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Decision Time for Mainline Lutherans
The Christian Century ^ | August 09, 2005 | John Dart

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 delegates—the required margin for approval—will 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 church—but 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 theologians—including Carl E. Braaten, William G. Rusch, William H. Lazareth and Robert W. Jenson—who 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.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: apostasy; ecusa; elca; homosexualagenda; lutheran; protestant; religiousleft
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To: redgolum
...I suspect that they have escaped the notice of those trying to undermine Christianity in the West.

Indeed, everytime I hear of some leftist trashing the moral stance of the Roman Catholic Church, I realize we'd be on their list as well if they knew we existed (hardly our fault that leftists are rather limited in their worldview).

61 posted on 08/02/2005 1:45:24 PM PDT by FormerLib (Kosova: "land stolen from Serbs and given to terrorist killers in a futile attempt to appease them.")
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To: wallcrawlr
But I will not condemn the work done by God through other Christians...whether male or female.

I will in a heartbeat. The bible is very clear about some things. Otherwise, why condemn the work done by gay pastors and married gay couples. They can serve the Lord too can't they?

62 posted on 08/02/2005 1:45:47 PM PDT by biblewonk (They are not gods which are made with hands. PS we need socialized medicine.)
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To: wallcrawlr

PS, said work is not done by God.

63 posted on 08/02/2005 1:46:49 PM PDT by biblewonk (They are not gods which are made with hands. PS we need socialized medicine.)
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To: MarMema

I think having ROCOR back in the fold will help keep us on the correct path.

64 posted on 08/02/2005 1:46:59 PM PDT by FormerLib (Kosova: "land stolen from Serbs and given to terrorist killers in a futile attempt to appease them.")
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In my experience, I've met a few Catholics and ELCA Lutherans feeling comfortable switching between the I dont find that too odd.

Its good you recognized the path your old church was on and jumped ship.

65 posted on 08/02/2005 1:49:13 PM PDT by wallcrawlr (
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To: franky; FormerLib; lightman

Two big-time feminazi Roman Catholic "theologians":

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (Harvard Divinity School)
The late Catherine Mowry LaCugna

(I'm not counting such apostates as the WITCH Mary Daly!)

As for practicing Roman Catholic priests who are pastors of parishes who openly advocate "gay" ordination, I know of several in my blue-state area, since their advocacy of this deviation from orthodoxy made the press. Unfortunately, there are all too many "gay" Roman Catholic priests who are not open about their "sexuality", but have come to the attention of the world via the "sex scandal".

The Orthodox are under attack by "Axios" and otherwise, as well as by the general liberal "elite" who talk about "Orthodox bigots". And Soros is pushing the gaysbian/feminazi agenda in the Orthodox homelands of Eastern Europe. Moreover, I know of one Orthodox church in my hyper-liberal area that is all too "gay-friendly" for my taste, despite the anti-"gay" pronouncements of the bishops of this parish's church body. Nevertheless, the Orthodox are virtually immune to gaysbian and feminazi attacks.

66 posted on 08/02/2005 1:50:28 PM PDT by Honorary Serb (Kosovo is Serbia! Free Srpska! Abolish ICTY!)
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To: FormerLib
Part of it might be that since half of the Orthodox were under the thumb of Islam, and the other half under Stalin, that the thinking was that all the survivors where already "converted".

Just speculating. Still, it won't be long till the guns get turned your way.
67 posted on 08/02/2005 1:54:07 PM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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My wife and I would have a bit of a problem - we were married by a Southern Baptist minister (a dear friend of mine) before we had decided what denomination we wanted to join. It is my understanding that since we were not married Catholic, we are not married in the eyes of the Church and that makes our son a bastard. Suffice it to say that neither my wife nor I will stand for such abusive treatment.
68 posted on 08/02/2005 1:55:55 PM PDT by RebelBanker (To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!)
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To: biblewonk

I dont understand how you equate homo's with women?
You need to make that link for me because I dont see them as the same.
I can not discuss things under your premise because i dont agree with it.

Condemning Christians would discredit the work done by women pastors? You think what they do is evil or something? Again, this is not something I understand.

I see the work being see the work being done by a girl. Ive gotten past the girl part (because of the reasons stated earlier), you havent. I am not convicted by scripture on this point, you are.
Is that the difference?

69 posted on 08/02/2005 1:56:06 PM PDT by wallcrawlr (
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To: RebelBanker

I would check again on that. Some diocese will honor it, and those that don't have a simple ceremony to afirm you marriage in the church. Trust me you will not be abused at all, you will be welcomed.

70 posted on 08/02/2005 1:58:12 PM PDT by TXBSAFH (The pursuit of life, liberty, and higher tax revenue (amended by the supreme 5).)
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To: wallcrawlr
Dont be a jackass with your condescending tone.

LOL. When I responded with the same tone that I perceived in your message to me, you resort to namecalling; I'm a "jackass"! Good one.

By the way, I enjoyed what your profile page says about graciousness.

I know what God ordains according to women pastors/leaders/positions of authority in the church.

However, you seem to have little or no problem if people choose to ignore it; it's just a matter of preference? Interesting. I'm always curious to know how some people decide something's a preference vs. a command.

I'm fully aware that I may burn in hell for believing what I do...I'm willing to take that chance.

Maybe you forgot a sarcasm tag there. Maybe not. Maybe it was meant to be condescending.

71 posted on 08/02/2005 1:58:40 PM PDT by newgeezer (fundamentalist, regarding the Constitution AND the Holy Bible, i.e. words mean things)
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To: biblewonk

...said by a man judging Gods work.

are you putting God in a box?

that was an interesting followup post.

72 posted on 08/02/2005 1:59:55 PM PDT by wallcrawlr (
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To: FormerLib
Quite so, "In the Orthodox Church, we consider the decision as having already been made."

So the challenge for the "gay community" is how to effect their desires within a faith community that is not about to change its thinking on these matters.

Solution it seems is to expand the understanding of "go and sin no more" so as to allow for a more "pastoral approach" to things and to limit the understanding of the passage as to taking something wrong to the Church. Just as anyone can prove anything, by the Bible, so anyone can do the same with patristics. Just look at how Orthodox and Roman Catholics differ on patristics, and it's possible to see how this can be done.

Mind you, I don't advocate what I have just described, but I can see how it's possible once one puts rationalization first and foremost. Under such circumstances, the whole thing becomes an intellectual challenge which, when accomplished, allows the pervert to thumb his nose at Orthodoxy.
73 posted on 08/02/2005 2:00:40 PM PDT by Graves (Remember Esphigmenou - Orthodoxy or Death!)
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To: Honorary Serb

Of course, I'm rather amused at the stories "Axios" has put out about the Orthodox Church in Long Beach, CA.

When the new priest was told by the men in the choir that they were all gay (the former priest was a very old man from the old country who apparently was oblivious to the situation), his response was to excommunicate the entire bunch. This apparently happened some years back but they're still incredulous that the priest did it and the bishop fully supported the action.

74 posted on 08/02/2005 2:03:17 PM PDT by FormerLib (Kosova: "land stolen from Serbs and given to terrorist killers in a futile attempt to appease them.")
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To: newgeezer

Well you assumed wrong and perceived incorrectly. We can call that an error of the internet and let it go.

That is graciousness with non-christians...and I am not some week Christian that lays over while my cheeks are slapped so welcome to my world.

Yes, that is a curious issue. People are different, Christians are different.

Also, that is not sarcasm and that is not condescending.

75 posted on 08/02/2005 2:04:32 PM PDT by wallcrawlr (
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To: wallcrawlr
I see the work being see the work being done by a girl. Ive gotten past the girl part (because of the reasons stated earlier), you havent. I am not convicted by scripture on this point, you are. Is that the difference?

Absolutely and absolutely. If scripture doesn't convict you on this issue, I wonder what other issues it doesn't convict you on. Should openly gay people be allowed to participate in church or should they be kicked out. Should pastors/elders be allowed to be divorced and still be pastors/elders? Should Elders/Church take a stand on abortion?

Methodists have a bumper sticker that says "You are entering a hatefree zone". They substitute biblical judgement, which we are told to exercise, with the word hate? Is there anything wrong with this practice or are we just too hatefull to pay attention to the bible on things like this?

76 posted on 08/02/2005 2:08:51 PM PDT by biblewonk (They are not gods which are made with hands. PS we need socialized medicine.)
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To: wallcrawlr

It's interesting that the bishop of the Southeast Michigan Synod (second only to Hanson's home St. Paul Area Synod in pushing the left's agenda), who's been quite vocal in those issues, is apparently about to accept a call to pastorship in a New York congregation (per the website of a SEMI synod church, searchable). SEMI synod's website has a new URL and is conveniently 'under construction' as Orlando looms. Maybe he doesn't savor the thought of having to swing the axe in a 'Connecticut Six' style situation that he helped create in the ELCA.

77 posted on 08/02/2005 2:08:58 PM PDT by polymuser
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To: wallcrawlr
are you putting God in a box?


78 posted on 08/02/2005 2:09:58 PM PDT by biblewonk (They are not gods which are made with hands. PS we need socialized medicine.)
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To: biblewonk

This issue first:

You stated the work is not from God.

I found it interesting that you could state what he can/can not do through people.

79 posted on 08/02/2005 2:11:10 PM PDT by wallcrawlr (
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To: redgolum
Still, it won't be long till the guns get turned your way.

I'm quite sure that they will try. However, Jesus pretty much assured us that it would so we're not exactly afraid.

80 posted on 08/02/2005 2:12:18 PM PDT by FormerLib (Kosova: "land stolen from Serbs and given to terrorist killers in a futile attempt to appease them.")
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