October is...: Clergy Appreciation Month, an observance that was begun in 1992 and for which Hallmark has produced special cards since 2002. This year there's also a special sale at Augsburg Fortress featuring the Lutheran Handbook for Pastors. (See Pr. Sophie's review below.)
October is also National Coming Out Month.
Consequently, October is an especially good month to show your appreciation for Out Clergy. The Outies are still number one among the ELCA Churchwide Photos, but it's never too late to add your vote. Or if you're looking for some more personal way to express your appreciation, you might find inspiration from the ECP Prayer Calendar.

Archbishop Apologizes for Sharing Eucharist: On Sunday, October 7, the morning of the Castro Street Fair, two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence® attended Mass at Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco. Most Holy Redeemer is located in the Castro neighborhood and "prides itself in being an inclusive Catholic community." The service was an opportunity to welcome the new Archbishop of San Francisco, Most Rev. George Niederauer. The Sisters joined other parishioners in respectful and sincere worship and received Communion from the Archbishop. After the services, they stayed to socialize with the congregation before moving on to attend the Castro Street Fair.
While the Sisters participated in the celebration, others not there to worship filmed and photographed the Mass hoping to spark a controversy and cast the parishioners of Most Holy Redeemer and the Archbishop in a negative light. The photos were given to Quamdiu Domine?, an anti-gay Fundamentalist Catholic Website.
Before long there was an uproar, fueled in large measure by Fox News Commentator Bill O'Reilly, and in the face of all this, Archbishop Niederauer has issued an "apology" for sharing the Eucharist with the sisters:
If people dress in a manner clearly intended to mock what we hold sacred, they place themselves in an objective situation in which it is not appropriate for them to receive Holy Communion, much less for a minister of the Church to give the Sacrament to them.
Largely overlooked in all this brouhaha is a statement from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence® which reads in part:
Our hearts go out to the parishioners of Most Holy Redeemer and to the Archbishop who have been unfairly stigmatized by these disingenuous campaigns for doing nothing more than following the welcoming teachings of Christ and administering Communion in keeping with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
[T]he Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do not "mock nuns" but live "as nuns," taking vows that affirm the traditional compassionate and justice-seeking ministries of religious women, extending their reach beyond the convent walls to those most in need. We are open and supportive of all forms of spirituality that teach respect for human life, diversity, freedom and community, including those of the Catholic Church.
It is no secret that our vows sometimes call us to challenge the dogmas and hypocrisies of the Catholic hierarchy, in the same way they call us to confront politicians and even leaders within the queer community whenever they use their power and influence to promote fear, shame, division, and self-hatred. It is a bittersweet irony that these same forces of fear and shame now use the media to twist a moment of genuine communion into another justification for policies that harm people of faith and members of the LGBTQ community.
In keeping with our vows to expiate stigmatic guilt and promulgate universal joy, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence call on all people of good faith to oppose those who would desecrate the sanctity of a church and defile a moment of true communion for cheap political gain. In a world wracked by violence and fear, we have no time for such lies and will continue to serve our community by boldly proclaiming that joy is more powerful than shame.
We extend our sincerest gratitude and affection to the parishioners of Most Holy Redeemer and hope that their new Archbishop continues to walk with them in service to the gospel of joy and justice.

Not On My Watch, Maybe On Yours: ELCA Secretary Lowell Almen will leave office on October 31 and delivered his final report to the conference of Bishops on Oct. 6. Among the highlights are:

  • A call for an expanded Church Council with each synod represented
  • A declaration that power to ordain resides in the whole church
  • A call to curb abuses of the ELCA's "ordination in special circumstances" bylaw
  • And finally, if a solid foundation is provided in a social statement on human sexuality, Almen hopes "that a way may be found to acknowledge particular ministry needs and the gifts of those who are now precluded under the ministry standards as currently stated."
  • "Those who are now precluded" would be out gay and lesbian clergy who are unwilling to pledge sexual abstinence. Isn't it sad that an officer of the church can only idenfity these clergy by their exclusion?

    Extravagance (Luxuria): Who says Lutherans don't know about Luxury? When you want to indulge yourself, nothing else says extravagance as boldly as the Official LutheranConfessions.com BASEBALL CAP!

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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.

      Bishops, News and Hearsay: The ELCA Conference of Bishops (COB) meets at least twice a year (their most recent meeting was Oct. 4-9), but you might have a hard time finding out what happens at their meetings. The first ELCA account of the most recent COB meeting appeared on October 18 under the somewhat misleading title "ELCA Bishops Hear Presiding Bishop's Concerns about Ecumenism".
      Before the ELCA news release, we had already learned from the Rocky Mountain Synod email newsletter that Bishop Allan Bjornberg (Rocky Mountain Synod) had been elected chair of the Conference of Bishops.
      According the the ELCA release, in addition to ecumenism the bishops also discussed:

    • debt accumulation by seminary students,
    • ways of responding to inappropriate on-line behavior among ELCA professional leaders,
    • ELCA finances in general,
    • the "Book of Faith" initiative,
    • and ELCA disaster response.
    • The ELCA release was silent on the matter the sexuality social statement, but from a report (posted to a forum of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau by Pr. Marshall Hahn of the Northeastern Iowa Synod, we have the following:
      At our synod's Fall Conference, the bishop reported on the conversation at the Conference of Bishops' gathering of last week... Among the things agreed upon, were the following points:
      1) The Conference of Bishops is in agreement that the "refrain/restraint" motion does not apply to candidates in the Candidacy Process.
      2) The resolution is not an effort at "back door" but rather to try to deal with the practical realities of going immediately to discipline. The estimate is that the Schmeling case took 70% of the bishop's time for six months and hundred's of thousands of dollars. "Counting the cost" was one phrase that was used in discussing the resolution.
      3) We are in agreement that this will be for two years until the next assembly.
      4) Candidates must return to their synod of origin to attempt to re-enter. It would take the agreement of two bishops and two Candidacy Committees to change that. However, the restraint/refrain resolution does not apply to candidacy so that question is mute. You can only re-enter the roster through the candidacy committee and bishop of the synod from which you left the roster. Consequently, there is no way of circumventing the process by going to a more sympathetic synod.

      Does that 4th point strike you as odd? What does "restraint/refrain" have to do with clergy re-entering the roster? It sounds to us remarkably like a fragment of an implementing resolution that wandered in from another, vastly more complicated discussion about the shape of policy change.
      And at long last, there's a nod to the expense of enforcing the ELCA's policy: "the Schmeling case took 70% of the bishop's time for six months and hundreds of thousands of dollars."

      Happy Anniversary!: October 21, 2007 is the first anniversary of Pr. Erik Christensen's ordination. We offer Pr. Christensen and St. Luke, Logan Square our best wishes and we pray for their continued success. Erik's ordination is also a special occasion for us because the idea of Lutheran (True) Confessions (and much of the energy to follow through on the idea) first surfaced during that weekend in Chicago last year.

      Pr. Sophie on The Lutheran Handbook for Pastors: 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 pr_sophie@lutheranconfessions.com.

      Pr. Sophie genuinely enjoyed The Lutheran Handook, and she was delighted to learn of a companion volume for pastors: at last, she thought, a tell-it-like-it-is book that will articulate the triumphs, pitfalls, and pratfalls of trying to squeeze an actual human life into the role of Lutheran pastor.
      Well, dear readers, the book is here, and we have two choices: if we accept The Lutheran Handbook for Pastors as an accurate picture of the life of a Lutheran pastor, that life is dull, dull, dull and not terribly funny. In this case, the Handbook is work of remedial etiquette for the lifelong dissembler who may have forgotten what he or she was hiding in the first place. On the other hand, this might be a work of such profound irony that Pr. Sophie has missed the funny part.
      Both choices positively reek of Kierkegaard with whom Pr. Sophie has no truck.
      Was the advice to slouch when drinking coffee in a seated position supposed to be funny? And what should one make of the juxtaposition of "How to Get Out of a Traffic Ticket" (hint: wear a clergy shirt) with "The Pros and Cons of Wearing a Clergy Shirt" complete with the closing injunction that "a Lutheran wearing a clergy shirt" is responsible for all that an ordinand pledges at ordination?
      On the plus side, "I'm gay" is not one of the "Ten Things You Should Never Say to a Parishoner", but one of the tips for managing your relationship with your bishop is "Don't surprise your bishop."
      Ultimately, Pr. Sophie believes this book is not a good gift choice for Clergy Appreciation Month, unless of course, you intend to wrap it in mobility forms.

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