on this continent’ then we are really in trouble.”

And on and on.