Friday, June 28, 2013

Does One Laugh or Cry?

It's Not About the Nail from Jason Headley on Vimeo.

Tip o' the hat to "Ed" on Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor Mail.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

A Reminder: The Bill of Rights

Apparently some believe The Bill of Rights is a museum piece, something from our history to be looked at and admired, but not to impact how the nation is run when it seems inconvenient. This attitude, of course, is not unique to Democrats or Republicans, to liberals or conservatives. Frankly, it has long seemed to held by whomever is in power, especially the Executive Branch.

Note especially the second paragraph (from the Preamble), which says why we have the Bill of Rights in the first place.

Courtesy the National Archives' wonderful exhibit,
The Charters of Freedom:

Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Friday, June 07, 2013

The ELCA's Newest Bishop-Elect

"The Reverend R. Guy Erwin, a member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma, is the first American Indian bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America." Yes, I had to do some hunting to find this as the lede for a report of the Bishop-elect for my home synod, but I did find it -- at That's because everyone else is focussing on him being the first openly gay pastor to be elected Bishop of an ELCA Synod.

It happened last weekend as the Southwest California Synod met in Assembly in Woodland Hills, California. One can see the towers of the Marriott Hotel where the election happened from the front porch of my parents' home. As if that weren't personal enough, Dr. Erwin, the Gerhard & Olga Belgum Professor of Lutheran Confessional Theology at California Lutheran University, is the Interim Pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Canoga Park. He's my mother's pastor. She speaks very well of him.

But there is more to the story. Prof. Erwin's ordination was the subject of an article in The Lutheran magazine's July 2011 issue entitled "R. Guy & Keith Fry ...." Subtitled "Ordination stories move church forward," the article began,
R. Guy Erwin's ordination on May 11 proved quintessentially Lutheran: Two ELCA bishops and a former bishop played key roles; the service doubled as a "teaching" moment for California Lutheran University students, and the 75-member university choir led the 450-strong congregation in singing the final hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

The symbolism rang poignantly true since Erwin, 53, serves as the Gerhard and Olga J. Belgum Chair in Lutheran Confessional Theology at CLU in Thousand Oaks; taught Lutheran studies and church history at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Conn., for several years; and studied in Germany for his doctoral thesis on Martin Luther's era.
You can read more of that article here, but the full article is behind a pay firewall. Yes, I had some thoughts on this when I read it, which I put into a Letter to the Editor -- which did not get published.
Editor, The Lutheran magazine:

The article "R. Guy & Keith Fry... Ordination stories move church forward" (July, pages 32-33) exemplifies much more than simply "how openly gay leaders are finding their full expression as rostered ELCA pastors." While the 2009 Churchwide Assembly committed the ELCA to "finding a way" for those in committed same-sex relationships to serve as rostered leaders, that same Assembly resolved only a few moments later, "to recognize the conviction of members who believe that this church should not call or roster" such persons. As I read these enthusiastic reports of partnered gays and lesbians being received or ordained into the ELCA, I find myself wondering if we are already at the stage of needing to "find a way" to include those of us ELCA clergy who remain convinced this church has made a grave error.

Furthermore, R. Guy Erwin's ordination exemplifies even greater change in the ELCA's standards for ordination. For years some of us have argued that the ELCA needs to be more flexible about the lengthy and expensive requirements for ordination to enable congregations that cannot support full-time compensation to nonetheless be served by called pastors, only to be met with either silence or great resistance from ELCA authorities. Now we read of a college professor flying through the candidacy process in 9 months and being ordained to serve a "specialized call" that doesn't appear to be anything different from his prior vocation -- two things that have been virtually impossible. How is it that these sorts of changes in ELCA ordination practice suddenly become accomplished, without discussion or even prior announcement, when the candidates are in committed same-sex partnerships?


The Rev. Steven P. Tibbetts, STS
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
Peoria, Illinois
Two years later, nothing has happened in the ELCA to make me feel any better about progress on answers to my questions. But I don't want to make this post sound like sour grapes, so for the moment at least, I'll just let my comments of two years ago stand. Because what the election of Pastor Erwin is show me just how much my thoughts of four years ago have settled in my spirit. The heart of my letter to the congregation I serve from the 2009 Churchwide Assembly remains true, except that it is not the open wound of August 2009. I quote two paragraphs in full:
By these actions, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's teaching and practice on marriage, family, and sexuality has not only departed from the faith and teaching of the Holy Scriptures and nearly 2000 years of Christian teaching, it is proclaiming what the Apostle Paul calls "another gospel."

One of the things that I was taught from a young age and have grown to experience more and more over the years is that a Lutheran pastor relates to the denomination differently than the laity and congregations. When I was ordained, the ELCA became my church. On Friday afternoon, I lost my church.
Since 2009, the church I serve has still not bothered to offer justification for what its leadership is implementing full steam ahead. As I wrote elsewhere, "but I'm discovering that I did my mourning for the ELCA as a church in 2009-10. I'm sad, but in the same way I was sad when my Grandmother, who had slipped into dementia years earlier and would not have known who I was, died. Memories for what was, and now the lingering is over."