Sunday, January 31, 2010

Without A Church

Well, it all come down to a vote. One hundred-eighty or so to about eighty with the result in favor of associating with a fundamentalist Lutheran body entirely created to deal with "the gay clergy issue." So much for the collective mind of man. As we used to say in the old country, feckin' idges.

I, the firebrand of opinion spoken to the best of my abilities, am left without a church and I'm fine with that. I have no desire to worship with people that today said (and I kid you not, the council president and the recently new pastor of my old church together said the exact same at least eight times the entirely un-Christian phrase when speaking of the LCMC) they're "people just like us" as if that was the most important qualifier in a Christian relationship decision.

It's beyond feckin' idges, it's selfish, self centered, God fearing but so unable to think outside of the words they read to see the Word that is there. Ai yai yai.

But it's good for them, and they do good things in the world. I just don't want to sully my peace by being around them anymore. So onward I go.

This greater body of Christ, the churches of the world, encompass a huge and diverse population, from homo-haters to homos themselves. From Baptist jihadists to gay Episcopalian bishops, from Anglicans to a West Hollywood cell church with 5 folks breaking bread, sharing communion, and speaking of God.

In my humble opinion, all are good and all are bad.

Such is the way of man.

Go in peace and serve the Lord.

Prayers, please?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Of, By, and For ... Corporations

In a purely GOP appointed decision, with one GOP and all Democrat appointed justices dissenting, the Supreme Court has opened campaign coffers to corporate largess. Today's L.A. Times tells it well:

"...a 90-page dissenting opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who was appointed by President Ford, a Republican. Stevens, who will turn 90 in April, spoke in a halting voice as he read part of his dissent in the courtroom Thursday.

He called the decision "a radical change in the law." He predicted that the ruling would "cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress and the states to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process."

The decision displayed a deep division of opinion on the court about the meaning of the 1st Amendment and the freedom of speech. The majority said that the Constitution broadly protected discussion and debate on politics, regardless of who was paying for the speech.

Stevens and the dissenters said that the majority was ignoring the long-understood rule that the government could limit election money from corporations, unions and others, such as foreign governments."

"Under today's decision, multinational corporations controlled by foreign governments" would have the same rights as Americans to spend money to tilt U.S. elections, Stevens said."


What can we do but sigh? I think the game is over.

"...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

With apologies, Mr. Lincoln, I believe it has.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What Shall We Teach?

My church, an ELCA congregation, is being asked to vote to join the LCMC while remaining ELCA. There are two flaws to this possibility: theological and functional. The first drives the second.

Having been in Bible study with a considered group of Lutheran men for the past 7 years, and teaching the high school youth with an enthusiastic group of adults for that same period, I have come to differentiate matters of theology from those of faith when assessing, sometimes shaping, another person’s opinion. Even when discussing interpretation of the Bible, literal vs relational, there’s a way to do that and keep it nice, whether acknowledging both as valid views or moving on to broader shared points. Of which there are many!

Mark 10:15 (NIV)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."


I take this to mean that we should all hold our faith dear, grow in it as best we can, but also remain in awe of God, aware that His intent may be beyond our current understanding. With that in mind I compare here the published LCMC & ELCA thinking on the Bible:

From the ELCA Website: “Dig Deeper/The Bible”

“Lutherans believe that people meet God in Scripture, where God’s heart, mind, relationship to - and intention for - humankind are revealed. Through an ongoing dialogue with the God revealed in the Bible, people in every age are called to a living faith.”

“The Bible’s authority rests in God”
“ELCA Lutherans confidently proclaim with all Christians that the authority of the Bible rests in God. We believe that God inspired the Bible’s many writers, editors and compilers. … At the same time, we also find in the Bible human emotion, testimony, opinion, cultural limitation and bias. ELCA Lutherans recognize that human testimony and writing are related to and often limited by culture, customs and worldview. … Because Biblical writers, editors and compilers were limited by their times and world views, even as we are, the Bible contains material wedded to those times and places. It also means that writers sometimes provide differing and even contradictory views of God’s word, ways and will.”

From the LCMC “Consider Your Options” Brochure:
“We reject the notion that science, personal experience, tradition, or other human endeavors have equal footing with the Bible. We are certainly aware that these endeavors contribute to our conversations and deliberations, but the Bible must be our final authority in matters of faith and practice.”…

…“Congregations have significant latitude in ordering and shaping ministry in their local setting, and we intentionally have made joining and leaving the association simple. We have also agreed to a disciplinary process for addressing congregations whose actions violate our agreed upon statements of faith and practice.”


I find conflicts in these two theologies, primarily that the LCMC places the Bible as the final authority (as per their rather strict interpretation witnessed by their representative in our sanctuary), while the ELCA says that the Bible’s authority rests in God (and is sensed in the reader’s relationship with God as found in Scripture). The unfortunate sum of this equation is that the ELCA inclusiveness allows for the LCMC thinking but the LCMC righteous certainty rejects without recourse the ELCA’s more open theology. It is an untenable situation.

So, I ask, what shall we teach?

For your further thinking, all quoted text from: www.ELCA.org and www.LCMC.net

Friday, January 01, 2010

ELCA & LCMC

Ah, the politics of the church in which I am firmly embroiled:

My church is an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) congregation of which the national body passed resolutions in 2009 much like those the Episcopalian church did earlier in the decade. Openly gay clergy are to be welcomed as long as they are in lifetime committed monogamous relationships or celibate. Entirely as expected, virtually every ELCA congregation is in tatters over that decision.

The Lutheran Churches in Missions for Christ (LCMC) is an organization that was formed nine years ago when the discussions began in the ELCA towards the decision made recently. The LCMC is basically a group of Christian fundamentalists that take a literal interpretation of the Bible according to how they read it. If you've read some of my other writings you know I hold Christian fundamentalists in low regard. Methinks they think too highly of themselves and push others away from God by their perceived expression of greater righteousness.

Mark 10:15 (New International Version)

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."


I take this to mean that we should all hold our faith dear, grow in it as best we can, but also remain in awe of God, aware that His intent may be beyond our current understanding. I take this to mean that we should also be accepting of theologies that differ from our own provided the basics are agreed upon. This is much easier when they hold their faith meetings separately from our own! On a more secular note, regarding our acceptance of other theologies or lack thereof, we should be as firm or polite as the situation warrants and allows.

My church has a vote coming up at the end of this month to choose to join the LCMC while remaining members of the ELCA. This dual relationship was rightly decried by an LCMC representative as problematic with the two organizations theologies at odds with each other. One group (LCMC) says every word in the Bible is purely God's Word, the other (ELCA) saying that we need to keep in mind the times and situations in which those words were written and, most importantly, that they were written (and re-written and amended says I) by men, not God. The inference being that men and women, even those called to duty by God, are by nature flawed. The Bible is the best history of God's relationship with us and supports the concept of the flawed nature of God's called people throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Human nature being what it is, most of the congregation that thinks about these things had knee-jerk reactions strongly to one side or the other. Divisive times, sadly.

I was among the knee-jerk crowd speaking against the LCMC on several fronts, meeting with our pastors individually to try to dissuade them, presenting a lengthy paper towards that end that both pastors said they read but wouldn't really comment on. In conversation with the youth pastor we reached a draw, too quickly agreeing to disagree. I was immediately ready to leave if our church joins the LCMC but willing to remain active up to the end. My sense is at least one pastor would be happier if I left now, maybe both. If they wanted me to stay, wouldn't it be correct to rebuke me and try to bring my thinking to that which is "right?" These men are both my teachers, both of them must consider me a student gone wrong, letting me hold faith in something that they see as Biblically wrong. Why don't they try to change my thinking? What is their role in the church?!?

(I come back while proofreading and consider that both pastors and myself were passive aggressive in those discussions, too polite to want to say things that needed to be said, or simply not up for the argument because in truth we know each other to be firm in our thinking. So yes, I should be asked to leave as I theologically disagree with the leadership. But as I agree with the greater denomination, I wonder who should leave? Logically, the pastors and that part of the congregation that agrees with them should accept ELCA thinking or join the LCMC or another group alone, apart from the ELCA. Conflicting articles of faith are the death-knell of a faithful body.)

If my congregation chooses to go LCMC while remaining ELCA, with two differing theologies, I have to ask as a six-year volunteer teacher with the high school youth group, "What shall we teach?" At first I thought it an untenable situation but then I realized in that question I find hope. The hope of making our youth think and come to their own conclusions, their own understanding, their own relationship with God. Developing that personal relationship in ourselves and others is what the church is for!

I have decided to vote against the LCMC but I will no longer expect to leave if the vote goes to stay ELCA while joining LCMC. My relationship with the youth is good and many of them hear me when I speak of God. I will remain and teach as my heart and mind tell me to: that God loves us all, that God is disappointed in us all, expects better from us, and that God forgives us all if we believe in Him. Christ died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven, not so that we could pick and choose which sins are worse.

And, for that matter, I'm not sure homosexuality is a sin. It sure isn't right for me, makes me nauseous to consider in fact, but in view of what I do know of gays I think it may be something God wired into them. Even if not wired by God, if a choice and if committed monogamous, who are we to say what another person's life long love shall be? Who are we to say that their sin is worse than ours? Are our pastors perfect? Of course not, that is not possible. Beyond that I'll plead back up to Matthew 15.

We are called, in faith, to lead lives pleasing to God. For any one of us some days are better than others. Some darned good, in fact. Others, not so much. And yes, I have read Romans numerous times and studied it with a very diverse group of Christian men. What Lutheran couldn't! We should not sin more to show God's glory in His grace. But recall, please, that even the apostle Paul agonized greatly over his inability to lead the life he thought God desired of him, and this from a man who met the resurrected Christ! Can anyone reading this claim to lead a sinless life? Even for a week? A day? Thought, word and deed, right?

Church is not for the perfect except for the perfect One. There is no perfect person! Church is for everyone. Anyone should be allowed to lead if so called by a congregation, to speak of their understanding of God and let the congregants decide what fits for them. Different denominations were formed because groups align around differing theological minutia. The broad strokes are the hand of God, the small stuff the mind of man.

Pray for us, please, that we might hear God's word, give thanks for His Word, and carry on in the Love of God and Neighbor that Christ called us to.