Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Always Exciting to be Part of a Movement

One of the common criticisms of the decisions made by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly regarding roster leaders in same sex relationships is that all of the arguments were made on the basis of human experience and not the WORD OF GOD.

Well I was there and there was plenty of emotional arguments on the other side and I heard biblical arguments for the changes. But more on that later.

For a group claiming to be above emotion and experience, I'm a little amused (I was annoyed until I figured this all out) at the emotional and enthusiastic ravings of how "inspiring and uplifting" the Lutheran Core gathering in Indianapolis has been for those who are attending. I even read one blog about how wonderful it is to sing "A Mighty Fortress" with Lutherans "who really believe it"

Because you know, I never really believe it when I sing it. But truthfully, I've been in church a lot of times when folks including myself did not sing it as though we really believed it.

The ELCA is pretty much a dying mainline church, like others and it doesn't have anything to do with being liberal or having gay ministers. We've stopped singing like we meant it.
I gotta tell you these Core folk in Indianapolis remind me of bunch of kids who have gone to church camp and singing Jesus songs like they meant it after years of boring lifeless liturgies. It's exciting to be part of something. It's heady stuff to think you are going to change the church. The church needs you! The church is going to head off a cliff if YOU don't stop it! Sound the ram's horn! Gird up your loins!

But what are you girding up your loins for? To deny your Christian brothers and sisters their pastors because you read scripture differently than they do?
That's what it is about. These people in CORE are not hateful people so they insist it's not about homosexuality at all. It's about the authority of Scripture. THEY are protecting it while the rest of us are not.

That is just not true. They read scripture through the same lens the rest of the ELCA does. They use the same historical critical tools. Otherwise there would be no women clergy among them. (I actually think those women are in some danger when they figure that out but that's another argument) That's a fact. They just have been able to use those methods to hold on to the authority of scripture and see that it does support women in ministry but they cannot see that it may also support gay people in same-sex relationships. This is not an argument about the authority of scripture. It's about interpretation. It should not be church dividing.

But it's fun to go to camp. When kids come back from camp its really important you channel that enthusiasm to some purpose to keep it going or they will lose it or worse, go to some church with a rock band.
We as a church need something to be excited and enthusiastic about. It should be about opening up the doors of the church and the ministry to more people, not tightening the requirements. I fear we are all fighting about how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. We need a new wind blowing and a reformation. But CORE ain't it.


  1. Great post, excellent insights. But I disagree that the ELCA (or ELCIC in my case) is "dying." Parts of the church is dying. Other parts are thriving. Liberal. Conservative. Middle.

    I've done some mission development training with the ELCA twice, and came back with great hope for our beloved Lutheran church. God is doing some wonderful things that don't necessarily have to do with sex.

    And for the parts of the church that is dying, I can only say that we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and that we believe in a God of life. Maybe that promise is meant for our church as well.

  2. Pastor Jolle, I so agree with your take on L-CORE. From this weeks results I also believe they are sorely divided themselves. I too have great hope for our church. I don't think we are dying but going through a time of change. The church is not immune to the shifts in our culture demographic, political, economic etc. When it comes to worship I'm a liturgical geek. Smells & bells set my heart a flutter, but I also know the value of contemporary worship that is done well. We must offer our best to God whatever the style. God will have HER way with us. Where that takes us, well, hang on it's going to be a bumpy ride!

  3. I wonder if some folks will have similar thoughts about "Luthermergent" after the enthusiasm that is likely to come out of the Christianity 21 conference in 2 weeks...

  4. I have nothing against church camp enthusiasm and believe it can be harnessed -these mountaintop experiences can fuel us for the journey to the long as we recognize them for what they are and don't mistake it for some kind of "true faith" over and against the folks who didn't go to camp.

  5. I LOL'd at your last paragraph. So true! I agree with this whole post but would add that I think sometimes we're our own worst enemy. I belong to a fairly conservative ELCA congregation (in Wichita, KS, natch) and we had a college grad who wanted to go so seminary. Pastor said, "Of course we'll support you! And get you a scholarship!" Church council said, "Wait, you mean spend money?" *headdesk*

  6. Sad. All of this. There is a huge need for a sarcasm font.

  7. great post! I agree, the church is not dying, although some parts surely are. and yes, church camp enthuiasm can be great, but must be harnessed. I actually wrote, long ago about being a part of a movement.

    funeral a couple of days ago the singing was awesom. The people didn't know, but I knew, that among the people in the congregation (mostly older people) were several who held different opinion about this issue.

  8. oh yeah: also it's hard for me to imagine Braaten and Nestingen in the same room. THAT won't last very long.

  9. I too was at the CORE convo, and I share some of your thoughts. I also do not believe CORE is THE way forward, but it is a way to a beginning. I did not vote in the constitutional matters and did not opt to become a CORE member. However, I do believe Pastor Sauer and Mr. Shwartz made some very good points.

    The comments made on the behalf of the Immigrant African congregations was compelling, but those on behalf of the Hispanic pasotrs in Fla left me scratching my head.

    CORE will be posting the text from those and other speeches to their web site. when they do, more people will be able to join in the conversation....and I'm sure they will.

  10. Very, very keenly observed and nicely said.

    A couple of your points, in particular, deserve to be discussed more widely:

    (1) That IF (as the CORE people say) their argument is about specific points of interpretation, rather than about the authority of Scripture per se, then it ought not be church dividing. (Sadly, I don't think Scripture actually has much to do with it, except as a pretext for confirming opinions which they would hold in any case).

    (2) That they really do use the same interpretive tools the rest of us use, and occupy the same sort of unsteady ground vis-a-vis the so-called "Great Tradition." At least unless they are ready to un-legalize divorce, go on an anti-tattoo crusade, start purging evolution from textbooks and so forth.

    (3) That, this being said, CORE's hypothetical free-standing synod really is likely to struggle with the role of ordained women. They aren't talking about it now, of course, but sooner or later they will have to, if only because, logically, a large-ish chunk of their constituency will include the people who never really got on board with OW. It is worth remembering that the Episcopal splinter group's constitution permits female priests but not bishops.