Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Proclamation of Thanksgiving

As a response to this Proclamation by the President of the United States, the Chapel at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria will be open this evening, Thanksgiving Eve, for prayer and Holy Communion beginning at 7 pm. You are welcome to join us -- we're at the corner of Easton and Hayes, one block west of the intersection of Jefferson and Western, on the South Side of Peoria. Fellowship and refreshments follow!

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Presidential Proclamation--Thanksgiving Day

A beloved American tradition, Thanksgiving Day offers us the opportunity to focus our thoughts on the grace that has been extended to our people and our country. This spirit brought together the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe -- who had been living and thriving around Plymouth, Massachusetts for thousands of years -- in an autumn harvest feast centuries ago. This Thanksgiving Day, we reflect on the compassion and contributions of Native Americans, whose skill in agriculture helped the early colonists survive, and whose rich culture continues to add to our Nation's heritage. We also pause our normal pursuits on this day and join in a spirit of fellowship and gratitude for the year's bounties and blessings.

Thanksgiving Day is a time each year, dating back to our founding, when we lay aside the troubles and disagreements of the day and bow our heads in humble recognition of the providence bestowed upon our Nation. Amidst the uncertainty of a fledgling experiment in democracy, President George Washington declared the first Thanksgiving in America, recounting the blessings of tranquility, union, and plenty that shined upon our young country. In the dark days of the Civil War when the fate of our Union was in doubt, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day, calling for "the Almighty hand" to heal and restore our Nation.

In confronting the challenges of our day, we must draw strength from the resolve of previous generations who faced their own struggles and take comfort in knowing a brighter day has always dawned on our great land. As we stand at the close of one year and look to the promise of the next, we lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings, for one another, and for our Nation. This Thanksgiving Day, we remember that the freedoms and security we enjoy as Americans are protected by the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces. These patriots are willing to lay down their lives in our defense, and they and their families deserve our profound gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

This harvest season, we are also reminded of those experiencing the pangs of hunger or the hardship of economic insecurity. Let us return the kindness and generosity we have seen throughout the year by helping our fellow citizens weather the storms of our day.

As Americans gather for the time-honored Thanksgiving Day meal, let us rejoice in the abundance that graces our tables, in the simple gifts that mark our days, in the loved ones who enrich our lives, and in the gifts of a gracious God. Let us recall that our forebears met their challenges with hope and an unfailing spirit, and let us resolve to do the same.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 25, 2010, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all the people of the United States to come together -- whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors -- to give thanks for all we have received in the past year, to express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and to share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-third day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Dear All Things Considered

Subject: TSA Scans and "Pat Downs"

Dear All Things Considered:

Regarding the story this evening (Monday, 11/15) on the TSA Scans and "pat downs" of airline travelers and the interview with Dave Barry:

Perhaps you can help me understand what is so humorous about ordinary citizens being subjected to invasive body scans and searches simply because they are traveling by airplane. The reports of acts by agents of our own government sound more like something one might have heard from the darkest days of Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany, not in the land of the free or a
nation conceived in liberty. Or are we indeed now living in a dystopian future that authors like Huxley and Orwell warned us about in fiction more than half-a-century ago? Are we free citizens or subjects of some faceless "czar?" Since going through an American airport now seems to routinely require indignities that convicted felons cannot be subjected to except in extreme circumstances, I'll find some other way to travel.

Steven Tibbetts
Peoria, Illinois
listening on WCBU, Peoria

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Interestingly enough, the spell checker on Outlook flags "TSA" and suggests "TSAR."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stumme on the ELCA's "Bound Conscience"

The latest edition of the ELCA's on-line Journal of Lutheran Ethics begins a two month focus on the topic of "bound conscience," the expression of which emerged with the ELCA's Social Statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. the first article is by the recently retired Director of the Department for Studies in the Church in Society unit of the ELCA, John R. Stumme. Here's how Pr. Stumme begins (complete with associated endnotes):

"Conscience-bound Beliefs" Rule and the "Conscience-bound-belief" Rule

John R. Stumme

[1] What is striking about the ELCA's August 2009 decisions about sexuality is that they changed policy without giving a scriptural account for the change. The policy change allows persons in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to be ordained, yet the change is not supported in any official church document on the basis of what "this church" (as the ELCA likes to call itself) holds to be the authoritative source and norm for its life and teaching.1

[2] Instead, the ELCA appealed to its members to respect the "conscience-bound beliefs" of persons who have different understandings regarding same-gender sexual behavior and relationships. This appeal to respect beliefs bound by conscience, it was assumed, gave "this church" the authority to accommodate different practices on ordination and blessings. On this question, then, "conscience-bound beliefs" rule in the ELCA, replacing any claim that Scripture authorizes or does not authorize same-gender sexual behavior. If "this church" is going to be consistent with what it stated about "conscience-bound beliefs," it will also apply its new "conscience-bound-belief" rule to other issues. I hope to develop these themes in what follows.2

[3] Because the ELCA has elevated the concept of "conscience-bound beliefs" to such prominence for its life and teaching, the concept deserves careful scrutiny. The social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust made it the "pivotal" concept in how the ELCA "resolved" the most controversial, exhausting and expensive issue in its history, and therefore I look carefully at what is said there.3

Without a Biblical Teaching
[4] The social statement describes four positions on same-gender behavior and relationships with the preface: "This church recognizes that, with conviction and integrity:" (each individual description beginning) "On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that...."4 The four positions described may be simplified into two basic ones, each with two variations: one position does not approve same-gender sexual behavior and the other approves it within lifelong, loving, and monogamous commitments. The descriptions are brief, and no argument is presented for their biblical truth. References to, interpretation and discussion of biblical texts are absent from the descriptions.

[5] The social statement announces that "this church...will include these different understandings...." in its mission and ministry.5 Why are they included? The reason given is that they represent the "conscience-bound belief" of some.

[6] Does this mean that the ELCA affirms as its own biblical teaching four distinct teachings on same-gender sexual behavior and relationships? So I thought at one point, but I have changed my mind. If what is said here are descriptions — and nothing more — of what members are said to believe, as is claimed, then the ELCA is not saying that this is what "this church" teaches. None of the four positions is identified as the preferred or the true one. Nor does the social statement say that all four positions are equally valid or equally invalid for members to hold. No, the social statement is only descriptive; it does not make any judgment whatsoever about these positions it includes in its life. Most importantly, how could "this church" or any church body in its official teaching hold as true and faithful to Scripture contradictory positions on a matter of God's law? What this all means, I finally realized, is that the ELCA has no biblical teaching on same-gender sexual behavior.6

[7] Before August 2009 the ELCA did have a teaching on same-sex sexual behavior as expressed in social statements from the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America.7 This teaching was in accord with the Christian church's universal tradition of biblical interpretation and with what most churches in the world teach today, as found, for example, in the statements from the Lutheran churches in Ethiopia and Tanzania: that same-sex sexual behavior is not in accord with the biblical witness.8 The ELCA declined to affirm this teaching as its own, and it did not give a scriptural argument on why it abandoned this teaching. It also declined to develop and affirm the teaching that same-gender sexual behavior in a committed relationship was, like marriage, pleasing to God. The ELCA abdicated in its authority to state its understanding of biblical truth on the issue.

[8] The absence of a teaching on same-gender sexual behavior seems to create major obstacles for anyone who in their teaching office represents the ELCA. When pastors, bishops or other teachers in the church are asked, "Does the ELCA believe and teach that same-sex sexual behavior is acceptable to God or not?," the honest answer has to be: "We don't know. We as a church don't have a teaching on the matter." It would be dishonest for a representative to claim one of the four positions as the ELCA's teaching. If the follow-up question is, "What then should I believe the Bible says?" the answer would seem to be something like: "Study the Bible, pray, understand the issue, decide what you think is the biblical witness, and respect the beliefs of others. It's an individual decision made, of course, in dialogue with others."

[9] Without a scripturally based teaching to guide members' beliefs that the ELCA claims as its own, the obligation to answer the question is foisted on each congregation, finally on each individual member. Any answer (one should probably add, within the parameters of the four positions described in the social statement, although, it seems, a "conscience-bound belief" could be outside them) is as good as any other in the ELCA since "this church" has no normative teaching by which to evaluate them. The decisive authority is the belief attested to by the individual's conscience. "Conscience-bound beliefs" are in the driver's seat. "All the people did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21:25). If every congregation and individual is left to decide for themselves what authoritative, biblical teaching is, it is plausible to expect further fragmentation in an already divided church body.

10] In ecumenical settings, ...
_ _ _ _ _ _
1. The ELCA in its constitution states that Scripture is "the authoritative source and norm of [this church's] proclamation, faith, and life" (ELCA 2.03). The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted the social statement "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" (ELCA: 2009) and four ministry policy resolutions. For more information on these documents and a link to ELCA Ministry Policies go to the Web site "Frequently Asked Questions about the 2009 Churchwide Assembly actions regarding sexuality" (

2. I thank Victor Thasiah for his invitation to write on "bound conscience" for JLE. My line of thought continues the argument I made in a JLE article in 2005 that the ELCA has an obligation to be clear on its biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality before it changes its policies. "Moral discourse structured by communally accepted 'objective convictions' is the controlling factor in moral deliberation, not personal experiences or individual consciences." Here I argue that because the social statement side-steps the question of biblical truth, the ELCA's policy changes lack a trustworthy basis in the church's authoritative teachings. Cf. "The Church as a Community of Moral Deliberation — a Time of Testing," Journal of Lutheran Ethics 5:8 (August 2005).

3. My intent is to give a close reading to the actual text of the social statement in the section "Lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships," 18–21, and its endnotes, # 24–26. The social statement calls the concept of conscience "pivotal," #26.

4. "Human Sexuality," 20.

5. "Human Sexuality," 19.

6. The social statement notes that "this church is united on many critical issues" regarding same-gender relations and "that it has a pastoral responsibility to all children of God." "Human Sexuality," 19. Rev. Dr. William O. Gafkjen, now Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, in an online response ( to Dr. Robert Benne, wrote: "The clear teaching and proclamation emerge around assertions that public accountability and lifelong faithful monogamy are to be the norm for same-gender relations." "Response to 'Lutherans in Search of a New Church'." (July 2010). The bishop has stated the policy, but he has begged the question on how the ELCA arrived at a biblically-based teaching that approves same-gender sexual behavior. In fact, it has not.

7. "Sex, Marriage, and Family," Lutheran Church in America (1970), 4. "Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior," American Lutheran Church (1980), 8–9. Where social statements from the predecessor church bodies were in agreement, they remained the teaching of the ELCA until it adopted its own teaching.

8. See "The Dodoma Statement" of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania ( and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Mekane Yesus (, including its April 2010 news release, "EECMY Reaffirms its Rejection of Same Sex Marriage."
Read it all here.

Sort of reminds me of something I wrote here in July 2009:
Nevertheless, I had hopes that, since every possible theological resource would be available to the ELCA Task Force, if anyone could offer such a sustainable argument, they would. I participated in all the studies. I read through all the official materials. I participated in many discussions.

And in the end, they offered no argument at all. They have given us assertions that cover the "sides" in the debate over the place of homosexuality in the Church, but there is no argument made for changing the Church's teaching on homosexuality anywhere to be found in the Report and Recommendations or the proposed Sexuality Statement.

In the end of nearly 8 years of work, given the chance to show that the Church's teaching has been wrong, having the best and brightest minds of the ELCA at their disposal, they did not even try.
One might understand why the complaints of a pastor of a tiny parish in Peoria would be ignored. But ignoring the concerns of one of the ELCA's own staff theologians?

Ah, the hopes we had in the 1980s for the New Lutheran Church. Then there's the legacy our leaders have, uh -- "built" isn't quite the right word, is it?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Don't Need Your MTV

So Pastor Zip is flipping through the Peoria TV dial since his show is being pre-empted for a special and suddenly Channel 43.2 appears on the screen.

43.2? There is no Channel 43.2 in Peoria! (Pastor Zip is a hold out to cable TV, stubbornly insisting that the free, over-the-air TV is good enough)

Except there is. It's a subchannel for WYZZ Fox 43 (though apparently there's been no announcement of it) and shows music videos. It's called theCoolTV and, unlike MTV, it shows, well, music videos. Apparently all the time.
THECOOLTV plays music, period.
Our programming is customized to YOUR market, so watch for the videos you
want to see and send requests to REQUEST via email or call the
COOL REQUEST LINE at 888-342-8761 x711
The program guide says "80's at Eight." Oh, this is going to be fun!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Doctor Meets the Bioethicist

The Doctor Meets the Bioethicist, in which people with two very different views get to know each other.

The key word that is hard to understand is "specieist." Hat tip Secondhand Smoke, a First Things blog.