Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Episcopal Church Crisis...

...and the ELCA Is Rushing to Catch Up

Fr. Jonathan Millard, rector at the Church of the Ascension, Oakland, Penn., offered this diagnosis of the crisis in the Episcopal Church as a defense for the Diocese of Pittsburgh to depart TEC and realign with another province within the Anglican Communion. You can read his entire statement here, but what he describes is all to familiar for those of us in the ELCA since at least the "Call to Faithfulness" free conferences in 1990 and 1991. Lutheran CORE has been founded so we will not have to reach the point of having votes to leave in order to be part of a faithful church body.
Ten examples of how the essentials of the Christian Faith are being eroded, challenged, or contradicted by The Episcopal Church:

1. There is confusion concerning who God is:

Over the past 40 years there has been a drift away from orthodox ways of speaking about God. In some places in TEC instead of God being referred to as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He is addressed only by function as creator, redeemer and sustainer, and not in personal ways. The problem with this approach is that it makes God more remote and the fact is God has revealed himself to us through the Scriptures not just by function, but in personal terms as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Another example is when the name LORD is replaced with "God." So instead of the Liturgical greeting: "The Lord be with you," you may encounter in some parts of TEC "God be with you" or even "God is in you" with the response: "and also in you." The word LORD apparently is perceived as too male, and too authoritarian. The earliest creedal statement was simply "Jesus is Lord." And yes, it was meant to be authoritarian. I was very sad when I attended the Interfaith service at Calvary last week, to see precisely such a change had been made to the liturgy. When it came to share the Peace, the wording was not: "The peace of the Lord", but rather "The Peace of God."

2. There is a lack of clear teaching about the divinity of Christ:

In answer to a question referencing the divinity of Jesus, in an article published earlier this year, the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Shori, said this: "If you begin to explore the literary context of the first century and the couple of hundred years on either side, the way that someone told a story about a great figure was to say ‘this one was born of the gods.’ That is what we’re saying. This carpenter from Nazareth or Bethlehem – and there are different stories about where he came from – shows us what a godly human being looks like, shows us God coming among us."

At best that is ambiguous or confusing, and at worst it is false teaching. Jesus was much more than someone who "shows us what a godly human being looks like." And the Church does not say that he was "born of the gods." The biblical witness and the faith of the church is that Jesus is the Son of God: fully God and fully man. The Word became flesh (John 1). We proclaim this truth weekly in the Nicene Creed.

3. There is a lack of clear teaching about Salvation and Sin:

Questioned about selfishness and falleness, the Presiding Bishop said this: "The human journey is about encouraging our own selves to move up into higher consciousness, into being able to be present in a violent situation without responding with violence ..." and in the same interview she went on to say: "The question is always how can we get beyond our own narrow self-interest and see that our salvation lies in attending to the needs of other people."

This is not the Gospel story of sin and redemption. The Scriptures teach that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23). The Scriptures teach that salvation is not through our works, or our efforts to move up to a higher consciousness, or even through attending to the needs of others. Our salvation lies in Jesus, "who while we were still sinners, died for us." (Rom. 5:8); and all who believe in the LORD and call upon his name will be saved. (Rom. 10:13)

4. There is a drift towards universalism:

The Presiding Bishop says of Jesus: "we who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box" (Time Magazine: July 17,2006). Jesus said: I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).

When, some years ago, I first heard Bishop Duncan speak of us living in a time of Reformation of the Church throughout the world, I confess I wondered if that was a little grandiose. I now believe, without a doubt, that he was right. This was illustrated for me, once again, just last week. I was deeply saddened to hear Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu deny the particularity of the Christian Faith, mocking the idea that Jesus could possibly be the only way to God, and declaring that all religions are worshipping the same God, just by different names. The archbishop is a great man who has done wonderful work for reconciliation and peace. I salute him for all the good he has done, but I am sad and troubled that he would be so dismissive of the supreme work of love and salvation that our Lord Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.

5. There is a loss of confidence in the Gospel as Good News for all:

The official teaching of the Anglican Church on the issue of human sexuality is that which has been set out by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 (Resolution 1:10). But here’s the key point concerning the Gospel that I want to make:

[The Conference] "recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships." [emphasis added]. It is that confidence in the transforming power of God that the actions of TEC now challenge. So instead of welcoming and loving all into the church so that they might experience transformation, TEC simply welcomes and affirms people just as they are – denying them the healing and hope and transforming power of God.

6. There is erroneous teaching and practice regarding human sexuality:

Over the past couple of decades there has been a serious rejection of the clear teaching of the Bible and the Church on human sexuality and marriage. The clear teaching of Scripture and tradition and of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church is that sex is for marriage. The only sexually intimate relationships that are good and holy according to Scripture and tradition are those between a man and a woman, within an intended life long, faithful covenant of marriage. That means that pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, gay sex, any sex outside of marriage is all contrary to God’s will. This is the clear teaching of the Bible and of Jesus.

7. There is a seemingly ‘social justice only’ view of the mission of the church:

I have struggled to find any clear statements from the Presiding Bishop about the basics of the faith. From her inaugural sermon through to all kinds of talks and sermons and interviews that I’ve seen or heard extracts from she seems to be concerned primarily with a political and social gospel. She seems to be concerned principally about the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. There is much to be commended about these goals and much to challenge us – but they are by no means the same thing as the message of salvation for those who are perishing. (John 3: 16). If the Millennium Goals are our gospel message it falls seriously short of the message of proclaiming "Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

8. There is contempt for the Authority of the Bible:

Bishop Bennison has said: ""The church wrote the Bible, and the church can rewrite the Bible." No, that is a serious error.

9. There is failure by Bishops to defend the faith:

The role of a bishop in the words of the 1662 ordinal is: ‘‘to banish and drive away from the church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to the Word of God." – Here in the States, the very opposite is true. Rather than drive away false teaching many of the bishops of TEC embrace it, celebrate it and declare to be good and holy that which God declares to wrong. To ordain an openly gay, non-celibate man – when the rest of the world urged TEC not to do this – is not only contrary to Scripture but is also an arrogant display of American intransigence.

10. There is a lack of respect for truth or unity:

There seems to be a cavalier spirit among many in TEC that disregards the mandate for unity with the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. Claims are made by ‘progressives’ that they are putting truth ahead of unity. However the ‘truth’ they claim is that it’s a matter of social justice and Christian virtue to bless same sex unions and permit practicing gay and lesbian people to hold any office within the church. This is, of course, is contrary to the truth as revealed in Holy Scripture. And the only unity they secure is among a tiny minority of the church worldwide.
Sounds an awful lot like the direction the ELCA is being led, doesn't it?

You probably know that the Diocese of Pittsburgh's vote to begin leaving the Episcopal Church passed by a wide margin.

Thanks to Shrimp over at the Shellfish blog for bringing this to my attention.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Which Church Father Are You?

And now for something a bit different.
You are St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!
Thus far, it seems that St. Melito of Sardis is a most popular answer for those I hang around with -- say over at Touchstone's Mere Comments and ALPB Forum Online. I suspect that prior to this, none of us had ever heard of him. Here is what I've discovered, courtesy the good folks at Catholic Online:
Little is known about the life of St. Melito of Sardis, a II Century exegete and apologist who served as bishop of Sardis near Lydia, Asia Minor (near modern Izmir, ancient Smyrna). Thought to have been a hermit and a eunuch, he travelled in Palestine, but the reasons for his journey and the details of his itinerary are lost. Most of his work is also lost. What little survives exists in quotations in the works of others or in fragments. Eusebius preserves Melito's list of Old Testament scriptures, the first such list known to scholars, and fragments of his discourse recommending that Marcus Aurelius adopt Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. Melito's best-known work is the Peri-Pascha, a Holy (Good) Friday sermon pieced together from manuscript fragments in the XX Century which shows parallels between Easter (the new passover) and the Passover haggadah. Melito's contemporaries praise his skill in exegesis and comment on his ability to demonstrate parallels between the Old and New Testaments. His contemporaries also called Melito a prophet or a beacon, but his rhetorical style caused later writers to question the soundness of his theology, some of which seems to akin to the philosophy of the Stoics. Melito's work, which fell out of favor in the IV Century, influenced the thinking of Irenæus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian.
I wonder how we should consider that his feast day is April 1?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gay Pastor in the Bronx Could Lose Her Collar

That's the headline of an article in Sunday's New York Times featuring Katrina Foster, pastor at Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx. I got to know her a little bit this summer during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, where she was a Voting Member (delegate) and I was a microphone page during the discussions and debates related to sexuality.

I did my best in a frequently chaotic situation to enable her to speak before the Assembly (that was my job and she was appreciative of that), which she did eloquently for her position. She appreciated my efforts. Nevertheless, it will be clear to you in a moment that I believe her position is very wrong.

The article begins:
In 1994, when the Rev. Katrina D. Foster became pastor of Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, she threw herself into ministering to her small, mostly Caribbean-born congregation. She not only preached to them on Sundays but lived in the neighborhood and showed up to support them in everything from surgeries to legal matters.

But Pastor Foster was keeping a secret from her congregation. She held onto it even after a woman came to live with her in the parsonage, then joined the church choir.

“Some people would say, ‘It’s so nice you have someone to live with you in that 11-room house,’ ” said Pastor Foster, 39.

But in 2002, when the woman, Pamela Kallimanis, became pregnant, they knew the time had come. So Pastor Foster sat her congregants down one by one and told them that she and Ms. Kallimanis were partners and were expecting a child.

Not one person openly criticized her, she said. Instead, “they threw us the most wonderfully outrageous baby shower in the side yard next to the church,” she said. “The woman I was most anxious about telling” — the church president — “I thought she was going to leap across the table and hug me.”

The response, however, was not all positive. A small number of families trickled away. Pastor Foster said only one member told her outright why she had stopped coming. “I got her on the phone one day and she said she couldn’t sit under a pastor who was a homosexual,” she said.

Now Pastor Foster and her roughly 100 congregants face a new challenge: the possibility that she, along with four other pastors in the New York area and 81 nationwide, could be defrocked in 2009 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The country’s largest Lutheran denomination, it allows openly gay pastors but forbids them from being in same-sex relationships, according to the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the denomination’s New York-area synod.

In August, Pastor Foster was among the clerics who disclosed that they were in such relationships at the church’s biennial national assembly in Chicago, where church policy was decided. The assembly voted to urge synod leaders not to discipline those pastors until the issue of pastors in same-sex relationships could be voted on at the next meeting, in 2009.

Bishop Bouman said he would not have disciplined Pastor Foster anyway. “She is someone whose faith is genuine and she lives it in a very bold and inclusive way,” he said. “She’s not afraid to tell people that she loves God and that God loves them.” When Bishop Bouman leaves to take a national church position in Chicago in March, however, whoever succeeds him in New York may aim to defrock Pastor Foster before the 2009 assembly.

Another pastor in the synod, the Rev. Paul Hagen, of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in the Bronx, isn’t supportive. He said that the “the Bible clearly defines homosexuality as a sin.
Read it all here -- note, you may need to register on the Times' site to do so.

Bishop Bouman's new position is Executive Director of ELCA Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission. As for Katrina Foster, it will take a miracle for the Metropolitan New York Synod to elect as Bishop someone who would even consider disciplining her. Alas, she's in no danger of "losing her collar."

And I wonder, are we going to be seeing this sort of headline and story more and more over the next couple of years?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Schism and Heresy

Background: Last Tuesday, Zion's Parish Secretary brought me Page B3 of the Peoria Journal-Star page to show me the rather prominent placing of the AP's report of Jen Rude's ordination. And during our Romans Bible Sudy, a couple of people commented on the photo from that ordination (also from the AP) that was in this morning's PJS "Faith & Values" section.

Near the end of my Wednesday entry, I quoted an ELCA News Release on Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson 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."
It appears that the Presiding Bishop is accusing those who would "divide" the ELCA over matters of sexuality of heresy. Exactly who those potential heretics are is not clear, however. Is he speaking of those associated with, say, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, who are are arranging for ELCA congregations to call persons ineligible to serve under call in ELCA congregations? Is it those associated with, for instance, Lutheran CORE who object to the apparent non-enforcement of ELCA standards when it comes to homosexual relationships?

Bishop Hanson doesn't exactly say. He has said, however, that he favors the so-called "full inclusion" of gay and lesbian people in the ELCA, following a definition that "full inclusion" means no bar blessing homosexual relationship or ordaining those in them. And a look at those he has placed in positions of authority both in the Churchwide ELCA and (before that) in the Synod he was Bishop clearly showed that long before he finally said so in public during the 2006 Hein-Fry Lectures. Suggesting to me and others with whom I am associated that we who call the ELCA to faithfulness are the more likely target of his accusation.

This would parallel what has been happening in the Episcopal Church, whose leaders have committed the that church to "full inclusion" of gay and lesbians. More and more faithful members, priests, congregations, and now dioceses are preparing to depart, and they are regularly being accused of schism. And in this thread on Canon Kendall Harmon's TitusOneNine, a correspondent called "The Gordian" made this important observation:
Once again you confuse schism with heresy. Once again you tar the opponents of false teaching - even blasphemous and immoral teaching that endagers the souls of men and women - as ‘heretics’. And you don’t even recognize how much these Christians have suffered at the hands of putative bishops, in the loss of buildings, jobs and homes, in maintaining this faithful witness for the gospel. If that makes you feel superior and above the fray, well bully for you. But the rest of us are not really concerned with keeping a liturgical choral society going. There’s too much of real importance at stake.
A couple of years ago, I observed that in this debate the schismatics are not the people who will leave the ELCA should it vote to ordain practicing gays and approve blessing gay unions. Rather, those who would (like the Anglican Communion Network) leave would merely be recognizing what had been true for some time, that the church is already in schism. Those who depart the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality and cause the ELCA to formally embrace false teaching will be the schismatics.

We continue to pray that it doesn't even go that far.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Big Lie: ELCA Celibacy Requirement

A couple of days ago when I wrote about the latest irregular ordination in the ELCA, I quoted from this press release of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, the first paragraph of which reads:
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.
There is nothing particularly remarkable about that statement -- ELM's predecessors have been campaigning against the ELCA's "celibacy requirement" ever since the PLTS Three had their "Approval for Ordination" status effectively revoked circa 1988-89.

There's only one problem: there is no such requirement. No, I'm not referring to the several ELCA Synod Bishops who this last summer finally started admitting that they had not been applying the church's standards for homosexual clergy or congregations that called and ordained them. I'm referring to the ELCA's actual standards.

As I wrote in the TitusOneNine thread on the Chicago Tribune report of Miss Rude's ordination:
The actual standard in the ELCA (see the document Vision and Expectations) is:

"Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships."

No one is asked to take a “vow of celibacy.”
ELCA Pastors vow to "lead [God's people] by your own example in faithful service and holy living" when we are ordained. There is only one appropriate context for Christians, especially those set apart for the Holy Ministry, to engage in sexual relations: Holy Matrimony (marriage). Chastity is expected for all of us -- straight, gay, married, single. Chastity; not celibacy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day, 2007

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Americans are a grateful people, ever mindful of the many ways we have been blessed. On Thanksgiving Day, we lift our hearts in gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, the people we love, and the gifts of our prosperous land.

Our country was founded by men and women who realized their dependence on God and were humbled by His providence and grace. The early explorers and settlers who arrived in this land gave thanks for God's protection and for the extraordinary natural abundance they found. Since the first National Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by President George Washington, Americans have come together to offer thanks for our many blessings. We recall the great privilege it is to live in a land where freedom is the right of every person and where all can pursue their dreams. We express our deep appreciation for the sacrifices of the honorable men and women in uniform who defend liberty. As they work to advance the cause of freedom, our Nation keeps these brave individuals and their families in our thoughts, and we pray for their safe return.

While Thanksgiving is a time to gather in a spirit of gratitude with family, friends, and neighbors, it is also an opportunity to serve others and to share our blessings with those in need. By answering the universal call to love a neighbor as we want to be loved ourselves, we make our Nation a more hopeful and caring place.

This Thanksgiving, may we reflect upon the past year with gratefulness and look toward the future with hope. Let us give thanks for all we have been given and ask God to continue to bless our families and our Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2007, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to reinforce the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.

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


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?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We Have the Same Parents

Dad keeps asking me, "Have you been on the Canoga Web site lately?" I finally made it over there tonight and found the article he wanted me to see. It's about one of our high school's history teachers and Dad's favorite line is, "He was also an advanced auto-shop major."

While that's a great line, this is better:
• What does Mr. Tibbetts do in his spare time??
o He is in charge of restoring our redwoods in our school. We are the only school in the Los Angeles Unified School District that still has redwoods. The reason that he got involved was because an alumnus stated that all of the history of Canoga and historic items were gone. He decided to change that. He wants to make our history something that we remember and that continues through time.
I'm actually quite proud my brother for that.

My little brother.

Do you think he looks 4 years younger than me? ;-)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Call to Liberate the Church of Sweden

I've been alerted to the latest article by Father Yngve Kalin, priest in the Church of Sweden and Chairman of the Church Coalition for the Bible and Confession (Kyrklig samling kring Bibeln och bekännelsen). It appears as an op-ed in today's Svenska Dagbladet, the main newspaper of Moderaterna (the Moderate Party, a non-socialist party that heads the current coalition government in Sweden) and one of Sweden's leading daily papers.

Father Kalin, who I have posted earlier, has long been exposing the plight of the faithful in the Swedish Church. Here he describes how the "separation of church and state" in Sweden has actually given the Swedish political establishment
more control over the Church. What follows is what appears on Fr. Kalin's website. (Or read it in Swedish here or as it appears on the newspaper's site.) My friend from the Society of St. Birgitta, Dr. Birgitta Peterson, writes, "Read it and please spread it around! Particularly among your Lutheran friends who need to know what happens to the Lutherans in Sweden."

One last note: a colleague suggests that the Swedish words translated here as "consequence" would be better understood as "consistency." spt+

+ + +

The political parties still keep their grip on the Church of Sweden. That is a paradox and an inconsistency of the separation between the church and the state which is deeply embarrassing and a cause of a great deal of surprise abroad. This amounts to political double-dealing, writes the Church of Sweden priest Yngve Kalin, who has long-standing experience as a member of the Church of Sweden General Synod.

Saturday November 10, 2007

Politicians in the Church Amounts to Sheer Parody

The current Swedish government, which is constituted by a political coalition, are seeking to introduce a legislation that would prohibit every aspect of religious education in the curriculum of the schools. Such sentiments show a clear resemblance to the way things work in the USA, where the Constitution lays down the principle that church and state must be kept separate coupled with some clear statements about religious liberty.

In Sweden however, the details of these government proposals are being prepared while the political parties continue unabated to hold a firm grip on the Church of Sweden and unashamedly to make use of the Church in order to promote their own political programmes.

This is a paradox and an inconsistency of the formal separation between the church and the state in the year 2000, which is a cause of embarrassment for the political establishment and a fact that gives rise to considerable surprise abroad. This political double-dealing is a cause of great embarrassment.

For anyone who would stand for a clear separation between the church and the state, such a position requires consequence in every aspect and must be followed all down the line.

It is now high time for the political parties to withdraw and stop acting as attorneys for the church — not only for the sake of the church, but also for the sake of their own credibility.

When the business of the Church of Sweden are debated by its own highest decision-making body, the Church of Sweden General Synod, it is in fact Social Democrats, right wing Moderates and members of the Centre Party, etcetera, etcetera, who meet to take decisions on issues of all kind, ranging from statements of faith and doctrine to everyday humdrum matters, and their decisions permeate every aspect of the work of the Church of Sweden at every level.

The parishes as well as the dioceses and the national level are consequently the object rather than the subject in this altogether unique manner of decision-making that is unheard of in any other part of Christendom. There is no real separation between the church and the state in Sweden. The political parties have made sure of that, mainly due to their innate fear of permitting too many independent players in the public arena. All this is only too obvious, not least in the current debate about possible new legislation about marriage, in which the political agenda increasingly gains the upper hand, making it blatantly obvious how the church is currently being used to legitimize politically based positions and viewpoints.

BUT: What will these statements and expressed positions really be worth, when it is only too obvious to everyone that they only represent a duplication of decisions taken by the party congress? To begin with, things were different: the uniqueness of the church used to be respected.

When the Church of Sweden General Assembly (as it was called until the formal separation of church and state in the year 2000) met for the first time in 1868, following the Abolition of the Parliament of the Four Estates, it consisted of 30 priests, 30 lay members and the bishops were members ex officio. The Church Assembly was charged to express "the common thought of the guarantors of the faith and doctrine and of the parishes" and should lift church matters above "such political differences that always shift within a national assembly."

In those days the awareness prevailed that the manner of making decisions in the church — even in an established church — must consider the responsibility inherent in the stewardship of the tradition of faith, confession and doctrine that had been handed down and received, and that the parishes must be accorded some real influence on the matters of the Church of Sweden and its government. However, the manner of decision-making was gradually changed.

A reform in 1949 changed the constitution of the Church Assembly and put the laity in the majority. The ex officio membership of representatives for the theological faculties was abolished in 1970. The role and influence of theology was markedly weakened.

The next decisive reform took place in 1982, when the Church Assembly became openly political on the model of the parochial church councils that had been developed particularly at the local level in the city parishes.

From then on, elections took place by a system of electors, but the number of members was more than trebled and the party groups appeared openly as nominators and as membership groups. That meant that the politically independent members, who had nevertheless been elected, found it necessary to organise themselves into a politically independent group.

At the same time the bishops were divested of their right to vote in the Church Assembly but were charged with the duty to be present. It was left to the political parties and groupings to take decisions about any possible representation of the clergy on the membership.

When all this had been achieved, a way had been found to continue to exert control while at the same time the out-dated bonds between the church and the state could cease to exist in any formal sense. That decision was taken in 1997. Later on the Church Order, which provides the tools for the domination of the church, was laid down.

Through the introduction of direct elections at all levels, the parties no longer need to take the "long way" via the parishes in order to ensure that their representatives become members of the diocesan governing bodies and what is nowadays called the Church of Sweden General Synod.

The Church of Sweden Church Order no longer recognises any independent responsibility for the ordained ministry. The entire framework for the exercise of ordained ministry has been established with great consequence and the limits have been effectively imposed by politically elected bodies.

The control of the church is now totalitarian and complete. How long can this parody be allowed to continue? Should there be a separation between the church and the state or not? Could we please have at least an ounce of consequence, thank you!


Priest in Hyssna and a member of the Church of Sweden Church Assembly 1995-2000 and of the Church of Sweden General Synod 2000-2001, currently a member of the Nomination Group "Confident Church" and called upon to serve at the recently held sessions of the Church of Sweden General Synod this autumn.

© Yngve Kalin & Svenska Dagbladet 10 nov 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

Lutheran CORE News 1.5

Note: Lutheran CORE's latest update includes:
1) Gary Diers from the Churchwide Assembly Floor
2) Steering Committee Update from Bp. Paull Spring, Chair
3) Financial Support? by Mr. Ryan Schwarz
4) Forming a Chapter by Pr. Mark Chavez, Director
5) 2009 Churchwide Assembly Voting Members

Lutheran CORE News 1.5
November 8, 2007

(Please copy and distribute as widely as possible.)

Boundaries and discipline
by Mr. Gary Diers

[Note: Gary Diers is an active Lutheran from Waverly, Minnesota, who was a lay voting member to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly in Chicago this year. He spoke these powerful words as part of the debate.]

First I would like to say that listening to the debate on this [homosexuality] issue this week just breaks my heart, but having said that, Mr. Chairman:

In this post-modern world in which we now live, which says everyone defines what is right or wrong for himself or herself, the idea of discipline by someone else for violating boundaries is viewed as an injustice. We however cannot, whether young or adult, live our lives without boundaries.

I'm a farmer and work daily around large animals and, especially today, large equipment. My wife and I raised five children in that environment, and those children always wanted to be with Dad. But because I loved them and was concerned for their safety, I built a fence in the front yard and they had to stay within the boundaries of that fence even if they begged, cried, threw a tantrum, etc. They could, however, with some effort climb out. When that happened they were disciplined and returned to the fenced-in yard. It did not matter how much they wanted to be with me, nor in fact did it matter how much I wanted them to be with me.

Our Creator has given us boundaries within which to live our lives and if we could just live our lives within those boundaries, most if not all evil and need for discipline would not exist.

+ + +

Lutheran CORE steering committee update
by Pr. Paull E. Spring, steering committee chair

The Steering Committee of Lutheran CORE met September 28 and 29, immediately following the Lindenhurst gathering. We were all very encouraged by the attendance at Lindenhurst and the spirit of commitment to our concerns that was so evident.

Our most important work at the steering committee meeting was to complete a strategy for the 2009 churchwide assembly in Minneapolis. Our chief goals are to focus on the social statement on human sexuality and the elections for the churchwide assembly and the Church Council.

Our most urgent need now is to identify synod coordinators in all sixty-five synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Effective synod coordinators are key contacts within the synods. The coordinator's job, for now, is to work for the election to the churchwide assembly of voting members who share our perspectives on marriage and the Bible.

If you are willing to serve as a synod coordinator or as a part of a synodical team within your synod, please contact me at or Pastor Mark Chavez, Lutheran CORE director at All the members of the steering committee have agreed to provide guidance and support for synod coordinators. A job description is available from Pr. Chavez or me if it will help you make your decision.

Right now, the most important work is to elect voting members for the churchwide assembly. In some synods this process has already begun. We need your help. Now is the time to pray without ceasing for our church and for our cause. Now is the time for all of us to work hard and do our part for the sake of our church's fidelity to the Word of God.

+ + +

Will your congregation support Lutheran CORE?
by Mr. Ryan Schwarz, steering committee member and fundraising coordinator

In many congregations, it is now budget season. Council, finance teams and staff are hard at work preparing financial plans for 2008. Could Lutheran CORE become one of your benevolence initiatives in 2008? We have a most ambitious action plan for the next two years, a critical time for the future of the ELCA. We must assist synod organizers across the country, pay our staff, prepare newsletters, produce teaching materials, organize local events, and do all the things that are necessary to have an impact. All this costs money, and our opponents are raising literally millions of dollars for their efforts.

Lutheran CORE needs your congregation's support. Even a relatively modest contribution is quite meaningful to us. Beyond financial support, we are also seeking to grow the number of congregations that formally join Lutheran CORE. Can you help us? Are you willing to advocate for Lutheran CORE in your congregation?

We can assist you with explanatory materials and procedural advice. Contact me at, or any member of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee. Informational resources are also available on our website

+ + +

Consider forming a Lutheran CORE chapter
by Pr. Mark Chavez, director

If there is not an organized group in your area, you might consider following the example of the Ebenezer Conference Committee on Sexuality in Georgia. Pastor Don Rieder, the Southeastern synod coordinator for Lutheran CORE, reported that the committee was formed in 2004 to consider all the groups that were opposed to the trend in the ELCA to move away from our biblical foundations. Pastor Rieder has chaired the group since it began and it had met 15 times in the past few years. At their meeting in October, when they reviewed their group's history and the present situation in their area and in the ELCA, the members of the committee decided to form an Ebenezer Chapter of Lutheran CORE. If you would like suggestions for how you might start a chapter in your area, contact me at

New groups of Lutheran CORE supporters have begun meeting in two synods, Rocky Mountain and Indiana-Kentucky. Pastor Tom Renquist in Aurora, CO, has helped convene two meetings in the Denver area this fall and Pastor Blair Fields in Florence, KY, helped convene a meeting in the Indianapolis area last month. These are encouraging developments in areas where there have not been many public meetings in the past. If you know of other new groups being formed or meeting, please report the news to the Lutheran CORE steering committee.

+ + +

How can you make a difference in 2009?

It is urgent that you contact your synod office NOW to learn what the election procedures are for 2009 CWA voting members, and then getting yourself or other confessional folk who fit the criteria in a position to be elected. Do the same for conference and synod positions. Until we get a significant number of our people in places of influence, nothing much is going to change.

An anonymous saying (often wrongly attributed to Edmund Burke) reminds us, "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for enough good people to do nothing." Now is the time for you to do something. Decisions are made by the people who show up for meetings. Be there in your congregation, your conference or district, your synod, and if possible at churchwide assembly. Take the profound yet kind and simple speech by Gary Diers (reported above) as your example. Speak the truth in love. And pray constantly for this Church and all its leaders.

+ + +

We are most thankful for your prayers and welcome your financial contributions. We are grateful that the WordAlone Network, a member group of Lutheran CORE, provides administrative support. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to:
        Lutheran CORE
        c/o WordAlone Network
        2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220
        New Brighton, MN 55112

Please make checks payable to "WordAlone Network" and write "Lutheran CORE" on the memo line.

Pastor W. Stevens Shipman, steering committee member and communications committee

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ministry: A Call from God to become Holy

Thanks to Professor (and ELCA Pastor) Karl Donfried (he's the guy who came in second in the last election for ELCA Presiding Bishop) for calling attention to this from Luke Timothy Johnson:

Particularly for those called to a life of ministry within the church, 2 Timothy poses some powerful challenges. It proposes that ministry is not a career choice, but a call from God to become holy. Neither is ministry a body of lore to communicate or a set of skills to exercise, but a matter of living in a certain manner that expresses one's deepest convictions in consistent patterns of behavior. Transformation of character or, if one prefers, continuing conversion is the very essence of ministry, as it is of discipleship. Carrying out acts of ministry without the corresponding affections is a form of counterfeiting, to "have the form of piety while denying its power" (3:5). Ministry, furthermore, is not measured by success, but by fidelity. Ministry demands witnessing to uncomfortable and unpopular truths in the face of indifference and disagreement. Ministry inevitably involves suffering if the gospel is truly lived and rightly proclaimed. The minister labors in a hope not of reward or recognition in this life, but in a hope of sharing in the resurrection life. Not one of these truths is supported by present-day culture. Few of them are supported by the church. The voice of 2 Timothy is not a voice that lulls Christians into a comfortable security, but one that speaks with the urgency of prophecy, calling for witnesses to truth in an age that prefers teachers who cater to its desires (4:3).

From The First and Second Letters to Timothy: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Luke Timothy Johnson, Anchor Bible, Vol. 35A, New York, Doubleday, 2001, p. 330.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Mayor Brought Us Together...

O Lord, our creator, by your holy prophet you taught your ancient people to seek the welfare of the cities in which they lived. We commend our neighborhood to your care, that it might be kept free from social strife and decay. Give us strength of purpose and concern for others, that we may create here a community of justice and peace where your will may be done; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The above collect (found in the Lutheran Book of Worship) is one we've prayed many times over the years at Zion, beginning with a series of prayer vigils we held for the neighborhood during our centennial year. (You're looking at a flier we made for one of them.) It's one I've prayed during community prayer gatherings this last year in response to an epidemic of shootings here in Peoria.

Last week I received a letter from Peoria Mayor James Ardis inviting area pastors to engage in a concerted prayer venture on behalf of our community. Michael Miller of the Journal Star reported it like this in Thursday's paper:
Jim Ardis wants to drive the city to its knees.

The mayor of Peoria has invited religious leaders to meet with him at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Riverside Community Church, 207 NE Monroe St., to discuss a citywide prayer effort he's calling "Ready Set Pray" as part of the fight against crime.

"I think it's going to energize the faith-based community more," Ardis said Wednesday.

Prayer gatherings were the norm during a spate of slayings in Peoria earlier this year. Churches also have been involved in a recent gun buyback program.

Ardis said he was inspired by an effort started earlier this month in Orlando, Fla., called Operation Armor All. That 40-day program was initiated by police department chaplains in response to an increase in violent crime.

The Peoria mayor said he will ask the faith leaders to create a 40-day calendar and try to get different groups to commit to prayer on each of the 40 days.
Read it all here.

For some reason a clergy association for all Peoria clergy has never caught on. I'm not sure how conscious it is, but the associations that have existed in my 15 years here have not been able to attract across too broad a theological / political / racial spectrum -- even for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity celebrations that happened for about a decade. Black-white; evangelical/pentecostal-mainline; inner city-suburban -- individuals cross those barriers for a while, then lose steam or other priorities take over. I'm one of those. I say this with some pride, for I have participated in and been among the leaders of some of these efforts. And I say this with some (okay, more) shame -- for I have not persevered.

But I've not given up. And earlier this afternoon the Mayor greeted some 60-70 clergy and other leaders of Christian groups -- perhaps the broadest spectrum of Christians I've seen at one time in my 15 years here -- told us what he hoped we could do, then got out of our way. Zion will take part in the effort, whatever comes out of the steering committee that organized.

Thanks, Mr. Mayor, for bringing us together.

Fair weather strikes again

You know that I am a Los Angeles Angels fan -- it not only goes back to some of my earliest blog entries, my first baseball cap -- I can't remember a time before I had it, so I must've been 3 when I first got it -- was from the original expansion Angels, blue with a red bill and intertwined "LA," and the cool silver/white halo on top. (Please, Mr Moreno, please!!!) Jimmy Fregosi, Bobby Knoop, Rick Reichardt, Bob (later "Buck") Rodgers, Jay Johnstone, Aurelio Rodriguez, Roger Repoz, Dean Chance, Bill Rigney (hmm, lots of Rs), those are my guys.

But an afternoon at Grandma-and-Grandpa's often had Vin Scully describing the Dodger game in the background, "brought to you by Farmer John Hot Dogs, proud sponsor of the Dodgers" and maker of the world famous Dodger Dogs®. My first professional baseball games were at Dodger Stadium where, my Angels cap long-disappeared (and too small anyway), I bought a Dodger cap with my very own money when I was 10. I still have it.

In 1988 we were sitting in the lounge of PLTS' Beasom Hall watching the first game of the World Series. The whole world knew that the Oakland A's were going to win that Series, and in Berkeley everyone's an A's fan. Except the Angel fan from LA, watching because he likes watching baseball (though he has no dog in this particular game) and the company. And then, Kirk Gibson comes to bat as a pinch hitter. (Go ahead, read it, for the author's got it just right.) For when the crippled former Tiger put that ball over the fence, well, Tibbetts is an LA boy and the Dodgers are the home town team. Everybody was shocked. One was overjoyed.

Okay, I'm a fair weather Dodger fan. And, yes, I'll always have a longing for anything that reminds me of home. But who'da thunk 2 weeks ago that the Los Angeles Dodgers, a once-proud franchise that has been in chaos since O'Malley sold out to Murdoch and Lasorda had to retire, would now be managed by Joe Torre.

It's time to get a new Dodger cap. And 2, not just one, bobbleheads.