Monday, April 12, 2010

ELCA Churchwide Assembly Actions Implemented

I am not surprised. I expected nothing else. Nonetheless, I am numbed by this news release. And I am bound by my ordination vows to dissent.

April 11, 2010

ELCA Council Adopts Significant Revisions to Ministry Policies


CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a series of historic and sweeping revisions to ministry policy documents April 10, the result of months of extensive writing, comment and review by hundreds of leaders and members following the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and serves as the interim legislative authority of the church between churchwide assemblies. The council is meeting here April 9-12. The next churchwide assembly is in Orlando, Fla., in August 2011.

The changes were called for by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which directed that policy documents be revised to make it possible for eligible Lutherans in committed, publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA clergy and professional lay leaders. The assembly directed that revised policies recognize the convictions of those who believe the ELCA should not allow such service. The assembly also adopted a social statement on human sexuality.

The council adopted revisions to two documents that spell out the church's behavioral expectations of ELCA professional leaders -- "Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA" and "Vision and Expectations: Associates in Ministry, Deaconesses and Diaconal Ministers in the ELCA." The council also adopted revisions to a document that specifies grounds for discipline of professional leaders, "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline," and it adopted revisions to the "ELCA Candidacy Manual," used by regional committees to help guide candidates seeking to become professional leaders in the ELCA.

Council members asked few questions and commented briefly on each proposed document before approving them. Only minor editorial changes were proposed and adopted by the council. Each revised document was adopted overwhelmingly.

The Rev. Keith A. Hunsinger, council member, Oak Harbor, Ohio, who said he does not agree with the sexuality decisions made in August 2009, announced April 11 that he had abstained on each vote on the documents. He explained that he didn't believe that the first drafts of the documents released last fall embodied the full range of decisions made at the 2009 assembly. "My conscience won't allow me to vote for any of these documents, but as a member of the board of directors, I can't vote against the will of the churchwide assembly," he told the ELCA News Service.

However, Hunsinger told the council that the final forms of each document reflected "the breadth and depth" of the decisions, including the fact that "we agreed to live under a big tent," and that multiple voices would be heard. "Because those documents now said that, I feel my ideas and I are still welcome in the ELCA," he said.

The revised policies are effective immediately, said David D. Swartling, ELCA secretary. Final revised text of each document will be posted online at by the end of April, he said.

Following council approval of the policies, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, expressed his appreciation to many, including the council and the Conference of Bishops for leading the revision process over the past few months. He also thanked the Rev. Stanley N. Olson, executive director, ELCA Vocation and Education, the lead staff person working with church leaders and various constituencies through the revision process.

Olson thanked many others who have worked for changes in ministry policies through more than two decades of effort. "This is the work of many -- hundreds, thousands of people who have reflected, thought and prayed. We are still a church that is tense over this, but we are Easter people, and I think we have done an Easter thing today," he told the council.

Prior to voting, the Rev. A. Donald Main, Lancaster, Pa., chair of the ELCA Committee on Appeals, which led the effort to revise Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline, told the council that the document had not been revised since 1993. New sections address matters such as integrity, and substance abuse and addiction, he said.

The Committee on Appeals also "considered each and every word, constantly testing different language so as to be clear and concise as possible, and remain faithful to our charge and to the social statement and ministry policies recommended and adopted by our assembly," Main added.

The two Vision and Expectations documents and the Candidacy Manual are "tools in the service of God's mission through the ELCA, primarily to assist us in that work of calling forth and supporting faithful, wise and courageous leaders," Olson said. The Vision and Expectations documents were most recently revised in the early 1990s, and the Candidacy Manual was revised in the past few years, he said.

"We have not attempted to spell out every possible situation and to give definitive direction for every possible situation," he told the council. "There are broad principles in these documents, and there are guidelines with some details." Olson added the documents call for the ELCA to trust established processes and its leaders who have responsibility for oversight and decision-making.

"Our next step is to orient our staff and the candidacy committees," Olson said. A memo summarizing key policy revisions will be sent this week to help guide synod bishops, staff working with candidates for professional leadership, candidacy committee chairs, seminary presidents and selected staff, and applicants and candidates.

Olson added that the ELCA Vocation and Education program unit, the ELCA Office of the Secretary and others are responsible for monitoring the new policies, and suggesting further revisions and guidelines if necessary.

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

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Doubting Confessing Thomas

The Gospel reading for today, the Second Sunday of Easter, is always St. John 20:19-31, from whence comes the term "Doubting Thomas." Pope St. Gregory the Great offers a different perspective.
When the apostle Paul says that "faith is the ground of things to be hoped for, the proof of things that are not evident" (Hebrews 11:1), it is clear that faith is the proof of those things that cannot be made evident. Things that are evident no longer involve faith but recognition. Why then, when Thomas saw and when he touched, was it said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed"? Because he saw one thing, and he believed another; divinity could not be seen by a mortal person. He saw a human being, and he confessed him as God. . . . But we also rejoice at what follows, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Certainly this saying refers to us who keep in our minds one whom we do not see in his body. It refers to us, but only if we follow up our faith with our works. That person truly believes who expresses his faith in his works.
From Gregory the Great, "Forty Gospel Homilies 26", as found in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT IVb: John 11-21 (p. 373).

Or, as this ACCS volume's editor, Joel C. Elowsky, subtitles the comments on John 20:29, "Seeing is not believing" or "Thomas sees one thing, believes another."

I just love reading the Fathers: "[H]e saw one thing, and he believed another; divinity could not be seen by a mortal person. He saw a human being, and he confessed him as God."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Opening Day!!

The President of the United States tosses the first pitch for Opening Day for the Washington Nationals.

Alas, the comments to this YouTube video are pretty crude, and miss the point. Mr. Obama is our President, it's the beginning of the baseball season, and it's a grand tradition. Show some respect for the Office, the Game, and the Tradition -- and just enjoy it.

And tonight, I'll be listening to my beloved Los Angeles Angels on XM Radio...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!

He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

O God, on this day you unlocked the way to eternity by conquering death for us through your only Son.

Promise that you will therefore help us to pursue this new hope which you have inspired in us.

Through the same Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord. He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Deus, qui hodierna die per Unigenitum tuum aeternitatis nobis aditum devicta morte reserasti: vota nostra, quae praeveniendo aspiras, etiam adjuvando prosequere. Per eumdem Dominum.

Photo: Easter 2009, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria

The Gelasian Collect (Prayer of the Day) for Easter Day, as found and translated in Prayers for the Eucharistic Gathering, by Eugene Andrew Lehrke. as prayed at Zion at both the 6:30 am and 10 am services.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

Look down on your family, O Lord.

For us our Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate to be betrayed into evil hands and tormented by a cross.

Through the same Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord. He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Respice quaesumus, Domine super hanc familiam tuam, pro qua Dominus noster Jusus Christus non dubitavit manibus tradi nocentium, et crucis subire tormentum, qui tecum.

Photo: Good Friday 2010, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria, Illinois

Today's Prayer of the Day and the first words I speak in the noon Good Friday Liturgy, as found and translated in Prayers for the Eucharistic Gathering, by Eugene Andrew Lehrke. It's Pastor Lehrke's translation of the Latin prayer (above) first found in the 5th Century (?) Gelasian Sacramentary, and which was used in the pre-Vatican II Roman Missal for Holy Wednesday.