Is There an Elephant in your Church?: Quick, what do these four things have in common?
Blessing same-sex relationships
Ordaining non-celibate homosexuals
Denying Christ’s resurrection
According to the folks at Word Alone these things are all symptoms of a "religious crisis threatening all of Christianity" (an "elephant", if you will), and they're in favor on "confronting churches who no longer believe their own message."
And so Sola Publishing, Word Alone's educational ministry, has released its first book: By What Authority?, a compilation of essays and comments examining "the steady decline of mainline denominations, evidenced in the denial of Biblical authority and the message of salvation in Christ, in favor of secular social agendas". Authors include concerned pastors, theologians and laypersons. The book, written in "plain English", costs $14.95, plus $2.23 postage or $4.80 Priority Mail per book. Minnesota residents should also add $.97 sales tax. You can order a copy by calling WordAlone at 1-888-551-7254 or sending email to email@example.com.
Agree to Disagree?: Responding to the May 16 ordination extra ordinem of Pr. Lionel Ketola,the June Bishop's Report was released on May 20. In the report, Bishop Michael Pryse of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) declared that it was time for members of the ELCIC to acknowledge their differences of opinion and set them aside in the interest of a common mission:
BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS article, it is quite likely that the ELCIC will have experienced the first “irregular” ordination of a self-declared and practicing gay man. Despite fervent admonitions from my office, a congregation of our synod will have hosted such a service and been publicly supported through the presence of several synodical pastors and lay people. Press reports will have been filed, internet forums bombarded and disciplinary procedures initiated, and all to what end?...
At the end of the day, we all have much bigger fish to fry. God has a mission to, in and for the world that we have been called to discern, support and advance. Our ability to do so collectively and effectively is not predicated upon being in full agreement on every question of faith and discipleship. Sometimes, when addressing our differences, the most faithful response is to agree to disagree. Let’s get on with it!
On first reading, this seems to be a Bibfeldtian "Both/And": the extraordinary ordination of a married gay man is both no big deal and yet still worthy of discipline.
Disagree to Disagree?: An early (May 22) response to Bishop Pryse's call for Canadian Lutherans to agree to disagree and get on with the business of being the church came from Rev. Dr. Peeter Vanker speaking on behalf of Solid-Ground. Pr. Vanker suggests that Bishop Pryse's threats of discipline for Holy Cross Lutheran and for any clergy who participated in the ordination of Pr. Lionel Ketola are nothing more than "verbal posturing, lullingthe still uninformed and unsuspecting into complacency." In Pr. Vanker's words:
[T]he bishop has capitalized on the “extraordinary ordination” inNewmarket to allow a congregation to do an “end run” around the constitution, theScriptures as well as the Lutheran Confessions, and, as it appears, to force theadoption of the “local option” in the Eastern Synod and thus in the entire ELCIC....And the bishop thinks he can get away with it!
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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
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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.
Dear Sir or Madam: In a May 13 letter addressed to no one in particular but sent care of UCC General Minister and President The Rev. John H. Thomas, Marsha A. Ramirez, Director EO Examinations advised the United Church of Christ (UCC) that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had determined that the UCC did not violate tax laws when U.S. Sen. Barack Obama addressed the denomination's 50th anniversary General Synod in Hartford, Conn., in 2007.
Obama, an active member of the UCC for more than 20 years, addressed the denomination's 50th anniversary General Synod in Hartford, Conn., on June 23, 2007, as one of 60 speakers representing the arts, media, academia, science, technology, business and government. Sen. Obama was invited to speak a year before he became a Democratic presidential candidate.
In a Feb. 20 letter, the IRS notified the UCC national offices in Cleveland, Ohio, that the agency would undertake a church tax inquiry "because reasonable belief exists that the United Church of Christ has engaged in political activities that could jeopardize its tax-exempt status."
Attorneys William J. Wilkins and Brian J. Menkes represented the UCC before the IRS. Wilkins commented, "The denomination simply did not conduct any political activity in this case. The conduct of Synod events and the nature and timing of the speaking invitation made that clear." Menkes added, "Reviewers at the IRS gave our submission prompt review and consideration. We appreciate their bringing this inquiry to conclusion once they learned there was no basis to proceed."
Rev. Thomas expressed relief, "We are pleased that the IRS reviewed the complaint quickly and determined, as we expected, that the church took every necessary precaution and proactive step to ensure that Senator Obama's appearance at General Synod was proper and legal."
Donald C. Clark, the UCC's Nationwide Special Counsel, noted, "A faith community should not, and by following these now established best practices need not, be timid in asking any member to share her or his faith journey."
So in all likelihood, that is the end of the matter, though frankly we still have a few questions. Who made the original complaint? Why was the complaint made? And just how much did it cost the UCC to defend itself against a groundless allegation?
And Don't Forget: As the Summer season looms, this is a good time to remember to send in a response to the ELCA Draft Social Statement on Sexuality. The official deadline is November 1, but please don't put off sending your response until the last minute.
If you haven't visited the Faithful Journey web site in a while, you may be in for a surprise. The old, familiar graphic (which always made us think of a garden path) has been replaced by a new graphic (which makes us think of a near-sighted person's view of a garden path). Don't worry. It's the same site.
Hearts on Fire: The 2008 Lutherans Concerned North America (LCNA) biennial assembly (Hearts On Fire) will be held July 3 - 6 in San Francisco. Among the speakers are The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, Kelly Fryer, executive director of A Renewal Enterprise (ARE), The Right Reverend John L. Selders, Jr., organizing pastor of Amistad United Church of Christ, and Rev. Gladys G. Moore. The deadline for registration is June 1.
Come a week early and enjoy San Francisco's 38th Annual Pride Parade, and don't forget that with a little preparation, you and your partner could even get married.
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