Bishop Sightings: The ELCA Conference of Bishops met March 6 - 11 just down the peninsula from San Francisco in San Mateo, California, and it was a big deal because the bishops were briefed on the draft social statement on sexuality. LutheranConfessions.com has a lot of ears on the ground in the Sierra Pacific Synod, and numerous reports were filed.
Apparently the big public event of the COB's spring meeting was worship at St. Mark (SF) on Sunday, March 9 with Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson preaching. The bishops were out in force, having been bussed in from San Mateo for the occasion. According to one reporter, Bishop Hanson's quip "We bring our in jokes with us. Some of them are seated among you," resulted in a minor commotion nearby as Central Great Lakes Synod Bishop Thorvald "Wally" Noe-Effingway took an elbow in the ribs from the unidentified person seated next to him.
Another reporter overheard a conversation between Delaware/Maryland Synod Bishop Jerry Knoche and a member of St. Mark's. Bishop Knoche mentioned that he owned a cookbook from a church in San Francisco and wondered if it had been produced by St. Mark's. The parishioner hemmed and hawed trying to remember when the congregation had last produced a cookbook. The bishop noted that the cookbook seemed to have been "nationally produced", and a knowledgeable local intervened to say, "Oh, that's probably Those People at That Church. It was produced by St. Francis Lutheran not far from here. It's a very good cookbook, sadly out of print."
One diligent reporter discovered that bishops who wished to skip the service had the option of taking a Napa Valley wine tour. Our reporter could not say for certain who elected to take the tour, but noted that Bishop Craig Johnson had not been seen at St. Mark.
Retirement Party: After 18 years of continuous activity on behalf of full inclusion for LGBTQ people in the ELCA, Dr. Mari G. Irvin, a founding member of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (ECP) and Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries (LLGM) stepped down after the Spring meeting of the Credentialing and Candidacy Ellipse of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM).
A surprise party in Dr. Irvin's honor was held in the Parish Hall of St. Francis Lutheran (SF). Bishop Thorvald ("Wally") Noe-Effingway (Central Great Lakes Synod) slipped away from the Conference of Bishops meeting to join the festivities. He congratulated Dr. Irvin on her tenacity and presented her with a genuine Ask Pr. Sophie tote bag. Pr. Sophie was unable to attend.
Draft Contest Winners: The Draft Social Statement on Sexuality dutifully appeared on March 13. Our First Responder Award goes to Lutheran Core which published on March 12 a Q&A about topics covered in the draft without actually citing the draft itself. (The draft was still "embargoed" at the time).
Honorable Mention in this category goes to Lutherans Concerned (LCNA) for its March 11 press advisory saying that it would, on March 13, have something to say.
Our First Comment from a Synodical Bishop Award goes to Bishop Peter Rogness (St. Paul Area Synod) for his The Way It Looks from Here article trying to head off perceived misrepresentations of the draft in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Our Cart Before the Horse Award
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goes to Lutherans Concerned (LCNA) which led off with a press release that coincided with the draft's release and followed with an official statement from Executive Director Emily Eastwood published 2 hours later.
Rehab for Luther, Gallileo?: On March 6, The London Times, in an article by Richard Owen reported that Pope Benedict XVI was considering the rehabilitation of Martin Luther:
According to Vatican insiders the Pope will argue that Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy, was not a heretic.
On March 10, the Catholic News Service declared that the "rumors" of Luther's rehabilitation were "groundless." Father Federico Lombardi (SJ) is reported to have told the Italian news agency ANSA that the story ""does not have any foundation, insofar as no rehabilitation of Luther is foreseen,"
On the other hand, the rehabilitation of Gallileo, who was tried for heresy in 1633, is moving forward. 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Gallileo's birth and the Vatican plans to observe the event with a statue of the scientist in the Vatican gardens near the apartment where Galileo was incarcerated while awaiting trial for advocating heliocentrism, the Copernican doctrine that the Earth revolves around the Sun.
According to reporter Richard Owen:
In January Pope Benedict XVI called off a visit to Sapienza University, Rome, after staff and students accused him of defending the Inquisition's condemnation of Galileo. They cited a speech he made at La Sapienza in 1990, while still a cardinal, in which he quoted a description of the trial of Galileo as fair. The Vatican said that the Pope had been misquoted.
The Vatican's repentance over its treatment of Galileo began in 1979, when John Paul II invited the Church to rethink the trial of Galileo.
Not Possible: The Episcopal News Service (ENS) reports that on March 10, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church was informed that full invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to include Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as a participant in this summer's Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops is "not possible" .
Robinson told the House that he respectfully declined an invitation to be present in the conference's "Marketplace" exhibit section.
Robinson confirmed for ENS that he plans to be in Canterbury during the July 16-August 3 once-a-decade gathering, but not as an official conference participant or observer.
The Evolution of Sin: CNN reported recently that following a week-long conference on confession Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti who heads the Apostolic Penitentiary, suggested that the Vatican has adjusted its concept of mortal sins to relate to the age of globalization. New areas of sinful behavior include drugs, pollution, genetic manipulations as well as social and economic injustices. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride are the traditional "deadly sins" enumerated by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century.
Responding to Grotti's modernized list, Father Antonio Pelayo, a Spanish priest and Vatican expert agreed that it is time for both sinners and confessors to get over their obsession with sex and think about other ways humans hurt each other in the world in which they live. In a television interview for Associated Press he said:
"There are many other sins that are perhaps much more grave that don't have anything to do with sex - that have to do with life, that have to do with the environment, that have to do with justice."
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