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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.)


jasonbradyut said...

This is just appalling. If Luther, the late German Christian protester, would still be here…where the denomination “Lutherans” derived from, he would be stunned and completely disappointed in this horrible abomination to the Word of God and the Gospel. I totally am against this election. When God created “man” he created Adam and Eve, NOT Adam and STEVE!!! Hello people. This is a direct form of disobedience to God. And this is happening in a Church, a denomination that professes to know the Word of God???? Please, God will have to deal with you guys…and it won’t be pretty.

GZimmy said...

The decision by the ELCA to ordain practicing homosexuals is sad. I can only imagine it hurting their church, and I have many friends and relatives in the ELCA. I have been reading today the reactions of many Lutherans, grieving for the church they love, which is no more.

I'm afraid we will soon see a major split in the ELCA, with large groups leaving to form new synods, or join other ones. Either that or many Lutherans will simply get up out of their pews and leave the church.

But this is one Methodist who will welcome those Lutherans with open arms. We can certainly use their faithfulness in the UMC!

Ed DuBose said...

Thank you Bishop Sally for your thoughtful comments. As an ordained ELCA pastor who has served in six different United Methodist Churches I watched the National Lutheran Conference with great interest.

I guess I should probably be relieved that they voted to approve 'full communion' with United Methodist. Otherwise I might have been guilty of some ecclesiastical law!

On a more serious note, I was pleased to see the ELCA have the courage to become a more inclusive denomination. For centuries the Church has condemned people for being who God created them to be.

Change has been hard for the ELCA. I know that this is only a first step. But I whole heartedly believe it is a step in the right direction.

I rejoice in that the 'communion of saints' is breaking down denominational barriers and ancient phobias.

Jeff Ozanne said...

I am impressed by the level of compromise I see on the issue in the ELCA decisions. While it is easy for proponents of either side of the issue to take a hard-line stance, I feel the ELCA made a bolder and perhaps wiser move by allowing for differences in the hopes of maintaining unity. Whatever way the conversation moves for us United Methodists, I hope the tone of both unity and diversity is maintained.

Michelle said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Bishop Sally. I have wondered if Lutheran polity made this decision a bit easier than it is for us. When we ordain, we ordain for all the churches in the whole conference, and connection. The ELCA (as I understand it)has a more congregational polity, so ordination and call happens at the congregational level. Congregations can agree to disagree and still maintain a lot of control over who serves where.

I think coming to a more inclusive stance is more difficult for us partly because of our polity, specifically the way we ordain and appoint clergy. But I hope that someday we, too, will truly have open minds, open hearts and open doors. -- Michelle Hargrave

Anonymous said...

Thank God for the ELCA. I think the bishop hit the nail on the head when she spoke of ELCA members being middle Americans. If among middle Americans we have come to accept gay clergy, it can't be long before all of us become open to all God's children. History is on the side of inclusiveness.

Joel said...

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seems to be getting back to the first word of their name. I was brought up with the definition of evangelical as being one who evangelized or sought to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world. I don’t care much for the newer definition which is a designation of being a one “who holds to a conservative interpretation of the Bible.” (

Emphasizing holiness seems like a good idea until there is a reality check. Jesus told a parable of the Good Samaritan where good people tried to be holy but failed to be a neighbor. I think all the commotion about who is in and who is out, who is acceptable and who is not, who is holy and who is not - is a stumbling block from keeping the great commission. Most non Christians I know see value in Christian teachings. However they would not want to be associated with any church that wastes its time in what they see as being bigoted. While I continue as a United Methodist, I don’t have an answer to their concerns. I share them. I hope we soon follow the good example of our Lutheran friends with whom we are now in full communion.

Anonymous said...

For me, the issue isn't about gay or straight, it's about marriage. If you don't allow hetero people to live together in a "committed" relationship instead of being married and still be clergy, how do you make the exception for others? Also, how are they defining "committed"? How much is enough to be considered in a "committed" relationship?

I get it that gays can't be legally married, but isn't this decision also saying that marriage doesn't matter so much?

Carol E. said...

To be honest, I had no idea that ELCA and United Methodists had that "communion" ! It's a good move, I think. We need to understand that we as Christians are more alike than we are different. And I REJOICE that they voted to accept gay clergy. Why are we United Methodists still dragging our feet???? There is nothing to be afraid of.

Anonymous said...

My sister's Episcopalian church is almost dead after their abandonment of any doctrine of sexual morality and Biblical truth. Watch for Lutheran churches, sadly, to also begin dying more rapidly because they are living a lie and embracing sin. This is very sad, and my heart goes out to those Lutherans who have lived faithfully by God's word which so plainly condemns the sins of homosexuality.

Grant said...

I am really a guest in the United Methodist Church. I pastor a church which is both United Church of Christ and United Methodist. As a United Church of Christ minister, I have many peers who are gay or lesbian. I feel that if God calls someone into the ministry, who am I to question God? Some of the finest ministers I know happen to be gay or lesbian. I respect the right of the United Methodist Church to set its own standards for who can be a minister. However, I am very pleased that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America choose to allow gays and lesbians into the ministry. I know that my own denomination has been truly blessed by the ministry of gays and lesbians.

Mark said...

God doesn't call gays into the minstry unless they repent of their sin, and lead a lifestyle worthy of the call.

Carol E. said...

Jesus welcomed the woman at the well.
Jesus said "whoever is without sin, cast the first stone."
Jesus modeled love and friendliness and acceptance of all, even the "enemies."
Who are we to condemn and name-call and judge anyone else? I know of no clergy or lay person who is perfect. We all need to repent,on a daily basis, but God still calls us to serve in a multitude of ways. God loves us and uses our gifts.

Bill said...

Thank you for sharing this information with us all. As a United Methodist clergy who has watched the struggle in our communion over four decades, I believe the action of the Evangelical Lutherans may be very instructive for us. As they shrink is size, influence, membership, etc. we can all watch a "lab" of what would happen to the UMC if we took similar actions. Thank God the majority of delegates to General Conference understand this.

Anonymous said...

Two beloved clergy sisters of mine serve in the ELCA and were delegates at the convention. The power of prayer that laced the discourse and bound the Body together was palpable after they emerged from hours of challenging debate. Those wishing to speak on either side of the issue stood side by side in lines behind microphones, and during the prayer breaks every 20 minutes, Bishop Hansen often asked that those who were standing in line turn to the person in the line across from them in order to pray together. I admire greatly the power of deep and binding faith that grounded the Body.

To affirm the gift and power of baptism and deny the call of those whose orientation is other than heterosexual has wounded far too many and robbed the church of leadership and witness.

The ELCA vote was taken in the same facility in which the vote was taken among Methodists around full clergy rights for women. It appears justice is often sparked in "fly over" locales!

The Spirit moves. Creation longs for the unleashing of grace. My prayer is for an awareness of the sacred and gifting that breathes in each.

I preached about this on Sunday - our church web site has a copy at under "sermons"

Peace -

David said...

Forgive me Carol E. but after Jesus said "If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" didn't he also go on to say "Go now and leave your life of sin"?


Rev. Jeremy Smith said...

I'm thankful for our commitment to full communion with the ELCA and I don't think this separate development will challenge or change that.

I'm also excited that our joint ELCA/UMC missional contexts, we will now get a more expanded pool of qualified spirit-filled people to offer leadership...and that's never a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

How can ELCA's rejection of Biblical authority, the first and primary guide for Methodists according to our Articles of Religion, not affect their ability to be in communion with the UMC? We maintain...and will continue to believe for years to come...that homosexuality is incompatible with a Christian life. Unless we become hypocrites and make a mockery of our own denominational doctrines, how can we permit a Lutheran pastor who admittedly engages in sodomy to offer communion or preach in a UMC church? ELCA's deviant theology poses profound problems for communion with the UMC.

Abigail said...

As I read these posts, I was saddened to see the level of anger and pain that still exists within our church. Yet there are voices absent from this debate. The closeted gay and lesbian pastors and congregants cannot safely contribute. Are we truly an open church while this is the case?

Today I am packing, preparing to leave for seminary. As I continue to seek for how God is calling me, I know it is not through my own works, but through God's grace that I am "worthy" to serve. I may at times buy expensive tea (sorry Wesley) or in other ways not live a blameless life. Yet I try to seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Can we require more of our leaders?

Saxually Oriented said...

'Seems to me I recall Jesus boiling it all down to two great commandments - one connected to the person's relationship to God, and the other connected to the person's relationship to other people. These, I think, are the 'prime directives' of New Testament Christianity. In this context sin can be understood as failing to follow these commandments.

When Jesus says 'go and sin no more' in the story quoted by Carol and David, I hear him referring not only to the harmful things the woman may have done, but also to the judging and punishing of the people in the crowd as behavior that fails to love and care for her. It's hard for me to see how judging and excluding (never mind punishing) fits a Christian's prime directive better than engaging and including.

By this measure (responding to the anon post located between Carol's and Grant's) churches that judge and exclude are embracing sin through an organized and purposeful violation of the second of the two great commandments that Christ gave us - and this would seem to be living a very big lie, indeed.

j.sue said...

Not ordaining homosexuals is not a punishment for them, but an offense for me if they are. How can the word of God be upheld by someone openly and willingly disobeying it? Do we get to decide when God means what He says and when He doesn't? I pray the UMC will not follow suit, or I will have no choice for myself but to leave the Methodist church. Being inclusive does not mean openly accepting a lifestyle so out of God's will, according to His sacred word. The church will fall from within and not from the outside unbelieving world. Satan's lies are always so convincing and seemingly reasonable, until put up against the Word of God.

Anonymous said...

I applaud the Bishop's comments on full communion with the ELCA and on the process for accepting gays and lesbians in committed relationships as pastors. I hope our denomination will make a similar change in the Discipline at the next General Conference.

It is disappointing that many Christians continue to use Bible passages selectively to reinforce personal prejudices and fears. The Bible is not an easy book to read or understand; it requires study, context and discernment.
I have never meet a Christian who follows all or even a few of the purity rules set forth in the book of Leviticus--yet some demand obedience to the few verses regarding homosexual behavior while ignoring the other six hundred plus rules.It is time for the UMC to accept all God's children--gay or straight--lay or clergy.


Anonymous said...

I rejoiced for the ELCA and their ultimate decision, which was fostered by a thoughtful and respectful process. I have grieved for the Methodist church for many years, believing their stance of not allowing "practicing" homosexual clergy to be clergy in the full sense of the word to be wrong.

Knowing what we now know about human sexual orientation, it is a travesty to not fully welcome and realize one's full human potential, as created by God. I also believe the verses in the Bible that are so frequently used by those who believe homosexuals should not have full participation in the UMC church are mistranslated. Plus, there are many other "rules" laid out in the Bible, which most now realize were only a sign of the times in which they were written. But I find my faith and spirituality in my experience of Jesus, not the rules and "beliefs" of the Bible.

We (of the UMC) should not base our decisions on fear of people leaving our churches, but rather on what is a loving, welcoming response, based on Jesus' message of love. I, a 72 year white, married woman, have thought about leaving the Methodist church many times, but I have chosen to stay, at least for now, and to work to heal and change from within.

I applaud the ELCA for their tempered response, allowing individual churches to have the freedom to decide what they will do. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

A final note--I have been ashamed and conflicted over our UMC ads that have proclaimed we welcomed all--Open hearts, open doors--when we do not. Let's be honest and change our policy to be inclusive, or do away with the ads.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Catharine Larsen, Hope UMC

Dan Foster said...

As a United Methodist student at a Lutheran Seminary the entire community was elated to see the results of the vote last week bringing the two denominations into full communion. It was a treat to see Bishop Sally celebrating on stage.

Regarding the way the discussion was handled about the ordination of the LGBT community, I think the ELCA did a first rate job in discussing the issue. It took much time (10 years) and energy to come up with the social statement that was passed Tuesday. The pain and love in the room could be felt over the web as I watched online.

The discussion is hard to have as people hold fast to tradition, and love of those they see marginalized. I found this wonderful post on Jeremy Smith's blog

I think that inviting those with opposing views to clarify for us what they are thinking on an issue is the best way to understand their stance. Loving and respecting the other is key to the gospel, and to the story of the Good Samaritan.

Anonymous said...

Actually, this abandonment of Scripture and 2,000 years of moral teaching has been taken only by a minority of Lutherans. It passed the ELCA gathering by a 2/3 vote. If one translates that into actual membership numbers (assuming, maybe incorrectly, that these conventioneers really speak for the folks in the pews) that is about 3.14 million ELCA members. But if you consider the 2.5 million members of the Missouri Synod and all the other Synods that remain in the mainstream of Christian thought on homosexuality, and you add the 1.57 million ELCA members whose putative representatives stood firm, more Lutherans continue to observe the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality as sinful than have turned their backs on God's word. So, yeah, how about those Lutherans? They are holding fast to the Word as it has been understood, taught and lived by Christians since the earliest churches formed amid Roman and Greek depravity.

M. Sipe said...

Reading some posts here, there is one thing that is lying behind all this debate and it it not talked about much.

I was not privy to the conversations that the ELCA church had recently, but I don't hear it talked about much on this blog.

How does one interpret the bible?

There are people quoting the bible on both sides of this debate.

The Lutheran pastor in our town is spending this fall writing/reflecting and then teaching a class on how he interprets the bible. Based on these conversations and his own musings, he is going to write a paper and curriculum on how Lutherans read the bible.

If we do not have these discussions first, then we're just talking past each other in this debate.

People in the pews want to know what to do with the verses about homosexuality in the bible.

Often times they are either blown by and discarded OR quoted with heavy emphasis.

Maybe we as pastors have not given enough tools to our people in the pews for biblical interpretation. Let's start there and help people find God's Spirit in the sacred texts.

Anonymous said...

As an ELCA pastor serving two congregations, one ELCA and one UMC, I am blessed with two bishops. I am learning and growing in new ways through the UMC. The Rethink Church program is maybe five years ahead of where the ELCA is. We are using Rethink Church language in both congregations. I showed the spots that will be on times square in sermons the last two weeks.

The language I hear in the discussion on the bishop’s blog about learning from the ELCA makes me proud of my roots here. In my 27 years as clergy I have been on the edge of the process. It has not been an inflammatory issue where I have been pastor. Most, more than half, ELCA congregations will not be visibly changed because of this decision.

From my edge, I hear this language of ‘bound conscience.’ There exists biblical and theological discussion about the term. I think it means that both sides are deeply convinced that they do have final convincing moral and Biblical arguments and reasoning. In our ELCA experience these bound consciences don’t change.

My friends who seek greater inclusion for same gender partnerships read “Open minds” to say a person must be open to accepting clergy in a same gender partnership. What the ELCA passed in assembly would read “Open minds” to say that these two groups, who are on mutually exclusive paths, are to strive to find a way to live together in the faith and love that is ours in Christ Jesus.

Note also that the Assembly resolved to find a way to make a place for same gendered partnership clergy to have a place somewhere in the church. Indeed, as one writer noted, in the ELCA each congregation has substantial freedom in calling a pastor. One rule is that the pastor must be on the clergy roster of the ELCA, or on the equivalent clergy list of our full-communion partners, now including the UMC. We are Rethinking church. We have resolved to find a way to make it happen. We have also resolved to have deep respect for those with a “bound conscience.”

It is an honor to be in this discussion with my United Methodist colleagues.
Joel V. Xavier
Trimont, MN

Jeff Ozanne said...

I really appreciate the comments made by Matt Sipes and others around the importance of examining how we read the Bible before reject other sides as being too literally, hypocritical, self-selecting, or not taking scripture seriously. If I recall correctly Luther wanted to remove the Book of James from the canon. Biblical criticism and interpretation is not new. For hundreds of years respected theologians have questioned what is the Bible, who wrote parts of it, and what that means for us today. Our conversation needs to be rooted in the recognition that each of us will read Scriptures differently even though we all approach them with a similar prayerful attitude. The best thing each of us can do is to use conversations like this to evaluate our own reading of scripture and to allow God to continue to challenge our understanding of the text. The moment we assume we know what God wants with regards to homosexuality or anything else because we know what scripture says is the moment we stop allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and illumine us. At least that is my feeling on that matter.

Anonymous said...

This is a sad day for the Church at large and a sadder day for the ELCA. It should prove interesting to see how quickly they lose a large number of their churches, pastors and members over this bad move. Once this begins to happen it should inform and reinforce why the UMC should not ordain or accept clergy who are gay. In fact it should help us to solidify our stance and begin the church trials that shoulds be happening over the "ethically challenged" gay clergy. I will be praying and looking to bishops to not be ethically challenged in standing up for scripture and the BOD. Blessings to the Church at large and this bad ELCA decision was not a part of that. Pastor Steve Nelson, West Ohio

Chris said...

I thank the Bishop for bringing acknowledgement to the issue and encouraging dialogue. These are, as one can read, conversations that many hinge a great deal of their own theology on.

I have difficulty taking the points on either side seriously when it becomes a name-calling, hurtful discourse. That shuts down all reasonable communication in my opinion.

As a life-long United Methodist that has spent a great deal of time through educational and social environments interacting with the ELCA Lutheran denomination, I find us, at least regionally, to be very similar. While there are structural and liturgical differences;I have found us to be very simlar theologically, which includes diversity of viewpoints to be in communion in each congregation.

I think that the issue very much does revolve around biblical interpretation, which has been historically, a very fluid thing. For people to espouse the stance that the understanding of particular verses are concrete and have been consistent since their inception is not accurate. Its fluidity does not de-value scripture. On the contrary, it shows it to be more powerful and blessed to be the eternal entity I believe it to be.

If one does take the stance that Leviticus reflects around "a man that lies down with a man as with a woman is an abomination", I would hope that they would also hold fast to the strict dietary laws the same chapters find to be equally as important, as well as the laws around divorce. And I would also expect that the punishments the book calls for for such behavior (which is death) would be considered appropriate to that end. For to that way of thinking, all such laws and consequences are the "Word of God".

I am, admittedly, very impressed with the decision by the ELCA and believe that this decision has less effect on the numbers in the pews as some others might claim. Many main-line congregations are in decline over the past 20 years because of the churches' stagnancy and unwillingness to be a part of transforming the world by having an understanding of the world anc changing the world through love and grace, not elitism and judgement.

I hope that this is a motivator for our United Methodist church to be in consideration over such a move, but am not optimistic based on what I feel the General Conference would hold to theologically. Perhaps I can be joyfully be proven wrong and we can remove this barrier to those God has called to ordained ministry.

BMoore said...

The May 8, 2000 issue of Newsweek magazine includes a story of a 32-year old Mormon man who had known since he was 7 that he was attracted to boys. He tried everything he could to change. He tried to be perfect in other areas of his life to make up for his shortcoming. He studied hard in school and attended every church function he could. He would punish himself if he had a homosexual thought: He wouldn't allow himslef to go to a friend's birthday party or wouldn't watch his favorite TV program. Instead he would sit in his room and read Scripture. He set goals for himself not to think about boys for a certain length of time.

As he got older, it became more difficult for him to hide his feelings. He spent hours in the library at Brigham Young University looking for a technique for becoming straight. He eventually came out to his family, but even their acceptance did little to lift his depression. He struggled to live as a gay man without disobeying the teachings of his church--which requires gays and lesbians to remain celibate--and apparently remained celibate all his life.

Sometimes his despair turned to anger. In a letter to a cousin he wrote, "Straight members have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up gay in this church. It is a life of constant torment, self-hatred and internalized homophobia."

His parents found his suicide note on his bed where he had left it before driving to the local church headquarters, pinning a "Do Not Resusitate" note to his shirt, and shooting himself in the head. "Mother, Dad and family. I have committed suicide. I engaged my mind in a false dilemma: either one was gay or one was Christian. As I believed I was Christian, I believed I could never be gay." The people who dressed him for burial were struck by the sight of his knees, deeply callused from prayi8ng for an answer that never came.

The day I read this article, I sat at my kitchen table and wept because I was a Christian, and I felt responsible for that young man's death even though he belonged to a different denomination. As you may have guessed, I have kept that article, and I read it periodically to remind myself that we are all God's children, that we are all loved by God, and that love and compassion for that young man might have saved his life.

I often tell my congregation that I believe the Bible was written for me--so that I will know about God's love and so that I will know what God expects from me. I do not believe that it was written so that I could use it to tell others what to do. If we are the hands and feet of Christ, but we withhold our hands and feet from some, how will they ever experience God's love?

Anonymous said...

To BMoore: You might consider contacting and learning about the loving work of the Transforming Congregations within our denomination, and that of its partner, Exodus International.

Anonymous said...

As a youth I attended a bible camp whose motto was, "let all who enter be received as Christ."

That's what I always thought church should be. A place where everyone is recognized as the child of god they are. If the closed minded "Adam and Stevers" are welcome, so too, should Adam and Steve be.

I say it's about damn time.

For those worried about dwindling congregations, this is almost enough to send me back to Church.

Carolyn said...

As a young person traveling on the road to United Methodist ministry, I am relieved to hear the news of the ELCA. Praise God! I have hope now that my own denomination's discriminatory practices can one day end. I am a Methodist to the core. I will not leave just because I disagree with our stance on this truly inconsequential issue. I hope that soon we can see that we are wasting our energies on debating something that is not an essential. In essentials, unity: this is what we should be pouring our efforts into. I pray that Methodists will stop allowing this to become a bitter struggle tainted by international power dynamics and manipulative words... that instead we can join together and work for justice.

Anonymous said...

why am I having trouble sending a blog. I can't agree that the c ommunion with "those Lutherans" or theiracceptancer of gays in possition of instruction is so wonderful. See Hebrews 12-13 p14.

Ben Dirks

Anonymous said...

I have been a Methodist all my life and have been proud that the church turns no one away, but welcomes all. and, for that many denominations say that Methodists are nothing. I see no reason to admire them for putting gays in positions of instruction. "make every effort to live in pease with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the lord...Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."

Mike Day of Delano said...

I think our Bishop should discontinue advocating for the acceptance of homosexual practice.

And I think we should discontinue the use of the word gay to refer to this sinful paractice. This word 'gay' is a dissolute and licentious corruption of the French 'gai' which is slang for homosexual. When we must talk about this sin we should call it what it is, homosexual practice and nothing else. We should not try to sugar coat it with deliberate misinterpretations.

Anonymous said...

To aspiring pastor Carolyn: If loving the person, but standing against the sin is "discrimination" which you advocate we cease in the case of people who engage in sodomy (which is what homosexual activity is), shall we also continue to love, but cease "discriminating" against people in plural marriages, or plural relationships outside of marriage? Shall we accept as consistent with a Christian life pederasty and pedophilia, the use of pornography and prostitutes, adultery and promiscuity, etc.? If we stop discriminating against one form of sexual sin condemned by Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian belief, realistically, we won't have any doctrines of sexual morality and sin left. John Spong got there ahead of his, which is why sexual sin is no longer a factor in the rapidly dying Episcopal Church.

Chris said...

So, anonymous, by your line of thinking, then we must recant the allowances of clergy that have been divorced or remarried.

Your comparison of a homosexual relationship to pedastery or pedofilia is flawed. Actually, it would be to your way of thinking that it should be allowed, as culturally the people in Biblical times and even later allowed for the union of an older man to a minor.
At some point, our internal guidance, which I would draw back to the Holy Spirit, influenced our culture to look at those relationships as inappropriate as they were taking advantage of one who is not of age. I would consider the current laws on statutory rape to be affirmed by God and the church, wouldn't you?

Things change. You cannot profess a concrete stance on thise one topic and stand on 2000 years of church doctrine while discounting or ignoring the other laws we, as a church, now consider archaic and inappropriate.

A loving relationship between two consenting adults that is not abusive, manipulative, or imbalanced is one that is blessed by God. Hetero or homo, there are hurtful and sinful relationships that happen, even among clergy. Yet we allow those clergy who may be on other relationships to maintain their ordination simply because they are heterosexual.

It takes time for transition to be absorbed. As I recall, Luther's stance on grace almost resulted in his death, yet now is very much at the core of the Protestant doctrine. So, did the Cahtolic church die when Lutheranism took off? I could cite several diets and councils in which the doctrine of the church has changed over history, but I won't. You get the point. Suffice it to say, the doctrine of the church has changed and ebbed and flowed over thousands of years. The understanding of scripture by the church as a whole changes. If it did not, then we would be in a very different place as a culture. It is time for another change to take place, where there is acceptance of a call from God to ministry, regardless of orientation.

Anonymous said...

Chris: By restricting your exception to the Biblical condemnation against homosexual conduct to only two people, are you not displaying your prejudices against polyamory and polygamy? If marriage isn't between one man and one woman, why limit it to only two people, since we've already trashed what Jesus had to say on the subject? You also ignore the arguments of groups like the North American Man-Boy Love Association (which has participated in gay pride events) that pederasty is natural, they were born that way, and that their orientation is based on love. They also make the argument, with about as much scientific hard evidence as homosexual advocates, that their orientation is innate and biological, something they cannot change. It is quite common for pederasts and pedophiles to explain that they were attracted to sex with older men when they pre-teens. If we start blasting holes in Biblical injunctions on sexual immorality, based solely on what we convince ourselves to believe, where does it stop? Christian pornography, even? These are not idle arguments. Just check out what is going on the Episocpal Church, the Metropolitan Community Church (which is exploring plural relationships to recognize male promiscuity) and some UCC outposts.

Chris said...

As I stated in my previous post,"A loving relationship between two consenting adults that is not abusive, manipulative, or imbalanced is one that is blessed by God." I, and I speak for myself and what I feel scripture and faith experience has taught me, would consider a polygamous relationship to be imbalanced and manipulative. I have yet to see documentation of them otherwise. I made my thoughts clear on statutory rape and adult relationships with minors. As I stated, they are abusive, and manipulative. Attempting to put those relationships in with a loving, consensual, homosexual relationships does not work.

I believe in the holiness of scripture, that in it's language it can transcend our current world's literality and speak to the past and the future. Our understanding is not the same as our ancestors, nor will it be the same as generations yet to come.

Are you saying that the understanding of the sexually immoral has not changed since it was written? If so, there are some current laws and liberties women enjoy today that you may take exception with.

Anonymous said...

Chris: Perhaps you need to read more about plural marriages in the pages of mags that profile loving, healthy polygamous and polyandrous relationships. As for pederasty, be prepared for that being the next foot in the door. Homosexual advocates, mostly men, are already packaging it as "inter-generational love" and publishing "scholarly" papers on its naturalness, benefits, and historical precedents. Check out the Journal of Homosexuality's special issue on the subject from either 2008 or 2007. One of the people behind the Episcopal Church's listening process on sexuality has advocated acceptance of pederasty. Like I said, you blow holes in the New Testament's clear proscriptions on sexual sin, and the slope gets steeper and more slippery with no end in sight, because we have lost sight of the limits God has set for us and replaced His will with our own.

Chris said...
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Chris said...

So, are you claiming is that the next step in clergy acceptance for the ELCA church, since they have allowed adults who are engaged in committed monogamous relationships to be clergy, is the acceptance of clergy who are relationships that are considered child abuse by every state and federal law? Is that is the next step down the slope, in your opinion? That is what I am reading. Correct me if I am wrong.

People can advocate all they want, and certainly people can write what they want. The bottom line, from my experience, is that the mainstream gay culture, at least the one that I know, does not advocate for or endorse pedophilia or pederasty. There may be movements within, but it is not the belief held by the homosexuals that I know.

Please reference the scripture you are standing on in regards to sexual sin. I assume Romans 1, but I am interested in what your specific evidence in regards to homosexuality as a sexual sin.

Anonymous said...

Evidence of the impending "anything goes" when it comes to sex approach of "liberal" theologians and homosexual activists. Read it. It is signed by UMC clergy and says all sex, by all ages, all orientations (and that would include pederasty and everything else--"all means all," the Reconciling Ministry tells us) is dandy, and comes with God's approval. No kidding.

Chris said...

"All means all" is your evidence of future clergy to be allowed to carry on sexual relationships with minors?
1. "All means all" is legislation directed at active church membership. To my reading, there is no existing language around ordination.

2. I looked at the web site and read it. And this is what I found:
"Our faith traditions celebrate the goodness of creation, including our bodies and our sexuality.

We sin when this sacred gift is abused or exploited.

We call for a new sexual ethic that fosters physical, emotional, and spiritual health – an ethic grounded in respect for the body and for the vulnerability that intimacy brings."

Please reference the portion that I set apart in the middle. As I have said a number of times, a relationship that is abusive, manipulataive, or imbalanced (and to use the above language, when one is exploited in it) is a sinful relationship. Both a homosexual and a heterosexual relationship can be that, one no more or less sinful than the other based on participants orientation.

Anonymous said...

To start out, I will say that I greatly approve of the descision by the ELCA to accept gay clergy... However, that isn't my battle. Hearing that the ELCA is now in full communion with the UMC, however, is very pertinent to me, and my life. I am currently attending St. Olaf College, and it is good to know that my faith is respected and valued here, just as I respect and value my teacher's faiths. While this agreement changes nothing (I think that all of my teachers would have been respectful of my beliefs regardless) it is still nice to know that my faith is officially respected.

Rory said...

Thank you, Bishop, for hosting the conversations in your blog and I am pleased to know that my baptismal certificate, hanging on the wall of my office, from a Lutheran church, next to my United Methodist confirmation and ordination certificates, are now even more clearly and "officially" along side of each other in the full communion of all God's people. May the full communion increase for us all.

Anonymous said...

I think the two denominations deserve to be tied together. They have so much in common already - lack of depth to their theology, a "money matters more than people" philospohy, and both have a leadership that on one hand will sit back and watch the congregations destroy each other, while holding out the other hand to require them to pay their membership fee to the judicatory body.

You don't water down the theology to create more and better disciples. You water it down so you get more people in the door to get more money in the offering plate.

The leadership of both denominations are good at dropping stuff like this on a congregation and then running and hiding when the congregation starts to split over it.

The ELCA and the UM Church deserve each other.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the ELCA leadership clique may have been even more out of touch with the people in the pews than our UMC leadership showed itself to be with the constitutional amendments debacle. ELCA is either going to split open or go broke:

Chris said...

As I have heard the voice proclaim a collective "Good Riddance!" for years in the direction of those who left the church because of their support of orientation-based equal rights in the church, I find it interesting how, now that the church has placed them in the dissenting opinion, this group now resolves to just pack up and leave.

The last two anonymous comments have an interesting contradiction. The earlier statement berates a denomination for being shallow and "money matters more than people' philosophy", claiming that the this decision "waters down" theology "to get more money in the offering plate". Then the next post claims that this decision, based on the evidence that the "ELCA is either going to split open or go broke." So is it to my understanding that it was the more financially savvy choice to not makethis change? But I thought that the decision came down because we wanted to dilute theology to get in more money? Perhaps the response to that is that the church did not know the financial detriment they was bringing on itself. But I would contend it is more important to set aside financial considerations for God's calling of reform, which is what I think happened. And I think all will be surprised by the positive results in following God's call towards inclusivity.

Anonymous said...

How about those Lutherans, indeed! The Lutheran Coalition for Renewal is launched with great success. Our prayers are with them. Read about it here:

JeanEC said...

I was delighted to read the news story about the agreements made betweeen the Luthern denomination and the United Methodists. A few years ago, I switched from UM to Presbyterian and have been rather surprised at the resistance I've discovered in my Presbyterian friends to look at the ways in which the denominations have some common ground.