Friday, March 28, 2008

Lutheran CORE on the Draft Statement

Retired Bishops Ken Sauer (Southern Ohio Synod) and Paull Spring (Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod) offer this early appraisal of the ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality's first draft of an ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality on behalf of Lutheran CORE.

A Response from Lutheran CORE to the Draft Statement on Human Sexuality

March 2008

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has prepared a draft of a proposed social statement on sexuality. What follows now will be an important process of review, critique, and analysis of this statement throughout the church. This analysis will take place through congregational studies, individual responses, and comments made at the various synodical hearings. Lutheran CORE urges that all members of the ELCA participate actively in this review process. Once this review process is completed, the Task Force on Sexuality will prepare a revised version of the social statement. On the recommendation of the Church Council, this revised statement will be presented to the Minneapolis churchwide assembly, August 2009, for action.

In February 2009, the task force will prepare a series of implementing resolutions. Among these resolutions will be recommendations regarding the blessing and ordination of sexually active gay and lesbian persons. These implementing resolutions will also come before the 2009 churchwide assembly for action.

As participants within Lutheran CORE, we offer the following initial comments on the draft statement.

Our first word is a word of thanks to the members of the task force and the staff who prepared this draft. They have worked hard, under pressure, and have earned the thanks of the ELCA for their work. As the process moves toward the preparation of a final draft, Lutheran CORE participants will continue to pray for the task force and for the leadership of our church.

There is much to be commended in this draft statement. It is, for the most part, well-written and understandable. It contains numerous biblical references (although we wish that more passages were quoted in the body of the statement, rather than simply cited).

The draft touches on many theological themes that characterize specifically Lutheran perspectives. Notable in the draft are, among others, presentations on the Word of God as Law and Gospel, the uses of the Law, the centrality of justification, and the understanding of believers as simultaneously sinners and redeemed. The task force is to be commended for providing these obviously Lutheran perspectives within the draft.

Moreover, we note with appreciation the way the draft addresses many current issues on sexuality. We lift up especially the role of the family, the abuses of sexuality in our society, and the dominating influence of advertising and the media in our culture. We commend the task force for addressing these issues forthrightly. We also appreciate the way the draft recognizes the role Christians have sometimes played in the dehumanization and discrimination against gay and lesbian persons.

In short, there is much in the draft that we can commend and applaud. Unfortunately, there are also elements in the draft statement that are troubling, even worrisome, to us.

1. The first is the definition of marriage. True, marriage is affirmed as a covenant of fidelity between one man and one woman. But this definition is not consistently maintained throughout the draft. In fact, references to other forms of the family and to other relationships as valid weaken the definition of marriage as initially presented. There are few references to procreation as one of the chief purposes of marriage. The discussion on marriage and homosexuality is itself unbalanced — one sentence for heterosexual marriage and several sentences on homosexual unions. A more detailed attention to Genesis 1 and 2 and Matthew 19:4ff would strengthen the draft considerably. We suspect, frankly, that a new definition of marriage is being suggested — not a lifelong covenant of fidelity between one man and one woman, but a relationship of trust and love between two persons. The task force has been charged with preparing recommendations on the blessing and rostering of gay and lesbian persons. There are strong hints in the draft that open the door for recommending such blessings and ordinations — a prospect that distresses and alarms us.

2. Secondly, there are numerous references in the draft to "pastoral" and "pastoral care." Unfortunately these terms are nowhere defined in the draft. The Lutheran heritage understands pastoral care to be a personal address that is based on God's Word of both Law and Gospel. By contrast, pastoral care in the draft appears to be largely a matter of affirmation and support.

3. Thirdly, there is — to us — the confusing use of the category of trust in social relationships and institutions. The observations in this section of the draft are buttressed by references to unnamed social scientists. Trust is an appropriate category to use in the God - human relationship and to relationships among humans. But, in view of the two kingdoms doctrine, the Christian's life in society — family, state, education, commerce, the arts — is more characterized by justice, reliability, and order, rather than trust. Or have we misunderstood the draft?

4. Fourthly, the draft needs to be significantly re-framed and re-structured. This is especially the case with the first half of the document. The draft begins a statement on sexuality with a reference to the Great Commandments, followed by an extensive discussion of the incarnation that leads in turn to a fulsome paean in honor of the resurrection and the new creation. In so doing, the draft places the whole matter of sexuality within the saving work of Christ, the Gospel. The Lutheran tradition, by contrast, places sexuality within the doctrines of creation and the Law. Human sexuality is part of God's created order for the world. Sexuality is not salvific, and sexual intercourse is not a sacrament. On this point we feel that the draft needs serious revision. It would be clearer if the draft were to begin with creation — rather than the incarnation — and then move to a discussion of the Word of God as both Law and Gospel. It is our hope that subsequent revisions of the draft will reflect these observations.

5. There is, moreover, the overall flow of the draft — or rather the lack of it. Themes appear and disappear, to the point where the draft itself seems confused and disjointed. It is not always easy to discern how one theme leads to another. A much better way of dealing with the issues of marriage, family, and sexuality would be to move clearly from Biblical interpretation to practical application. We also wish that the draft had incorporated the more direct affirmations on sexuality from the American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America statements on sexuality and from the ELCA Church Council's 1996 message, "Some Common Convictions."

There are other concerns we have about the draft statement — too many to mention here. We hope and pray that the churchwide discussion that is now underway will lead to a much improved statement. We also hope and pray that the implementing resolutions will clearly re-affirm the rostering provisions that are in place in Vision and Expectations and in the relevant sections in Definitions and Guidelines.

In the meantime we urge everyone in the church to take advantage of the review process for this statement. May God through his Spirit strengthen the church in faithfulness to his Word.

For the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee:

Kenneth H. Sauer
Paull E. Spring

Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) is a coalition of individuals, congregations and reform movements in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that speaks for the historic center of Lutheranism. We seek to preserve within the ELCA the authority of Scripture according to the Lutheran Confessions. Lutheran CORE's members and participants represent the vast middle of American Lutheranism, spanning geographical regions, political viewpoints and vocations, but we are united by our common theological convictions. Lutheran CORE is a voice of the solid, faithful core that is the majority of ELCA members, pastors and congregations.

More information on Lutheran CORE can be found at

The ELCA draft social statement, related materials and an online response form are available at

Thursday, March 20, 2008

ELCA News on Triduum

This was posted today on the ELCA News Blog:

Lutherans wade in water during World Water Day, Easter Vigil, March 22

March 20, 2008  
by Melissa Ramirez Cooper, ELCA News Service

More than 1 billion people in the world lack access to clean, safe drinking water.  In an effort to bring about awareness, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 1992 to designate March 22 as "World Water Day."  "Water access is a priority to all people, and World Water Day is a day to bring attention to those in our world who lack clean, safe drinking water, and adequate sanitation services," said Patricia Zerega, director, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Corporate Social Responsibility.  The ELCA social statement, "Caring for Creation Vision, Hope, and Justice," affirms the church's support for proposals and actions to protect and restore "water, especially drinking water, groundwater, polluted runoff, and industrial and municipal waste."

The new edition of the ELCA World Hunger's "Congregation Connections" and the new ELCA World Hunger "Reproducible Stories" will feature water and justice themes, said Sue Edison-Swift, communication director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal.  Both resources will be made available in April.  "Just as water is foundational for life, life-giving water efforts are foundational to ELCA World Hunger," according to Kathryn Sime, director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal.  "Clean water becomes a trout farm, safety in a refugee camp, or heightened knowledge about malaria prevention," said Sime.

For Christians, water is symbolic in Baptism.  "A number of ELCA congregations will be conducting Baptisms on March 22, since it is the Vigil of Easter this year," said the Rev. Marcus Kunz, executive for discernment of contextual and theological Issues, ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop.  "The Easter Vigil service is focused on Baptism and the believer's baptismal journey with Christ in his death and resurrection, following the tradition of the early church in baptizing converts at the Easter Vigil after catechesis during the season of Lent.  The story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea is read.  When the Easter Vigil service is observed with gusto, a lot of water gets thrown about, and a thanksgiving prayer full of water references is prayed," he said.
World Water Day? Just whose church is this?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

For the Day after My Birthday

Aristotle's Rhetoric, Book II, Chapter 14:
As for Men in their Prime, clearly we shall find that they have a character between that of the young and that of the old, free from the extremes of either. They have neither that excess of confidence which amounts to rashness, nor too much timidity, but the right amount of each. They neither trust everybody nor distrust everybody, but judge people correctly. Their lives will be guided not by the sole consideration either of what is noble or of what is useful, but by both; neither by parsimony nor by prodigality, but by what is fit and proper. So, too, in regard to anger and desire; they will be brave as well as temperate, and temperate as well as brave; these virtues are divided between the young and the old; the young are brave but intemperate, the old temperate but cowardly. To put it generally, all the valuable qualities that youth and age divide between them are united in the prime of life, while all their excesses or defects are replaced by moderation and fitness. The body is in its prime from thirty to five-and-thirty; the mind about forty-nine.

An Era Ends (and on My Birthday)

Hmmm. It's another March for Pastor Zip's Blog.

T. J. Simers opens his column in today's Los Angeles Times:
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The Dodgers played their last spring training game here Monday, like most folks in California really care.

The Dodgers have been training here for 60 years, out of sight as far as Los Angeles is concerned, and who cares where they practice?

It's just another minor league baseball stadium, a clubhouse off limits to fans, and even the players no longer stay overnight in Dodgertown, passing on nostalgia for almost $700 a week in living expenses to hang wherever they want.

Blow up the place, and I don't think any of my neighbors will lose any sleep. Make a museum out of it, and I can still think of a thousand different places worth a visit first.
Read it all here. But T. J. Simers must never have been a boy growing up in Los Angeles. I was -- born on St. Patrick's Day as the Los Angeles Dodgers (a term at that point that tripped off the tongue of no one except Kenny Hahn) were in Spring Training for a season that would, shock of shocks, bring baseball's World Championship to the West Coast. (That means I passed a milestone yesterday, celebrating my 49th birthday -- one more than my grandfather, Charles Wallace Tibbetts, did.)

Vero Beach mattered. Even to an Angels fan in the West Valley who craved, instead, reports from Holtville and games from Palm Springs (it would be years before I finally figured out that the guy yelling outside the press box almost drowning out Enberg and Wells or Drysdale was hawking "ICE COLD BEER!") on KMPC. It meant the sports pages and reports on the TV news and a game or two on Channel 11 focussed on the other Southland team, meaning Dodger talk. It meant that the wonderful voice of Vic Scully was again describing the action on the field while selling Farmer John hot dogs, bacon, and other pork products.

In 1983 our Pastor's 15-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer in the bone of his right leg. Keith was at the time quite a young pitcher whose life ambition until then was to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Saga of Keith and the Dragon Slayers became a focus of the congregation's shared life and all sorts of people got involved in offering comfort and support for Keith. Even the Dodgers had been involved -- baseball players and teams can be so good at providing inspiration and hope -- and, after treatments that included chemotherapy, radiation, and replacement of the bone with a titanium rod, it seemed young Keith had been cured.

And as 1984 was blending into 1985, somehow arrangements had been made for the high school kid who should have been pitching for El Camino Real High School (arch rival of the Hunters) was going to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, with his dad, and get to spend time with their beloved Los Angeles Dodgers. Alas, within hours of his arrival, Keith collapsed and in the hospital it was discovered that, unbeknownst to anyone, a tiny piece of that bone cancer had escaped capture and the cancer was now in his brain. And suddenly the questions were, as Pastor Dave was all alone in Vero Beach, how long could Keith live, and could he come back home to LA.

There were lots of stories yesterday as the Dodgers played what should be their last game in Dodgertown. Sports Illustrated's has a wonderful article, Dodgers: Farewell, Dodgertown of the day, with an 80-year-old Tommy Lasorda managing (while Joe Torre has part of the team playing an exhibition series with the Padres in China):
"It is a special place," former Dodgers ace Carl Erskine said.

His white hair ruffling in the breeze, Erskine played the national anthem on his harmonica. He threw the first pitch at cozy Holman Stadium when it opened in 1953, back when grassy embankments served as the outfield walls. Even now, there are just 17 rows of stands and no roofs on the dugouts.

The popular "Oisk" first arrived in 1948, when the Dodgers touched down at the converted naval air station a year after they trained in Havana.

The Boys of Summer are grandfathers now, Jackie and Pee Wee are gone and Brooklyn is now home to a minor league team.

But there was always that link to Dodgertown, where Sandy Koufax still came back to teach pitching. History abounded -- heck, the camp is older than almost half the franchises in the majors.
David Hinkley of the New York Daily News in "A farewell to Dodgertown" remembers being a 9-year-old Brooklyn Dodger fan in Connecticut struggling with the notion that, since the Dodgers had just moved to Los Angeles, Vinnie wouldn't be on the radio from Dodgertown.
Around 12:30, when the pregame shows used to start, I went to the kitchen and turned on the radio, a small black Magnavox with a plastic gold grill. I switched from WTIC, where Bob Steele gave us the weather every morning and school closings on really good days, to 840.

Nothing sounds like a baseball game on the radio. You know it as surely as you know the smell of popcorn in a movie theater. Even a pregame show is distinctive.

This afternoon, there was nothing distinctive on WKNB - probably, thinking back, some NBC network show.

I adjusted the dial, hoping I'd tuned wrong. I hadn't. I turned it off. Fifteen minutes later I came back, hoping maybe they just weren't carrying the pregame.

I started trying again around 12:55. By 1:15 there had been no mention of a ballgame.

Maybe it was rained out, I started to tell myself, but even at 9 I knew when I'd exhausted this delusion.

By 2 o'clock the announcers had done a half dozen breaks and never mentioned a ballgame.

I stared at the radio. I remember feeling very lonely.

As years have passed, I've thought of a lot of things I wish I had done, or could have done, when I was young. If I'd been just a year or two older, I might remember my great-grandmother, who came over from Ireland in the 1870s on a "famine ship" and died when I was 4. What a story she must have taken with her.

But those senses of loss came gradually. For acute, immediate loss, it would be years before anything would come close to what washed over me in the kitchen on that March afternoon.

It felt unfair. Just unfair.

Curiously, I didn't look to blame anyone, because it didn't really seem to matter who did it. Even if I'd known about Walter O'Malley, I wouldn't have understood enough to hate him. It would be years before I appreciated the treachery of Robert Moses.

I certainly didn't blame the Dodgers. I remained a fan, now a cross-country fan, hating the playoff loss in '62, loving the sweep of the Yankees in '63 and so on through the years.

So when I arrived back here in Vero Beach this spring, the sharp pain of that afternoon in the kitchen was tempered by the expectation of seeing Matt Kemp and James Loney and Andre Ethier, hoping they can make the Dodgers a good team again.

When they came to bat, Holman Stadium didn't feel like the scene of a wake. It felt like a a pleasant afternoon when I had tickets to see my team, which for the last 50 years I haven't had enough chances to do.

Still, it's hard not to feel the ghosts around Dodgertown, starting with Jackie Robinson's "42" on the right-centerfield fence.

Vero Beach is still the place where all those guys that I played in the backyard got good every spring - Hodges and Reese and Campanella, sure, but also Don Demeter and Randy Jackson and Gino Cimoli.

I was all of them. They were all here. And now this place is going to be gone, and that takes them away, too. There will be no more blue Dodger uniforms in a stadium where tropical trees grow up through the middle of two reserved sections. No more Dodger dogs.
Tom Singer now over at, but who I read every day in the sports section of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner (now that was a newspaper), wrote Dodgertown blues: Time to say farewell:
Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, eyewitness to almost as much of Dodgertown, calls his spring home for 59 years "my memory factory."

"This," Scully said before bidding an early farewell to Dodgertown on his way to China, "is where I stood in place and it seems like half the world came by -- players, coaches, managers, writers, broadcasters."

This is where time still stands still. Strolling down the dusty path from a back field, you come to an intersection where a traffic sign directs pedestrians, "Players, Left," "Public, Right." They rub elbows with each other, as they have for over a half-century, passing across Duke Snider Street, Don Drysdale Drive, Sandy Koufax Lane and so on.

"There were times you'd be rushing to get to the park," said Steve Garvey, the former Dodgers first baseman/icon, "and you'd be signing [autographs] and putting your bat between your legs and walking along through the people."

The homogeny also extended to the players, hundreds of them on dozens of Minor League clubs in the early years, when Holman Stadium was essentially the quad of Dodgers University.

Holman? Vero Beach Caddy dealer Bud Holman scored one of the first "naming-rights" deals for convincing legendary Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey to relocate the team's training base here. How long ago was it? To sell Rickey, Holman had to look him up in Cuba -- where the Dodgers were training in 1947.

"When you came here, you felt that competitive worry of having to make the club," said Jeff Torborg, Dodgers catcher 1964-70. "That's what Dodgertown meant. That family feeling you get being here, you don't feel anywhere else."

"We played baseball all day long," Lasorda recalled, "and that was the best part of it. Learning how to play so you could advance yourself to the Major Leagues. Greatest, most unique sports complex in America."

"Just walking in there ... smelling the orange blossoms, hearing the crack of the bat. The whole atmosphere was just something special," said Mike Scioscia, the Angels manager who first came here in 1977 before becoming the Dodgers' catcher, and last departed from here in 1999 as their Triple-A manager at Albuquerque. "And it's the people who made it special.

"Sandy Koufax, Carl Erskine and Roy Campanella would be in the Chow Hall, eating breakfast with you. They were all reminders that you were there to win, to achieve. Every time you stepped into the clubhouse, you were prepared to spend that day becoming a better ballplayer."

Even the poetic waxing about the place is itself part of the anachronism. The game is as great and as absorbing as ever, but the romance seems to have long ago left it. Sentiment is quickly put into its place.
The Times has a regular report of that last Dodger game at Holman Stadium in Dodgers bid farewell to Dodgertown (maybe):
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Carl Erskine played the national anthem on a harmonica. Tommy Lasorda made a speech. And then the Dodgers said what may be their final goodbye to Dodgertown after 61 spring-training seasons today by losing to the Houston Astros, 12-10.

. . .

The Astros took a 3-1 lead in the third on back-to-back homers by Michael Bourne and Hunter Pence before the Dodgers rallied with four runs in the bottom of the inning, helped in part by Rafael Furcal's second home run of the spring.

Houston answered with another home run in the fourth -- one with an ironic twist given the day's history because it was hit by second baseman David Newhan, whose father, Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan, covered numerous spring training games in Vero Beach as the Dodgers beat writer for The Times.
The Dodgers hold Spring Training in Glendale, Arizona? With the White Sox?? No, it doesn't feel right. Not on my birthday, for heaven's sake. Dodgertown is part of the Dodger mystique! No, T. J., this LA boy knows you've opened your story all wrong.

But get past those heartless first paragraphs...
And when it was all over, the players leaving after a 12-10 loss to the Houston Astros, Lasorda lingered at home plate.

As he began to walk down the right-field line, every step appearing to be a chore, something almost chilling on a hot day began to take shape.

Somewhere beyond first base he looked up, and he saw it, too, Dodgers players standing in a long line, two-by-two across from each other, bats raised above their heads as if they were crossing swords in honor of a military hero.

And as he walked down the tunnel, he shook each of their hands, a bunch of kids taking it upon themselves without a call to any of their agents to honor an 80-year-old man.

A few minutes later, after making it to the clubhouse, Lasorda cried.

"A lot of amazing things have happened to me in my life," he said. "But what those players did for me with the bats is something I'll never forget."
It was another miracle. Somehow arrangements were made for a medically equipped jet -- this was 1985 -- to fly Keith from Vero Beach back to LA where his UCLA doctors could see what they could do and, unlike what we had feared, Pastor Dave would be leading his congregation in worship for Holy Week and Easter. Then the miracles ran out. Young Keith died a few weeks later, and for his funeral, people packed Resurrection to the gills.

Ah, "Resurrection." Stories for another time. But ponder this: the miracles really don't run out. Eras end, but there'll be something more. And better.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Zip. Pastor Zip.*

Click on the photo for a larger view.

It's been a cold, dark, snowy winter. That's beginning to change. So, this afternoon between Lenten services, I stepped out to make a hospital call, get Sebastian washed (he looks pretty good for a 6-year-old, no?), and pick up the palm branches for Sunday's worship.

Here's how much I've become acclimated to the Midwest: growing up as a boy in the San Fernando Valley, I needed a sweater when it got below 70°F (21°C). This afternoon it was in the mid-50s (12°C), I'm driving with my sunroof open, and wearing only a sweater. Oh, the Sun and the fresh air felt so good! Especially since I was not reading the First Draft of the ELCA's Statement on Human Sexuality.

* With apologies to The Pontificator, Fr. Al Kimel, who had a similar blog title ("Kimel. Father Kimel") with similar photos of him and his Miata last spring before his old CANNet blog got hacked and permanently disappeared. I suppose we both owe an apology to James Bond, which I'd be glad to do for a spin in his Aston Martin. I won't speak for Fr. Kimel (who's on my Blogs for Faithful Churchmen list), but I do notice he's beginning to post fairly regularly to his new Pontifications blog. While that is not quick reading, I expect that to be much more edifying than what I didn't look at today.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Course of Error in the Church

Yesterday Fr. Weedon posted the following both at ALPB Online and on Weedon's Blog where is was his "Old Lutheran Quote for the Day"—one of the very nice features of his blog. Though I go right by his church every time I drive to-and-fro the St. Louis area, and we've both been on a Lutheran liturgy list for years, Fr. Weedon and I have not yet actually met. Some day that will change. In the meantime, I very much appreciate his own contributions and his regularly lifting up quotes from the Church Fathers and our Lutheran Church Fathers. He's on my list of Blogs for Faithful Churchmen and I encourage you to check it out.

One of our American Lutheran Church Fathers is Charles Porterfield Krauth, who was a leader of the Confessional recovery Lutherans experienced in the mid-19th Century, battling Schmuckerism (which included re-writing the Augsburg Confession to take out things that were "too Catholic," like the Lord's Supper being the Body and Blood of Christ, Baptismal Regeneration, etc.) and helping form the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, from when the ELCA draws deep roots. To those who think things are hopeless in the ELCA, I encourage them to learn about 19th-Century North American Lutheranism, for things were far worse then.

A fine overview of that history is Lutherans in Crisis: The Question of Identity in the American Republic by David A. Gustafson, published by Augsburg Fortress about 15 years ago but, alas, out of print. But you can usually find a copy or two via the link above or at Alibris, though not always at a reasonable price. It is especially important to read when we are told that certain innovations in the Lutheran Church are inevitable or "the youth don't think it's a very big deal." Maybe your library can find a copy.

Until then, catch this paragraph by C. P. Krauth (I've made a couple of minor correction's from Fr. Weedon's posts), sub-headed "Course of Error in the Church," in his The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, one of the keys to the ELCA's own pre-history, but published today by Concordia Publishing House, rather than Augsburg Fortress
When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking for toleration. Its [sic] friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ, is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is asserting supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not at first in spite of their departure from the Church's faith, but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skilful in combating it.        (The Conservative Reformation..., pp. 195-196)
If any of this seems familiar, you're paying attention to what's happening in the old "mainline" North American churches. But having read this, you are now better prepared for the upcoming news about the ELCA.

Sexuality Statement Hijinx

You won't find it on its web site, but the "Amen Corner" down the the left column of the "Faith & Values" main page in last Saturday's Peoria Journal Star featured the color ELCA logo near the bottom, with a headline in bold red ink underneath:


    The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will soon release a draft of its social statement on human sexuality, including proposed teaching on gay relationships.
    The document "Free in Christ to Serve the Neighbor: Lutherans Talk about Human Sexuality" is scheduled to be made public on Thursday by the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality. — Associated Press
I've already mentioned the unfortunate timing (more on that in a moment). And, as an aside, the title of the report given by the AP is that of the churchwide study completed last Fall -- the proposed statement will likely have a new title. Oh, and it's not supposed to have much to say about gay relationship either -- that's a separate issue.

Anyway, I was ready Sunday morning for someone to ask about it, but if any Zionites noticed they weren't saying anything to their Pastor. Last Wednesday, ELCA rostered leaders received this e-mail:
Dear rostered leader:

Greetings to you during this Lenten season.

The purpose of this communication is to inform all rostered leaders of the process for the upcoming March 13 release of the ELCA Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality and your particular role in that process.

The draft will be made available to the ELCA on March 13 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time at on the ELCA Web site. It will be mailed on March 13 to all rostered leaders and congregations.

On the morning of March 12 rostered leaders will receive an e-mail indicating the Web link for accessing an embargoed and strictly confidential preview of the document. The Web link will be accessible as of 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on March 12.

You have an important leadership role to play in relation to this process. The hope is that being able to read a copy early will assist you in responding in an informed way at the time of the public release.

For your information, all press coverage will be subject to an embargo until 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on March 13. Thank you in advance for your unqualified respect for the embargo and the strict confidentiality level of this early review.

The draft social statement on the Web site will be accompanied by several documents to assist you in your preparation. These include an executive summary of the draft for quick reference, a "Q&A" of common questions and answers, and a set of media talking points to assist you in responding to any media calls you may receive.

The task force thanks you for your accompaniment in this journey together and for your leadership role in encouraging deliberation of this draft social statement. Let us continue to hold one another and this church in prayer in the months to come.

Kind regards,

Rebecca S. Larson
Executive Director, Church in Society

P.S. For a detailed timeline on the social statement process, please go to on the Journey Together Faithfully Web site.
I'm still thinking over whether or not to download the proposal, much less read through it in time for the Journal Star's Religion Editor Mike Miller to maybe give me a call. If there were any chance that it would be more like the 1970 LCA Social Statement Sex, Marriage, and Family, which covered all that in 6 pages, I'd feel a little better about pausing Wednesday afternoon between Lenten services to read it. Part of me really wants to wait until after Easter Sunday. But what if it hits the news and folks respond to our ad in next Saturday's paper advertising our Holy Week services? What were they thinking?

In the meantime, it looks like the release of a first draft this week of 2008 will be a practice for next year in more ways than one. Take another look at this from the Studies on Sexuality Time Line for 2009:
Synod councils may bring resolutions to the ELCA Church Council related to the proposed social statement on human sexuality, implementing resolutions, and roster recommendations.

March 27 - 30
ELCA Church Council reviews text of proposed social statement and acts to recommend social statement on human sexuality, implementing resolutions, and roster recommendations, and directs that these be placed on the Churchwide Assembly agenda.

RECOMMENDED social statement on human sexuality, implementing resolutions, and roster recommendations are available to the church for discussion and response through synod assembly actions.
Note the lack of an exact date for when all that will actually be available. Here's a date we know: Easter Sunday 2009 is April 12, putting Passion/Palm Sunday April 5 to begin Holy Week.

Meanwhile, the earliest Synod Assemblies generally start meeting near the end of April. Since one reason we're getting the draft this week is to provide for enough time for April Synod Assemblies to study/comment upon the draft, certainly it'll be necessary to provide the same opportunity with the actual proposed statement, no? What else is there than the week before Holy Week 2009?

Do we laugh, or cry?

Monday, March 10, 2008

How to Not Grow in the Faith

Each week in the Prayer of the Church at Zion we pray for those called to leadership in the Church and, in a 5-week rotation, we pray by name for our own Bishops, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and our Central/Southern Illinois Synod Bishop Warren Freiheit, the Bishops of the Episcopal Dioceses in which most Zionites live and with whom we are in communion, Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Diocese of Quincy (here in Peoria) and Bishop Peter Beckwith of the Diocese of Springfield (its Northern border is only a couple of minutes away), and the Senior of the Society of the Holy Trinity, Pastor Frank Senn, STS. I have been privileged to have the opportunity to meet with each of these men and to tell them on occasion of our prayers on their behalf as they lead in these turbulent times.

In his monthly message for February, Bishop Beckwith reflects on the promises made at the ordination of an Episcopal priest, which he administered most recently in January, in the context of numerous orthodox priests and bishops being charged for “abandonment of the communion of this church” when departing The Episcopal Church for another part of the Anglican Communion. Near the end of his reflection is this little gem that actually speaks to us at all times, and not only in the midst of our current tribulations:
It’s been said that a persistent and all too common problem in the Christian vocation, whether lay or clergy, is the retardation of spiritual growth. That may very well be our problem. After years of Christian profession, it’s not unusual to find there’s little or no progress from when one first believed, and bishops are clearly demonstrating we are not exempt. Certainly the causes of retarded spiritual growth can be many, and to ascribe the trouble to any one fault would be less than appropriate. Nevertheless, one area appears so widespread that it could be seen as a major cause and we all would do well to take careful note. That cause is a failure to commit oneself to the pursuit of God. Every Christian is strong or weak depending on how effectively he or she is able to cultivate a personal knowledge of and relationship with God. All progress in Christian living is governed by an increasing knowledge of the Triune God gained through corporate and personal experiences as a result of a primary commitment to that task. God can be known only in proportion to the time and energy we commit to knowing Him through worship and the study of Holy Scripture.
Read it all here for Bishop Beckwith's context, but I invite you to ponder just this paragraph by itself.

Friday, March 07, 2008

More on Benedict XVI and Martin Luther

Phil Lawler, the editor at Catholic World News writes here

The Forum: Rehabilitating Luther: a London Times theory

by Phil Lawler
special to

Mar. 6, 2008 ( - "Pope Benedict is to rehabilitate Martin Luther," announces reporter Richard Owen in the eye-catching opening phrase of his story in the London Times.

Reports that appear in the Times often find their way into other news stories. That is unfortunate, because the Times has a track record of sensational and misleading coverage of Vatican affairs. This story provides one more example.

Here are the facts that Owens supplies:
  • In the Ratzinger Schülerkreis, the informal seminar that Pope Benedict holds each year with his former theology students, the topic for discussion at this year's August session will be Luther's teaching and influence.
  • Cardinal Walter Kasper (bio - news) says: “We have much to learn from Luther, beginning with the importance he attached to the Word of God."
Can one logically conclude, from those two facts, that the Pope will "rehabilitate" Luther? No; not even close.

Cardinal Kasper certainly must be taken seriously. As president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity he plays a key role in ecumenical dialogue. But Richard Owen is not reporting on an initiative taken by Kasper's office; he says that the Pope will issue a statement at the conclusion of an informal seminar.

Ordinarily these summer seminars do not result in formal statements, much less papal policy statements. Yet the Times story leads readers to believe that this year's session will end with a very important declaration of Church teaching. Moreover, several months before the conversation between the Pope and his old students even begins, Owen tells us what conclusions that seminar will reach.
Read it all here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pope Benedict XIV and Martin Luther

From today's Times Online, the web portal to the Times of London:

That Martin Luther? He wasn’t so bad, says Pope

Richard Owen in Rome

Pope Benedict XVI is to rehabilitate Martin Luther, arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity but only to purge the Church of corrupt practices.

Pope Benedict will issue his findings on Luther (1483-1546) in September after discussing him at his annual seminar of 40 fellow theologians — known as the Ratzinger Schülerkreis — at Castelgandolfo, the papal summer residence. According to Vatican insiders the Pope will argue that Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy, was not a heretic.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the head of the pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the move would help to promote ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. It is also designed to counteract the impact of July's papal statement describing the Protestant and Orthodox faiths as defective and “not proper Churches”.

The move to re-evaluate Luther is part of a drive to soften Pope Benedict's image as an arch conservative hardliner as he approaches the third anniversary of his election next month. This week it emerged that the Vatican is planning to erect a statue of Galileo, who also faced a heresy trial, to mark the 400th anniversary next year of his discovery of the telescope.
Read it all here.

Canoga Park High on TV

If you have broadband or (like Dad and me) are a very patient dial-up holdout, you can catch a bit of my high school and its redwood trees, what the old Quad (where I spent brunch and lunch periods for most of 3 years) looks like today, the beginning of the Los Angeles River, and a certain history teacher (and alum) thanks to LA's TimeWarner Cable So-Cal News. It's a 90 second bit once you've pressed on the picture and got it all.

The occasion is CPHS receiving a $500,000 grant from the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation, which will be used to improve the school's outdoor garden, build a family picnic area, and plant more trees on the campus.

Way to go, Hunters! (And way to go, Richard!)