Helen Reddy Redux: We hear a lot of buzz about Pr. Jeff Johnson's sermon for Jen Rude's ordination service. Some expressed surprise that Pr. Johnson quoted Robert W. Jensen ("with whom I usually disagree") on ordination as setting the ordinand free for ministry. Others were enthused at the references to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, others were grateful for the remembrance of Krister Stendahl and his 1990 letter stating the case for extraordinary ordinations.
But everyone commented on the call-and-response based on Helen Reddy's song from 1972 "I Am Woman":
I am strong
STRONG!
I am invincible
INVINCIBLE!
I AM WOMAN!

The church full of Lutherans had no trouble finding its voice, and got a short lesson in asserting gender identity.
You may not be aware that Helen Reddy claims divine inspiration for "I Am Woman":
"I remember lying in bed one night and the words, 'I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman', kept going over and over in my head. That part I consider to be divinely inspired. I had been chosen to get a message across."
Pressed on who had chosen her, she replied: "The universe."

Two Chicagos: When Pr. Erik Christensen was ordained extra ordinem at St. Luke - Logan Square in October, 2006, the Metro Chicago Synod did not officially acknowledge the event, yet two bishop's assistants vested, processed, and laid hands on the ordinand with the rest of the clergy. Bishop Paul Landahl attended, but did not vest.
Over the summer, Metro Chicago elected the Rev. Wayne N. Miller as bishop, and when Jen Rude was ordained extra ordinem at Resurrection Lutheran on November 17, neither the bishop nor any of his assistants were present. Their "visible absence" was evidence to some of a "staff decision." Former bishop the Rev. Paul Landahl attended, but did not vest.
On the other hand, Bishop Miller did send Jen a letter (reproduced in the service folder) acknowledging the new phase in her ministry. The letter reads in part:
I write to wish you well as you begin a new phase in your ministry at Resurrection Lutheran Church. Know that my prayers and the prayers of the synod are with you and the members of Resurrection Lutheran Church. Ministry to a community takes different forms, and is expressed in different ways that are right for a time and a place that needs to hear of God's love continually made known in Jesus Christ.
Bishop Miller's letter is a welcome departure from the silence of local bishops in previous extraordinary ordinations. Indeed, the only hint that relations might not be exactly normal is the absence of the word ordination in the bishop's remarks.

Complaining in Harmony: Valituskuoro is a Finnish expression meaning complaints choir, a concept that many Lutherans will grasp intuitively.
Not long ago, however, Helsinki artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen undertook the project of creating a literal complaints choir. After presenting their idea at a number of events, the first complaints choir was realized in Birmingham, U.K.

Singers were recruited. Complaints were solicited, compiled, and set to music. After some rehearsal time, public performances were arranged and the choir sang its litany of complaints for an audience.
Set to music and sung by a choir, some complaints achieved a dignity they would lack in regular conversation: The bus is too infrequent at 6:30. Others were revealed to be petty (No one shares their biscuits.), and a few (Sex pressure is too low.) remained enigmatic.
The singers achieve a certain catharsis, and the performance guarantees that the complaints have an audience.
Complaints choirs have begun to spring up in other cities: Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Pittsburgh, Jerusalem, Juneau, Chicago


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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.

    . Naturally, there's a web site: Complaint Choirs of the World.
    Perhaps the 2009 Churchwide Assembly could feature an ELCA Complaints Choir?

    Norway Knows How: On November 19, the General Synod of the Church of Norway voted (50 to 34 with 2 abstentions) to allow individual bishops to appoint people in "registered same-sex relationships" to the church's ordained ministry. (News release)
    This decision sets aside a guideline (established in 1995 and re-affirmed in 1997) that prohibited those in same-sex partnerships from serving as ordained ministers. The church's official announcement reads in part:
    The 2007 General Synod confirms that there is still a basis in the church in support of not ordaining, appointing, or granting an episcopal letter of recommendation to persons living in same-sex partnership if the relevant church body believes that such steps run counter to the teaching and the purpose of the church, or would be considered not to serve the well-being of the congregations. The Synod recognizes, however, that there is no longer the same degree of consensus in the Church of Norway on this issue, as there was in 1995 and 1997. Both the church's Doctrinal Commission and the Bishops' Conference are now divided near the middle in their assessment whether persons living in same-sex partnership should be allowed to serve in ordained ministry.
    Therefore, the 2007 General Synod states that the ecclesial bodies responsible for appointments may either appoint, or not appoint, persons living in same-sex partnership, without being in breach of Norwegian law or guidelines by the General Synod. The General Synod bases this decision on the exisiting reality that the formal authority in matters of ordination, and appointment to positions of ordained ministry, lies not with the General Synod, but with the relevant bishops and appointing church bodies.
    The decision requests the bishops to have a predictable practice whether or not they will ordain homosexual persons living in partnership, and/or provide them with the episcopal letter of recommendation to the parishes they are to serve. The bishops are also requested to consult with each other on how they handle cases where bishops with different practices are involved.

    Not surprisingly, this is a sign of hope for some and the end of the world for others: In a radio broadcast, Marit Tingelstad, head of the Bishop's Council for southeastern Norway's Hamar district, said, "This will create peace in the church, and security for homosexual clergy."
    Bishop Ole D. Hagesaeter, of the Bjoergvin district, said, "This is a sad day for the church. It will be a splitting factor and lead to many feeling homeless in the church."

    Sex and the Gospel: Our far-flung network of correspondents reports a moment from Jen Rude's installation on November 18. Speaking of Jen, Pr. Brian Hiortdahl said, "Not since Mary [the mother of Jesus], has there been so much scrutiny about the sex life of someone who is not having any."
    We take it to be a good thing that people are relaxed enough about sexuality to find a lighter side. We laugh, but there's always a nagging subtext: perhaps we hang on to the idea that "principled non-compliance" is somehow different from actual non-compliance.
    And we have to remind ourselves that ultimately the Gospel is the Gospel even if Mary wasn't a virgin, and the efficacy of Jen Rude's ministry doesn't depend on what does or doesn't happen in her sex life.

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