• The Nativity Scene Removal on Facebook

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    There is an internet meme concerning a nativity scene going around again.

    fb_nativity

    The picture at hand is a shows pretty amazing nativity scene. Despite the low res copy, “No Room for them in the Inn” is quite beautiful, and when one looks at a photo of a signed and numbered print, one can only imagine how much heart and soul the artist put into it.

    It was not a simple task to determine who created the art in the first place, as whoever created the meme didn’t include the title of the piece, nor did they give the artist credit. Its almost as if someone found it, said cool, and then took it… with no regard for its creator. If I skip the cynicism bit, it is possible, albeit rare that this was a gift to the world, and the artist wanted to remain anonymous… alas, as an engineer, my cynicism often wins out so, so to prove it out one way or another google image search to the rescue!

    Well, that wasn’t very helpful… 60,000+ facebook pages with a copy, and 548 copies on the web as well as some derivatives… and which one is the original one?

    Being google imagesearch didn’t help, the next thing was to pull it into my photo editor and blow up what appears to be a watermark. Aha, Copyright Somerset House Publishing 2000.

    When art is watermarked with a copyright without any additional licensing expressed, and or a statement used with permission, it is highly likely it is not free as in beer. In other words, its pretty likely whole multitudes of folks are using this persons art  as if it were freely given to them to use as they wish… including derivative works where Jesus is replaced with a football. Somersets terms are pretty clear that such is not cool without permission… and being no statement is include to suggest they have permission, this is a problem.

    As such, the potential is there for facebook to receive a DMCA takedown notice from them, with the result that the images would be removed. I get that intellectual property law is a messy deal, so copying someone else’s art without permission to do so may not necessarily be theft in every ones mind. Otoh a common theme throughout both the old and new testament is that the laborer is worthy of his wages. There also the issue of double honor for those who preach and teach…

    From the artists bio page at Concordia publishing…

    Concordia Publishing House is proud to represent internationally known Christian artist, Tom duBois. A graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Mr. duBois faithfully and passionately shares the Gospel message of Jesus Christ through his art.

    Granted, this is an internet meme hardly worth the time to blog about in isolation, since there has been no DMCA takedown, and I agree with the underlying premise of it. Otoh temptation to short cut, to do a little evil so much good may come is all around us. Politicians lie about each other to get elected. Public servants throw the law under a bus in order to do well. Business push the limits and bend the law to make more money. Folks fire off a quick text, shave, or put on makeup while rolling down the interstate. Its all of us, and in many cases, the little evil bit doesn’t bite, at least not right away… so we go along fat dumb and happy, until that car shows up out of nowhere, and pfft you are gone.

    * The artists webpage at triuneart.org is down, but google provided links to some of his art and writinghs. Its well worth taking a look.

  • Jean Valjean, Stolen Cookies, and #chsocm

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    In Les Miserables, the main character Jean Valjean makes off with the churches silverware. He is caught, brought back to the church, where in the priest spins a tale that the silverware is a gift and admonishes him for forgetting to take the silver candlesticks as well. Such sets the stage for major change in Valjeans life.

    Things are quite different at a church in Florida.

    From the Palm Beach Post.

    A homeless man stole cookies from a church in the 10700 block of Okeechobee Boulevard. A deputy found him sitting by the building’s entrance. He said he had been looking for assistance, pulled on a door and it opened. He helped himself to the cookies, but a cleaning person saw him and called 911. A church employee arrived at the scene and said the church would press charges. The man was arrested and taken to the county jail. The value of the cookies was $2.25.

    Egads… what were they thinking? Talk about a negative witness to the Gospel. It made me wonder if they were some type of get rich quick type cult, or some entity which uses a bible with Jesus words removed or something… alas, no, they do have a statement of faith aligned with the southern baptist convention.

    Something is way wrong somewhere in this… but then how many of us have given Jesus the bird by failing to act, or acting counter to the Gospels? Mistakes happen, even with the best of intentions. Perhaps the folks in charge had just finished double shifts and were not thinking? Perhaps the church had recently had its silver stolen, perhaps anything… and when you make quick decisions in the heat of the moment, the probability of blowing it ends up being pretty high.

    In years past, the above would have been a non-event. The DA would have had a serious “you gotta be kidding” discussion with the church to get them to drop the charges, the kid would have spent some time in the grey bar hotel while it got sorted out, and short of the kid likely having a negative view of churches, that would be the end of it.

    Alas, in today’s world, you never know what may go viral online. Granted, the Jean Valjean parallel, the anti-church views of many, and the mere insanity of it all set the stage for virality. The result is that the churches name is now mud. If you google it, the first link that comes up is negative google reviews, followed by news articles of their pettiness. In other words, the light of google lit up their darkness for all to see.

    The scriptures state any sin keeps us from God, but unlike someone running off with the churches funds, or a pastor having an affair, (which are localized), chucking Matthew 25 to the wind combined with social media, shoots a massive hole in Christian witness everywhere. The outrage is huge, both among believers and non-believers…. I’ve seen comment counts running in the ten thousands.

    But, there is an individual at the bottom of this… If for whatever reason they thought they were doing the right thing, is all this anger reasonable? Sure, I get the fact that a young homeless kid may end up with a record over cookies, and Christian witness is severely compromised… but what if that church individual was sincere, albeit misguided that this was actually the best way to go? Believers vary widely in their knowledge and application of scriptures, to say nothing about making huge errors in judgement from time to time. Is there any room for forgiveness for them?

    Certainly if there was a  church apology, a dropping of charges, and true repentance including covering rehab for the kid, such would go a long way and could turn things around.

    Thus, I went looking to see what I could see.

    I started with one of the churches pastors sermons on vimeo. It was based on the scriptures where Daniel refused to eat the kings food… a little too much prosperity gospel and moral therapeutic theism leaning, (using Chikfila profitability and ATT to demo a point is a bit out there), but overall it was pretty decent, and being a Baptist church, they had sort of an altar call thingy. My elevator speech summary:

    One needs to be bold, and to prepare yourself ahead of the time to walk with the scriptures, not default to the principles of the king. The scriptures do not reside in a vacuum, neither does your witness. A line needs to be drawn, are you bold enough to do it? Do you trust God enough to do the right thing, or do you default to the ways of the world? God shows himself strong throughout the world.

    Some good words there… so I would think repentance would be forthcoming. They do have the worlds attention. Its entirely possible to turn this around.

    Shortly there after, I found this

     “The young man appeared to be under the influence. Since he was wandering around the neighbourhood, the officer suggested the best course may be to press charges for the incident which would enter the young man into the system where he could find help.

    “The church staff member agreed. Although our church partners with PBSO to provide hundreds of meals for needy families, this time we agreed with the officer’s suggestion that the young man needed more help than just a free meal. We have contacts with rehabilitation programs. We do refer individuals to such programs and in retrospect we might have done so with this individual.”

    Egads… as expected, such a response just fanned the flames some more. They have since pulled their facebook page, as well as their staff and pastor page on their website. This is crisis mismanagement 101 type stuff… granted, I don’t expect the average church to have a PR guru on staff, but its not like things spun out of control overnight. The event occurred on July 24th, there was plenty of time to get the ducks in a row, fess up, make things right, and turn an ugly situation around… but no, they dug a deeper hole for themselves.

    #chsocm provides for amazing witness for a local church, even a small one can reach the world… but as easy as it is to show the Gospel, ones actions counter to it can also be propagated at the speed of light. Crisis management plans should be a key part of any social media activity… this is not the sort of thing you want to learn on the fly at the 11th hour.

  • Valley Girl is Best (rabbit hole and nerd alert)

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    I’ve been using the WEB (not internet, but World English Bible) translation since ~2004 when I first got it for my palm pilot. Today was the first time ever that the use of metric units stood out. Pastor was reading John 11, and I was following along on my Palm… and she reads “about 2 miles” where as mine said about 2.7 km in John 11:17

    Ok, so we have a big problem.

    2miles = 3.2km, not 2.7km,

    Certainly, I’ve often used the phrase, its about 2 miles (which in my own parlance generally equates to between 1 and 3 miles), but maybe its been years since I went there, so maybe its between just out of sight and 5 miles away… but I would never use the word about followed by significant digits which imply a level of precision beyond the scope of “about”. Yep, its a metrology nerd thing.

    Granted, this is not a huge theological deal, as the scriptures are not a surveyors manual or scientific textbook, but obviously something is hosed up somewhere or another. So its time to derust some Greek.

    Fortunately ?? ??? ??????? ????????? is common among all the Greek source texts I could find, so its a good starting point.

    ?? is a screwball adverb which hosed me up in Greek class some 20+ years ago. As such, lets consider it in isolation first to see what spins out. (Greek words in isolation are like playing with fire… its almost always going to give you something hairbrained and wrong, (but such can also be sort of cool at times)! :)

    The simplest approach to this is to go into valley girl mode.
    Bethany was near Jerusalem, like 2 miles away. 

    Alas, simple is not necessarily correct, ?? when used in combination with numerical data changes meaning… Like turns into about, or nearly, which to me slips into the realm of lower precision such as my own parlance as described above.

    Ok, cool, we now have the translation pastor used
    Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 2 miles away.

    But… this doesn’t help me as to why the metric conversion is in error, to say nothing about the precision implied with the significant digit (the decimal place), thus back to the source texts.

    ??? has a multitude of possibilities, but the good thing is that no matter how weird one gets with the possible translation, it doesn’t screw with the precision of measurement or type of units. We got lucky with this. I’ll just call it “away” to make like simple, but “off” works, as would “distant”… but one could venture into weird mode too I guess.

    ??????? ????????? is pretty simple, there is no ambiguity of the number of units of measurement. Fifteen is fifteen is fifteen. It is what it is.  ??????? as a unit of measure is also quite clear. A stadia is a stadia is a stadia. This too is clear.

    Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 15 stadia away.

    The rubber hits the road when we define what on a earth a stadia is…

    The ancient world didn’t have international standards bodies to determine consistency of measurements… they probably didn’t have much of a standard at all, beyond what could be carried from point A to point B without being damaged, lost, or vandalized enroute. Thus we have a ~30% swing as to stadia to meter conversion factors with the Olympic measurement at 176.4 meters being the shortest, and the Phoenician-Egyptian conversion at 209.2 meters being the longest. The most commonly accepted conversion factor is the Italian one at 184.8 meters/stadia… which gives us.

    Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 2.6km away.

    argh, this doesn’t match either.

    So, lets get practical, and just use technology, it should be easy to pull up Jerusalem and Bethany (Al-Eizariya) on a map and have google calculate the distance. Whoops. this is not going to work either, as both are so large today, that its near impossible to determine accurate starting and ending points…. not the least of which that Al-Eizariya is located in the West Bank (where google sat data leans sparse).

    Valley Girl mode seems best after all… Bethany was near Jerusalem, like 3km away!


  • World Vision Blow up and People of Strong Faith

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    Its really not about you. There are people of strong faith who had significant heartburn over WV’s decision to change their employee agreement to provide for local church autonomy as concerns same sex marriage. There are also people of strong faith who applauded WV’s decision and were dismayed at its reversal.

    The issue of whether SSM is aligned with, or counter to the scriptures is not the big deal. The issue of whether the ancient creeds of the historical Christian faith have been cast aside to the point that SSM is a bigger deal than the trinity is not the primary issue at hand either. This is not to say such is not important, especially over the long haul, but they pale in comparison to something else right here, right now.

    The big deal today is the weaker brother and sister as well as those who were trampled upon.

    Folks comments on Christianity Today ventured into the domain of the darkest corners of the internet… I’ve seen more of the light of Christ coming from 4chan members than from CT.  Others noted this as well.

    The most disturbing aspect of this is the folks in tears over loosing their faith. It is a tragedy.

    The brood of vipers behaviors actions appeared the last straw for many. One person said, “I was hanging onto Christianity by a thread, its now been broken”. There are many similar stories, and no doubt even more that will never be known. I think such is quite likely destroying the work of God which Paul preaches against in Romans 14.

    It didn’t need to happen this way…

    Certainly Pope Francis is no advocate of SSM, but his approach is one of pastoral sensitivity, not of do a little evil that good may come. Even his statements concerning civil unions while very much supporting his church were of a pastoral nature rather than condemnation.

    Our own Pastor Nadia, in her no-nonsense manner stated the following after the WV reversal.  “I’m very disappointed, but still happy to support their work. The critique of pulling support for charity due to an employee hiring practice I disagree with has to cut both ways or it’s bullshit.”

    The fire, brimstone, brood of vipers bloodbaths that went on this week are a negative witness and counter to the Good News of Christ… who would really want to be a part of that? The actions done in the “name of Christ”, no matter which side one is on are repulsive. Imagine how folks would feel if rather than SSM, this was an issue over divorce or remarriage?

    We need to pray for the weaker brothers and sisters who faith was destroyed or nearly destroyed this week. We need to pray for GLBT-Q folks, both celibate and married for healing and ask for forgiveness.The hatred and vitriole WV employees have experienced this week has to be incredible demoralizing and they need prayer as well. Lastly, we need to pray for those who whom WV serves… imagine being a teenager in an impoverished country and hearing about this?

    People of strong faith, its really not about you.

    *My general comment policy is to allow all comments, short of spam which I can readily identify and/or excessive TLDR. For this specific post, any comments relating to SSM from other than a pastoral nature will be deleted. There will be no blood bath, brood of viper, or related garbage on my blog, no matter how well you feel its supported by the scriptures. All other comments are welcome.

  • Rigging the Game

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    Its interesting to see how different sectors of Christianity approach a given problem. We see broken folks doing evil stuff and yet good comes about much of the time anyhow. We even see this in the scriptures, going all the way back to Moses, or even David knocking off a guy as he got the dudes wife pregnant, or Rahab lying to protect her guests. One could think the bit about being wise as serpents and gentle as doves, or even the parable of the unrighteous steward, could justify that a good end is all that counts, no matter how much evil needs to be put in motion to get there.

    Yet, the scriptures taken as a whole point to a different path, a high road, which might well be much more difficult where in the good is not illuminated until nearly the end, if it is at all. We have Paul’s words in Romans that it is not cool to do a little evil so good may come. Such are hard words to hear, and even harder ones to try and live out when much of daily life is predicated upon any number of evils. Pretty much unless one retreats from the world, and even then, a reliance on some level of evil is likely to remain, as few if any can really be an island onto themselves.

    Thank goodness for God’s grace.

    I’m reminded of the 1944 Bing Crosby film called Going My Way.

    Low res scaled down images of movie films used for commentary are believed to fall under US fair use doctrines.

    Going My Way

    In the early part of the film, Bing plays a young priest who catches some youngsters stealing chickens, but they get away from him. Later that evening he is treated to a big dinner by an old parish priest who midway through the meal talks about the gratitude he has for the youngsters who gave him a chicken… Bing puts 2+2 together that they were eating a stolen chicken and chows down, all the while you can see the elderly priest fixing to turn green… The proverbial meat sacrificed to idols was on the big screen! Alas, it plays out right here, right now as well. If it had not been for the early days of internet porn, the massive bandwidth we enjoy today would not have been affordable, and might well not have even been possible.

    That being said, it is something else to specifically choose evil so good may come. In the case of the above movie, it would be exceedingly evil to entice the kids to steal chickens so the priests could have a good meal once in a while. There in lies the difference and this is what I find disturbing…

    If the church is to be presented as the bride of Christ, rigging the game, or manipulating the crowd even with the best of intentions is not cool. There is nothing pure and blameless by using legal, albeit less than ethical methods to gain favor in the worlds eyes. Even more so, when the world can see this plain as day, what sort of message is this really sending? Was Paul really that far off the mark in his letters to Timothy? Did he really mean that its well and good to do *a little evil that good may come? I don’t think so…

    * In fairness, some Christians define evil as only things that are explicitly called out in their interpretation of the scriptures. I can understand the allure of that pov as the lack of grey make life a lot easier, but I’m far from convinced such is what Paul was really getting at.

  • Transfiguration Sunday and the Wisconsin Bible Ban

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    Its human nature to try and extend exceedingly cool / awesome times, and Peter doesn’t disappoint in last Sunday’s Gospel reading. “Hey, lets build some places to stay at, this is awesome…” Alas God had other plans. Perhaps even more so, Peter James and John were instructed not to talk about i, at least for a while. While we don’t have a ton of insight into the personalities of James and John, no doubt this must have been an especially trying deal for Peter.

    Get your world rocked, and be on top of it in a huge way…

    You want this to never end!

    The top of world experience ends in a flash, and no, you can’t talk about it, at least not for a while.

    Many Lutherans in Wisconsin back in the late 1800’s were on top of the mountain in a lot of ways. Tobacco while labor intensive was a huge money maker and the wheat market was nothing to sneeze at either. Many folks did quite well for themselves, and not only that, they had have a fair bit left over and many chose to invest in their community.  Many churches were built as were many schools…  Rather than 1 pastor who would circulate among a boatload of congregations, many congregations found they could now afford half a pastor, and some even a full one. Granted, not everything was perfect… folks would have a bird over this or that and because giving was abundant, congregations could split, and build a new church a mile away or less… and bring on their own pastor from the myriad of synods that had come into being. Pastor density was pretty high as were the numbers of growing congregations. As a result, it was not unreasonable that many felt the Bible should be read in schools. The belief was so commonly held that even the State Superintendent of Public Instruction added the KJV Bible to the recommended book listings for the entire state. Ascribing to sola scriptura, even many legal minds who might have had fits over the constitutionality of schools picking one faith over another, felt that as long as interpretation and doctrine were left out (reading only) in the school room, there would not be any problems as concerns church and state separation.

    When your faith practices are a majority and/or share much commonality with others, its easy to gloss over the headaches and problems that others outside a majority faith practice endure. You are on the mountain top, you want to stay there… you likely don’t even notice the impact on others who are not right there with you.

    Not every Christian practice ascribes to sola scripture. Not every Christian practice ascribes to even the same translation of the scriptures. Even within the Lutheran traditions, there are often significant variances as to what is believed to be an obvious interpretation. As a result of the readings of the scriptures in schools, minus doctrine and interpretation, some students actually changed from one faith practice to another. In other cases, commonly held interpretations ended up not being anywhere so obvious. For the most part, these issues not even on the radar screen of the majority and complaints to school boards were often dismissed off hand. Over time, the conflict eventually made it into the legal system going all the way to the Wisconsin supreme court, where upon Bible reading was banned from the classroom… Folks came off that mountain pretty fast… but unlike the restrictions on Peter and crew, there was no small amount of vocal teeth knashing over it. Consider the following from the WI supreme court transcript.

    The drift of some remarks in the argument of counsel for the respondent, and perhaps, also in the opinion of Judge BENNETT, is, that the exclusion of Bible reading from the dis-trict schools is derogatory to the value of the Holy Scriptures, a blow to their influence upon the conduct and consciences of men, and disastrous to the cause of religion.

    The dialog over the  loss of Christian privilege rippling through a fair bit of the blogophere doesnt seem to be a whole lot different than those words penned over a century ago. The bottom line is actually pretty simple though… Christianities vibrancy or lack there of is not a function of legislation. The followup to the above from the transcript hits this head on.

    The priceless truths of the Bible are best taught to our youth in the church, the Sabbath and parochial schools, the social religious meetings, and, above all, by parents in the home circle. There, these truths may be explained and enforced, the spiritual welfare of the child guarded and protected, and his spiritual nature directed and cultivated, in accordance with the dictates of the parental conscience. The Constitution does not interfere with such teaching and culture. It only banishes theological polemics from the district schools. It does this, not because of any hostility to religion, but because the people who adopted it believed that the public good would thereby be promoted, and they so declared in the preamble.

    Coming down off the mountain of privilege back in 1880 looked to have had a mighty fine landing… may we do likewise.

  • Proselytism is solemn nonsense: Pope Francis Rocks

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    Pope Francis hit one out of the ballpark with his commentary on proselytism. While in isolation, one might view his comments as counter to the great commission, I tend to believe, like much of his other commentary, that he is looking at things from a big picture view.

    Lets consider Matthew 28:16-20

    16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    The big thing about the great commission is the making of disciples, from thence, comes Baptism, and obedience. There is no mention of numbers of altar calls, decisions for Christ, church memberships, number of folks in worship, church finance etc…  Matthew 28:16-20 is about making disciples, which is a failure for the majority of most denominations and churches.

    Discipleship making is challenging, and it takes time. Contemporary Christianity is obsessed with the quick and dirty, even if its outcomes are questionable at best.

    • Some go so far as to twiddle and selectively decontext Acts 17 into a form of offend and stir up trouble, manufacture a need for God and repentance, manipulate folks into a Jesusy decision, and then leave for others to clean up the mess. El Chupacabra, a missionary writes about trying to clean things up after such quick fix attempts have passed through. Some of the evangelees commentary is telling:
    “I knew they wouldn’t help us without getting something out of it. You christians are all like that.”
    “Why do they use the same testimony; I used to party with girls/booze/drugs, but my life was meaningless before Jesus and now that He is with me everything is great? Do they teach you that s^#%?  Does it ever work?”
    “If we are accepting Jesus into our lives shouldn’t He know? Why do they make us raise our hands then, is it so they can count us up to tell everyone back home how great they are?”
    • Others take the stance that faith must be private and exclusive, they don’t want anyone other than folks just like them entering into their world. In other words, unless you behave exactly like they do, belong exactly as they do, only then do you have the chance to hear about Christ.  Such is the proverbial behave, belong, believe model… in a highly communal and personally interdependent culture, this can work out somewhat. In a culture of radical individualism and isolationism as embraced by much of today’s world, not so much.
    • A majority of folks view the great commission, through what Hous calls, birthrate evangelism. Ie, the only way to make disciples is to crank out more and more babies…  With ever increasing birthrates, this can make the numbers look good, but numbers rarely reflect the hearts and minds. Bottom line, disciples are made, not merely born and left to flounder and eventually walk away.

    Alas, the Holy Spirit is not limited by man’s ineptness.

    Despite the failures of all of the above discipleship does happen some of the time. The danger in this, is that the tendency is to think because something sort of works, its the right and in some cases, the only right answer.

    Rather, its mostly nonsense, the above methods rarely show the light of Christ, and real love for one another tends to be a rarity. Its almost as if we’ve sold out the Gospel for the quick and dirty.

    Consider Pope Francis comments and context:

    Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.

    His is a big picture view, reflecting Matthew 5, Acts 17, and while not explicitly inclusive of Matthew 28, it most certainly is implied. Its a restructuring of the behave, belong, believe model to reflect the reality of modern culture (and realistically the culture of the early church).

    Bottom line, Pope Francis seems to be advocating a means of organic Holy Spirit driven discipleship making by the opening of hearts and minds. Its not something forced, inauthentic, or driven by ulterior motives as many of the quick and dirty approaches are perceived, or that proselytism nonsense can easily morph into.

     

     

  • Why I’m ELCA

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    There was a query on the ELCA FB group as to why… I didn’t get around to responding, and the thread has since scrolled off the page. Alas, here would be my response.

    We have the absolute best preflight announcements.

    On a more serious note, there are a few key bits that really resonate with me.

    • The ELCA does grace well… as we get accused of being antinomian. At the same time, the law is a big deal, a lot bigger I think than the law obsessed churches that make a lot of noise. Its not law, its not Gospel, its both, but they must be viewed through a societal lens, and overwhelmingly, the hundred + ELCA congregations I’ve been at do well with this.
    • The 100% Saint 100% Sinner thing. Granted, some push the limits on this a bit, its a matter of daily regeneration, not a progressive holiness ladder thing, nor an antinomian thing, Personally, I think the “Weak on Sanctification” T shirt rocks.
    • The real presence, and even better when its offered every Sunday, and even better than even better when its offered mid-week as well as Sunday. (And it would be super cool if compline could fit in there somewhere….)
    • The extreme anti-pelagianism stance which permeates our theology and practice. Its never take a small step, and God will meet you, or climbing ladders, or reaching out to God, its always God to us, not us to God.
    • Corporate confession and absolution, even for those who do not believe. (Granted, its controversial and was never really resolved back in ~1867
    • The scriptures point to Jesus, they are not items for man’s idolatry or to be sacrelized. Some pastors I’ve heard use the term “feeding trough”. The Bible is a much bigger deal than the terms inerrant or infallible reduce it to.
    • Paradox and the conflict rule, rather than reason and logic to bend and harmonize. Questioning is generally revered.
    • The ecclesiastical structure of synods and churchwide, rather than independent congregational models.
    • I really like the churchwide voting mix, where in its mostly lay folks and as of late, more and more young folks setting the direction. I wish we had more cultural diversity.
    • The tent is huge:
        1. Ecumenicalism is a big deal
        2. Inclusion is a big deal. Gay folks are welcome, and are not barred from the pastorate whether they are in same gender relationships or not. Bound conscience provides for churches who dont approve of such.
        3. Change is constant and to be embraced. The tag line from CWA13 “Always being made new” is pretty cool, as was “God’s work our hands”
        4. Many don’t get too hung up on the confessions, some feel Luther was far from finished, some feel he was in error on a few things, some ascribe to the Book of Concord in total.
        5. High church and low church are both practiced. The only bird some have, including me, is pietism and its resulting legacy.

    The ELCA has a lot of really cool, as well as some incredibly disturbing predecessor synod history. I wish well meaning folks hadn’t scrubbed and sanitized so much of it. We learn from error and scandal too.

     

     

  • Calculus Matters – ELCA Membership Decline

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    @Feralpastor posted a excel chart of ELCA and predecessor groups membership levels from around 1950 up until recent times. A quick glance might lead one to think doomsday scenario… but I thought I saw some wobbles in the data.

    As a result, I pulled the data off the ELCA website and took a look at the 2nd derivative… basically how quickly the change in membership numbers are changing, or in car talk, whether we are braking or stomping on the gas.

    elca2derivative

     

    While a near continual loss of members since the ELCA”s inception is not good, to see such a change in rate of decrease is a significant positive.

    The following graph adds in the yr-yr loss of members in green.

    elca12derivative

    In a nutshell, we are no longer in brake lock up mode post CWA09, In fact, once the 2013 numbers come out, I would not be surprised if we are back to the same state we were in pre CWA09 as concerns the yr to yr loss of members.

    Causality is always a tricky thing, and often is not correlation, but I’ve been pondering this for years and more and more my hypothesis seems to make sense. Namely I believe the ELCA since its beginnings has been undergoing a long term shift to higher Fowler models.

    The predecessor bodies were quite ranging in approach. Some catered to a lower Fowler model, some catered to a higher one. Since the ELCA”s formation, many CWAs have leaned towards a higher numbered model. This seems to correlate with the negative peaks in the 2nd derivative as folks self selected out. The overall trend to a smaller size would also make sense, as the higher numbered Fowler models embrace smaller numbers demographically. Ie, a Fowler 2 or 3 is often a growing stage, where membership decline is pretty common in a Fowler 4-5.

  • Authentic Rocking World Worship

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    I previously wrote about music that blows chunks, but which endures due to the memories associated with it. If you take the same music, and spin it out in front of folks lacking any memory connection, the chances of them being impressed is about nil, and they may well think you are off your rocker should you sing its praises.

    I’ve been pondering how this relates to worship. A friend of mine describes almost every Sunday service as sort of like seeing a arena rock concert for the first time. (Feel free to replace arena rock concert, with Opera, jazz, country, whatever…). I’ve heard the same from a number of folks over the years… the worship service rocks their world. Such views are not limited to full bore high church liturgy with a massive organ, they could be low church with a folk band, or even without any music or liturgy at all. Even more so, for some folks this is a near weekly occurrence.

    Such is not my experience. There may be a profound sermon here or there, and I do have a real affinity towards weekday morning masses at a Catholic church… but worship rocking my world, um no.

    In fact, when I look at Revelation and such… and things going on 24/7, its like hmmm. I get that we will be changed, I get that super holy stuff has to be rock my world awesome beyond belief, but its such an abstract thing, it just doesn’t connect.

    On the other hand, as a pilot, the words of a tv copy editor wing walking for the first time rings very true. I get exactly what she is saying.

    Thanks to Jane and Charlie, I now fully understand the poem “High Flight” by John Magee.  I paraphrase, but I truly felt I touched the hand of God.

    Very few people will believe or understand this, and most of you will think I’m high (never did drugs, for the record) but strange as this sounds…at one point the wind stopped clawing at me. The motor roar stilled. I was suspended in a peculiar time and place where I felt the presence of, well, quite frankly, my grandparents and guardian angel slightly behind me on either side. And I felt their happiness and approval.  For just a moment, I felt the ethereal presence of those who at one time loved and protected me as if they were physically at my back. Call me nuts as my last name means in German, but there you go.

    There in likely is just a tiny view of what the Revelation text talks about… I capture this in a plane should I be in “flow”. An old friend said similar things about being in the midst of storms in his boat on the great lakes. As a bass player, I’ve caught fleeting glimpses of this too if I’m literally rocking the stage with 5000+ Watts of power so to speak…

    I came across the following this evening as yet another descriptor of encountering God’s hand so to speak.

    …an intimate connection with the God who created us, an inner peace unlike any our five senses can provide?  It’s scientifically inexplicable. It’s mystery beyond any words.  Yet there is where we most clearly experience and encounter God.

    I can try and attach memories and run with them, but unless in the cockpit half upside down, on the stage, or in the storm so to speak, merely attaching the memory doesn’t make the connection. It has to be authentic… a memory attachment alone won’t work.

    This then brings me back to folks for whom worship rocks their world. If it makes such connections as above, it cannot be an attached memory thing, it has to be real, it has to be authentic.

    It makes me ponder…

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