Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sexuality Draft Coming just before Holy Week

The First Draft of the proposed 2009 ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality, which was completed earlier this week by the ELCA Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality is scheduled to be publicly released on Thursday, March 13, at Noon (Central Daylight Time). While ELCA rostered leaders will be able to download it beginning 24 hours earlier, a quick look at the calendar reveals that most of us will have something a bit more serious in mind at that time -- Holy Week, which begins 2 1/2 days later on Sunday, March 16.

Okay, the timing may not be quite as mind-bogglingly dumb as when the ELCA promoted "Central American Week 1989" and encouraged pastors and congregations to focus on the death of the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero while the Church Calendar was directing us to observe Holy Week and Easter. Unless, of course, there turns out to be something interesting in this First Draft and local reporters start contacting nearby ELCA pastors for comments.

A seminary classmate serving as an ELCA pastor in Southern California has an interesting idea. He writes:
I am ridiculously trying to see if we can get the ELCA to postpone the release of the new sexuality draft to AFTER Easter. This is an action that has NO concern for the content. Right now the new draft is scheduled for release to the media the Wednesday before Holy Week. I wrote Rebecca Larson who is the director of Church and Society and got the following email (see below). If you concur that it would be better to release this AFTER Easter I invite you to send and email to Pastor Larson, Bishop Hanson and your local Bishop. Here are the points I have.

---Easter is one of the biggest evangelism days for many of our congregations; we work hard to be especially inviting and centered on the good news for our many guests and seekers. I can tell you without doubt that negative media exploitation of this study will in my context turn people away from our parish.

---Parish pastors work extremely hard during Holy Week and the weeks before in preparation. If there is negative media exploitation upon the release of this study and this adds to the stress, hours and work load of clergy, it will be received as as big a blunder as the October '93 incident.

---I realize there can be no way to anticipate how the media will respond to the release of this draft. However, we all know the possibility of headlines taken out of context and small portions of a document used for sensationalism. Why would we risk alienating our own people the week before the holiest time of the year? I have to say in my context 'brand' loyalty is not strong, and such potential negative publicity would impact our parish tremendously.

If you think the above points are worthy of postponing the release of this document to the press by a week and a half, please add your email voice to mine. Also please feel free to pass this on to any ELCA clergy that you think might be interested.
And then he gives the public e-mail addresses for Dr. Larson, the ELCA's Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, and an assistant to Bishop Hanson. I won't quote Dr. Larson's full letter to my friend. She assures him that
...the decision for the timing of the release was very carefully considered and had to take into consideration many factors including the ones that you raise. ... I do now need to say that, while it may not be ideal, the timeline that we have is the one that we will be using. At the same time I am confident that pastors and congregations will use the theological and liturgical context of Holy Week to assist this church to engage in whatever comes before us that week, including this draft on human sexuality.
Yeah, Jesus died so I can comment on what the ELCA Task Force thinks this church ought to say about sexuality.

I think my friend is on to something. What could possibly be lost by delaying the release a couple of weeks until after Easter?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

40 Days of Prayer for Peoria: Continued

The 40 Days of Prayer for Peoria (which I last wrote about here) seem to be going on just fine, the only hitch being that the location was moved to First United Methodist Church downtown. Apparently the leaders were unable to reserve the original planned location (which, in all-too-typical Peoria ecumenical fashion I found out by showing up at the Gateway Building on New Years' Eve at the appointed hour only to be directed to the new location). Readers of the Peoria Journal Star wouldn't have known the difference -- one found me the next morning in the photo attached to the PJS article on New Year's Day and another one on Mike Miller's Faithfully Yours blog. And, as it is, the church has been able to provide for a fine worship atmosphere.

The evenings' prayers have been led by a variety of Peoria pastors and other ministers. Each one I've attended has had anywhere between 125-200 (or more) people attending, and there has been a good mixture of black and white Peorians -- which in my experience has not been typical of Peoria church events, though not for the lack of trying. Perhaps the only negative is that, for all the churches participating, only 4-5 come from the old "Protestant mainline" or Catholic churches -- nearly all are from Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions. I find it curious that clergy from churches with long-standing commitments to ecumenism are, for the most part, not participating. Obviously there there are many reasons for that, but at first glance it doesn't reflect on us very well.

This Wednesday evening, however, Fr. Eric Craig of St. Andrew's Anglican Church and I will do our part in leading prayer for our city in fine Anglican/Lutheran style. If you're in the area, drop by the First United Methodist Church Annex on the corner of Main and Perry at 6 pm. You'll know you've prayed with the Church for our city.

Join the prayers for Peoria any evening at 6 pm: the 40 Days concludes February 8.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"It's a documentary, not a musical."

You have probably seen the Twilight Zone episode or, if you are like me, you caught it first via the original short story by Damon Knight. The blurb on my edition of The Best of Damon Knight describes it like this:
The aliens looked something like pigs and something like people—not a very attractive combination. Maybe that's why Earthmen were still so horrified when the Kanamit, as they called themselves, landed in their great spaceships and offered lasting prosperity. It wasn't easy to willingly accept gifts from monsters, but in time the human race adjusted and began to live opulently thanks to the Kanamit credo—"To Serve Man." An admirable motto to be sure . . . or was it?
You know the punch line: "It's a cookbook."

Near the end of yesterday's Chaos Manor Mail comes this line from one of Jerry Pournelle's correspondents:
Suggestion: Watch "Cabaret!" (It's a documentary, not a musical; a portrait of the end-game of a decadent culture.)
Granted, I've not seen the Academy Award winning film since I was 13. (Thirteen?) I've only seen clips on PBS specials since. But that sounds right to me.

And, perhaps, not just about 1931 Berlin, either.

Happy 2008!