Monday, November 24, 2008

CCET: Vatican II's Continuing Challenge

Hat tip to my friend Dwight P. at Versus Populum, who breaks the news that the next conference of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology is Vatican II: Its continuing Challenge to All Churches, June 8-10, 2009, at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D. C. "Speakers will discuss the continuing significance of the Council for such issues in Church life as ethics, worship, ecclesiology (I can't wait!), ecumenism, and others," he writes.

The keynoter is Prof. George Lindbeck, Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology at Yale Divinity School, who was an official Lutheran World Federation observer at all four sessions of the Secoond Vatican Council.

Other presenters include
  • Amy Laura Hall, Duke Divinity School
  • Paul Gavrilyuk, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.
  • Nicholas Healy, St. John's University, Queens, N. Y.
  • Matthew Levering, Ave Maria University, near Naples, Fla.
  • Karen Tucker, Boston University, and
  • Michael Root from Southern Seminary and CCET's Exec. Director.

    The CCET Conference has been a must on my calendar since my first one in 1994 and it is one of those places where serious theologians (especially some younger ones) and parish pastors meet. Like Dwight, I can't wait.
  • Saturday, November 22, 2008

    What Might This Mean?

    So, what might the ELCA Church Council's determination mean?

    On one hand, it seems perfectly fair. After all, the standards for ELCA ministers were established by the ELCA Church Council by an action that only required its majority vote. Thus, as I have often reminded folks over the last several years, the ELCA could at any time change them by a simple majority already! As a matter of parliamentary procedure it's no big
    deal that the 2009 Churchwide Assembly could also change them by a simple majority.

    And for those who recall that the 2005 Churchwide Assembly needed a 2/3rds majority to accept the Task Force's recommendations to change the standards to formally permit openly practicing gay to serve as pastors or other rostered leaders, that was accomplished by some pre-assembly parliamentary sleight-of-hand engineered by the Office of the Presiding Bishop -- a wise move on Bishop Hanson's part to hold off splitting the ELCA over this issue at the time.

    On the other hand, the Churchwide Assembly could vote 99.44% to change and .56% to hold the line, and any rule change -- while it would certainly happen -- would still be illegitimate. Why do I say that?

    1) The Task Force was unable to present any theological justification for permitting actively gay clergy. This after having all of the resources of the ELCA and her theologians and other scholars available to the Task Force which was tasked to do precisely that -- make a theological case for its recommendations. Of course, this presupposes that a Lutheran church would make important decisions only after considering Lutheran theology.

    2) Some things simply aren't up for a vote. Call me old fashioned, but the witness of the Old and New Testaments outvotes a 2/3rds majority of the Church Council, or the entire CWA, or even of all the voting members of the ELCA.

    Furthermore, I still remember standing on the floor as a volunteer at the 2001 Churchwide Assembly in Indianapolis (where the current sexuality study was instigated) wanting to scream to then-Presiding Bishop Anderson, "Rule it out of order!" Why? Because even if this were a matter subject to a vote, an ELCA Churchwide Assembly -- which is mandated to be at least 60% lay -- has no confessional authority to change the teaching of the church. And this is changing the church's teaching. But even a theologian as astute as H. George Anderson was caught by the democratic ideology that, for several generations, has been undermining our teaching of the Faith.

    Finally, what this means is that, unlike in 2005 or 2007, Presiding Bishop Hanson (who didn't openly support the ordination of practicing gays until the 2006 Hein-Fry lectures) is now prepared to let the chips fall where may. It is more important that the ELCA be opened to the so-called "full inclusion" of gay and lesbian persons (by enabling those in same-sex relationships to formally serve under call), even by a slim majority, than to keep the ELCA together as one church. This Church Council action tells me that he is now willing to risk losing a lot of churches and pastors over this.

    There is still the chance that saner heads will prevail. Synod Councils, Synod Assemblies, and the Conference of Bishops (or, at the very least, several Synod Bishops) could stand up and call for making this a 2/3rds vote, as could the Assembly itself. Lutheran CORE and other faithful ELCAers have our work cut out for us, because for the moment, the ELCA's leadership is now clearly committed to advancing the GLBTQ agenda rather than building the church.

    Lutheran CORE Report on CWA Rule

    From Lutheran CORE yesterday afternoon:

    ELCA council says
    majority enough
    to change
    sexuality standards

    by Mark C. Chavez
    Director of Lutheran CORE
    November 21, 2008

    The ELCA Church Council decided at its meeting Nov. 15-17 in Chicago to recommend a simple majority vote at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on recommendations from the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality and the ELCA Church Council regarding the rostering of practicing homosexuals as pastors and ministers.

    The Constitutional and Legal Committee of the Church Council had voted unanimously prior to the meeting, with some abstentions, to recommend a two-thirds vote on all resolutions or memorials that relate to the subject of the social statement on sexuality, including the rostering proposals. The committee gave four reasons for recommending a two-thirds vote:
    1. It sets a clear rule for all matters and heads off potential confusion and ambiguity.
    2. Since the social statement needs a two-thirds vote all matters relating to it should also require a two-thirds vote.
    3. If the council wants the Churchwide Assembly to move toward communal discernment, then a two-thirds vote helps move the Churchwide Assembly in that direction.
    4. The Church Council (and Churchwide Assembly) will have to deal with the rules anyway, so the committee's recommendation was a starting point for discussion.
    During the council's discussion of the committee's recommendation, an amendment was offered to lower the bar from two-thirds to 60 percent, but that amendment was overwhelmingly defeated.

    Next an amendment was offered to delete the two-thirds rule, thereby making it a simple majority decision. After much discussion the council approved the amendment 19-10, with one abstention.

    Council member Mark Helmke, from San Antonio, Texas, then offered an amendment to restore the 2005 Churchwide Assembly two-thirds rule, which applied to changes in existing ELCA policies (the 2005 rule was narrower in scope than the two-thirds rule recommended by the Constitutional and Legal Committee).

    A council member requested a written ballot (not normally used) for the vote on the Helmke amendment. The amendment was defeated 18-14 with two abstentions.

    The Constitutional and Legal Committee did very good work. The committee's arguments for the two-thirds rule were articulate and logical, and the committee demonstrated great care for the well being of the ELCA.

    However, a clear majority of the council wants the ELCA to approve of rostering practicing homosexuals as soon as possible -- this was stated in the discussion -- and voted for a simple majority rule even though the decision flies in the face of all the council's other priorities.

    Most of the council meeting was taken up with serious matters -- how to reverse the steady decline in benevolence from congregations to the synods and churchwide organization; how to reverse the steady and accelerating loss of ELCA members; what to do about the worst ever drop in average worship attendance; how to increase the multiracial and multicultural composition of the ELCA; how to move toward communal discernment at Churchwide Assemblies so there is less vying for votes and outcomes with winners and losers; and how to strengthen ecumenical relationships.

    The majority on the council that is dead set to get the ELCA to change its standards for ministry is apparently willing to sacrifice just about everything to attain its goal.

    The ELCA suffered a big loss in benevolence after the fiasco in 1993 with the first draft of a social statement on human sexuality and ELCA leaders know it could happen again if the 2009 assembly approves ordaining practicing homosexuals.

    The council heard a report from churchwide staff and a consultant about a possible five-year major initiative (appeal for funds) in conjunction with the ELCA's 25th anniversary. The consultant said that in working with the churchwide staff it was clear that the major initiative would need contingency plans for the possible outcomes of the 2009 assembly. He said the ELCA could be a very different church after next August, a clear reference to the decision on rostering practicing homosexuals.

    Does the majority on the council not realize that by pushing its homosexual agenda it could lead the ELCA into deeper financial troubles?

    Every other denomination in North America that has approved of practicing homosexuals as ministers has suffered huge membership losses -- 30 to 50 percent. Most have done nothing more than approve of the equivalent of a local or synodical option. Does the majority on the church council think that the ELCA will be the exception and not suffer a huge membership loss?

    The Rev. Stephen Bouman, executive director of the Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission churchwide unit, told the council that the ELCA's new mission congregations have not thrived, especially those connected with ethnic strategies. He said that thus far "ethnic strategies are just words" in the ELCA. Action and results are needed.

    ELCA Secretary David Swartling reported that most of the increase in the multi-racial composition of the ELCA is the result of marriages -- in other words, not drawing in new members and families who are not Caucasian.

    Does the majority on the church council not know that non-Caucasian people -- Christians and people of other faiths -- overwhelmingly disapprove of homosexual behavior?

    If the ELCA changes its standards for ministry it will make it all the more difficult for ELCA congregations to reach Latinos, Asians and African Americans, not to mention immigrants from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Is the majority on the council willing to sacrifice its multicultural and multiracial goals for the sake of one narrow goal?

    The Church Council is disturbed by the divisive votes of recent Churchwide Assemblies, but the surest way to increase the divisiveness is to lower the bar to a simple majority for very important decisions. The Legal and Constitutional Committee had it right -- raise the bar higher, not lower. Is the majority on the council unable to see that its decision will make assemblies even more contentious and divisive?

    The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches have made it very clear that their relationship with The Episcopal Church is severely ruptured because of the local option by diocese that exists in The Episcopal Church. Lutheran churches in the Lutheran World Federation in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America have made it very clear that if the ELCA and other Lutheran churches approve of homosexual behavior, the unity of the Lutheran World Federation is at stake.

    Does the majority of the council not know that its single-minded focus on homosexuality may well undermine more than 50 years of ecumenical work and cut off the ELCA from most of the Christian churches in the world?

    Perhaps the most tragic dimension of the majority's decision is the certain damage that will be done to ELCA congregations should the ELCA change its ministry standards. Many congregations will lose members and many will be deeply divided -- some already are.

    The majority on the council is concerned about pastoral care for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, but seemingly oblivious to the overwhelming pastoral care that will be needed for millions of members and thousands of congregations should the majority on the council have its way.

    More follows...

    ELCA Council Recommends 2009 Assembly Rules

    From the ELCA News Service yesterday afternoon:

    ELCA Council Recommends 2009 Assembly Rules, Acts on other Topics

         CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) recommended rules of procedure to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, focusing discussion on votes related to social statements and recommendations from a task force report, both of which will be considered at the next assembly.
            The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and serves as the legislative authority of the church between churchwide assemblies.  The council met here Nov. 14-17. Assemblies are held every other year; the next is Aug. 17-23, 2009, in Minneapolis.
            The council's actions related to a proposed social statement on human sexuality, currently in the final writing stages, and a separate report with recommendations on ministry standards.  Both documents are being prepared by a task force. They will become public Feb. 19, 2009, and will be transmitted by the council with recommendations to the 2009 assembly for consideration.
         The social statement was requested by the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The 2007 Churchwide Assembly requested the task force report and recommendations. That assembly asked the task force to "specifically address and make recommendations to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church." The ELCA maintains a roster of its ordained clergy and three rosters of its lay ministers: associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers.
         The council recommended the 2009 Churchwide Assembly retain rules that require a two-thirds vote to adopt social statements and amendments to the ELCA Constitution and Bylaws, both required by the ELCA Constitution.  It declined two proposals to recommend that a two-thirds vote be required to adopt recommendations or resolutions related to a task force report.  If the assembly agrees, only a simple majority will be needed for such proposals under Robert's Rules of Order, unless the proposals call for constitutional or bylaw changes, said David D. Swartling, ELCA secretary.
         The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, abstained from voting on the rules because he chairs the assembly, he told the council. Swartling reminded the council that the churchwide assembly has the final say on its rules of procedure.
         The council heard a variety of reports and took several actions:
    + The council received an update on the work of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality.  At its March 27-30, 2009, meeting here, the council will consider the proposed social statement on human sexuality with implementing resolutions, and the report on recommendations concerning possible changes to policies regarding ELCA rosters.  The council will transmit those documents with its recommendation to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  From April to June, the church's 65 synod assemblies will discuss and respond to the proposed social statement and implementing resolutions, and the report on the church's rosters.
    + Hanson described as "turbulent" and "expectant" the current environment in the church and in the world.  He challenged the council and other church leaders to exhibit "generous, faithful and fruitful" leadership, by sharing resources and imagining "how to put them to work for the sake of the gospel and God's mission in the world."  He called for "evangelical, missional and imaginative" leadership by letting go of any resistance to claiming "evangelical" as part of who ELCA Lutherans are; and he called for a deepening of faith practices in light of recent reported drops in average weekly worship attendance.
    + Swartling said the financial giving total from ELCA congregations reflected a slight increase from 2006 to 2007.  According to his written report, total receipts were $2.82 billion in 2007, up 2.5 percent or $68 million. Total assets of ELCA congregations are more than $20 billion.  Swartling reported a decline in average worship attendance of 211,043 or 13.4 percent over the past six years.
    + The council amended the ELCA Manual of Policies and Procedures for Management of the Rosters to allow newly ordained clergy to serve their first calls as mission developers starting new ministries.  The church may authorize lay people to serve in ministries of Word and Sacrament where ordained clergy are not available; and another amendment to the manual says such people serving in long-term ministries will enter the ELCA candidacy process for ordination.
    + The council recommended the 2009 Churchwide Assembly call for development of a social statement on the topic of "justice for women in church and society" for presentation to the 2015 Churchwide Assembly.  The recommendation came from the ELCA Church in Society program unit.
    + The council recommended to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly that the assembly accept an implementing resolution as the basis for a full communion relationship with the United Methodist Church (UMC).  Earlier this year, the UMC General Conference adopted the proposal.
    + The Rev. Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, former bishop, ELCA South Dakota Synod, has been named ELCA coordinator for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI), effective Dec. 15.  The council previously authorized preparation for a potential Lutheran malaria initiative education and fundraising campaign.  With the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Lutheran World Relief as LMI partners, an LMI fundraising campaign is expected to be considered by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
    + Carlos Peña, ELCA vice president, Galveston, Texas, told the council he is willing to serve another six-year term as vice president of the ELCA.  In his report, Peña said he is "grateful for the time spent in this position" and "willing to accept the decision" of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly as "God and the assembly see fit."  The assembly is scheduled to elect a vice president, a layperson who serves as chair of the council and as an ELCA officer.
    + The council called on the U.S. Department of Defense to ensure that the Eucharist be available to military personnel each week with a presiding chaplain who is recognized by the ELCA and Episcopal Church.  The department considers non-Catholic Christian chaplains "Protestant," a category that includes clergy who are unfamiliar with the eucharistic liturgy.
    + The council adopted a revised policy document for the acknowledgement of independent Lutheran organizations (ILO). Organizations that function as umbrella organizations are expected to provide information about constituent organizations, and each must meet the criteria for ILO status.
    + The council received an update on the work of Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR), a collaborative ministry of the ELCA and LCMS.  The Rev. Kevin A. Massey, LDR director, said 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of LDR.  He said the anniversary occurs in one of the "worst years" for natural disasters in the United States, with a record number of tornadoes and the "most property damage" from hurricanes sustained since 2005.
    + The council received the initial report of a 12-member communal discernment task force it established in April to explore ways for the ELCA "to engage emotional and divisive issues, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and make difficult decisions as a church body in ways that will increase mutual trust, build respect for each other as the body of Christ, and deepen spiritual discernment."  The council encouraged planners of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly to review preliminary recommendations of the task force, and it approved provisions for the task force to continue through August 2011.
    + The Rev. M. Wyvetta Bullock, ELCA executive for administration, reported that the leaders of the church's three financial services units -- Board of Pensions, Foundation and Mission Investment Fund -- have been discussing ways to "coordinate the practices" of the units without changing their structures.  The council received an implementing resolution and joint operating guidelines adopted by each unit's board.
    + The Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, executive director, Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission (EOCM), reported that EOCM is placing a staff person in each of the church's 65 synods to work with bishops to strengthen ELCA congregations and grow local ministries.
    + Kristi S. Bangert, executive director, ELCA Communication Services, introduced the new ELCA brand mark, which contains the ELCA emblem, the name of the church and its tag line, "God's work, our hands."
    + The council approved an initial current fund spending authorization for fiscal year 2009 of $82,447,200, which is $527,200 more than the $81,920,000 proposed by the ELCA 2007 Churchwide Assembly.  For the ELCA World Hunger Program, the council approved a revised spending authorization for fiscal year 2008 of $22.7 million, which is $2.7 million more than the $20 million proposed. Christina Jackson-Skelton, ELCA treasurer, said world hunger income through September is $2.6 million above what was anticipated this year.  The council also approved an initial spending authorization of $20.6 million for the World Hunger Program for fiscal year 2009.
    + The council heard an update on a "feasibility study" to determine the possibility of a fundraising effort or "churchwide campaign" that embodies the church's three expressions -- congregations, synods and churchwide organization.  A proposal for a possible churchwide campaign is to be brought to the March 2009 council meeting for transmission to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
    + The council received and reviewed a draft of a churchwide strategy on HIV and AIDS.  A strategy is to be presented for consideration to the March 2009 council meeting.
    + The Rev. Mark A. Cerniglia, Columbia, S.C., was appointed to fill a vacancy on the program committee of ELCA Multicultural Ministries.

    For information contact:
    John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
    ELCA News Blog:

    Commentary will follow...

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    What Do They Want?

    Continuing the line of thought from my previous post... Olmsted writes,
    What we’re looking for, in my opinion, is validation.

    We want the state to affirm that our relationships are equal to heterosexual unions, but we reject the state’s response as inadequate, because it is lacks the societal imprimatur of marriage.

    In fact, what is lacking is the psychosocial approval inherent with the association of the religious bodies that have traditional overseen this realm.

    I could have sworn that my coming out as a gay man, my inner self-affirmation, came about precisely as a result of the rejection of the principle whereby what I thought of myself was a function of what society or the church said was right and good.

    Aren’t we barking up that same tree now? If we claim to know our relationships are equal to theirs and as sacred, why are we insisting on their benediction?
    This morning while reading the October issue of Touchstone, I took note of David Tubbs' review of Prof. David M. Halperin's 2007 book What Do Gay Men Want? entitled "Sodom on Itself." Prof. Tubbs notes that the book isn't particularly about same-sex marriage, but it offers some insight into gay liberation. He writes,
    The book is an extended essay, and among its purposes is a defense of male homosexuals from the charge of dangerous, and potentially suicidal, conduct during the AIDS epidemic. Halperin is candid about the promiscuity of many gay men, even those in "committed" relationships, and he would seemingly (his arguments are sometimes maddeningly qualified) resist any attempt to "domesticate" them.

    He argues that the key variable is whether the sexual partners have the same "serostatus." Thus, two men who are HIV-positive (or HIV-negative) should not automatically be criticized for having sex without condoms, even if they are stranger to each other.

    He also argues that heterosexual men and women deserve equal criticism for risky sexual behavior, pointing out that "gay sex" accounted for only one-third of the new cases of AIDS repported in the United States in 2005. (He knows that American homosexuals do not constitute anything like one-third of the population, so the problem with this argument will be evident to may readers.

    Acknowledging the realities of the "gay" life, Halperin admits that some men may not know if they are HIV-positive. A homosexual man who is regularly tested for AIDS—say, once every three or four months—may also regularly have "unprotected" sex between tests and be coy about revealing his behavior to others, including his live-in partner.

    Halperin is loath to criticize such men. He insists that sexual intimacy without a condom is more pleasureable, and that homosexual men are not "crazy" to accept the risks. Much depends on individual temperament, including a man's tolerance for risk and the motives for his behavior. Crucially, he rejects—as naïve and "antiquated"—an unfailing use of condoms as the best strategy to eliminate the spread of AIDS.

    This matter takes us to the heart of the book. Halperin wants to promote some kind of comprehensive inquiry into the inner lives of male homosexual—their "subjectivity," or (less pretentiously) "what gay men want," with special reference to their propensity to engage in risky sexual behavior.

    Psychology would seem to be well suited to answer such questions, but homosexual people widely distrust it. As an academic and therapeutic discipline, psychology long deemed a romantic attraction to persons of the seme sex as illegitimate or abnormal desire. For that reason, Halperin wants to go elsewhere.

    The inquiry he favors should avoid the "judgmental" tendencies of psychology and not assume that gay men engage in risky behavior from low self-esteem, doubts about their sexual identity, or a dangerous impulsiveness. Instead, researchers should try to discern their motives for engaging in risky sex and affirm those motives.

    Above all, researchers ought to recognize that these motives can be "transgressive" in roughly the same way that queer theorists say the entire "gay" life is trtansgressive. By this, Halperin means an unwillingness or refusal to be "proper and good." His views amount to a deep disdain for traditional sexual ethics and the moral norms needed to sustain marriages and families.

    If public health officials recognize the legitimacy of transgressive motives and impulses, Halperin argues, they can devise kmore workable strategies against the spread of AIDS. The goal is not "safe sex," but "safer sex." The latter, naturally, is more permissive than the former.

    Halperin's program to conquer AIDS through "safer sex" rests on his reading of other queer theorists and his review of much social research, but the weakness of the book's central argument should be plain. Put aside his high-brow references to Michel Foucault, psychoanalytic thought, and gay "subjectivity," and you will find a very egalitarian liberal.

    When defending risky sexual practices, he sometimes writes as a rugged individualists, a man who accepts the consequences of his actions and has no need to curry favor with the public. Yet he cannot ignore the American public.

    He cannot ignore it because it allegedly owes gay men substantial resources to stop the spread of AIDS, as well as approval and support for their way of life. It owes them, he declares, "support for a vibrant, sophisticated and safe gay sexual culture as well as . . . reliable, appropriate, and practical information about how to prevent HIV infection."

    Is this reasonable? Since he promotes and applauds "transgressive" conduct meant to destroy real marriages and stable families, why should the body politic extend its hand to him and his peers? What does it owe them? Halperin would at one moment spit on that hand, and in the next moment grasp it for support.

    For the reasons that Buckley gave, it is hard to know if Halperin speaks for a majority of American homosexuals. But "queer theory" is increasingly respectable, as evidenced by the publication of this book by a prominent state university press.

    Despite the weakness of the book's main argument and its endorsement of sexual anarchy, Halperin and his allies may be winning the war to define marriage. This portends grave consequences for the rest of us—but perhaps for them as well.
    Alas, the entire review is not (yet?) online, but you can find it in the October 2008 issue of Touchstone magazine.

    Think of that as you digest reports of demonstrations in our streets (and church conventions).

    Proposition 8: The Wrong Battle?

    Okay. Central Illinois is in many respects a different world than was the San Fernando Valley in which I came of age. But the debate over California's Proposition 8, where voters used the initiative process to reverse the state's Supreme Court's legal creation ex nihilo of same-sex marriage, has projected the perspective that gay men and lesbians would be content if only they could get married.

    Now, setting aside for the moment that homosexuals have been marrying and raising families for as long as there has been homosexuality and marriage -- it's just that they did it the old-fashioned man-woman "thee I shall wed" way, and either setting aside their homosexual desires and performing spousal/parental duties or finding, uh, quiet ways of satisfying such desires, even with the full knowledge of the spouse -- so the debate isn't about the right to marriage at all, but the redefinition of marriage (on which I've posted earlier)...

    ...the "gay community" with which I was acquainted, whether it be the more "mainstream" perspective that one could catch reading The Advocate or various community/school lesbigay advocacy groups or "faith based" groups such as Lutherans Concerned was generally hostile to the institution of marriage. Sure, every once in a while someone would propose same-sex "marriage," but that was guaranteed to get a huge negative reaction from within the GLBTQ community. Now the passage of Proposition 8 (reversing a "right" created only 6 months ago) was turning into the new Stonewall or Christopher Street. Has the lesbigay mind on marriage completely and suddenly changed?

    That's when Google News came to the rescue and the headline "Prop 8 – Did We Fight The Wrong Battle?" appeared on my screen. It's an op-ed published Monday by the poet Marc Olmsted in the cyber newspaper, "West Hollywood's ONLY newspaper - ONLY ONLINE!" And by the sixth sentence, traditional lesbigay thought had made its re-appearance.
    Prop 8 – Did We Fight The Wrong Battle?
    Monday, November 10, 2008 – Op-Ed By Marc Olmsted, West Hollywood

    First of all, let me make it clear that I was against Prop 8.

    I contributed money toward its defeat, volunteered in campaign offices in Silverlake, and attended a pre-election rally in West Hollywood Park where I watched two close friends tie the knot.

    I believe that it is wrong and unfair that we are not granted marriage equality. I wanted us to win.

    So it may seem utterly bizarre that I’m questioning the cause entirely. (To be fair, I’ve had these doubts all along but decided to put them aside for the sake of unity.)

    I don’t think we’re looking for the protection of the law.

    We have most of what we need with domestic partnership or civil unions, and with a fraction of the money spent on No on 8, we could certainly have pushed for any changes required to make sure we were according the same de facto rights under those agreements as under marriage, at least on the state level.

    What we’re looking for, in my opinion, is validation.

    We want the state to affirm that our relationships are equal to heterosexual unions, but we reject the state’s response as inadequate, because it is lacks the societal imprimatur of marriage.

    In fact, what is lacking is the psychosocial approval inherent with the association of the religious bodies that have traditional overseen this realm.

    I could have sworn that my coming out as a gay man, my inner self-affirmation, came about precisely as a result of the rejection of the principle whereby what I thought of myself was a function of what society or the church said was right and good.

    Aren’t we barking up that same tree now? If we claim to know our relationships are equal to theirs and as sacred, why are we insisting on their benediction?

    Other questions: Does any of us truly believe that of the 18,000 gay couples who have been married in California so far, the same proportion of them won’t be seeking divorce in 5 or 10 years as the straight couples wed at the same time?

    Have you spent some time with someone going through a divorce lately? Is this what we want?

    And what of our capacity, as the most gifted of tribes, to be on the cutting edge of developing entirely new paradigms for modern relationships?

    Why are we seeking to imitate them instead of setting an example that they can imitate?

    What I propose we pioneer is the contractual and renewable civil union, which would work like this. A couple would choose a time period with which they were comfortable—3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20 years, or life, for the absolutely certain.

    For that period, they would have all of the benefits of marriage. At the end of the term, they would be required to renew their contract at City Hall—hardly a burden for any couple who wants to remain together, in fact, a great way to reaffirm and strengthen their bond.

    If either or both chose not to continue in the relationship, the union would lapse. Any parental obligations would remain whatever the spousal status, but sparing the children and the partners from the burden and stigma of divorce.

    Of course parents that break up will always be difficult emotionally for children, but parents lapsing into unpartnered status would certainly be more likely to encourage a transition into friendship than the present adversarial atmosphere of divorce, in which the rupture must be sought out.

    I contend that there is a significant proportion of the heterosexual population that would find a renewable contract a highly preferable alternative to the one-size-fits-all option they are faced with now if they want the legal and social benefits of marriage.

    Anyone who has lived through divorce, whether as a child or as a spouse, wants nothing more than to avoid it again.

    I can easily see a state of affairs where the civil union alternative eventually becomes the norm, as society finally recognizes legally that two human beings well suited to a partnership for life are far more the exception than the rule.

    The passage of Prop 8 is a disappointment, but for us, it is also an opportunity. Marriage as it is presently constituted is a pre-21 century institution that lacks the flexibility and realism required of the modern age.

    I say we stop approaching the powers that be demanding a place at the table. It’s time to build our own table and let them come to us.
    No, Marc, it's not bizarre at all -- to anyone who is familiar with the discussion of marriage in GLBTQ circles from more than 3-4 years ago. Alas, as in so much that passes for debate on all sorts of issues in our culture, (political, religious, etc.) key, relevant history is forgotten or suppressed.

    Or ignored. To be continued in a later post.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    QC Times: Episcopal Property Conflict?

    From today's Quad City Times:
    Episcopal Church split might turn into conflict over property

    By Deirdre Cox Baker | Monday, November 10, 2008 11:12 PM CST

    Fallout from the weekend decision by the Diocese of Quincy, Ill., to leave the Episcopal Church of the United States may include litigation over millions of dollars’ worth of property and assets.

    “We pray there will be no litigation,” the Rev. Ed den Blaauwen said Monday. Den Blaauwen, the rector of Christ Church in Moline, is also the newly appointed vicar general of the diocese that is now aligned with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, based in Argentina.

    Church resources would be better used for Christian activities than in the courts, he added.

    The Episcopal Church will protect its history and heritage, said the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop of the national church in New York City. Church officials will not give away property to a foreign province, he said, adding, “This is our heritage and, more than that, the heritage of those who have not even come our way yet.”
    Well, given TEC's recent history, particularly since the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop, such a hard line is not surprising.
    The Episcopalian [sic] Church still exists in the Quincy Diocese, Robertson stressed. “Our first concern for followers is that they know that our church continues,” he added.

    New alignments

    Lines are being drawn in the church between liberal or moderate factions and traditional or conservative ones. Arguments center on the national church’s decisions to allow women in the clergy, which occurred in the 1970s, and to promote an openly gay minister to a bishop’s post in 2003.
    Well, those are the flash points that reveal a deeper division over the place of the Scriptures and Christian doctrine in the Church's contemporary witness. But what do you expect when describing a debate over fundamental Christian truth in only one or two sentences?
    The schism widened when the national church appointed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to the job. The Quincy Diocese, which numbers 24 churches (including those in Moline, Rock Island, Silvis, Geneseo and Kewanee) and 1,800 members, has never allowed women or gays to be part of the clergy.

    “We are working to assist in the reorganization of diocesan affairs,” Schori said. It now appears that four churches, including St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Peoria, Ill., the largest in the diocese, will continue to align with the Episcopal Church....
    Yes, that fits with some reports I heard. Things are going to get, uh, interesting here in Peoria.
    ...A new alignment called the Common Cause partnership is working to establish an Anglican province in the United States, according to the Rev. John Spencer, the press officer for the Quincy Diocese. That would include the alignments with the Southern Cone and other U.S. churches that have aligned with an organization including Anglican churches in the African nations of Nigeria and Rwanda.

    The timeline for the new organizational structure would involve some kind of provisional recognition in late December or early January, he said. Formal approval of the new North American Anglican Province may come by early February, after the worldwide Anglican council meets in Egypt.
    Read it all here. A prayers that cooler heads might be found and prevail.

    Sunday, November 09, 2008

    Quincy Realigns

    This is official, from the Diocese of Quincy
    The Diocese of Quincy, Peoria, IL
    November 8, 2008

    Contact information:
    Fr. John Spencer, Media Officer
    The Diocese of Quincy
    Cell: 309-264-7489

    For Immediate release
    November 8, 2008

    Diocese of Quincy Realigns With South American Province

    The Annual Synod of the Diocese of Quincy’s meeting November 7-8 in Quincy, Illinois, has voted by strong margins to realign itself with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, breaking its ties with The Episcopal Church in the US. On two key votes more than ¾ of the clergy and lay deputies voted in favor of the realignment.

    The move came after several years of prayer and discernment about the diocese's relationship with The Episcopal Church. Many in the Quincy Diocese, both clergy and lay people, have been at odds with the national leadership and other dioceses over the authority of the Bible, church order and discipline, and the church's moral standards and teaching on Christian marriage.

    On the vote to disaffiliate from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, 75% of the clergy and 82% of the lay deputies voted in favor. On the subsequent vote to realign the diocese with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone the vote in favor was 92% in the clergy order and 87% in the lay order.

    "This decision was not made lightly," said Fr. John Spencer, press officer for the diocese. "We have talked and prayed about this for a very long time. But we take our relationship to the Anglican Communion very seriously. Since 2003, over half the Provinces of the Anglican Communion have been in a state of broken Communion with The Episcopal Church. By realigning with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, we are now back in full communion with the majority of over 75 million Anglicans around the world."

    Canon Ed den Blaauwen, incoming President of the Standing Committee, said the focus of the diocese will remain on mission. "Our churches and our diocese will continue in mission and ministry locally and around the world. We feel much at home under the oversight of Archbishop Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone, who has warmly welcomed us into affiliation with that Province," den Blaauwen said. "We are once again back in full fellowship with our brother and sister Anglicans."

    Shortly after the votes were taken, Canon den Blaauwen, who acted as chairman for the Synod, read a letter from Archbishop Venables welcoming Quincy as a member of the Province of the Southern Cone.

    Bishop Keith Ackerman who retired from leadership of the diocese on November 1, spoke to the gathering Friday afternoon just before the synod convened. Quoting the Epistle of Jude, he encouraged them to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ and the historic faith of the Christian Church as they considered the momentous decisions before them.

    "While the votes show there was very strong support for this decision," Fr. Spencer said, "we realize this was not a unanimous decision." By a separate action, the synod made provision for a nine months grace period during which a congregation or member of the clergy might consider withdrawing from the diocese in order to stay in the Episcopal Church. "It is a matter of allowing everyone to follow their consciences in these very difficult times, without recrimination," Spencer said.

    - 30 -
    Pastor Zip missed the discussion and votes, but from conversations I had with friends after my arrival both pro and con moving from TEC to the Southern Cone, the report on Episcopal Life Online seems accurate:
    During the 45-minute debate on the resolution to leave the Episcopal Church, some speakers suggested that they could have a greater witness by "working from within," but the majority of speakers expressed disgust at the Episcopal Church, saying that what they were leaving did not represent the church they had been born into or once joined.

    The final speaker, a woman who was not fully identified, said "We need to make a choice. Is Jesus Christ our Savior or not?"

    "I don’t feel like I’m leaving TEC, instead I feel like I am moving forward. I am convinced that by not leaving TEC, I will brand myself with the same heretical views of those who are running TEC now. This is the end. Right here. Today," she said.

    The resolution said leaders of the Episcopal Church and actions of its General Convention "have failed to uphold the teaching and authority of Holy Scripture, have challenged or belittled core doctrines of the Christian faith, have refused to conform to the agreed teaching and discipline of the Anglican faith, have refused to conform to the agreed teaching and discipline of the Anglican Communion, and have rejected the godly counsel of the leaders of the Communion."
    The sermons preached at the Synod -- at Evensong by Bishop Peter Beckwith of the neighboring Diocese of Springfield shortly after the vote and at the Eucharist the next morning by Quincy Bishop-retired Donald Parsons -- wrestled with what the Synod had done, both pointedly lifting up that faithful Anglicans in the US, while deeply opposed to the leadership and direction of TEC, remain divided over staying in vs. leaving the Episcopal Church, at least as long as it remains the province of the Anglican Communion in the United States. Hopes are that a new, more orthodox province will be established fairly soon for North America.

    Quincy is the third Episcopal Diocese, following San Joaquin (in central California) and Pittsburgh, to seek refuge in the Southern Cone, which is Anglican province covering Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. The Diocese of Ft. Worth will be voting to join them later this week.

    Saturday, November 08, 2008

    It's Rudy Lugo Stadium

    From Saturday's Los Angeles Daily News;
    Canoga Park shows dedication to late coach Lugo

    By Gary Miereanu Special to the Daily News

    Seventy years of Canoga Park alums poured into the school Friday night for a homecoming game filled with emotions that resonated far beyond the Hunters' final winning tally.

    The crowd of approximately 4,000 - including SRO stands on the home side of the field - paid open tribute to Rudy Lugo, dedicating the field in the name of their late head football coach, and retiring his No. 80 from his mid-60s playing days - the first football number to be retired in Canoga Park High history.

    "The first time I saw the 'Rudy Lugo Stadium' (sign), I was taken aback," said Christopher Lugo, the late coach's son who now serves as a Hunters assistant coach. "I've been running on this field ever since, well, since I could walk. I'm very honored to have this stadium named for him, and to work at the same place he did. I know he's with me, watching me, helping me, and that makes this dedication that much more special."

    Alums from 1938 to 2008 attended the game, including members of Canoga's City Championship teams from 1969 and 1981. But in a clear sign of the times, there was no candlelight ceremony - rather, the Canoga's student body president asked for everyone to open their cell phones, raise them over their heads in order to create an illuminated honor.

    In between the festivities, there was a football game. Junior tailback Tom Wilson rushed for 300 yards and two touchdowns to lead Canoga Park (5-4, 4-1) to a 30-14 victory over Grant (4-5, 3-2) in East Valley League play.
    Read it all here. Oh, and just to show how we can keep in "in the family," Gary Miereanu is Canoga Park High Class of 1978 (one year behind me) when he wrote for what was then the only weekly newspaper in the LA Unified School District, the Hunters' Call. And I've known Gary he and my sister started Kindergarten together when I was in Grade A-1.

    And then there's Bill Plaschke's column in Thrusday's LA Times sports section:
    It was a wonderful life for Rudy Lugo

    Poor Rudy Lugo.

    For nearly 40 years he coached on a football team that never sent a player to the NFL, never brought him a national honor, never even gave him a parking space.

    For nearly 40 years he worked in an office with bars over the windows, lived in a home where kids trampled the lawn, hung out at a church where he prayed in darkness.

    Poor Rudy Lugo.

    As the head coach at perennially modest Canoga Park High in a cluttered corner of the San Fernando Valley, he lived a life as regionally invisible as the greasy garages and doughnut shops that surrounded him.

    He was on television once. He made the headlines never. He earned a $3,500 stipend for teaching kids to play a sport that most of them would never play again, in a city that would never make any of them famous.

    Poor Rudy Lugo.

    He died of cancer two weeks ago, and Canoga Park will never be the same.

    "It wasn't like the town lost just another person," former player Ricardo Hernandez said. "It was like we lost a member of our family."

    At his funeral, mourners spilled out of Our Lady of the Valley Church and huddled on the front lawn watching monitors.

    After the service, when the hearse drove Lugo around the Canoga Park High football field for the last time, dozens of players and fans rushed back to salute him.

    At the school, students randomly hung signs on hallways and doorways, teenage writings filled with honor and angst.

    "Rudy was much more than a coach," one read. "He was a man who dedicated his life to us kids."

    In the downtown streets of this 70,000-person suburb, folks stepped out of thrift shops and bakeries to remember him.

    "Best coach and teacher ever," said Felisha Ibarra, who works at a wireless store adjacent to a sidewalk plaque dedicated to Lugo. "It's like everybody around here has been affected by him in some way."

    For the two weeks since his death, "Mr. Canoga's" booming voice has not been silenced, but replaced by those who speak in his honor.

    Listen to the sobbing middle-aged construction worker who, while spending one football season in a juvenile detention center, received an inspirational letter from Lugo that he still holds today.

    "We knew our father touched a lot of people," said his daughter Melissa. "But to actually see all this . . . we had no idea."
    Read the entire column here.

    Rudy Lugo Night at Canoga High is also covered here on the CPHS website, while tributes to Coach continue to show up on the Memoirs section of school's website.

    Wednesday, November 05, 2008

    State and Church

    Pastor Zip and his Congressman-elect, Aaron Schock, shortly after his victory speech last night. Age 27, Aaron will be the youngest member of the 111th Congress of the United States.

    He replaces Ray Lahood, who chose to retire at the end of this his sixth term. His predecessor was Bob Michel, who was first elected in 1956, serving 19 terms and as Minority Leader of the House from 1981 until his retirement after the 1994 election. An earlier Member of Congress from this area was Everett Dirksen, first elected in 1932 and serving through the 1946 election. In 1846, this area's MC was a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.

    Pastor Zip voted shortly before 3 pm, asking (has he usually does) how many people had voted so far that day. "Almost 160," replied one of the poll watchers. That's a good number in my precinct, where 161 (of 731 registered; 26 cast early or absentee ballots) showed up the entire day in 2006 general election. Voting is low in this precinct; running at a little over half the rate of voters as the rest of this city.