Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Southern Seminary Faculty Members Release Columbia Declaration

Friends of Lutherans Concerned will be interested in taking a look at the Columbia Declaration, a website founded by some members of the faculty (past and present) of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. The declaration takes its name from the location of the seminary, which is in the city of Columbia, South Carolina.

The Columbia Declaration is not merely a statement of support for the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly regarding LGBT people and their families. It also provides a set of resources intended to "to demonstrate how we as theologians of the church believe the actions of the Assembly are consistent with our biblical and confessional traditions." The professors recommend the resources "to all thoughtful Christians and encourage and pray for those looking for a deeper understanding of these matters."

Among the many helpful passages found among the resources is this one from Dr. Brian Peterson:

It has been my goal . . . to show how someone can read [the Scriptures] with a high regard for their authority over the life of the church, and still speak in favor of the proposals adopted by the ELCA regarding homosexuality. As one who supported (and supports) these proposals, I do not believe that doing so constitutes the abandoning of the Bible’s authority. Honesty and the commandment not to bear false witness against others requires that we not confuse our disagreements about the meaning of these texts with faithlessness, heresy, or the denial of Scripture’s authority.
For informal discussion about the Columbia Declaration, see the comment section of the recent post in Pretty Good Lutherans.

Here is the full text of the Columbia Declaration:
We, the undersigned members of the present and former faculty of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, support the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

We are aware that many congregations are struggling with the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly related to homosexuality. We are also aware that other congregations are encouraged by these actions and welcome the opportunity to live them out in their congregational life and mission.

We are professors at a seminary of the ELCA that prepares qualified and approved candidates for ministry in the church as pastors and lay rostered leaders.

We believe that the ELCA’s Assembly actions are consistent with the biblical and Lutheran confessional tradition. We therefore support the opening of the roster of the ELCA to qualified and approved candidates for ministry who are in lifelong, committed, publicly accountable, monogamous same-sex relationships. We also support the actions of the Assembly that create the possibility for individual congregations who so choose to bless same-sex unions.

We understand that faithful persons can disagree on the matters addressed in the resolutions passed by the Churchwide Assembly. We commit ourselves to seeking and supporting ways for the ELCA to continue together in life and mission in the midst of these disagreements, and we offer the resources on this webpage to demonstrate how we as theologians of the church believe the actions of the Assembly are consistent with our biblical and confessional traditions. We commend them to all thoughtful Christians and encourage and pray for those looking for a deeper understanding of these matters.
Current Faculty Members who signed
The Rev. Dr. Julius Carroll, Associate Professor of Contextual Education
The Rev. Dr. Daryl S. (Tony) Everett, Dewey F. Beam Professor of Pastoral Care
Dr. Lynn Feider, Director of the Library and Professor of Bibliography
The Rev. Shauna Hannan, Assistant Professor of Homiletics
Dr. Robert D. Hawkins, Leonora G. McClurg Distinguished Professor of Worship and Music, Dean of Christ Chapel
Dr. Susan McArver, Professor of Church History and Educational Ministry
The Rev. Dr. Brian Peterson, Professor of New Testament
The Rev. Dr. James Thomas, Associate Professor of Church and Ministry and Director of African American Ministries

Retired and Emeriti Faculty who signed

The Rev. Dr. H. George Anderson, President Emeritus
Dr. Agneta Enermalm – Tsiparis, Professor of New Testament, Emerita
The Rev. Dr. Carl F. W. Ficken, Professor of Theology and Culture, Emeritus
Dr. Scott H. Hendrix, Professor of Church History, Retired
The Rev. Dr. Paul T. Jersild, Professor of Theology and Ethics, Emeritus
The Rev. Dr. Nicholas K. Mays, Professor of Contextual Education, Emeritus
The Rev. Dr. Harold Park, Professor of Christian Education, Emeritus
The Rev. Dr. H. Frederick Reisz, President Emeritus
The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ridenhour, Professor of Homiletics, Emeritus
The Rev. Dr. Charles P. Sigel, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus

Monday, March 29, 2010

Southeastern Minnesota Synod Submits Affirmation of Welcome for LGBT People

At their May 2009 assembly, the Southeastern Minnesota Synod voted to recognize that it "understands same-gender sexual orientation to be part of God’s good creation." The synod also voted to embody that understanding in an intentional, public statement of welcome to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, voting to become a Reconciling in Christ Synod. A task force was formed to develop an “Affirmation of Welcome” that will serve the “work and witness of the synod in its assemblies, its synod council meetings, the committees, task forces, agencies and working groups related to the synod” and that will be made available as a model for congregations. The task force completed its work last month, submitting the following statement:
Affirmation of Welcome
Baptized into the waters of Christ and raised to new life by the strong word of God, fed and nourished by the body and blood of Christ, the people of God in the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America decided in the 2009 assembly to be a Reconciling in Christ Synod. This synod, called by the Holy Spirit, is kept in unity with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. We are freely forgiven in Christ and we are in full service to one another. Whenever we meet in worship, prayer, deliberation and decision, as a large and diverse body of Christians, we recognize various ministries to ensure all people are welcomed into a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. As baptized believers created in the image of God – including, but not limited to, people of every race, nationality, age, political affiliation, marital status, gender identity, economic or social status, sexual orientation, mental and physical abilities – our synod welcomes all people of all backgrounds to become Christ’s devoted disciples.
We celebrate the affirmation of welcome offered by the Southeastern Minnesota Synod and express thanks and appreciation for the work of the task force.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Valparaiso’s “Beyond Tolerance" Conference Explores New Ways to Think

If you happen to be in the vicinity of Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, Indiana) this coming Thursday, March 25, you will surely not want to miss “Beyond Tolerance.” This discussion event will highlight “theological and pastoral perspectives on people who are gay or lesbian” and is “part of continuing efforts to foster a campus environment that is welcoming of all people.” It's sponsored by the university's Diversity Concerns Committee.

We here at Lutherans Concerned applaud this event as yet another sign of the increasing welcome and acceptance of LGBT people and their families taking place throughout the Lutheran church. We thank the university staff and leaders who have made this event possible. We note as especially hopeful the pan-Lutheran nature of the discussion, bringing together folks from ELCA, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and other Lutheran backgrounds.

See here for a local news story about "Beyond Tolerance."

For additional information about Valparaiso’s work toward becoming a more welcoming place, see this story from Pretty Good Lutherans.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Los Angeles Bishop-elect Glasspool receives church's consent to ordination

Lutherans Concerned looks forward with joy to the ministry of Rev. Mary Douglas Glaspool as an ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church. Glaspool is the second openly gay partnered priest to be elected bishop in the Episcopal Church. The first was Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

See the full story here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Don't forget to check out the upcoming workshop, "Deepening the Welcome."

The Joint Synod Committee for Inclusivity, a committee of the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Area Synods, and the Reconciling in Christ Team of Lutherans Concerned / Twin Cities, would like to invite you to their upcoming workshop: Deepening the Welcome: After Churchwide 2009.

The workshop will take place on Saturday, April 17th from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Edina Community Lutheran Church.

Whether your congregation is already RIC or still somewhere along the journey, you've probably considered some of the following questions in the wake of CWA '09:
  • What's next after Churchwide?
  • What does the Bible say about this?
  • How can our congregation make our welcome clear and visible?
  • How can worship be more welcoming?
  • How can we talk with our children about welcome?
  • How can we communicate with persons who might disagree?
  • What can individuals do?
The "Deepening the Welcome" workshop will address these questions and more.

Note: Because the workshop is designed so that one person cannot attend all the breakout sessions, it would be worthwhile to send multiple persons from your congregation, if possible. Members of church committees that deal with Welcome, Evangelism, Youth, Worship & Music, Adult Faith Formation, Christian Action (and likely others) will all find relevant sessions.

To register, print out the .pdf registration brochure and mail it today!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Early Bird Registration for Let Justice Roll Ends March 31st

If you haven't already registered for Let Justice Roll, you'd better do it soon if you want to save yourself a big chunk of change! Between now and March 31st, you can enjoy all LJR's programs, speakers, and meals for the screaming deal of $210. The regular registration cost is $285. That's a seventy-five dollar savings.

SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS. Seventy-five dollars. Seventy-five dollars. There are no more typographical ways for me to emphasize this, but imagine that there are, and imagine that I'm using them.

So save yourself seventy-five dollars by registering now!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

LC/NA Rejects Resolution from Northeastern Iowa Synod Conference

Today, we became aware that one of the conferences of the Northeastern Iowa Synod has passed a resolution for submission to the assembly of that synod that, if adopted, would require lay and rostered members of Lutheran CORE to resign from any elected positions in the synod and would additionally hold members of CORE ineligible for such positions.

The resolution is quoted:
Resolution from the Upper Iowa River Conference Spring Assembly, February 14, 2010
Whereas the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a constitutionally governed organization served by constitutionally elected leaders at both the synod and church wide levels, and

Whereas the stated purposes of the organization known as Lutheran CORE are to 1) bring forth a proposal for a new Lutheran church body governed by a new constitution for those who choose to leave the ELCA, and 2) to plan for the continuation of Lutheran CORE as a free-standing synod for all Lutherans, and

Whereas it is an inherent conflict of interest for individuals who are members of CORE to fully and wholeheartedly support the ELCA constitution,

Be it Resolved that: 1) all rostered and lay leaders who are members of CORE and are currently serving in elected positions in the NE Iowa Synod be required to resign from those positions, and that 2) all rostered and lay individuals currently holding membership in CORE be disqualified from election to positions of leadership within the NEIA Synod.

Submitted by the Upper Iowa River Conference of the NEIA Synod, ELCA. Voted on at conference assembly, February 14, 2010
This resolution is completely antithetical to what Lutherans Concerned stands for, and advocates for, in our efforts for full inclusion.

Nothing in what we say, have said, or envision as a fully inclusive church involves excluding anyone for disagreeing with us. Ever.

Visit www.lcna.org for a full understanding of what we are about and advocating for.

Regardless of what sparked this resolution into existence, it is very un-Lutheran and should be rejected immediately as such. It certainly is nothing fostered or endorsed by Lutherans Concerned/North America.

Were it to be proposed to any assembly, we would advocate against it.

It’s just very wrong. Very.

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA

ELCA Conference of Bishops Says ELM Pastors Can Be Received Onto Roster

At their meeting over this past weekend, the Conference of Bishops of the ELCA decided to receive pastors on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster who were ordained "extra ordinem" and are serving ELCA congregations and related ministries. There are 17 such pastors who could apply for reception under this policy.

The bishops discussed the matter at length, reviewed a proposed rite, and came to a consensus that the pastors would be offered reception onto the roster of the ELCA. Their ordination would be recognized as valid. Recognition of their ministry could be included in the rite of reception. The rite of reception would parallel in some aspects the rite of ordination, but specifically not be an ordination.

In its official release yesterday, the ELCA said that this reception rite would use some "patterns and text" from ordination, and is intended for use with "individuals who have experienced an ordination that this church has not yet recognized," quoting from the draft proposal, "Reception onto the Roster of Ordained Ministers."

ELM pastors will have to fully meet the requirements necessary to gain approval by an official candidacy committee within a synod.

The draft proposal will now undergo an internal and external review, following which the members of the Conference of Bishops will be consulted about the final form before it is sent to the Church Council for its deliberation and action at its meeting in early April.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, LC/NA, said of this weekend's actions, "This discussion has been ongoing since the spring of last year. Some ELCA leaders in our church leaned heavily toward requiring reordination for the seventeen. Others engaged the process of discernment within the conference of bishops and beyond with compelling witness of the ministries of these fine pastors. The discussion was heartfelt, spirited, Spirit-filled, and tuned to the intersection of the mission of the church, the healing power of reconciliation and the full-communion agreements of the church. Debate turned to possibility. Anxiety to reconciliation. Reordination to reception. I am thankful, pleased, and most of all relieved that the ministries of these fine pastors will finally be recognized and received by the ELCA. Our thanks to the Conference of Bishops for their careful process and for their willingness to engage those of us most affected by their decision."

The full text of the ELCA''s announcement is available here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Trinity Lutheran Church of Lakewood, OH celebrates CWA '09

The Reverend Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Northeastern Ohio Synod presided over Trinity's celebration of the gay and lesbian-inclusive legislation passed at last summer's Churchwide Assembly. She preached for members of several local Lutheran, Unitarian Universalist, and United Church of Christ congregations as well as guests from Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, Lutheran Chaplaincy, and Dennis Kucinich’s office. Pastor Paula Maeder Connor of Trinity chose texts about Ruth’s steadfast love for her mother-in-law Naomi in spite of the social liabilities of such loyalty (Ruth 1: 8-19), Christ’s call to us to resist slavery (Galations 5:1), and Jesus’ relaying His Father’s commandment that we love one another (John 15:9-17).

Bishop Eaton thanked the GLBT people and their friends and families who had patiently endured their second-class status within the church for so long. She also expressed a hope that the rocky reception of this vote across the country will resolve into positive innovation in the church. During the prayers, one of the parishioners thanked God for giving us the gift of love in all of its many shapes and forms.

See the original story here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In the Spotlight: Mary Lowe, keynote speaker for Let Justice Roll

Born and raised in Alaska, Mary Elise Lowe is Assistant Professor of Religion at Augsburg College, where she is a member of the Honors Program faculty and teaches courses in contemporary theology, Christian vocation, theology and sexuality, and religion research methods. As a teacher, Mary is passionate about helping people better understand and articulate their beliefs and lived experiences and bring them into conversation with other perspectives in an increasingly multicultural world. She empowers LGBTQ Christians to claim their voice and rich contributions to the church and bring their unique questions about what it means to be human, what it means to be church, how we use the Bible, and how our theology impacts other people, both positively and negatively.

Mary’s research focuses on contemporary theology, particularly theological anthropology, with special attention to new understandings of the human person, the doctrine of sin, and human sexuality. She works with chaplaincy students in developing their theologies of ministry, and speaks on topics ranging from Martin Luther to feminist views of God, theologies of accompaniment, theology and hymns, and LGBT theologies. Her recent publications include “Sin from a Queer, Lutheran Perspective,” in the forthcoming book Transformative Lutheran Theologies: Feminist, Womanist, and Mujerista Perspectives (Fortress Press) and “Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Theologies: Origins, Contributions, and Challenges,” in dialog: a Journal of Theology. She has also written articles and book reviews for Till and Keep, Word and World, The Lutheran, and Trinity Journal of Church and Theology (forthcoming). Mary holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in systematic theology, a M.Div. from Luther Seminary, and a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University.

Milwaukee RIC Congregation "Keeping It Real" in The Fight Against Teen Pregnancy

Cross Lutheran Church, a Reconciling in Christ congregation, has joined the faith community's fight against teen pregnancy with a sex education program called Keeping It Real. Cross is among a number of predominantly black congregations in Milwaukee that are re-exploring the Scripture-based curriculum developed in 1997 by the nonprofit Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice's Black Church Initiative.

In addition to openly discussing the realities of teen sexuality and pregnancy, the program educates teens about body image, "the in-your-face sexual imagery on television and online, and what it means to be created in the likeness of God."

Check out the full story here, at Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Testifying for Marriage in Minnesota

The Minnesota state legislature Senate Judiciary Committee convened to introduce three bills relating to marriage. Two of the bills would amend Minnesota law to make marriage gender-neutral, while the third would recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who are legally married in other states.

Testimony in support of the bills was upbeat, positive, and even light-hearted at times. Several gay and lesbian couples as well as straight parents of gays and lesbians told legislators about their lives and families and what marriage and legal equality means to them and their children.

The last final testimony of the hearing was presented by Brad Froslee, Pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church. Calvary is a Reconciling in Christ congregation in South Minneapolis, and Brad is an openly gay pastor in a committed relationship. Pastor Brad's testimony used his excellent preaching to convey an important point, that marriage is about love, companionship, and building a life together. He used examples of commitment from scripture and even noted that a common wedding text "Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God" is a message of commitment between two women (Ruth 1:16).

You can watch the whole testimony here. Pastor Brad is the final speaker, and will be near the end of the video.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

ELCA Board of Pensions Extends Benefits to Same-Gender Families

At its recent meeting, February 26-28, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Board of Pensions approved extending benefits to the partners in same-gender relationships, a first in the life of any Lutheran denomination.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said, "This historic decision is indeed worthy of celebration.  The action sets committed same-gender relationships on a more equal footing in critical areas of family life: health care, retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. "

Eric Peterson, a member of the Synod Council, South Central Synod of Wisconsin, was present at the Board of Pensions meeting, and commented, "For many years, our synod has advocated for changes to the plans offered by the church, such as the simple unbundling of health and retirement plans for lay employees in committed same-gender relationships.  This weekend, the board unanimously took even further steps and opened the door for same-gender partners to not only receive benefits but live more fully together in the life of the church.  The board''s policy commitment to treating same-gender partners as spouses in the plans, as far as the law allows, is the kind of parity we have sought for so long.  I join with many others in offering thanks to the trustees and leadership of the Board of Pensions."

The Board of Pensions is a nonprofit corporation based in Minnesota, which provides retirement, health and related benefits and services to enhance the well-being of nearly 50,000 pastors, rostered  laypersons, employees and their families.  The decision of the Board means that the LGBT partners in committed, same-gender relationships with ministers or employees of ELCA congregations, synods or churchwide offices will be treated the same as heterosexual partners to the extent federal and state laws allow.  The policy once put into practice will prove the test to what level of equality has truly been enacted.

At this point, prior to the actions of the April ELCA Church Council meeting, according to the Board of Pensions, to qualify for partner benefits, those in a same-gender relationship must avail themselves of the highest public commitment possible, be that marriage, civil union, civil partnership, domestic partnership, or other form of public commitment, legal and available in the state of residence.  Where no form of official public recognition is available, an affidavit attesting to the committed relationship signed by the bishop in the case of ministers or the head of the congregation or other institution in the case of lay employees is required. 

Emily Eastwood said, "To achieve fuller equality, changes in federal and most state laws will be required. While legal marriage is currently available to same-gender partners in  Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2010), and Washington, D.C. (effective March 3, 2010)and a federal court case regarding marriage in California is now preparing for closing arguments,   we have a long way to go before same-gender marriage is the law of the land.  Lutherans Concerned remains committed to LGBT equality in church and society."

The decision of the Board of Pensions is effective pending the actions by the ELCA Church Council on Vision and Expectations (V&E) and Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline (D&G).  The Church Council meets in early April.  It is unclear what impact, if any, that differences in guidelines discussed by the Conference of Bishops and finally approved by the Church Council will have on the Board''s actions. 

The specifics of the action of Board of Pensions are available on the ELCA website at http://www.elca.org/Growing-In-Faith/Vocation/Rostered-Leadership/Ministry-Policies.aspx in the "Proposed Board of Pensions Documents" section on that page.

Draft documents from the Unit for Vocation and Education, available on the same webpage,  do not at present include the requirement of legal recognition or a signed affidavit attesting to the nature of the relationship.

The Board of Pensions states in its Summary memo that it expects to have benefit changes up and running within 30 days of the Church Council completing its actions.

The ELCA Pension and Other Benefits Program provides health, retirement, disability and survivor benefits presented as one comprehensive program to members. Benefit plans are governed and administered individually through separate plan documents. The ELCA Board of Pensions maintains the following plans: ELCA Retirement Plan, ELCA Disability Benefits Plan, ELCA Survivor Benefits Plan, ELCA Health Benefits Plan (which includes the ELCA post-retirement medical benefits obligation) and ELCA Flexible Benefits Plan.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For Clergy - A Call to Action in Maryland

Equality Maryland sends us the following message:

As many of you know, the Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler released an opinion that unequivocally states that marriages of same-gender couples validly entered into in other jurisdictions must be honored here at home.  This was a huge step forward for marriage equality, but we are already under attack from local and national groups.

The Maryland Catholic Conference, the Archbishop of Baltimore, the Archbishop of Washington and the Bishop of Wilmington have been extremely outspoken in their opposition to this advance in equality.

It is essential that we are able to demonstrate that clergy from across Maryland support marriage equality.  Equality Maryland is working on a full page ad to be published in theBaltimore Sun this week with a statement from supportive clergy.  The statement is included below.

We are writing to you today to ask that you not only consider signing on to this very important declaration of support for equality, but that you also work with us to secure additional signatures.
You can sign on to the statement by visiting: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/marylandclergyformarriageequality/

We are hoping to finalize the signatures and place the statement in the Sun this week in anticipation of several hearings on the issue of marriage equality.  Please, sign on to the pledge by 5:30pm on Tuesday.  We hope that you will choose to be part of this important initiative.

Please, do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
All the best to you,

Morgan Meneses-Sheets

Executive Director
Equality Maryland, Inc.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Policy Changes Prompt Greater Giving by Minneapolis Congregation

Given the current state of the economy, it would be hard to blame a church that decided to dial back its giving somewhat. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church of Minneapolis apparently didn't get that memo: Last November, two members approached the congregation's council to challenge them increase benevolence to the ELCA by ten percent.
According to Calvary, the move made perfect sense.

[They had] challenged ELCA policy just over one year ago by calling the Rev. Brad Froslee, a partnered gay man. With the policy change and a desire to support the larger church Joshua Moberg, president of the congregation, stated, “When we were approached to increase congregational giving and match the generosity of members it made complete sense. We, as a congregation, need to show our support for the denomination and be part of a much larger vision of ministry. ”

Following their pledge of giving to the ELCA, Calvary has increased their benevolence by thirteen percent.

They hope that their work will inspire greater support for the ELCA's ministries. According to Rev. Froslee,

It will be important for us to tell our stories of faith and hope for our community and the larger world—that our on-going witness will give hope and assurance to others. We must also ponder and live into ways that we can build connections and relationships…we must mutually support and care for one another on the journey that is ahead of us as a Church.