Tag Archives: ELCA

Star Tribune on ELCA’s task force recommendations

First, one major beef with the article. The issue is with changing the Visions and Expectations document. The issue at hand is this, currently it states “ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships” The ELCA has ordained homosexual ministers for years, that’s nothing new, where as the press and the associated comments seen to reinforce this aspect of whether to ordain gay ministers or not as being the focus, its not.

The issue is whether ministers in committed same gender relationships can be ordained or not. The task force’s recommendation is to leave it in the hands of the local infrastructure. I don’t know if that’s really a good thing or not on either side of the equation, I’ll need to pray, study, and think, on it a bit, or more likely a lot. Its a whole lot grayer and convoluted than would seem on the surface, that’s for sure.

My rant of the day however is in the comment section of the newspaper. Egads, the ELCA has some of the best resources in the world for education, and the sheer number of folks leaving comments who are confusing law and Gospel, or adding a whole lot of non-Lutheran theology to the mix is disheartening (note I am referring to folks who self identified as Lutheran, I would not have the same expectations of someone who ascribed to the teachings of Calvin or Arminus). In addition, the ELCA’s stance on Bibliology is very clear, yet that too was confused by many. Of course I probably need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for some of that. I haven’t formally taught for years, I guess I ought to change that.

A pastor without a church

The reverse seems to be the case more often than not, at least visibly so… but i wonder how many ex-pastors are out there who could serve, but one thing or another is holding them back. A friend bugged me the other day. He used to be a worship pastor at a northern metorpolitan non-denom megachurch, and through a series of events, now is located in a very different demographic. and is finding it hard to get back in the saddle again. Even apart from pastoring, just participating in a community of faith is a challenge at this time. Thus I got thinking about barriers to rentry for those who once were, but are no longer connected. I’m looking at this more from a non-denom pov, as Lutheran ecclesiastical heirarchy, whether it be the ELCA roster list, or the LCMS districts, make re-entry a more formal type thing, which in many ways has fewer barriers to some extent… although making the first steps to re-entry are likely similiar. BY the same token, I think the barrier issues can also apply to service in general, irrespective of ordination or not.

  • Jesus sent out the disciples with nothing, yet today, how many feel they need to have a car and a well paying tentmaker job to pastor? Certainly, both make things easier by far… ie midnight hospital calls dont lend themselves to public transit, or even bugging a church member, but workarounds can be procured. Giving to the poor, when one is poorer than those requesting help is problematic, but a group of faith can provide a resource pool, other than the pastors pocket.
  • Jesus said to let the dead bury their own, ie when he called, we are to jump, not spend years getting our personal life in order. Otoh, the call is scary enough on its own, much more so, if ones personal ducks are not in order. Granted the admonitions from Timothy should be looked at, as far as the characteristics of a leader go… but also keep in mind, the disciples did not exactly lead noble lives before they met Jesus. Thus it would be exceedingly reasonable to assume that much past baggage ended up coming along for the ride. Prior reputations, just as Paul’s prior life as Saul no doubt did raise concern amongst those he ministered too, yet God called them. There is an element of power through frality that seems to ripple through scripture.
  • Familiarity may also be a barrier. Paul talks about being all things to all people… that will push anyone outside of their comfort zone and then some. Its easy to want the familiarity of a previous call, or at least some semblence of commonality, from a human point of view… but that makes the call safe, perhaps too safe, and thus Paul talking about being all things to all in service to the kingdom. Familiarity can range from location, to worship style, to demographics, and even to theology in some cases. In the ELCA we have everything from high church liturgical conservatism, or the rather far out there and liberal herchurch.org. In non-denoms, the spread is likely as wide, if not wider.
  • There is also an issue of confidence, and perhaps this is the biggest deal. Once one falls off the horse, if one is slow to get back on , confidence can take a real header. I just about bought the farm some 20+ years ago in an airplane… but my boss had me back up in the air in under 24 hours. It took a year plus to get over the nightmare aspects, but I had zero trepidation about entering the cockpit, even from day one. I think if one leaves a call for any number of reasons, without a game plan in place to pick up the mantle again, confidence can take a real header… and then things can spiral down pretty fast, and the lack of confidence likely results in even more barriers being put up.

The issue then becomes how to get off center, and get rolling again. And perhaps the biggest part of that is making the first step. Fear do to any or all of the above barriers can serve to paralyze. Selective procrastination due to a lack of confidence/fear can do the same. Just as analysis paralysis can come back to bite. I think the key may be to set a goal of returning to service, with many tiny steps especially at the beginning. Something as simple and unthreatening to list all the potential churches in the area is reasonably easy to go. The next step being getting on the horn, and bugging a sr pastor a day for a bit. From there church visits, and then perhaps some level of involvement in a church or two. At that point, hopefully the barriers are significantly reduced, such that one can hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, and the goal goes from a man driven one to a spirit led version. The big picture seems like a lot… 20 minutes on google isnt. Think small, and let God lead to the big things.

Should I have an opinion…. should I have a public opinion

What a crossroad….

As a administrator of a fairly large ecumenical ministry, who reaches out to all, I’ve often kept the cards held pretty close when it comes to the political issues of abortion and homosexuality. I always felt in picking a specific side, I’d end up polarizing things more than they already were. Thus, other than to state the facts, the disagreements, and background, I kept my opinions to myself. Granted, part of it is due to not really having a solid theological  opinion I guess, but more so, my role is to facilitate and guide, not to direct.

I’ve studied a multitude of studies others have created, including the ELCA’s Journey Together Faithfully. I’ve read almost every Bible translation in English, and although my Biblical Greek course work occured nearly 20 years ago, I dug into the Greek as well. Hebrew, I’m too paranoid to dig into. I’ve read Dr Jenson’s works, I’ve read Bishop Bouman’s responses, I’ve even checked the goodsoil website, as well as others such as the ECP. I’ve prayed a lot. And I come to the conclusion, I really don’t have much more of a theological opinion than when I started. And it would be easy to remain publicly neutral.

Yet, I have to ponder this a bit. I know folks on the ECP candidate list, some who would make a mighty fine pastor. I also know conservative folks who are just itching to leave, yet are staying due to church family, Lutheran tradition, location and super cool things they really like about the ELCA.

I know there were folks fussing over the unauthorized handouts and such at the CWA. In some regards due to them being unauthorized, in others, due to the fact there were not theological, but instead were more personal in nature. I can understand the issue of being unauthorized, but as far as the personal aspect goes…. it make sense. Anyone who has been down this path, knows the wealth of theological arguments on both sides. Thus to restate them for the CWA just doesn’t make a lot of sense. On the other hand, once you put real people in the picture who are deeply affected by the outcome of policy, it very much gives one pause to seriously thing things through, rather than a somewhat isolated academic theological study. Likewise, it also makes me think of whether I should formalize an opinion, and more so, whether to have such opinion public.

Granted, to some of my more literalistic oriented readers of my blog, they probably say, whoa, you have an opinion, as scripture is obvious. In all seriousness, I just don’t see it. And to some of my LGBT readers, my lack of opinion, is probably just as dead to them as a negative opinion.

What I keep returning to, is something I think Dr Jenson said at one point, what if you are wrong, in responding to another with a counter opinion. Egads, I don’t want to go there. Yet, what if we are wrong the other way……

I saw this myself upfront and personal in the very recent past within the  ecumenical ministry I’m involved with as its undergoing huge changes. I remember a dear pastor friends comment. “I believe this is right, I am praying this is right, what if we are wrong…..” I really wonder if Dr Jenson’s writings are that wide spread. I don’t think this statement is in any of his texts…..

Despite all the turmoil, I have never seen God moving as much. It may well be that staff and our members dug into scripture and prayed like they never had before.. on both sides of the issues.

And getting back to the ELCA in closing, one of the super cool things going on is similar to my much smaller, but much more personal experiences. Be sure to check out the photo, as well as the blog entry on Pastor Zips blog. It is pretty powerful.