Skip to comments.Decision Time for Mainline Lutherans
Posted on 08/02/2005 10:54:57 AM PDT by wallcrawlr
The nation's largest Lutheran denomination will finally speak with a collective voice this month on whether to allow gay and lesbian pastors and on whether same-sex couples may receive rites of blessing. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, whose biennial Churchwide Assembly meets August 8-14 in Orlando, is one of the last mainline church bodies to act on the controversies. Few figure that the ELCA's debates will end in Orlando.
Preconvention estimates are that it is unlikely two-thirds of the 1,000 delegatesthe required margin for approvalwill vote to open pulpits to gay pastors, despite a proposal by ELCA leaders that "exceptions" could be created "for the sake of outreach, ministry and the commitment to continuing dialogue."
A second proposal, which needs only a bare majority to pass, says that ELCA policy should bar blessings for couples in same-sex relationships in keeping with a 1993 pastoral letter from ELCA bishops saying that no basis can be found in scripture for such rites.
However, some conservatives complain that the rest of that resolution could be viewed as permitting informal blessings. The proposal asks members to "trust pastors and congregations to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care to same-sex couples."
The efforts by ELCA leaders to address gay issues falls short of what legions of Lutherans on the left and right say they expect of the denomination. Traditionalists are looking for policies that clamp down on sporadic, unauthorized ordinations of openly gay clergy. Progressives contend that faithful, nonheterosexual Christians are discriminated against when they are denied full and equal opportunities in the church.
The nearly 5-million-member ELCA, created in 1987 from a three-way church merger, has eluded convention showdowns over homosexuality that have occupied its mainline counterparts for years. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have repeatedly declined over decades to allow ordination of noncelibate homosexuals. Gay activists and their supporters in those churches vow not to abandon the fight.
Meanwhile, the more liberal Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ have made some bold changes. Many in those churches put today's churchgoing gays and lesbians in a different category from the people condemned in biblical texts. However, Episcopal traditionalists look to overseas Anglicans for support in resisting the changes, and UCC conservatives find succor in congregational autonomy and "renewal" movements.
The mainline convention disputes over homosexuality typically feature demonstrations or picketing and conservative threats to withhold funds or exit the churchbut also, at times, cordial discussion and prayerful reconciliation.
So what's next for the ELCA?
"Lutherans are traditionally shy, but when push comes to shove they value healthy relationships above all," says the hot-selling Lutheran Handbook, a sometimes whimsical guide published by Augsburg Fortress this year. "Conflict should be viewed as an opportunity to grow, not a contest for domination," advises the handbook, which went into its fifth printing last month.
When the ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality announced its findings in January, the panel emphasized that it took a "pastoral approach" for the sake of outreach and ongoing dialogue. But the task force was criticized for recommending that the church may "choose to refrain" from punishing congregations for calling as pastors otherwise qualified gay or lesbian candidates.
"It was not well-received," said Stanley Olson, executive director of the ELCA Division for Ministry. "It was perceived as too nebulous."
The approach was recast in April by the 37-member Church Council, which acts as a board of directors between biennial assemblies. The council proposed that instead of withholding disciplinary actions, the church "may permit exceptions to the expectations regarding sexual conduct for gay or lesbian candidates . . . in life-long, committed and faithful same-sex relationships."
The ELCA standard says pastors must be married to someone of the opposite sex or be celibate if single. Under the exception, a premium would be placed on a homosexual minister's "evidence of intent" to live in a faithful partnership.
The ELCA already makes occasional exceptions on ordinations. Normally, a seminary graduate cannot be ordained unless a congregation invites him or her to be a pastor and the minister serves at least three years in pastoral ministry. Exceptions are sometimes made for graduates who have special opportunities in missions, teaching or administration, officials say.
Barbara R. Rossing, associate professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, said that the "exceptions" route "was a brilliant way to go because I think it claims the middle."
In April, Rossing and faculty colleague Ralph W. Klein coauthored a short statement supporting the task force recommendations and getting 63 signatures from those they called "teaching theologians." The statement, now endorsed by more than 100 signers, said the task force recommendations "represent a much-needed and faithful compromise for this moment in the life of the church."
The Klein-Rossing statement took issue with an earlier statement signed by 17 theologiansincluding Carl E. Braaten, William G. Rusch, William H. Lazareth and Robert W. Jensonwho rejected the task force recommendations on ecclesiastical, pastoral and theological grounds.
The 17 said the task force "advocates a fundamental shift in policy" that would harm the church as "an effective collaborator" with the Lutheran World Federation and would sow "division and disunity at the local level."
One of the 17, Robert Benne of Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, writing in the July issue of The Lutheran magazine, criticized the recommendation as rewritten by the Church Council.
By allowing exceptions, the proposal "bows to those who believe traditional teaching should be revised," wrote Benne. "It uses the acceptance of divorced and remarried clergy as a parallel to the acceptance of partnered gay clergy . . . a dubious analogy because divorced clergy don't argue that divorce is right and therefore keep divorcing."
Proponents of accepting gays in ministry commonly note that while the churches have found ways to allow divorce and remarriage, despite Jesus' words to the contrary, the same churches resist change on homosexuality, an issue not addressed by Jesus.
Some of the rationale used in April by the Church Council resembled arguments in a joint proposal issued in March by bishops Paul Rogness of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Steven L. Ullestad of Iowa. While there are many in the ELCA, perhaps a majority, who believe homosexual activity is always a sin, the two bishops wrote, there are Lutherans, lay and ordained, "who believe we are at a time in history where we have come to know that homosexuality is a condition, not a choice, but simply a given that is often discovered as a person grows."
To Jeff Johnson, the openly gay pastor of the University Lutheran Chapel at the University of California at Berkeley, "the trajectory of the church is clearly moving in a progressive direction."
His bishop, David G. Mullen, has chosen not to remove at least 13 openly gay, lesbian or bisexual pastors serving in the Sierra Pacific Synod, said Johnson, who cochairs Good Soil, a Lutheran gay alliance. "The current policy of the church really serves no one," Johnson said.
"The progressive wing is frustrated and unsatisfied because the policies intimidate a class of people unjustly," he said. "The conservative wing is frustrated because the policies are inconsistently followed or ignored."
The seven-day assembly in Florida "will decide whether the ELCA fragments in a serious fashion or not," said Roy A. Harrisville III of St. Paul, executive director of the conservative Solid Rock Lutherans group.
"This is our Gene Robinson moment," said Harrisville, referring to turmoil in Anglican churches created in 2003 by the Episcopal Church's approval of the election of a gay man as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire.
.....This church (read lodge) must be in really bad shape when they need to take a vote on whether they should follow God or not...
Jesus is the LIGHT of the world sent by God the Father!!!
(St John 14:6)
St. John 3:36.....
Not any more than extreme cultural liberal male Pastors. I have known quite a few who were very conservative.
I used to think the phrase "God can't" didn't mean anything. Then I kept reading the bible and see that when God makes rules, He doesn't break them. Also, God's nature prevents Him from doing many things, for example "God can't lie".
I make the link because it is such an obvious one. God says sodomites are an abomination. Therefore it's a no brainer as to whether or not they are...bad...and shouldn't be allowed to attend church at all. Kind of like sleeping with your father's wife. The bible clearly states that women are to keep silent in church and they are not to rule over men. Therefore it is a no brainer that women should never be pastors or "ministers". Ok, they can teach kids sunday school because. These are rules that are in the bible. Go ahead and be offended that I make the comparison, I'll keep making it because they are so similar in the bible. Being female is not a sin, but being a female that wants to do the church roles of a man is almost the same as a woman wearing mens cloths, which is also mentioned in the bible as disgusting to God, and that is right there with sodomy.
My ELCA cubie handles all bible disagreements exactly like this. Absolutely zero interest in persuing a doctrinal difference at all. She is much more content talking about favorite hymns or church buildings and will just turn away whenever I make a statement from the bible that offends her.
That's interesting. Time will tell why God put the two of you in the same cubicle.
Long before I believed, I shared an office for a couple years with a fundamentalist Bible thumper. Many years later, our paths crossed and I had the pleasure of telling him I got saved in the interim. We had quite a good laugh about how, so many years earlier, the perceived odds of that ever happening would have been nil.
Praise the Lord that He doesn't reason the way we do.
You have some interesting linking skills.
And as for your cubie friend. She sounds like the wise one...preferring to keep quiet rather than insult others. Plus why should she even say anything to you...with the linking skills you've done its obvious you wouldnt respect her view anyway (how dare she try and "teach" something to you).
The arrogance on display here is amazing. Its humorous to see you fella's pat yourselves on the back. You two have found your "boys club" and take comfort in it.
I hope to see you both in the evo threads defending your faith. With the confidence you have I fully expect you both to shine and win souls for the Lord.
I would ignore them, wallcrawlr. They attack anyone who disagrees with them, ignoring the Biblical mandates of humility, encouragement, and love for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Even if you were completely wrong in what you said, attacking you for it in the manner they have would be a sin.
By their fruits you shall know them.....
It seems biblewonk's cubie isn't the only one who's offended by what the Bible says (you even went so far as to quote it). Otherwise, why would you jump to such an unsupportable (no matter how "obvious" you say it is) conclusion.
With the confidence you have I fully expect you both to shine and win souls for the Lord.
I can only imagine that accountability ping list of yours is high-fiving you for that one.
Oh, and speaking of accountability, when you post your opinions about a fellow FReeper, protocol suggests you should ping that FReeper to the post.
I'm curious as to why someone would acknowledge that God tells them differently via The Bible, but knowingly disobeys? Why bother to try and have a relationship at all with Jesus? The whole point of having a relationship with the Lord is to please Him and gain eternal life. And yet, this statement totally goes against that. Is the concept that one part of the Bible is more important than others? Curiouser and curiouser.
I never believed there were Christians who held really nutty faux-biblical beliefs until I came to FR.
I, too, would like to know whether some view certain parts as more or less important, timeless, applicable, optional, or something else. For instance, some people actually believe that the words attributed to Jesus are more important than the rest. (I have no reason to suspect that's what we have here, though.)
Thanks for asking the question, and for the ping.
Maybe time to cool off? I read this whole thread and was a bit surprised by how personal and ugly this exchange with wall has gotten. I'd say how about going and getting a brewsky but you may call me a heathen. :-)
In Christ, Jack.
This off-topic section of the thread has gone completely batty. I am not devoting enough time to it (becuase it is not what the article I posted was intended for). Direct me to the woman in church thread and I'll give it my all.
Hopefully for clarity sake:
When I kneel at the throne of God and he judges me, I am confident of my entry into heaven.
I rely on his grace....completely understanding my sinful nature. I do not mock the sacrifice of our Lord Christ.
You should maybe re-read my posts to gain a better understanding of my position concerning women in the church. Beyond that maybe just let it go as an incomplete thread...judgement is Gods not yours.
If you think you got enough info to label me or call into question my faith...have at it. I'll be your dart board. I got big enough shoulders to handle it.
It's already been 3.5 hours since that post you replied to was posted. You wouldn't be trying to stir it up again, now, would you? ;)
how personal and ugly this exchange with wall has gotten
Should I take that to mean you think any such personal-and-ugliness was overly one-sided?
I'd say how about going and getting a brewsky but you may call me a heathen. :-)
A-ha... I think I get the picture now.
Thanks for sharing, Jack.
So it seems odd and dangerous to me that you are okay with going against the word of God. People sin every day, knowingly and unknowingly. However, I think that a Christian's goal is to ask God to forgive their sin and try not to commit that sin anymore, even though that's impossible. You seem to essentially acknowledge that you're sinning, by going against the word of God, but not repenting for it and are willing to take the chances of what will happen.
I was not judging you, just trying to understand a point of view different from mine and others who had posted. Of course, no one is in any position to judge your sin...remove the plank from your own eye before you try to remove the splinter from your brother's....
If you're okay with your position, fine, it's not my goal to change your mind or tell you I think you're a bad Christian, that's between your heart and God, and my opinion matters not. I was simply looking for an explanation of the quote. However, it seems that if you were truly okay with what you posted, you wouldn't come across as defensive as you do. Perhaps it's a good time to examine what you believe, what God has told you and see if those two things agree? I always appreciate an honest discussion of faith to see if my beliefs hold up to someone else's. Most of the time they do, sometimes I take the opportunity to think about things in a different light, measure them to God's word and massage them to a better agreement with Him. No need to think of it as being a dartboard.
Nutty is in the eye of the beholder!
Thanks for your concern.
You jumped into a heated discussion and came away with an incorrect assessment.
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