Thursday, July 26, 2007

New England Synod Bishop Writes Her Pastors

An Upsurge in an ELCA Controversy?

New England Synod Bishop Margaret Payne was the Chair of the ELCA Task Force studying human sexuality while it was focussed on the questions of homosexual unions and gay/lesbian pastors. After the last Churchwide Assembly 2 years ago where the Task Force's recommendations were dealt with (no changes in official practice or documents were approved), she resigned from the Task Force. Earlier this year, the New England Synod (which has been supportive of pastors in gay/lesbian relationships despite ELCA standards) approved blessing of homosexual unions. And now, Bishop Payne has written the Pastors of her Synod:
July 15, 2007

In the past few months, our church has been involved in conversations and decisions that continue to reveal the differing viewpoints among us about the role of gay and lesbian persons in the ELCA. However, we still seek to live together faithfully despite our disagreements and to work prayerfully to discern God's will for our church.

We are called to obey the policies of the ELCA, yet we are also called to consider possibilities for change. Within this difficult tension, we are committed to respect one another's faith-bound beliefs while we disagree about policy related to the ways in which our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are included in the life of our church.

Over the last few months, I have spent time in prayer and discernment that have led me to choose to be more openly supportive of gay and lesbian persons who seek fuller inclusion in the life of the ELCA. I have accepted an invitation from the worship planners of Lutherans Concerned/North America to preside at a Eucharist that will take place on Wednesday, August 8, 2007, during the Churchwide Assembly. To me, this liturgy represents the commitment to continue support for consideration of change in the policy of the ELCA in a way that depends not on political maneuvering but on the flow of gifts that comes to all of us in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

When I sought ordination as a woman in the Lutheran Church, and encountered hateful resistance, I was profoundly appreciative of men who were allies and stood openly by my side with support and encouragement. I want to provide that same kind of support and encouragement for gay and lesbian people who are deeply faithful brothers and sisters already sharing their gifts among us.

The time may or may not be right in God's plan for change in our church, but I pray and continue to trust that there will be open and ongoing dialogue that moves us beyond our present stalemate. As together we depend on Word and Sacrament to be our center of faith and decision-making, I am certain that we will be drawn more and more deeply into the profound unity that we share in the New Covenant of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop Margaret G. Payne
New England Synod of the ELCA
Bishop Payne fails to note that, when she sought ordination, her Lutheran church body had already voted (overwhelmingly!) that one's sex was not a bar to ordination. Furthermore, the resisitance she faced included those who had theological objections (and, yes, even in the ELCA, still have them) to the ordination of women. To which one could point to the ALC-LCA study that presented a serious theological argument for ordaining women. Granted, not all were convinced; nevertheless the argument was theological, not simply "hateful resistance."

Nor is it simply "hateful resistance" that prevents the ELCA from authorizing the blessing of homosexual relationships or permitting those in them to serve as pastors. The Task Force that Bishop Payne chaired, with all the theological resources available to this church, including over $1 million spent on the study, did not present any theological arguments for that authorization. None! Nevertheless, she is now even more strongly convicted that we should do so.

And to make her point, she will use the Holy Sacraments of the Church to make her blatently political statement -- that "fuller inclusion in the life of the ELCA" (that is, blessing gay relationships and ordaining those in them; for nothing else is withheld from homosexuals in the ELCA) for those who engage in homosexual relations is so important that those demanding this change in ancient, Biblical standards of behavior will stop at nothing to get their way.

This is a mighty strange way "to live together faithfully despite our disagreements."


Anonymous said...

You write, "Granted, not all were convinced; nevertheless the argument was theological, not simply "hateful resistance." ", yet once cannot deny that there was 'hateful resistance' in those early days. Your choice of words makes it sound like all resistance was theological. It wasn't ... and isn't.

Pastor Zip said...

As I wrote, "not simply 'hateful resistance.'" Sadly, some of the opposition to women pastors, and some of the opposition to blessing gay relationships and gay clergy, has been hateful. For that repentance, confession, and absolution are called for.

Playing the "hateful" card, though, sets aside the theological debate. We Lutherans used to do better than that.

Anonymous said...

It's disturbing that everyone focuses on "hate". I think hate is used as a distraction because people fail to use their intellect to challenge the theology or accept the theology on glbt issues. "...has been hateful. For that repentance, confession, and absolution are called for." People have theological differences but you focus on the hate's almost as if theology doesn't matter to you any more. Pretty soon, people who believe Jesus rose from the dead will be called haters too, because they can't accept the fact that the resurrection was just a metaphor and never really happened.

Brunhilde's Dad said...

Forgive the late response. I was reading this after linking from the ALPB article about the Keys. Whoever Anonymous is, I agree with him or her about the overabundance of hate, hatred and hatefulness. "Hateful" is either a word used by Southern little girls who are indignant or it is a weasel word in the same category as "nice" and "very" and such on one hand and "homophobe" on another. "Hateful" is a childish, victimological word spewed by people who lack the creativity or imagination to come up with something better. "Hate" and its relatives are smokescreens. It is an execrable word. Detestable. Abominable. Wretched. Silly. And in its childishness it is not only inappropriate in adult theological arguments (or any adult conversation), it is a shibboleth that automatically brands its user as immature and not to be taken seriously.