Friday, April 30, 2010

Anticipating the Harvest – Congregations aim to deepen their welcome after Churchwide 2009

Although the April issue of The Lutheran framed its cover story on last summer’s sexuality votes rather ominously, “Assessing the Fallout,” there was nothing ominous about the recent Deepening the Welcome event held here in April for metro area Lutheran churches. The workshop, put on by the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Team of Lutherans Concerned/Twin Cities, with support from the St. Paul and Minneapolis Area Synods Joint Committee for Inclusivity, overflowed with enthusiasm according to its organizers.

Glenn Choquette, a member of the planning team explained why his congregation, Edina Community Lutheran Church (ECLC), actually campaigned to be the host site. “We’re celebrating 25 years as an RIC congregation. Our choice to be welcoming to GLBT persons has been very good to us. It’s helped us embrace the fullness of the Gospel, and we wanted to honor that by hosting an event that invites other churches to deepen their welcome.”


Indeed, ECLC’s fellowship room was downright crowded, with nearly eighty people at the start of the day. Luckily, the wide-ranging breakout sessions were scattered throughout the church’s plentiful rooms, and organizers quickly shifted the one plenary session into the sanctuary for its extra space.
One session, on the “Biblical Perspective of Welcome,” was led by Glenndy Ose, Bishop’s Associate, Minneapolis Area Synod. Laughter leaked out into the hallway as Ose led her group through an energetic presentation on “the why, the how, and the who” of welcome. Afterwards one participant exuded, “Now that was good news! When she said ‘anytime we draw a line to show where Jesus isn’t, that becomes exactly where Jesus is,’ it felt like Pentecost in the room.”

Another session paired up Tim Fisher, of Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA), and Sister Noreen Stevens, Assistant to the Bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod, to provide an update on the policies intended to implement the wider welcome adopted last August. Stevens works with candidacy in the Synod office, and Fisher helped represent LC/NA at the recent ELCA Church Council meeting in Chicago. Both said they were grateful to be working in partnership at the workshop.

Theologian-hymnist David Weiss led a session on “Welcome in Worship” in which participants sang selections from welcome-themed hymns, many of them from his book, To the Tune of a Welcoming God. Discussion focused on worship—and hymnody in particular—as a place where the congregation continues to “catechize itself, to retell the biblical arc of God’s welcome so that it reaches forward into our lives today.”

Nancy Michael, executive director of aMaze, a local nonprofit, described her organization’s Families All Matter (FAM) curriculum, which guides schools in using children's picture books to explore difference and to increase children's appreciation for diversity. Circulating colorful (and sometimes award-winning) picture books among her audience, she said, “Kids start ‘sorting’ people already in preschool; it’s natural to notice differences. Unfortunately when adults send messages of silence, or, worse, prejudice, kids ‘sort’ with a vengeance. But stories that honor diversity and invite discussion can empower children to see difference as normal, healthy, and good.” She noted that this fall aMaze begins piloting a version of its FAM curriculum adapted for use in faith communities.

Other sessions covered topics like graceful engagement over difficult issues, the use of drama as a way to advance conversations about welcome, and the process of “coming out” as a congregation once you’ve decided to welcome GLBT persons. Judging from the buzz of conversation over lunch, the offerings of the day were sparking lots of new ideas as well as building new connections. While some participants came from congregations with long-standing RIC ties, others represented churches still exploring whether to become RIC, and several came from congregations with fairly conservative reputations—but with at least some members eager to explore “the upside of last August,” as one person put it.

The workshop closed mid-afternoon with song, prayer, and passing of the peace. Cathy Cook, another ECLC member and part of the RIC Team, commented while cleaning afterwards in the kitchen, “I’m not sure why the Lutheran needed to frame its article on Churchwide 2009 as being about ‘assessing the fallout’; these people today were clearly anticipating the harvest.”

Courtesy of David Weiss.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bishops and Elders Council Condemns Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Part of the vision of Lutherans Concerned/North America is to work for wholeness in the lives of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. To that end, LC/NA leaders gather with faith-based groups who share our mission in working for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities among our global and ecumenical partners.

One such group is the Bishops and Elders Council, which is convened by the Institute for Welcoming Resources, a program of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The Bishops and Elders Council, including our own Ross Murray, gathered in Washington D.C. today and yesterday to meet with White House representatives and to hold a press conference decrying the upcoming Anti-Homosexuality Bill making its way through the Ugandan legislature. (See YouTube video of the event here.)

If passed, this bill would make same-gender relationships a capital crime in Uganda. It would even make mere failure to report known homosexuals a crime punishable by seven years in prison. (See our previous reports related to this draconian bill here, here, and here.)

Because certain leaders of the Religious Right in the United States have been linked to the Ugandan legislation (see here), the Bishops and Elders Council feel it’s particularly important that U.S. Christians send the message that bigotry, discrimination, hatred, violence and prejudice find no home in any religion worthy of the name. The Council believes that continued oppression of LGBT persons cannot be supported by any who hold sacred the central tenets of Christianity, calling on them in calling on all followers of Christ Risen to oppose the false use of scripture and doctrine against LGBT persons. Our national exports should be respect and understanding, not judgmentalism and fear.

Censure And Admonition Of St. Paul-Reformation For Calling Pastor Anita Hill In 2001 Lifted

St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been informed the 9-year-old censure and admonition placed on the congregation have been lifted. The congregation was informed during worship on Sunday, April 25, that these adverse actions had been lifted on April 21.

The censure and admonition, as well as sanctions, had been imposed on the congregation by the ELCA as a reaction to the April 28, 2001, ordination of Anita Hill as a pastor at a ceremony presided over by Rev. Paul Tidemann, then pastor of St. Paul-Reformation. Present for the ceremony and participating in the laying on of hands were Rev. Paul Egertson, then bishop of the ELCA Southwest California Synod; Rev. Dr. Krister Stendahl, Bishop Emeritus of Stockholm, Sweden and retired Academic Dean of the Harvard Divinity School; Rev. Lowell Ehrdahl, Bishop Emeritus of St. Paul Area Synod; and Rev. Stanley Olson, retired bishop of the Pacific Southwest Synod (Lutheran Church in America). The ordination was an act of the congregation gathered, under a provision in the Lutheran Confessions that allows congregations to ordain when bishops can't or won't. The call and ordination were acts of ecclesiastical disobedience. These actions in 2001 are the subject of a documentary film, This Obedience, available through LC/NA. The ELCA's disciplinary actions were imposed for calling a pastor not on the ELCA roster of clergy.

The sanctions were later lifted, but the censure remained in place until April 21.

Again, we have the signs of changed policies coming out of the decisions of the church at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. These signs are uplifting and encouraging, like the signs of Spring following a long, dark and difficult Winter. In this Eastertide, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the promise of salvation that pulls us all through the difficulties of life.

The news from St. Paul-Reformation is also cause for celebration, and we rejoice with that congregation and Pastor Anita Hill, that, holding steadfast to their decisions, they have come through vindicated and restored.

We look forward to further uplifting and encouraging signs this Springtime.

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA
communications@lcna.org

Friday, April 23, 2010

LC/NA joins LGBT and Allied Groups Calling on Congress to Pass ENDA Now

Today, Lutherans Concerned joined the nation’s other leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations, along with allies in the faith, labor and civil rights communities, to issue the following statement to members of the United States Congress:

“Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act NOW.”

236 organizations signed the statement. (Look after the jump for a full list.)

To find more information about ENDA, or to view the full statement, go to endaNOW's website or follow them on twitter. Don't forget to contact your Representatives and Senators and demand that they support workplace non-discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 



Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From our friends at the taskforce on Stop the Call to Violence:

STOP THECALL TO VIOLENCE in UGANDA!

LGBT Faith Leaders Speak Out Against US Evangelist Spreading More Hate and Fear in Uganda

LGBT faith leaders in the United States are calling for bloggers and other media to expose an upcoming anti-gay stadium event, TheCall Uganda being headed by another U.S. evangelical, Lou Engle. Engle, a radically anti-gay and anti-abortion evangelical, is scheduled to hold an all-day mass rally, on May 2nd, at Makerere University Sports Field, Kampala, Uganda from 2pm to 7pm

Rev. Patricia Ackerman of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office said, “Only a public outcry will be able to stop TheCall from exporting more hate from the United States to Uganda in the name of religion.”

FACTS:

  • Lou Engle, was the evangelist for TheCall Qualcomm Stadium event in San Diego at the end of the Prop 8 campaign says gay people are demon possessed; http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/12/21/18614
  • “TheCall Uganda” has Lou Engle scheduled to preach. His usual message is condemnation, judgment and exorcism. Thousands of people who have fasted for days are expected at the stadium in Kampala making them more vulnerable to his violent message.
  • Lou Engle is credited with saying, “The most “dangerous terrorist” is not Islam but God. One of God’s names is the avenger of blood. Have you worshipped that God yet." [sic] http://www.fotb.com/Publisher/File.aspx?id=1000010167
For more info, read on after the jump.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Report from the Texas-Louisiana-Gulf Coast Synod Assembly

The Texas-Louisiana-Gulf Coast Synod of the ELCA held its annual synod assembly this past weekend, April 16-18, in New Orleans. Heidi Good provides the following report:

Bishop Rinehart gave a wonderful state-of-the-synod report. He talked about the controversial decision made at churchwide: namely, agreement with the Methodists! He did this half in jest, pointing out that there was huge controversy when we made a similar agreement with the Episcopalians, an agreement that led to various breakaway groups. Then he went back through the last 100 or so years, highlighting all the splitting-off histories in a rather amusing way. This was all done in preparation to discussing the elephant in the room.

He then went through all the resolutions about sexuality and ministry policies and how they passed, what they meant, and pointed out we’d had this discussion in this synod as well and had passed memorials calling for change. He went on to talk about how it’s really all about the different ways people read the Bible. This led to a discussion of what is church unity, and what must we agree on to have unity, should we have binding rules? etc... He finished by suggesting that, rather than condemn divorce, we should have discussion and form support groups for those experiencing divorce; rather than condemning alcoholics, we should start a 12-step program. Let's love and help people; by their fruits shall you know them. He got quite the ovation for that.

Later, he reported about our sister synods. He asked people from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Peru about the CWA09 sexuality decisions. They said they understand, it’s a justice issue. They get it.

Our other sister synod is the Central African Republic. At first they said they had no homosexuals, but on further thinking, they agreed that probably did have them, but it’s not safe for any of them to come out right now. So, no big hue and cry from our companion synods.

Bishop Rinehart has taken on immigration reform in a big way as a justice issue, which is particularly appropriate for the Gulf Coast region. He said that, in the last year or so, he'd heard a lot of people quoting Leviticus at him. He has responded by saying, How about a different verse from Leviticus? For instance, Lev. 19:34, where God says “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poem for the Third Sunday of Easter

A poem, based on the texts for the Third Sunday of Easter, year C.

Saul changes direction
from his persecuting past.
He joins the chorus of saints
praising the paschal lamb.

Meanwhile, Lord, you enjoy
a grilled-fish dinner with your
fisherman friends
and it all seems cozy.

But you charge them and us
"Feed my lambs," and "tend my sheep";
you foresee difficulties and pain
for those you loved.

The psalms are the cries of joy and pain;
Revelation is a book of hope for the persecuted;
and none of us will live a life of unmitigated joy.

But you are among us in the breaking of bread,
in the work of justice and peace,
in love of neighbor, in growth and grace.

Help us to feed your lambs.
Help us to tend your sheep.
Help us learn and share the blessing-song of the saints
and the grace we've been given.


© 2010 Erik Doughty. Permission to reproduce this work is granted only when the author is credited.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No Longer Precluded from the Full Life of the Church

This past weekend, the ELCA Church Council made a great many textual changes to ministry policies. Among these changes were those presented below.  Strikethroughs indicate language from the original policies deleted by the council. Underlines indicate new language adopted by the council.

     *          *          *          *           *          *          *

EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
April 9-12, 2010
“Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers”
Exhibit Q, Part 3a
Page 10
[From the section on Holy Living]
A married ordained minister is expected to live in fidelity to his or her spouse, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.
An ordained minister who is in a publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationship is expected to live in fidelity to his or her partner, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a publicly accountable relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful.


EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
April 9-12, 2010
“Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline”
Exhibit Q, Part 2a
Page 2
Sexual MattersThe biblical understanding which this church affirms is that the normative setting for sexual intercourse is marriage. The expectation of this church is that an ordained minister is to lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed. In keeping with this understanding expectation, chastity and abstinence are required outside of marriage or outside publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships, and chastity and fidelity are required within marriage or within such same-gender relationships. before marriage and fidelity within marriage are the norm. Adultery, infidelity, casual sexual relationships, promiscuity, the sexual abuse of another, or the misuse of counseling the pastoral relationships for sexual favors activity constitute conduct that is incompatible with the character of the ministerial office. Practicing homosexual persons are precluded from the ordained ministry of this church.

ELCA Church Council Approves All Full-Inclusion Revisions without Opposing Votes

This weekend, the ELCA Church Council meeting in Chicago moved the decision of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly into policy by replacing the language in church documents that excluded ministers in committed same-gender relationships with a policy that allows congregations and organizations to call a fully-qualified minister in a committed, same-gender relationship. And, the Council also approved the way to reinstate ministers who have been removed from the roster because of the previous policy and to receive ELM pastors onto the roster of the ELCA. The Council also made the benefits of the ELCA pension plan available to rostered ministers and employees in committed, same-gender relationships.

There were no votes on the Council opposing the adoption of the revised documents, the pension plan inclusion, and the rite of reception for those Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries pastors who were ordained "extra ordinem."

The ELCA has reached two milestones long sought by the movement for full inclusion. First, it has eliminated all prohibitions against qualified people in a same-gender relationship serving on the ELCA's roster of ministers. Second, and more importantly, it created a pathway that frees the gifts of ELCA members to pursue ministry and mission with new vigor. Each of these steps is crucial for both our continued healing and our bold walk into a more just future.

These actions are important because they are a major milestone along the journey of full inclusion. We have a policy that recognizes the gifts of its members to spread the good news of God in Christ Jesus and that will allow the return of those who have been removed or alienated from rostered leadership solely on the basis of the old policy.

Bishop Hanson said that one of the results of the Council's actions would be new life in the church through new leaders. Bishop Hanson also thanked the Church Council for shepherding this task in most thoughtful way. He lifted the Conference of Bishops' participation up as key to the process.

As we reflected on the great amount work and effort it took , we observed a paradox. On one hand, in order to follow God's call for justice, the former policy forced us, as a community, to restrict how we could use our gifts. Many of us spent considerable time and effort working to make the ELCA a more inclusive church. However, even within a relatively narrow focus on the policy concerning LGBT people''s role within the church, we have lifted up crucial questions for the church: What is the relationship of sexuality to salvation in Christ? What is the diversity in God's wondrous creation? What is sinful? How do Lutherans read and interpret scripture? Who continues to face barriers to ministry and mission? How do we journey together faithfully, in spite of so many differences? What some people have dismissed as a narrow issue has both opened up and profoundly deepened our moral and theological life. God indeed works in mysterious ways.

Although we are closer to full-participation than we ever thought that we would be, there is still further to go. The ELCA continues to be heavily involved in a myriad of issues as it reaches out in Christ's name and mission. We pray that our well-earned celebration as a community of reconciliation will renew us, will energize us to go yet more miles with even more joy and less fear, together with the whole people of God, as we follow Christ in love, healing, and abundant life.

Since the August decision to change policy, we have heard from many of you that it feels as though celebration is "stuck in our throats." Verily, the time has come to clear our throats. Currently, censures are being lifted from congregations, for which we can celebrate. Soon, we will start to see pastors received and reinstated across the whole church. By the time we gather together in Minneapolis at Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters, we will be ready to shout out in holy joy! We hope that you can join us in July to add your voice to the chorus of people singing praise and thanksgiving to God.

Finally, there are acknowledgements to make. There are so many people who have worked to overturn the policy of the ELCA for so long. Among them, we offer thanks to God for the past and present service of the Goodsoil Legislative Team, the Regional Coordinators, Board, and staff of LC/NA, countless volunteers in congregations and synods, and the working group of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Thanks be to God!

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In the Spotlight: Jeremy Posadas, Bible study leader for Let Justice Roll



Jeremy Posadas is a doctoral student in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, having trained previously at Union Theological Seminary NYC and the University of Chicago. He researches how power shapes identity in congregational practices such as worship and religious education. In addition, he studies the work of Michel Foucault, especially in relation to “political spirituality” and critical understandings of race, sex, and disability.

Discerning that he is not called to live out the celibacy imposed by the former policies of the ELCA, Jeremy instead joined Goodsoil’s efforts to eliminate those policies. He has taken the minutes for nearly every meeting of the Goodsoil Legislative Team for the past four years and served as one of the Team’s main drafters. He has helped train hundreds of ELCA members for full-inclusion action and advocacy throughout the church.

During the 2006–2008 biennium, he served on LC/NA’s Board of Directors as Secretary. Now that the ELCA has eliminated the prohibition against same-gender-partnering ministers, he is pursuing ordination and hopes for the chance to live out both his vocations, to academic and congregational ministry.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bishop Lifts Censure Placed on Ft. Lauderdale Congregation

Dear Friends,

Great news from the Florida-Bahamas Synod. In a letter to Abiding Savior Lutheran Church (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), Bishop Edward R. Benoway announced that he has lifted the censure and public admonition placed on the congregation. See below for the report from the synod. See here for the full text of the Bishop Benoway's letter to the congregation.

We congratulate Abiding Savior and Pastor Bill Knott (pictured) and thank them for their continuing ministry, witness, and faithful service.

--------------

TAMPA--Bishop Edward R. Benoway of the Florida-Bahamas Synod today announced the lifting of a public censure that was placed in February of 2002 on Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, 1900 SW 35th Avenue in Ft. Lauderdale. That censure was placed in response to the church’s calling and installing of Bill Knott as their pastor even though he was no longer on the clergy roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

At the time of the censure, Bishop Benoway noted that he realized the congregation was acting according to their consciences and convictions during a time that the ELCA was engaged in conversation and study of sexuality and rostering matters. Knott was living in a committed, same-gender relationship and had voluntarily removed himself from ELCA clergy roster prior to 2002.

The censure was lifted as a result of action taken at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly “to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.” Abiding Savior is a congregation that supports those in such relationships and welcomes all to participate fully in the life and ministry of the congregation.

“It is my great joy to be removing this censure and renewing the welcome of members of this congregation to full participation in all aspects of our life together in the Florida-Bahamas Synod,” wrote Bishop Benoway to leaders at Abiding Savior. He went on to express his gratitude for the congregation’s patience and continuing partnership over the past eight years as “we have studied the Scriptures, discussed matters of sexuality, and debated countless resolutions on the floors of synod assemblies and churchwide assemblies.”

“You have participated in the life of the synod through your presence at synod assemblies and conference gatherings, and you have supported the ministries of the whole Church,” wrote Bishop Benoway, pointing out that this congregation remained generous in their giving of mission support for synodical and churchwide ministries.

“You remained always a witness to this church of what you believe is right and consistent with our Lord’s teaching,” he said. “In prayer and discernment, we have together sought the will of God in these matters.”

As a result of further decisions made at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA is also seeking ways for persons in publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church. “In the very near future,” Bishop Benoway wrote, “I anticipate being able to share with Bill Knott the process that he and I may follow” to pursue his reinstatement to the clergy roster of the ELCA.

Bishop Benoway concluded by giving thanks for the partnership that this congregation shares with the Florida-Bahamas Synod and the ELCA.

Abiding Savior was one of two congregations censured at the same time in 2002 for calling pastors not on the ELCA clergy roster. The other was Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Key West, which voted to close as a congregation in 2009 as a result of diminished membership.

By the Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel (Florida-Bahamas Synod)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

LC/NA Announces New Strategic Plan

The following notice has been sent to leaders of Lutherans Concerned.

Dear Leadership of LC/NA:

Given the dramatic crossroads we are at within the organization and within the movement, I have decided that it is time for LC/NA to make some necessary changes to its strategy and operations. I believe that these changes will help us to achieve the full participation that has eluded us for so long. I will incorporate these into the strategic plan. Please adjust your priorities accordingly.
  • We will expand our community organizing skills by including “mime.” There is something very powerful about people in black-and-white striped shirts and berets that will engage the “movable middle” into embracing full participation. If not, we will simply trap those who oppose us in an invisible glass box.
  • We will now sort our RIC churches into three categories: tall, grande, and venti.
  • Rebranding will roll forward with our new name: “Hot and Lutheran Since 1517.” The logo will feature a lot of flames.
  • Prospecting of RIC congregations will start with standing outside of worship with a sandwich board sign that reads “Free Hugs.” When people try to hug the person wearing a sandwich board, it will be difficult and both people will laugh. That will break the ice and allow the conversation to continue.
  • We will abandon our philosophy of “graceful engagement from within” and now focus on “socially awkward contact.”
  • Our web site will feature photos of the sacristy of RIC congregations, so potential visitors can make an informed decision.
  • Staff will now wear uniforms, to be designed by the same person that designs the clothes Lady Gaga wears in her music videos. Uniforms will feature cumbersome eyewear.
  • Let Justice Roll will now feature a dance number by the various board and committees of LC/NA and Let Justice Roll. The board will do the foxtrot. Chaplains will perform a modern dance. Staff will do salsa. Legislative Team members will perform country line dancing. Regional Coordinators will judge.
Implementation of these new strategic moves will begin effective April 1, 2010.

Russ Murray
Interim Provisional Acting Executive Director
Hot and Lutheran Since 1517 

New Pre-Event Added to Let Justice Roll Assembly

News flash! Biblical Storytelling has just been added as a Pre-Event for Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters, the biennial assembly of Lutherans Concerned / North America and Reconciling in Christ conference.

All of the movement-building pre-events will occur from 1:00 p.m. on July 7 until noon on July 8. These events provide opportunities to go deeper into particular aspects of the LGBTQ movement in the church. Many of the events are designed for a specific population.

The Pre-Events are:
  • Biblical Storytelling
  • Difference & Privilege
  • Couple Care
  • Ministerium
  • Youth & Young Adult Forum
See detailed descriptions and register for Let Justice Roll now!