Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Assault Continues

Yes, that's a provocative title. But it is also how I see what happened last Saturday when Jen Rude was ordained in a Chicago ELCA congregation.

Read the press release from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, an organization whose sole purpose is to provide "qualifications" for "sexual minorities" who want to be pastors in ELCA congregations while openly and enthusiastically endorsing and living lives contrary to the Christian Faith:
For the fourth time in 13 months a Lutheran congregation will directly challenge the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) policy requiring lifelong celibacy of gay and lesbian clergy. On October 28, Jen Rude was called to ministry by Resurrection Lutheran Church in Chicago. On November 17, Rude will become the first pastor to be ordained in the newly formed Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) and the first official challenge to the new ELCA policy of “Refrain and Restraint” that was passed at its biennial assembly August 6-11 in Chicago.

Rude will be ordained in an “Extraordinary Ordination” service on November 17. The service is called such because it is performed outside the ordinary guidelines for Lutheran ordinations.

Facing increasing pressure to revisit its policy banning partnered gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from serving as pastors, the five-million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA) took up the issue at their biennial assembly August 6-11 in Chicago. In January of this year, a popular openly gay Atlanta pastor, the Rev. Bradley Schmeling, was placed on church trial after telling his bishop that he was in a same-sex relationship. While the ELCA disciplinary committee recommended Schmeling’s removal, they expressed opposition to the policy and recommended it be overturned. Twenty-one synods passed recommendations that the policy be overturned by the national assembly. The biennial assembly fell short of overturning the policy, but instead passed a resolution recommending bishops “refrain from or show restraint” in discipline of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pastors and their congregations.
Read the whole release here, as well as the Chicago Sun-Times article based on it.

ELM trumpeted the actual ordination in this press release, which begins:
Jen Rude's Ordination Only the First Test of the ELCA's "Refrain or Restraint"

Extraordinary Ordination November 17, 2007

(Chicago) On November 17, 2007, The Rev. Jen Rude was set aside for Word and Sacrament ministry by laying on of hands. Pastor Rude’s ordination is the fourth time in 13 months that a Lutheran congregation has directly challenged the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) policy requiring lifelong celibacy of gay and lesbian clergy.

Pastor Rude was ordained in an “Extraordinary Ordination.” The service is called such because it is performed outside the ordinary guidelines for Lutheran ordinations. Pastor Rude is on the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and was called by Resurrection Lutheran Church on Reformation Sunday (Oct. 28, 2007).

“Between 1990 and 2005 there have been eight extraordinary ordinations. Since 2006 there have already been four extraordinary ordinations and a fifth is scheduled for January 19th in Minneapolis. This trend signals that congregations are no longer willing to abide by the ELCA’s policy of discrimination as they join members of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries in principled non-compliance.” Rev. Erik Christensen, Co-Chair of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
Note the lack of "restraint" in ELM's language, or in its actions as it promises more and more and more attacks on the fragile unity of the ELCA in one faith.

See also the Chicago Tribune article, which begins:
Sitting in sight of her father and grandfather, both Lutheran ministers, Jen Rude on Saturday became the first ordained lesbian pastor since the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America urged bishops to not penalize congregations who violate the celibacy requirement for gay clergy.

Several of the more than 100 congregants present wept as the 27-year-old stood before them, a beaming smile drawn across her face.
Actually, weeping seems like the best response. For new Metro-Chicago Synod Bishop Miller has declared that he will do nothing. And through this article we discover that Paul Landahl, the recently-retired Metro-Chicago Bishop who is one of the too many ELCA Bishops who have been rebuffing ELCA's standards for years, is the interim Director for Candidacy at the ELCA's Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he will be able to help seminarians avoid the standards at a different level.

Remember this photo I took last August, when I wrote here and here of how deeply that moment touched me. That photo gave me hope for the ELCA.

But then I read the advocates of "full inclusion" (though there is nothing excluding gay and lesbian people from the ELCA) and their relentless demand that this church bow to their every demand, NOW!!

And I hear the silence of this church's leadership, except for the movement of people in and out of positions of authority, so that those who would teach in the ELCA what the Church has always taught about sexuality as a part of a doctrine of marriage and family are marginalized from having an effect on this church's public voice.

It may seem completely unrelated, but ELCA News reported this about Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's report to the ELCA Church Council
+ Hanson identified four challenges for the ELCA: building trust throughout the church, creating awareness by telling the ELCA's "story," raising expectations for what the Holy Spirit is doing, and lowering anxiety about sexuality as the church prepares a social statement on human sexuality for consideration at the 2009 ELCA assembly.

"We cannot let that social statement define solely the life and work of this church or our leadership," Hanson told the council. "That's going to take shared leadership. If we become so preoccupied with 2009, we are conveying a message that sexuality defines this church, and (because of) sexuality, this church could potentially be divided. Frankly, that's heresy. That's absolute heresy. The gospel of Jesus Christ defines this church."

"I think this (the social statement) is hugely important work for us in these next two years. I'm committed to it, but I will not let it solely define my leadership of this church, because I think that's not responsible," he said.
Find it here. The problem, my good Bishop, is that you are one who is responsible for letting anxiety about sexuality preoccupy this church by mouthing the church's policies and winking when they are ignored. You could stop it. But you don't. As one more ELCA congregation decides to go its own way, at whom are you aiming your "heresy" accusation?

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