Friday, October 30, 2009
Greetings in Jesus’ Name:
“God is reforming the churches of the Reformation . . . The question for us is not so much whether we ought to re-vision Lutheranism in North America, but rather how will we respond to this clear invitation to re-vision Lutheranism in North America,” Ryan Schwarz of Lutheran CORE Steering Committee told the Lutheran CORE Convocation September 25 in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, Indiana.
The next day, the 1,200 Lutheran CORE members at the Convocation unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing a process “leading toward a possible reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism.” The Lutheran CORE Steering Committee was charged with developing a recommendation for action. Having been entrusted with overseeing this process, we want to keep you informed as to what is happening and how you can be involved in shaping the future for Lutherans in North America.
A timeline for reconfiguration has now been developed, the detail of which is below. In short, a major statement of the direction of reconfiguration will be published by the Steering Committee following its meeting on November 17-18, 2009. A design for reconfiguration will be created and published by February 2010, and that design will be presented for adoption and implementation to the 2010 Lutheran CORE Convocation, which will be August 26-27, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio.
Seven working groups are being formed. They will address various aspects of the life and work of Lutheran CORE and the work toward reconfiguration. The Vision and Planning working group, chaired by Ryan Schwarz, will serve as the lead unit in developing the reconfiguration proposal. Information on the groups and an application form for those who feel called to serve are available online at www.lutherancore.org.
Literally dozens of regional groups and gatherings have been organized post-Fishers. The Steering Committee has prepared a short list of discussion questions for such meetings, seeking input for the reconfiguration process. These questions are available on our website, www.lutherancore.org. If you are organizing a regional gathering, please download the questions and plan to provide your group’s ideas for the reconfiguration working groups.
This is an exciting time for faithful Lutherans in North America as we discover the future God has in store for us. A summary of the timeline for our common work over the coming months follows:
Nov. 2, 2009
Lutheran CORE and WordAlone Network leaders meet for preliminary conversations
Nov. 17-18, 2009
Lutheran CORE Steering Committee meeting, followed by public statement on reconfiguration
Initial meeting of Vision and Planning Working Group
Early Jan. 2010
Consultations with partner renewal movements and congregational members of Lutheran CORE
Mid Jan. 2010
Meetings with movements and Lutheran church bodies that are not a part of Lutheran CORE
Late Jan. 2010
Preparation of draft proposal by Vision and Planning team
Early Feb. 2010
Review by Lutheran CORE’s Advisory Council, the theologians and church leaders who advise Lutheran CORE on significant issues
Mid Feb. 2010
Final review by Steering Committee and publication of recommendation for review by Lutheran CORE members and partners
Constitutional Working Group begins work on constitutional amendments required for implementation of reconfiguration design
Proposed constitutional amendments published for review by Lutheran CORE members and partners
Aug. 26-27, 2010
Lutheran CORE Convocation considers recommendation on reconfiguration and proposed constitutional amendments
Please pray for all those who are involved in this process that God might show us His plans for the future of Lutheranism in North America. Also please pray for all those ELCA members, pastors, and congregations who have been hurt by the actions of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. This is a difficult time for many, but it is also a hopeful time as God is calling the faithful to stand together and to work toward the future He is giving us.
Your servants in Christ,
Lutheran CORE Steering Committee
Bishop Paull Spring - Chair
Pastor Mark Chavez - Director
Pastor Scott Grorud
Pastor Rebecca M. M. Heber
Pastor Kenneth Kimball
Pastor Victor C. Langford III
Mr. Ryan Schwarz
Pastor W. Stevens Shipman - Secretary
Pastor Paul Ulring
Pastor Erma Wolf - Vice Chair
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Finding places to send benevolence giving can be an exciting opportunity for a congregation to renew its focus on the mission of the Christian Church in the world and to find the best ways to participate in that mission.
Redirecting mission support away from the ELCA churchwide organization is focusing mission support in ways that accomplish that work in ways that are faithful to Christ and through institutions that are faithful. It is not ending support for the work of Christ in the world, as some ELCA leaders have claimed.
Many congregations give based on a percentage of regular offerings. Some choose to budget a specific amount for mission support. Here is a process that might help congregations think about the most faithful ways to provide support for the work of Christ beyond their congregations:
Determine Total Mission Support
Start by deciding on the total percentage or total amount that your congregation will give to the work of Christ beyond itself.
There are many ways to think about mission support. A great place to start is to consider the Great Commission of Matthew 28 and the ministries of Matthew 25. Consider ways to support the Church’s mission “to make disciples of all nations” and to serve Jesus in “the least of these.”
Consider the ministries that are near and dear the hearts of your members. Consider both local ministries and global ministries.
One helpful way of thinking about mission support is to divide it into three categories and to designate a percentage for each: Church Body Support, Global Mission, and Local Mission.
Church Body Support
This giving supports the organization of a church body and ministries directly related to it. Synodical or churchwide mission support would fall into this category. In faithful synods, a congregation may want to continue to provide support for its synod’s budget. A congregation could designate gifts for missionary support or other specific programs through the ELCA or synod.
Gifts to Lutheran CORE also belong in this category. Lutheran CORE’s work as a freestanding synod and its work toward the reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America will require significant support from congregations and individuals.
This giving goes directly to ministries that carry out the work of Christ around the world. This could be designated giving supporting a specific missionary or missionary organization. This giving could be for special projects through your companion synod. This giving could be for organizations like Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Disaster Response, or similar ministries.
This giving goes directly to organizations doing the work of Christ in your community, state or region. There are many faithful ministries in communities and synods including food pantries, church camps, nursing homes, and social service agencies. These are the ministries your congregation knows well and loves to support.
The process of choosing what missions and ministries to support can be an exciting opportunity for your congregation and its leadership. Choosing to give directly to the ministries that are making a difference can create ties that keep a congregation focused on mission and ministry. Take time to learn about each ministry — both its faithfulness and its financial stewardship.
Here is an example of what a congregation that gives 15 percent of its income as benevolence might do:
Church Body Support - 5%
2% - Lutheran CORE.
2% - Synod (not churchwide).
1% - Project in Companion Synod.
Global Mission - 5%
1% - Global Health Ministries.
1% - Lutheran Disaster Response.
1% - Lutheran World Relief.
1% - Orphan Grain Train.
1% - World Mission Prayer League.
Local Mission - 5%
1% - Local Food Pantry.
1% - Lutheran Church Camp.
1% - Lutheran Prison Ministry.
1% - Lutheran Social Services.
1% - Lutheran CORE’s Hispanic and African immigrant congregations.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
WordAlone remains committed to supporting individuals and congregations in faithfulness to Christ and would like to help our members and friends who are the process of making decisions about their future. This new website is meant to provide practical guidance to those interested in affiliating with LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ) and/or the proposed "Free-Standing Synod" of Lutheran CORE.
The site is not intended to debate or limit any specific action, but to help our members and friends to make sound decisions based on individual circumstances. We hope to facilitate faithful and respectful action in this time transition, trusting that “the LORD will watch over your going out and your coming in, now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:8)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
THE CONFESSIONAL CRISIS CREATED BY THE DECISIONS OF THE 2009 ELCA CHURCHWIDE ASSEMBLY
The decisions surrounding human sexuality made at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly have created a confessional crisis within the ELCA. The controversy over these decisions is not simply a disagreement over a social issue concerning how to treat homosexual relations in the church. These decisions touch upon the issues of the authority of Scripture and the role of the Lutheran Confessions in the life of the church.
The crisis these decisions have created can be shown by examining two crucial passages from the Social Statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust”. In Part IV (lines 620 – 628 in the Pre-Assembly Report) this statement reads:
The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, reflecting Mark 10: 6–9: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder.” (Jesus here recalls Genesis 1:27; 2:23–24.)
On the next page of the statement, (lines 740 – 744, as amended) it reads:
Recognizing that this conclusion differs from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, some people, though not all, in this church and within the larger Christian community, conclude that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships.
The statement then goes on to treat these two positions and the variants within them as of equal validity, on the basis of the “conscience-bound beliefs” of those who hold them (lines 809 – 868). Moreover, it is on this same basis of the “conscience-bound lack of consensus in this church” (lines 452 – 453 of the Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies) that the resolutions on ministry policies were recommended and adopted.
These actions are contrary to and done in violation of the ELCA Confession of Faith, which reads, in part:
CONFESSION OF FAITH
2.03 This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm or its proclamation, faith, and life.
2.04 This church accepts the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church.
2.05 This church accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel, acknowledges as one with it in faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.
2.06 This church accepts the other confessional writings in the Book of Concord, namely, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise, the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord, as further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church.
The Social Statement and the Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies present the two positions mentioned above as of equal validity in the church, even though it is admitted that the first position – namely, that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman – is the position supported by Christian tradition, the Lutheran Confessions, and Scripture; and that the second position – namely, that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships – differs from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions.
Given the confessional and constitutional commitment of the ELCA to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions noted above, once a position is identified as that of the Confessions and the Christian tradition based on Scripture, there should be only two options for a Social Statement of the ELCA:
1) State that such is the position of the ELCA, based on our Confession of Faith, which commits us to the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the witness of the Lutheran Confessions; or,
2) Demonstrate, by an appeal to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions and with the aid of sound reason, that such a position ought to be abandoned or, at the least, present evidence enough to raise serious questions about that position.
Likewise, once a position has been identified as differing from the historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions, there should be only two options for a Social Statement of the ELCA:
1) Reject such a position on the basis of our Confession of Faith, which commits us to following the witness of the Lutheran Confessions; or,
2) Demonstrate, by an appeal to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions and with the aid of sound reason, that such a position ought to be adopted or, at the least, present evidence enough to argue that it ought to be considered a valid position within the Lutheran Church.
However, the Social Statement does none of these. It does not present a compelling argument based on Scripture, the Confessions, and sound reason for overturning the stated position on marriage. Neither does it present a compelling argument based on Scripture, the Confessions and sound reason for adopting this alternate position. It does not even attempt to do this. It simply states that within the church there are differing opinions on the matter, and treats both opinions as equally valid. In doing so, it fails to honor our confessional and constitutional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as “the authoritative source and norm of
Such actions are in violation of our Confession of Faith. The ELCA ought to repent of these actions, take steps to render them ineffectual, and overturn them at the first opportunity. The synods and congregations of the ELCA ought to reject these actions and refuse to abide by them on the basis of our own and identical Confession of Faith. Each pastor in the ELCA ought to oppose these actions and decisions on the basis of the vows taken at ordination to teach and preach in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and in light of the Lutheran Confessions.
If such actions are not taken, it leaves those who oppose the actions of the Churchwide Assembly in a state of confessional resistance to the ELCA, and possibly to the synods of which they are members. Appeals to unity and “churchmanship” are of secondary importance to the confessional commitment which undergirds this opposition. Even if one were to make a compelling argument from Scripture and the Confessions in support of the changes in ministry policies at this point, such an argument must also acknowledge and repent of the violation of our Confession of Faith which the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly have committed. If these actions are allowed to stand, it will undermine the very Confession of Faith by which we are united.
Pastor Marshall Hahn
St. Olaf Lutheran Parish – Marion & Norway Lutheran Churches
St. Olaf, Iowa
NE Iowa Synod, ELCA
Friday, October 16, 2009
The big news, of course, is that the sentence that read:
Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.
has been replaced by this paragraph:
An ordained minister who is in a publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationship recognized and supported by an expression of this church 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.
The other big news is that the draft includes the ELCA's proposed official definition of PALMSGR -- "publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships:"
The terms in the phrase “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship” are intended to have their common meanings.
“Lifelong” means that the relationship is intended to last as long as both parties to the relationship shall live.
“Monogamous” means that the relationship is between two people—one to one.
“Same-gender” means that the relationship is between two men or two women.
“Public accountability” means that the two parties to the relationship openly acknowledge the relationship, have a demonstrable commitment to the relationship, and have a willingness to seek and accept the aid of individuals and community in sustaining the relationship. For an ordained minister, both church and community are part of the public to which he or she is accountable. Public accountability for an ordained minister in a heterosexual marriage includes recognition and support in a congregation of this church and legally recorded civil recognition. Similarly, public accountability for an ordained minister in a lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship includes recognition and support in a congregation of this church and may include a legally recorded civil recognition and other evidence that the relationship is lifelong and monogamous.
Also, the draft states that
The ELCA intends both to allow the rostered service of people who are in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship and to provide for those whose convictions do not favor such service.
It's nice to know that the ELCA is going "to provide for" those whose consciences are captive to the Word of God. I'm not sure exactly what that sentence means, but it certainly is an attempt to say that the ELCA will "make room for" those who uphold the Christian tradition on marriage and sexual behavior.
My favorite sentence in the proposed document:
Ordained ministers, whether single, married or in a publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous, same-gender relationship, are expected to uphold an understanding of marriage and family in their public ministry as well as in private life that is biblically informed and consistent with the teachings of this church.
It is amazing that the ELCA calls for accountability to an understanding of marriage that is both "biblically informed" and "consistent with the teachings of this church" in the same sentence as it describes pastors "in a publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous, same-gender relationship." Of course, "biblically informed" and "consistent with the teachings of this church" are also in opposition with each other these days.
The proposed draft only includes changes to Part III -- The Ordained Minister as Person and Example.
I'm anxiously waiting the change that will need to come to Part II -- Faithfulness to the Church's Confession.
The powers that be in Chicago do not seem to understand that changes will need to be made to this section as well if the ELCA is to move ahead with the rostering changes made by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly with a straight face:
Ordained ministers of this church are to confess and teach the authoritative and normative character of the Scriptures "as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life" (ELCA Constitution, 2.03). The ecumenical creeds are to be taught as true declarations of the faith of this church. The Lutheran Confessions are to be acknowledged as true witnesses and faithful expositions of the Holy Scriptures.
In identifying specific documents as normative for preaching and teaching, this church expects its ordained ministers to understand that the faith of the church is corporate, not individualistic; catholic, not sectarian; orthodox, not heretical. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America expects that its ordained ministers teach nothing "that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic Church" (Conclusion to the Augsburg Confession).Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions should be stumbling blocks to the ELCA's new teaching and standards. Of course, that didn't stop the 2009 Assembly.
I don't know which is more frightening, that the ELCA will delete sections requiring faithfulness to Scripture and the Church's doctrinal tradition for its pastors or that churchwide leaders do not see the contradiction between "publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous, same-gender relationships" and teaching nothing "that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic Church."
Thursday, October 15, 2009
"I have said this before and I have not seen evidence that I am wrong: We have not changed the teaching of this church."
"The Social Statement, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" clearly says that marriage between a man and woman for a lifetime is still normative."
"Arguing from a biblical and confessional position, the statement maintains that sexual relations for homosexual people can take place within a publicly accountable, lifelong, same-gender relationship."
This is the same David Zellmer who signed the Dorado Covenant a few years earlier when he was a parish pastor affirming:
"We covenant to teach a high view of Scripture. We trust the Bible to be the only final authority for all aspects of life."
"We teach and practice that a full sexual relationship belongs exclusively within the biblical boundaries of a publicly committed legal marriage between one man and one woman."
The bishop also attempted to correct some "rumors" by spreading a rumor he heard in Chicago:
"Unfortunately, we have learned that there are rumors and misinformation circulating in these tense times. For example, it was erroneously reported at the Lutheran CORE meeting last month that the ELCA is withholding money from our immigrant congregations, and using money as a way to 'keep them in the fold.' That information is false. Thank you for helping to ensure that such rumors do not spread."
At the Lutheran CORE Convocation the immigrant African and Hispanic leaders talked about the stands that they were taking against the ELCA CWA actions and how those actions put at risk their mission funding. It was not stated that the ELCA was withholding money from these faithful church leaders as a way to coerce them into staying in the ELCA. Instead, some of these leaders have refused ELCA funding because of the actions of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to remove the ELCA from the 2,000-year Christian consensus on marriage and sexuality.
The bishop chose to spread disinformation from a churchwide leader in an attempt to correct supposed rumors from Lutheran CORE. One can hope he was not intentionally spreading disinformation to hurt Lutheran CORE and those who are standing with it.
I had a nice conversation with Bishop Zellmer on Friday about his position that the ELCA has not changed its teaching based on the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. He notes that the ELCA Social Statement still talks about marriage as between a man and a woman as normative -- thus the ELCA's teaching has not changed. Rather, he explains, the ELCA has made room for committed same-sex relationships similar to marriage and sometimes called marriage without changing its teaching on marriage officially.
I understand the bishop's perspective but disagree with his interpretation of the document and the actions of the Churchwide Assembly. The assembly had opportunities to clearly affirm biblical teaching on marriage and homosexual behavior and chose not to do so. The ELCA clearly has changed its official teaching.
The bishop also said that he will correct the information in his letter so that it is clear that "rumors" about the ELCA's treatment of its immigrant African and Hispanic congregations is not information from Lutheran CORE.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
WordAlone Network Education Director
One of the questions, often raised by those in disagreement with an institution or entity that they previously have supported, is whether or not it is appropriate and faithful to use the redirection of financial support away from that institution or entity as a means to influence policy.
Having never been much of a political activist, my first encounter with this concept came in my seminary years. In describing the possible ways we would be able to allocate our pension funds as new pastors, we were introduced to what were called “social purpose funds” through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Board of Pensions. These funds were set up by the ELCA specifically so that we could be assured that our money would not be invested in companies and institutions acting contrary to our church’s faith position. At that time, the church was taking an active stance against the policy of apartheid by the government of South Africa, and “South Africa-Free” investments were popular as a way of applying financial pressure to that government.
When I attended the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Chicago, I noted how the church endorsed this same strategy, by calling on the ELCA to use economic pressure and redirection of investments as a means to influence political policy in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Part of a larger memorial approved by that assembly asked:
“To call upon the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to underscore the call for economic initiatives by this church and its members in the ‘Peace, Not Walls’ campaign. Such initiatives … could include: purchasing of products from Palestinian providers, and exploration of the feasibility of refusing to buy products produced in Israeli settlements. Also to be explored is the entire investment activity by this church.”
In the discussion of the memorial, Rev. Rebecca Larson, executive director of the ELCA’s Church in Society unit, was asked if the practice of using financial pressure as a means of influence fit with the ELCA’s overall position and practice of stewardship.
“Larsen explained, ‘The recommendation is consistent with the churchwide strategy adopted by the 2005 Churchwide Assembly, particularly its economic stewardship section. The emphasis,’ she explained, ‘is on positive economic investment to help those most in need,’” according to the report of the ELCA Secretary, 2007 Churchwide Assembly: Preliminary Minutes.
The ELCA has always recognized as an expression of legitimate and faithful stewardship the practice of reducing financial support to entities that do not reflect a church’s faith position and redirecting such funds to other entities that might better serve our faith mission.
Going all the way back to the 1999 social statement on “Economic Life - Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All,” the ELCA has been clear about the need to maintain the connection between financial decisions and faith perspective, saying: “We commit ourselves as a church and urge members to … integrate social values into our investment decisions.”
Following the decisions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, I recommend that congregations consider this stewardship guidance in their budget planning for the coming year:
As an expression of good stewardship, congregations should seriously consider whether the institutions, organizations and ministries they support through their benevolence dollars are in harmony with their local congregation’s faith perspective. If a congregation finds itself in conflict with the values of an institution, that congregation has an obligation to redirect its support to the needs of ministries that better share its own social values in faith.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Here is what you can read in this month’s newsletter:
+ Lutheran CORE organizes as free-standing synod, begins work toward reconfiguration of Lutheranism.
+ Reform movements are organizing throughout the U.S.
+ Working groups shaping Lutheran CORE free-standing synod and setting stage for the ‘reconfiguration of Lutheranism.’
+ Resources to help individuals and congregations move forward.
+ Support ethnic congregations that have stood on Scripture.
+ ‘Bound to Confess and Resist’ is theological conference theme.
+ Excerpts of speeches at Lutheran CORE convocation.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
The following resolution was presented to and adopted by the recent annual convention of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, expressing their openness to engage in conversations with like-minded Lutheran groups:
This resolution is submitted by the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) Board of Trustees and entered this 5th day of October, 2009 at the LCMC National Gathering at Atonement Lutheran Church, Fargo, North Dakota.
1. Section 1.01 of the constitution of LCMC affirms that LCMC is an association of congregations;
2. Section 6.01 of the constitution of LCMC states that “the national convention of congregational delegates shall be the legislative authority of LCMC;”
3. Opportunity exists for conversation between LCMC and other Lutheran reform and renewal organizations.
Now therefore be it resolved, that the LCMC Board of Trustees be authorized to engage in conversation with other Lutheran reform and renewal organizations, including, but not limited to, The Canadian Association of Lutheran Congregations, The WordAlone Network and Lutheran CORE, for the purpose of identifying commonality in mission and ministry.
Be it further resolved that any proposed agreements resulting from conversations with said groups be brought to the Annual Gathering of the association for consideration.