Thursday, July 30, 2009

Homosexual Relationships: Has the Church Erred?

[Note: the following was actually appended to this blog on 1 March 2012; it is a repost of this post of mine over on the "Asian Lutherans Respond" thread at ALPB Forum Online at the end of July 2009. The context, as one can see from that second link) is a letter to the ELCA Presiding Bishop from the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong regarding the recommendations to provide for the ordination of those in same-sex relationship. It began with a question, to which I responded. It got a good reponse, so I place it here for posterity. (Vanity of vanities?) And we'll learn if it shows up currently on my blog feeds on Facebook, Twitter, and at spt+]

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Quote from: Charles_Austin on July 30, 2009, 09:57:31 AM
I raise the question again, just for fun.
Does anyone entertain the thought that the Church may have erred? That even if one argues for an unbroken viewpoint (difficult to do, given some blank spots in human history), might it be that this viewpoint was wrong?
My "just for fun" response, Charles, would be one you are wont to use on this forum: "asked and answered."

However, I shan't leave it at that, since this question stopped being "fun" a long, long time ago. With all due seriousness:

Yes, I have entertained the thought that the Church may have erred. After all, as Lutherans we hold as a matter of confession that Councils of the Church can err, so it isn't much of a stretch to suggest that an issue that has not been directly addressed by a Council of the Church could still be unclear for Christians.

Whether the Church could have erred and whether the Church is erring in declaring homosexual relationships, regardless of their qualities, as being contrary to God's will is another matter still. Here is where I am relying on 2 independent sorts of examinations:

1) My own, which started long before I was willing to become a seminarian because the particulars of the issue were very personal. I continued the examination while a seminarian at institutions whose teachers were frequently on record as teaching that the Church had erred, but found their arguments wanting. Occasionally creative. Alas, sometimes a bit too creative with verifiable history. None came close to convincing me -- as one who very much wanted to be convinced. My own examination continued in concert with...

2) The ELCA's examinations, predominantly through the sexuality studies leading up to the infamous First Draft of 1993 and the sexuality studies that have led to proposals for the CWA less than 4 weeks from now. Examinations that have had as available resources every single one of the theological minds of the ELCA and beyond.

Now, I will admit here that even before the charge of the 2001 CWA, I had been convinced by my own examination, by the theological conversations (formal and informal) while in seminary, and by the conversations that ensued through the debates within the ELCA, ECUSA, etc. of the 1990s that there was indeed no sustainable argument for changing the Church's teaching that all homosexual relationships are, regardless of other qualities, ipso facto sinful. This theological judgment was contrary to my desires, but my theological/pastoral conscience is bound to something other than my desires.

Nevertheless, I had hopes that, since every possible theological resource would be available to the ELCA Task Force, if anyone could offer such a sustainable argument, they would. I participated in all the studies. I read through all the official materials. I participated in many discussions.

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

In the end of nearly 8 years of work, given the chance to show that the Church's teaching has been wrong, having the best and brightest minds of the ELCA at their disposal, they did not even try.

And, I will note, in all the on-line discussions I've been in with you over 16 years, neither have you. It is always, "Some people believe...."

Now there may be some churches where such statements hold theological weight. If the ELCA is one of them, it has betrayed our Confession of Faith.

I'm not from Missouri, Charles. Nevertheless, show me, and I'll gladly change my mind. Otherwise, my conscience is bound by the Word of God, not my own desires. Here I stand. Until convinced otherwise by the Word and reason, I can do no other.

Pax et bonum, Steven+

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[Responses begin here.]

Monday, July 13, 2009

Peace (?) Be with You.

The Episcopal Church is currently meeting in General Convention. You can keep track of what's happening over at TitusOneNine, which is near the top of Pastor Zip's "Blogs for Faithful Churchmen" one the right column of this blog.

The big news there, so far, is that the House of Deputies has approved a resolution that "acknowledges that God has called and may call any individual in the church to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, in accordance with the discernment process set forth in the Constitution and Canons of the church." This resolution essentially overturns a resolution from the last General Convention to not ordain any more practicing gay Bishops. Next it goes to the House of Bishops, who need to approve the resolution for it to officially go into effect. (Here TEC's General Convention is like the US Congress, where both the House of Representatives and the Senate must approve legislation.)

Early this afternoon TitusOneNine posted this message from Bishop John Howe of the Central Florida Diocese, which begins:
We have reached the mid-point, and I want to give you some impressions. This is a remarkably different General Convention than any of the previous six I have attended as a Bishop. I would characterize all the previous Conventions as highly contentious. This one is not. We still have the same recurrent issues ahead of us, but the "conservative" wing is so greatly diminished that its voice is almost irrelevant.

I made that comment to one person who questioned whether I really meant it, "Irrelevant? Don't you mean "hated?" No, there is no sense of animosity here. The conservatives state their position(s) respectfully and they are treated with respect in return. It is just that they are so hugely outnumbered that it doesn't matter.

At the open hearings on the sexuality questions the "progressives" outnumber the "conservatives" somewhere between six and ten to one. I have been proud of the members of the Central Florida deputation entering into the debate, but often they have been nearly the only ones speaking on behalf of a "traditionalist" position. (Some of our folks have been approached and questioned by members of the "Youth Presence" that is here who seem never to have heard a "traditionalist" position articulated previously.)
Read it all here.

I read this not long after getting off the phone with a friend in the Church of Sweden, where we spoke of recent events. After that, and what I've been reading of TEC's Convention, and thinking of my recent attitude towards our Synod and Churchwide Assemblies, I'm thinking maybe I've become a bit too peaceful.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bo Harald Giertz, Bishop and Confessor, 1998

12 July, Commemoration of Bo H. Giertz, Bishop and Confessor, 1998

Born August 31, 1905 in an atheistic family, Bo Harald Giertz embraced the faith while studying medicine at the University of Uppsala and switched to theology. Ordained a priest in 1934, Giertz first served in youth work, then as an Associate Pastor (komminister) at Torpa (1938-1949). Largely due to his popular writings, such as The Hammer of God (in Swedish, Stengrunden), Giertz became the Bishop of the Göteborg (Gothenburg) Diocese in the Church of Sweden (1949-1970). This was a shock, due both to his young age (44) and position in the rural Torpa parish, as Swedish Bishops were routinely selected from among Cathedral Deans and University Chairmen of Theology. He was leader of the Confessional movement in Sweden (Kyrklig Samling Kring Bibeln och Bekännelsen [The Church Coalition for Bible and Confession]) and served as vice president of the Lutheran World Federation (1957-1963).

In retirement Giertz translated the entire New Testament and provided commentaries on all its books. He was named the most influential Swedish churchman of the 20th century in a nationwide survey at the close of 1999. In influence and style, and as a Christian apologist, he has been compared favorably to Walter Wangerin, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and C.S. Lewis. During 2005 symposia were held in the United States, Canada, and Sweden to mark the centennial of his birth. This year marks the 11th anniversary of his death. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Clifford Ansgar Nelson's English translation of The Hammer of God.
"The Church is and exists, first and foremost, in that moment when the bishop as a heavenly instrument stands in his congregation's midst and celebrates the liturgical mysteries, full of joy and light and life. In this way the Church is for these people the shining city on a hill, whose walls are always brilliant with light... Here I understood better than ever the very nature of the Church: she is not an institution for grievances, not a protest organization, nor a device for social improvements or any other "goal"; she is the heavenly joy's sanctuary, in which we enter, filled with overwhelming joy [P. Hendrix]. ...

"[A] truly active church life [consists of] prayer and participation in the Lord's Supper. ...

"To be a Christian [is to be] a person who lives in the Church of Christ with all her overwhelming riches." (Bo Giertz, Kyrkofromhet [Church Piety], 128, 100, 151, translation by Eric R. Andrae; Giertz' quote of Hendrix is from Bilder aus der orhodoxen Kirche im heutigen Russland, Eine Heilige Kirche, 1-3, 1937).

Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Bishop of our souls and bodies, shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Bo, who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock; and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life, we may by your grace grow into your full stature and your name in which we pray. Amen.

Psalm 84
Ezekiel 34:11-16
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 21:15-17
Tip of the biretta to Pastor Eric R. Andrae, who will gladly tell you about the International Giertz Society. The most detailed English-language source on Bishop Bo Giertz is here. See especially the up-to-date Giertz English-language bibliography.

Among Giertz' books currently available in English translation are
The Hammer of God (published by Augsburg Fortress) and To Live with Christ (Att leva med Kristus), Giertz' classic devotions for each day of the Church Year published last year by Concordia Publishing House. Fortunately for us, translators are working on several of his other writings.

Works available on the web include his classic
Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening, which was originally part of a longer pastoral letter at the beginning of his episcopacy, and the recently published (by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England and the Lutheran Heritage Foundation) pamphlet Life by Drowning: Enlightenment through Law and Gospel.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Church Coalition on Gay Marriage Proposal

Fr. Yngve Kalin of the Kyrklig samling kring bibeln och bekännelsen (the Church Coalition for the Bible and Confession) within the Church of Sweden has issued a:

Statement on the Proposal for a new Order of Marriage for the Church of Sweden

click title for pdf version,
click here for Swedish pdf version

The Governing Body of the Church of Sweden proposes that the Church of Sweden General Synod should adopt an order of marriage that allows two people of the same sex to contract a marriage in the church. In this way the Church of Sweden will adapt its teaching to the values that constitute the majority view in the Swedish parliament (Riksdagen).

This is actually not surprising. The Church of Sweden is permeated by the same political parties that constitute the parliament. The majority of the members of the Church of Sweden Governing Body have party labels, as have those who are members of the Church of Sweden General Synod, and they usually follow their party lines on decisive issues. Theology has been transformed into an ideology and the church’s own institutions happily provide theological post-constructions to the latest opinions and whims of the world.

For the church, this is devastating. The faith, confession and teaching of the Church of Sweden can never rest on political majorities or on the currently fancy views of the world, but only on the revealed Word of God and on the confessional foundation that over the centuries have been formulated in the confessional documents of the church.

The decision now taken by the Church of Sweden Governing Body shows that those who have power in the Church of Sweden are effectively cutting off the church from its roots. The Church of Sweden will now be transformed into a congregational denomination, whose teaching is formulated by simple majority decisions, and where the Bible is being used arbitrarily or even entirely removed in order to legitimize the decisions taken.

A small denomination in the North now chooses its own way and redefines the teaching about marriage that the universal church has given up until now, supported by God’s good order in creation and which is revealed through the word of the Bible and confirmed by the confession of the church. Those who have power in the Church of Sweden have chosen a dangerous road and they now run the risk of leading her out into complete ecumenical isolation.

The issue has however yet another dimension. For each and every one who wants to stand firm on the foundation of the traditional teaching, the matter is not brought to a head, whether or not the Church of Sweden is still a useful tool for God when His word is reinterpreted and, as the Archbishop of Uppsala recently put it, ”extended” and given an entirely new meaning. I therefore appeal to everyone for perseverance in prayer that the members of the Church of Sweden General Synod may come to their senses. Contact them, write letters to them, appeal to them and exhort them! Write to the Archbishop and to the Bishops!

The next few weeks and months will be crucial in many ways. There are many signs that the current church system is being eroded and is falling apart through a rapid loss of substance. Do we really appreciate that all that we possess and still have, we only have by the grace of God? It is in the power of God to break down and to build up whatever He has planted. God’s possibilities are not exhausted. He will show us what we should do if the situation becomes untenable.

”Watch over the flock to make sure that nobody goes astray from the grace of God and that no bitter root will make shoots and become a devastation that affects many.” (Hebr 12:15)

Hyssna, 16 June 2009
Yngve Kalin, Chairman,
The Church Coalition for the Bible and the Confession.
Translation: Sr Gerd Swensson, Te Deum

The Church Coalition for the Bible and Confession
Chairman: Yngve Kalin, Hålsjövägen 32 , 511 68 Hyssna, Sweden
Tel: +46320-38000

Engine Charlie Rolls Over in His Grave

During the closed confirmation hearings for his confirmation as President-elect Eisenhower's Secretary of Defense, "Engine Charlie" Wilson, who'd been President of General Motors since just before World War 2, was asked whether, given his investments in GM and its position as a major defense supplier, he could make a decision that would hurt the company.

"I cannot conceive of one, because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country."

The more popular version of that answer, the one I learned in school, was "What's good for General Motors is good for the country."

And a quick web search reveals that I'm far from the only person for whom either of the quotes immediately came to mind as GM, which trustbusters talked about splitting apart when I was a boy (at one point GM held close to 60% of the US automobile market), was after a long, market-driven decline (which was already in motion as those trustbusters were talking) finally being driven into bankruptcy, unable to survive the Panic of 2008, in order to re-emerge today as a nationalized firm.

That government ownership is costing you and me $50 billion. So far. Money that, not so incidentally, has been created out of thin air. Technically this bail out is largely in the form of loans, $6.7 billion of which the new GM promises to pay back by a 2015 "deadline."

I'm thinking of the British motor car industry which, except for the parts owned by GM (Vauxhall), Ford, and Chrysler (the Rootes group, including Sunbeam and Hillman), was largely nationalized in 1975 under British Leyland. BL would go on to make a few very nice cars, but only Jaguar and Land Rover would remain successful in the US, eventually to be bought by Ford. Who lost a ton of money and finally sold them to Tata Motors of India. The rest of BL -- Austin, Rover, Triumph, MG, Morris, and a host of other names familiar to British car fans -- is essentially gone. Except for the Mini, which came out of BMW's brief ownership of the company.

Can General Motors do what British Leyland couldn't? Or will it, like BL, bleed the taxpayers for 30 years -- with an occasional nice, but money-losing car -- before finally collapsing once again? Today's article, "New GM's New Cars" features seven new GM models. Ominously, Number 2 is the Pontiac Solstice Coupe. Yes, Pontiac, which will be shut down next year.

Good luck, Mr. President.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Pastor Zip's own url,, is now live.

There you'll find the latest iteration of my homepage (which was begun in my CompuServe days), Pastor Zip's Lutheran Links and other Lutheran church pages (which are still unlike anything else on the World Wide Web) and other church pages, plus my pages on the High Frontier, beginning with I Want to Go! -- though those pages are in need of serious updating as we approach the disappointing 40th Anniversary of the first Moon landing in less than two weeks.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Farewell, Old Friend

My first e-mail address was 71554,3411. (I was able to type this from memory.) Some of you will recognize that as a CompuServe address. I'd first gone online after buying my Gateway computer in September of 1993. It wasn't my first computer; it was my first with a modem. It enabled me to enter a world I'd been reading about for a dozen years.

That particular world has evolved by leaps and bounds. CI$ opened up to internet e-mail, then added personal websites through Our World. Alas, the service wasn't profitable for its various owners and, while America Online talked a good game when it bought CompuServe in 1997, the service itself was never a serious priority for AOL. By the time I finally closed out my CompuServe Classic account in April 2007, the Forums I participated in were only a shadow of the old CompuServe.

I kept my account as long as I did because that's where Pastor Zip's Christian Links and my Lutheran Links sites were hosted there. It's only been a couple of years since I've finally closed the old account down. And then, shortly after my last post, I read this:

CompuServe Classic laid to rest

by Tom Krazit

CompuServe Classic, the initial on-ramp to the information superhighway for a generation of Americans, has died. It was 30 years old.

AOL, the current owner of CompuServe, confirmed the passing of CompuServe Classic in a message sent to subscribers last week. The company had announced plans to shut down the service in April, urging customers still dependent on cheap dial-up services to move to a surviving version, CompuServe 2000.

Back in the early days of the PC, CompuServe was the Google of its day. Introduced in 1979, it was the premier service for a small number of geeks in the 1980s looking to share files and conversation as well as corporate customers looking for ways to connect their offices. And by the early 1990s, before the dawn of the World Wide Web and browsers, CompuServe's forums were the place to be on the Internet.

Other Internet service providers, such as America Online and Prodigy, chipped away at CompuServe's lead with lower-priced services. AOL eventually purchased CompuServe in a complicated deal with Worldcom, which took over CompuServe's networking assets. Development of the service stagnated compared to AOL's primary service, and both brands fell prone to the gradual movement of Internet subscribers to much faster broadband connections provided by cable or telephone companies.

CompuServe is survived by thousands of 9 and 10-digit usernames assigned to e-mail subscribers, an astonishing number of whom can still remember their numbers to this day and who left their remembrances on a CompuServe discussion forum. Only 7 percent of U.S. residents still use a dial-up service to access the Internet, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.
Oh, dear. I'm part of that 7%.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Pastor Zip's Links Temporarily Down

Last April came the first announcement:
Dear MobileMe member:

On July 7, 2009, the .Mac HomePage web application will be discontinued. As of this date, you will no longer be able to create new pages or edit existing pages using HomePage. Any pages you've already published will remain live at their current web address for as long as you like. If you need to make changes to your existing pages, please do so before July 7.
Since my homepage, Pastor Zip's various links, and my other personal pages have been on the .Mac HomePage, I figured it was finally time to set up my very own domain. And so last week I began the process of establishing Alas, that's not yet completed, but I've been told it is happening "right away." (I suspect the Fourth of July holiday hasn't helped.)

Meanwhile, I wanted to beat Apple's July 7 deadline for setting my pages on the domain to automatically forward to my new domain (like I did when I moved from That I did that just a few moments ago, even though the new domain isn't up yet.

So if you're looking for Pastor Zip's Lutheran Web Links and all its associated cousins, they'll be returning to the web Real Soon Now. I'll let you know as soon as they're up. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

It's not about the fireworks show, folks.

I posted this to my other blog 2 years ago. It's still an important read for those of us living in these United States.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.