Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Welcome, Grace Lutheran in Victoria, BC!

A big welcome to our newest RIC congregation, Grace Lutheran Church in Victoria, BC (Canada)!

Grace Lutheran is a socially-conscious church in Victoria, BC. They've shown this not only in their newly-recognized RIC status but also as an accredited Green Congregation (officially recognized by the national church body for meeting the green and sustainability standards). They also will be hosting an event called "At the Ballot Box" - on Mondays during Lent,  people can come hear and learn about the issues of child poverty, poverty reduction, homelessness, food sustainability, unemployment, housing, mental health, the environment and health care in light of our spiritual values. Congratulations, Grace Lutheran, for joining our RIC roster!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lutheran Campus Ministry at UNM!

Congratulations to Lutheran Campus Ministry at University of New Mexico, our newest RIC organization!

LCM at UNM describes themselves as a ministry that provides a sanctuary where students can explore their relationship with God as the Spirit leads them and offers a faith community for worship, prayer, the study of God's Word, leadership development, and service. Throughout the academic year, LCM worships on Sunday evenings in the Luther House Chapel. During the week, students are invited to stop by Luther House for coffee and conversation, take time for quiet reflection in our Chapel, bring their books and find a comfortable place to study, use the computers, watch TV, or take a nap on the couches in the living room.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Oregon Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke signs petition in support of freedom to marry

Yesterday, Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke of the Oregon Synod (ELCA), along with a large, ecumencial group of clergy in the Portland metro area, signed a petition in support of putting a call for the freedom to marry on the November 2014 ballot in Oregon.

Bishop Brauer-Rieke also wrote a letter to members of the Oregon Synod, elaborating on why he signed the petition. In part, he said, he did so “because I am a Lutheran.” He went on to say:

Bishop Brauer-Rieke

“Lutherans have a unique understanding of marriage and the laws that support it. Martin Luther was clear during the Reformation that God gave the Church certain responsibilities, and that God gave the State other responsibilities. The Church is called to proclaim Christ. We are called to invite, forgive, welcome and heal. We do this through what we say and how we serve our neighbor. The State, on the other hand, is called to provide for the safety, equal protection and the fair treatment of its citizens. Marriage, Luther insisted, resides as a responsibility of the State because it involves the protection of children, issues of inheritance, debt and social recognition . . . .

“The legislation being proposed for the State of Oregon is about the protection of children. It is about the protection of children because without the benefits of same gender marriage, children in these households are not granted the same benefits, protections or regard that children with opposite gender, married parents receive.

“Marriage equality laws are about equal protection under the law for all citizens. As Oregon law stands, those in same gender relationships are denied rights to certain physical protections, hospital access, financial benefits and legal standing granted to those in legalized, opposite gender relationships – i.e. marriage.

“Marriage equality laws also maximize societal benefits that come from the protection and stabilization of families in general. In a day when marriage is being spurned, disrespected and ignored by so many, it is a gift to have people actually seeking to honor and pursue strong, marital, relationships. We want to support that.

“Protection of children is a value of mine. Fair treatment under the law is a value of mine. The support and respect of marriage as a central, societal institution is also a value of mine. I hold these values because I have been taught them by my church. I hold these values because every statement of my church, from 1970 to the present, speaking to issues of same gender relationships, has held that no matter how we might struggle around questions of sexuality and personal morality, we are all united around the need for fair and just laws that protect all people equally and work to stabilize society.”

ReconcilingWorks thanks Bishop Brauer-Rieke for his witness and advocacy for the freedom to marry. You can see the full text of the letter here.



Bishop Wayne Miller, Metro Chicago Synod, and Illinois pastors advocate for Freedom to Marry

A report from the Rev. Kim Beckmann in Chicago:

In a Valentine’s Day session, the Illinois State Senate voted 34 – 21 yesterday in favor of SB 10: the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. This vote was a significant step toward making Illinois the tenth state to legally recognize and support the loving commitments and family relationships of all couples.

Bishop Wayne Miller of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod sent letters to the Senate President and Majority leader, and the sponsor of the bill. The letter included a copy of that synod's resolution that had received overwhelming assembly support and had empowered Bishop Miller to communicate

that the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, meeting in Assembly, urges the Illinois Legislature and Governor to extend the protections and dignity of marriage to all persons and to protect the freedom of religion for all faith communities and religious organizations.

In June 2012, the Metropolitan Chicago Synod voted overwhelmingly in support of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
In his letter, Bishop Miller indicated that the Synod Assembly is the highest governing authority in the synod, which geographically comprises Cook, DuPage, Kane, and Lake counties, and includes voting members from 200 congregations representing 100,000 baptized members. He was presenting the resolution for the attention of the lawmakers “in the hope that it will assist you in making a wise and just decision concerning the pending legislation to permit marriage for same-gender couples in our state.”

House leaders (yet to vote) also received a copy of Bishop Miller’s letter and the Metro Chicago resolution, as did Gov. Quinn, who states he is eager to sign the bill. Previously, Bishop Miller had added his signature to that of 300 other clergy in an open letter to lawmakers supporting the bill, and had signed on as bishop to the amicus brief in the judicial challenge for freedom to marry.

Five clergy from suburban counties in Metro Chicago and three from the Northern Illinois Synod had traveled to Springfield a week ahead of the vote to speak with legislators uncertain of how people of faith were viewing this bill. The resolution also calls upon congregations and members of the Metro-Chicago synod to welcome, care for, and support same-gender couples and their families and to advocate for their legal protection. 

For Lutherans in Illinois, now is the time to advocate. A “Lutheran Night” at the downtown phone bank is being held on February 26, from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. Remote phone banks are springing up elsewhere this week. Contact for more information about how you can lend your self and your voice to this moment.

The Rev. Kim Beckmann is serving as interim pastor for Acacia Park Lutheran Church in Norridge, Illinois.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Loyal and Obedient: a Perspective from a Gay Eagle Scout

by Kurt Neumann

One day two years ago, my 11 yr-old nephew asked me, “Uncle Kurt, where you ever in Scouts?” I replied, “I’m an Eagle Scout like your Dad.” His eyes lit up and replied, “Really?” I replied, “Yes, and I’m proud of it.” But as he becomes more involved, I can’t be involved anymore. The singular reason: I am gay.

For those not familiar with Boy Scouts, the Scout law is a set of traits taught to inspire the best in each Scout. In the Scout Handbook, a Scout is loyal: “A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and nation.” However, a Scout is also obedient: “A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying them."

How can I be true to my nephew and also obedient to the law prohibiting me from participating? How can my nephew be loyal to his gay uncle if he is also obedient to the exclusionary Scouting rule?

Some would call this ironic but, my answer to those questions comes from my faith as a Lutheran. Lutheranism began because Martin Luther wanted to change the systemic problems in the Roman Catholic church from within, rather than separate from it. The benefits of staying together as one outweighed separating. More recently, in 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) continued one of Lutheranism’s founding principles by allowing partnered gay clergy to serve openly but not require any congregation to call a pastor they didn’t want to call. This change was not easy and incurred significant debate.

Ultimately, the rules needed to be changed, because the policies were unfair. Qualified leaders, the future talent of the church, were being driven away based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity. It is important to note that before 2009, the ELCA had a policy of allowing openly gay members in churches, but they could not serve as a rostered leader unless they were celibate. This policy created a second-class status for gays and encouraged disloyalty within church leadership for those who were partnered. The church learned they had to be open and affirming to all, without exceptions, to truly be loyal to one another. In effect, in order to be obedient, the church had to change the unfair policy to allow for congregations to make up their own minds at the local level. Consequently, over the past three years, the ELCA has attracted members who would have never considered joining the Lutheran church.

As they meet this week, I urge the Boy Scouts of America board members to evolve their understanding on what it means to be loyal and yet obedient. Not only should gay Scouts be allowed, but also Scoutmasters, parents, and families of all configurations. If a policy of “local option” is chosen, I will watch with anticipation as the Boy Scouts of America will undoubtedly grow as an organization. We will be greater by staying together and help instill the values of Scouting to the next generation. My nephew is waiting.

Kurt Neumann serves as Operations Manager for ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Welcome, Trinity Lutheran Church!

Another new RIC congregation to welcome - Trinity Lutheran Church in Madison, WI! Trinity is an active and lively congregation in southern Wisconsin. They describe their unique church: "We strive to assist members in using their own distinct gifts for ministry. Through preaching, teaching and pastoral care, we seek to connect people with God’s resources of love, forgiveness and hope; striving to make God’s word come alive in our daily lives. Musicians of all ages line up to praise God in styles from Renaissance to contemporary." Congratulations, Trinity!

Welcome, Family of God Lutheran Church!

Family of God Lutheran Church has been added to the RIC roster! Family of God serves the diverse people of the Point neighborhood and surrounding areas of East Grand Forks, MN and Grand Forks, ND.  They are a caring community of believers that value children, worship, Christian education, and fellowship. Congratulations, Family of God, on your new affirmation of welcome!