Church and State: The The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) convention in Houston, July 14-19 was notable in part for the video greeting from President George W. Bush that was shown to delegates. Click the Play button below to see for yourself.
Church and Church: The American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) and The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) have reached accord on altar and pulpit fellowship between the two groups. On July 16 the LCMS convention in Houston, Texas approved a fellowship resolution by a vote of 846 to 345. The LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations recommended altar and pulpit fellowship last February, following two years of formal dialogue between representatives of the two church bodies.
By a vote of 117 to 27, with one abstention, the AALC approved a similar resolution at its convention June 20-23 in St. Paul, Minn. The AALC also voted to join the International Lutheran Council (ILC), an international association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. That resolution was approved with just three dissenting votes. The LCMS also is a member of the ILC.
The AALC was organized by pastors and congregations with doctrinal concerns -- particularly about the authority of Scripture -- when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was formed in 1988. AALC membership now includes 79 congregations, 107 active pastors, and 14,137 baptized members.
As LCMS delegates debated the resolution, questions were raised concerning the AALC's subscription to the complete Book of Concord and about pastors removed from the LCMS roster and now serving in AALC congregations.
LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick assured delegates that "all matters will be taken into consideration, as we continue to present a united witness."
Churchier Than Thou: In Rome on July 10, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document titled Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church that is a kind of FAQ on, well, the doctrine of the Church. The document was issued with the approval of Pope Benedict, and follows closely on the heels of the Pope's relaxation of the rules surrounding the use of the Latin Mass.
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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:
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Regular viewers of The Colbert Report may find something familiar in this new document. Colbert's truthiness was voted word of the year by various lexicographical groups in 2005 and 2006.
It now appears that the Vatican will make a bid for 2007 honors with "Churchiness".
Explaining why the "Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century" should not be referred to as "Churches":
"According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense."
Responding the newly published document, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson said, "The question all Christian people should reflect on today is how best to exercise forbearance and love for one another."
More Lobbying: It begins to look as though voting members at this year's churchwide assembly will have the opportunity to collect a complete set of letters from all ten Lutheran Core steering committee members. The latest is a letter dated July 11 from Pr. Erma S. Wolf (pictured), Vice Chair and (like Pr. Paull Spring who authored the first Lutheran Core letter to voting members) apparently not a voting member at this assembly.
After reiterating the Lutheran Core platform, Pr. Wolf urges voting members to leave the ELCA's discriminatory policy in place until a social statement on sexuality can be proposed:
"...the ELCA is deeply divided over matters of human sexuality, in particular those relating to homosexuality. It is a reality that there is pain and anguish felt by Christians on all sides of this issue. Such pain and division only demonstrates the need for following the careful process laid out by earlier churchwide assemblies and the church council, to give the sexuality task force time to do its work and develop a proposed social statement on human sexuality."
So because there is pain and anguish, the ELCA should wait until 2009 or later to decide whether it can accept those whom God has called to ministry? Did we miss something?
Vote Near on Matthew Shepard Act: Both the Human Rights Campaign and the American Family Association seem to think that the Senate could be voting soon on the Matthew Shepard Act (S. 1105). The proposed legislation updates the federal hate crimes laws to include all Americans and provides new resources and tools to assist local law enforcement in prosecuting hate crimes. The ELCA has endorsed (albeit quietly) the Matthew Shepard Act. We encourage you to call your Senators (202/224-3121) and urge them to support this legislation.
Lesbian Gang Epidemic: Coincidentally (then again, perhaps not) as the Senate prepares to vote on extending hate crime protection to LGBT people, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly has broadcast an item (view excerpt on youtube.com) alledging that numerous "lesbian gangs" across the United States are engaged in criminal activities that are hurtful and abusive and are recruiting children.
Ask Pr. Sophie: Pr. Sophie Fortresson has graciously consented to answer questions from our readers and offer advice about matters ranging from theology to Lutheran etiquette. Pr. Sophie is away this week, but will return soon. Send your question to email@example.com.
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