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Saturday, August 22, 2009

How About Those Lutherans?

In Cleveland no matter how the Indians were playing, a conversation could always be opened by asking, "So, how about those Indians?"

How about those Lutherans (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)? On Thursday, August 20, 2009, they voted overwhelmingly for full communion with the United Methodist Church! This will provide more opportunities for working together in communities. I'm particularly hopeful about some of our rural communities where we could share clergy (UMC has had ELCA clergy but not the other way around). It was a great and celebratory event!

But you may not have heard about it on the news because on Friday, August 21, 2009, they voted that gay clergy could be placed on the roster for pastoral leadership in churches. The vote passed with the support of 68 percent of about 1,000 delegates at the ELCA's national assembly here in Minneapolis. It makes the group, with about 4.7 million members in the U.S., one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations yet to take a more gay-friendly stance.

While I was in attendance at the ELCA Assembly for their hearings and vote (and ultimately celebration) on being in full communion with the United Methodist Church, I heard some of their debate and marveled at their impassioned but not nasty discourse around homosexuality (at least what I heard). Their manner of being together didn't suggest to me that they will quickly or easily split or leave. They are also far more identified individually as Lutherans than we usually are as United Methodists. I wonder what that will mean for their way forward together as one.

I think that it's significant that the ELCA made this decision because they're the church of the "fly-over states." Lutherans are so mid-America, and not just geographically. What does this say about the American, Christian viewpoint on homosexuality, if anything?

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson writes, following the vote, that "we meet one another finally--not in our agreements or our disagreements--but at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ." He affirmed the way in which the Assembly made the decision rather than the decision, but asked that those who "lament" and those who "rejoice" at it will continue to be in conversation and relationship with each other "for together we have been called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and engage in God's mission for the life of the world."

As United Methodist, we state that we will not ordain or appoint self-avowed, practicing homosexuals in our Church. We have people who have left because of this stance and also those who agree with the stance.

I had recently resolved to try to write a new blog entry for peoples' reflections and conversations on a more regular basis and it was time to write one. I wasn't going to write about the Lutherans, but then I read that good leadership doesn't allow an elephant to sit in the room! How could I ask a provoking question for people to reflect on when this decision has just happened?

I'm wondering how this decision should or could shape our own discussions on homosexuality. What can we learn from both their decision and how they made their decision? How does this decision impact us and our churches?


(Please remember the rules of engagement for civil discourse and I urge you to post your thoughts for others as opposed to writing me privately.)

Friday, August 14, 2009


What would John Wesley say about our present debate about health care (WWJWS)? Our own, Steve Manskar, reminds us on his Facebook page what John Wesley said and did about health care in his own time. If you're on Facebook, you can find his quotes from "A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists" on this subject matter at

Suffice it to say, John Wesley spent a good share of his time, personal finances, and Christian commitment in providing health care for the poor in England.

I've heard economists and those knowledgeable about health care remark that there hasn't been enough dialogue about what the changes should be made in health care. The Mayo and Cleveland Clinics have been raised as exemplary places to provide a more wholistic approach to health care; less individual providers with less than 20 minutes to work in their silo of medicine on our complicated and interconnected bodies. Could health care be more wholistic for all of us?

The town hall meetings that we are hearing about in the news with legislators and the President of the United States going out into the country don't exactly sound like a dialogue to me. Why the anger? What are we afraid of?

Why the misinformation? My own mother admits to getting many emails a day (her harddrive crashed so not so many right now!) about "pulling the plug on grandma," etc. Whose fueling that? Could it be the health insurance companies themselves? Could it be those who stand to make a lot of money off of us if we don't make changes?

How's your health insurance working for you now? Even those on Medicare (a government-run health provider). I'm sure it's not perfect, but something must be done in order to reduce costs but also to provide better care.

Do we have to link employment with health insurance? The history of that is that benefits were given instead of salary increases. That appears to be the case again today, at least for clergy! And of course the disaster is that when one is no longer employed, one is also off health insurance. Several members of my own family don't have health insurance right now because they don't have jobs. This isn't about someone else. This is about us and if it's not affecting us directly now, it affects us indirectly. Presently it's causing some local churches to really struggle in providing benefits for clergy. The issue isn't that clergy shouldn't have benefits, but that benefits shouldn't be so exorbitant.

Now you probably think that I'm "playing politics," but let me direct you to the Social Principles in our Book of Discipline which state in part: "Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes all, a responsibility government ignores at its care is best funded through the government's ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities...We believe it is a governmental responsiblity to provide all citizens with health care." (Par. 162.V, 2008 Book of Discipline).

So why aren't we more adamant about health care for all as United Methodists? What can we do? WWJWS?

Please feel free to express your opinions but I expect that you will respond differently from "the world," and I hope we can have a conversation based on our faith and not just our politics!


Sally Dyck