Where May Women Preach?: The Societas Trinitatis Sanctae (or in English, Society of the Holy Trinity) celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. In contrast to most Lutheran organizations the Society (STS) has pushed its Lutheran identity into its tagline: "A Lutheran Ministerium dedicated to the renewal of the Ministry and the Church.".
The Society is a kind of religious order, an association of pastors ordained in various Lutheran communions throughout North America and Australia who come together for mutual support in fulfilling their ordination vows. The Society has approximately 200 members, admits both men and women, and makes its decisions by consensus. Pastors join the society by formally subscribing to the Society's Rule. New members are accepted at the Society's annual General Retreat.
This year's retreat was held the third week in August at Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. This marks the first time a Lutheran institution has hosted the Society's General Retreat.
Pr. Erma Wolf was scheduled to preach at worship during the retreat, and this caused the hosting seminary some anxiety because the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) does not ordain women and reserves the ministry of Word and Sacrament (including preaching) for those who are ordained.
Concordia President Dean Wenthe proposed that Pr. Wolf preach not in the school's chapel, but in the auditorium. Pr. Frank Senn, the Senior of the Society, took this suggestion a step further, and his comments are instructive:
I decided that if one of our members had to preach in Sihler Auditorium, all members would preach there - except for the Missouri Synod pastor who is preaching at our closing Eucharist. Therefore, the prayer offices with sermons will be held in Sihler Auditorium and not in Kramer Chapel. This may not be an ideal arrangement, but it seems to satisfy Missouri sensitivities and STS integrity.
But the fact that we had to deal with this issue should prompt us to consider what it means, in terms of our vocation as a pastoral society, a religious order, to be holding meetings in institutions of the church. Religious orders exist on the margins of the church structure. Meeting here or in any seminary means moving from the margins to the center. While educational institutions also have a vocation to be at the margins of society, most of them are not. They occupy positions of power and prestige and sometimes of great wealth when one considers endowments. Theological seminaries are not wealthy, but they are owned lock, stock, and barrel by their denominations. If we are going to move to the centers of our church bodies, we have to play by their rules. The problem with that is that then we are not in a position to be what religious orders have always been: agents of renewal - renewal both of their members and of the church at large. The history of monasticism and of religious orders shows that these groups lose their ability to renew church and society by moving from the margins to the center, by acquiring wealth, power, and prestige.
Well-Travelled Certificate: When Pr. Megan Rohrer was ordained last November, her letter of call was misplaced for a while: it stowed away in a service folder that travelled to Gustavus Adolphus College for a while and was finally returned to Pr. Rohrer in March of this year.
Pr. Rohrer's Ordination Certificate is also well travelled as Dr. Margaret Moreland circulated the certificate to the ordinators for their signatures.
The certificate was duly sent to Placerville for the Rev. Stan Olson to sign. After some delay, the signed certificate was returned with a hand written note:
Here I am, at peace with the world, fishing and splitting wood, enjoying our hidden place of solitude in the Rockies.
And you bring me back to reality.
May your summer be one of blessings and joy.
Outies, Number One!: We thought the 2007 Churchwide Assembly was safely behind us, but readers keep sending items about Churchwide. Most recently we've learned that anyone can browse the photos from churchwide and vote for their favorites. The photos are displayed in order of popularity.
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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:
Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.
Our correspondent points out that there were two "goodsoil" photos in the top ten, and indeed, as we sit down to write, the 2nd most popular photo is a picture of about two dozen people in rainbow scarves on a staircase. The caption reads "Goodsoil representatives who are advocating change in church policy at this churchwide assembly."
The caption is not entirely accurate. The people shown are not just "goodsoil representatives," they are the outies: the queer pastors who came out at churchwide and who are directly affected by the ELCA's discriminatory policy.
Perhaps your vote will make that photo #1.
Discerning the Spirit: The Word Alone Fall Theological Conference will be held November 11-13 at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake, Minn. The theme is "Discerning the Spirits" and the keynote presentters are Dr. Frederick Baltz, Galena, Ill. and Dr. Mickey Mattox (pictured), Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Marquette University.
Abstinence Update: Things are beginning to get tense in the Central Great Lakes Synod where 3 weeks ago Bishop Thorvald Noe-Effingway encouraged all clergy in the synod to abstain from sex until the ELCA adopts a Sexuality Social Statement, hopefully in 2009. A piece of email we received this week (we won't say from whom) had the following signature:
The papists had neither authority nor right to prohibit marriage and burden the divine estate of priests with perpetual celibacy. We are therefore unwilling to consent to their abominable celibacy, nor shall we suffer it. ~~ Martin Luther (Smalcald Articles)
Ask Pr. Sophie: Pr. Sophie Fortresson, our resident expert on all matters of theology, Lutheran etiquette, and social protocol, answers questions submitted by our readers and occasionally simply volunteers advice when no question has been asked. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Pr. Sophie,
My dad works for the ELCA, and ever since the church we go to started talking about calling a pastor from the ECP roster, my dad has been hinting that we might have to find a new congregation. I kind of like this church. I know my dad pretty well and he's not hung up about gay people: he doesn't think it's a sin to be gay, and there are gay pastors he has great respect for. I don't understand why we should have to change churches. What's this all about?
Undisclosed Location, IL
Dear Name Withheld,
Thank you so much for writing. Pr. Sophie truly feels your pain, and indeed, she may feel it so acutely that she might not be entirely objective in her advice. However, that has never stopped her before.
Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, Pr. Sophie is a proponent of the simple life: in general, one should just say what one believes and act accordingly. It is never a good idea to do things that belie your conscience.
Now, what is this all about? Since the ELCA does not recognize the ECP roster, if your church calls this ECP pastor, it will be breaking the rule that ELCA churches should only call pastors approved by the ELCA.
Perhaps your father, in all good conscience, does not want to be an accomplice in breaking an ELCA rule. If you feel that to be the case, you should tell your father how attached you are to your church and ask if this is really the best use of his conscience.
On the other hand, it could also be that your father is caught in the "effectiveness" trap. Whatever his real beliefs, he's worried that staying at a church that breaks the rules will be seen as "taking sides" against the ELCA and that such a perception would interfere with doing his job.
In that case, you should point out to your father (ever so gently, please) that changing churches might also be regarded as "taking sides", or at least as unwillingness to LTFIMOD ("live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements").
You might also point out that since the churchwide assembly urged bishops and synods to refrain from discipline, it's probably okay for your father to withhold judgement or at least leave the adjudication of the matter to the official disciplinary process.
If your family does change churches, Pr. Sophie sincerely hopes you will not be lumbered with a flatulent pastor (or worse yet, a closeted flatulent pastor).
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