The Honor of Being First: We believe the honor for first pastor of an ELCA congregation to officiate at a same-sex wedding sanctioned under California law should go to Pr. Dan Hooper of Hollywood Lutheran.
On June 17, the first day communities in California could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the City of West Hollywood staged a marriage festival with six decorated pavilions where wedding ceremonies could be held just outside the city auditorium. Tents were also provided for couples inquiring about marriage licenses, for media people, and for those officiating at weddings.
With another pastoral colleague, Pr. Hooper spent much of the day providing a musical accompaniment on hand bells and giving interviews.
Near the end of the day, however, Pr. Hooper was approached by two young women who, having been raised Roman Catholic, wanted a Christian minister to officiate. Read the whole story on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) blog.
Vespers, Ice Cream, Kick Off Rally: Beginning June 30, you'll be able to hear the radio and internet editions of a new radio show by Pr. Todd Wilken (pictured) and Jeff Schwarz. Wilken and Schwarz produced Issues, Etc., a popular radio program that was abruptly canceled by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) earlier this year.
The new program will be broadcast on the Internet Monday through Friday from 3:00PM - 5:00PM (Central Time) on the Pirate Christian Radio website. In the St. Louis area, the 2nd hour of each day's program will be broadcast on KSIV-AM 1320.
On Wednesday June 25, Pr. Wilken will be the guest preacher at a special vespers service commemorating the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession in 1530. The service will be held at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre, Missouri (about 45 minutes south of St. Louis). Following the service, the church will host an ice cream social and reception, which will also serve as a “kick-off rally” for the new radio show.
Bishopspeak, Texas Dialect: As the July 26 ordination extra ordinem of Ms. Lura Groen at Grace Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas approaches, Bishop Michael Rinehart (pictured) of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod offered a commentary on the ordination in a June 13 email message to synod leaders.
Bishop Rinehart writes:
Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,
Some of you have been calling because you may have received an invitation to the "ordination" of Lura Groen at Grace, Houston.
We find those quotation marks around the word ordination hard to accept, though perhaps they should be a badge of honor among Lutheran clergy. No doubt some Roman Catholic bishop in the 16th century invoked a similar device to trivialize the consecration of the first Lutheran pastors.
The bishop continues: Orientation is not the issue here, as Lura is not partnered. Rostering is the issue.
With all due respect to the bishop, rostering and orientation are not so easily separated: rostering is an issue precisely because the ELCA only requires celibacy of gay and lesbian clergy.
The bishop also writes: There may be challenges with regards to her health benefits and pension. She would be treated as a lay employee, and therefore not eligible for housing allowance.
For purposes of ELCA benefits, yes, Pr. Groen will be regarded as a lay employee, but eligibility for housing allowance is an IRS matter outside the ELCA's control.
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The official IRS publication on the matter is Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers. The ELCA has produced a helpful summary of the IRS housing allowance rules.
Bishop Rinehart again: Accepting this call could jeopardize a future application to be on the ELCA clergy roster.
We have no comment.
To be quite honest, availability for press interviews just prior to the event and preferred seating for the press left me and others with the feeling of a publicity stunt.
Though, of course, there is an outside possibility that an extraordinary ordination might in fact be newsworthy.
Gay Cleric Nominated for Bishop: At the end of September, Bishop Hans Christian Knuth who heads the Schleswig Diocese of the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church will retire. His successor will be elected on July 12 by the North Elbian Synod, the 140-member "parliament" of the North Elbian Church.
The church's election committee has put forward two nominees: Gerhard Ullrich and Horst Gorski (pictured). Pr. Gorski is gay, and if elected, would become the first openly gay Lutheran bishop in Germany.
While Pr. Gorski's nomination has become the subject of much conversation, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) (of which the North Elbian Church is a member) has declined to intervene.
According to LWF General Secretary Reverend Ishmael Noko: This is a pastoral issue that each church individually must deal with. We have no position on this issue at the moment.
As Others See Us: One sidelight of the bishop election in the North Elbian Church has been an erroneous account of recent ELCA decisions regarding gay and lesbian clergy. For example, the story on Yahoo! (attributed to Reuters) remarked:
Last year the largest U.S. Lutheran body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said it would allow homosexual clergy in sexual relationships to serve as pastors.
Big, Gay, Church Civil Partnership Blessing, Another Bishop Speaks: The Episcopal News Service reports that on May 31, the Rev. Peter Cowell and the Rev. Dr. David Lord exchanged vows and rings in front of hundreds of guests at St. Bartholomew the Great Church in London. The Rev. Martin Dudley (pictured) officiated.
According to Rev. Dudley, the ceremony did not resemble a marriage and was simply the blessing of a civil partnership. He said the church's guidelines do not prohibit such blessings. Bishop Richard Chartres of London has ordered an investigation, and issued a June 18 letter sternly critical of Rev. Dudley. The letter reads in part:
The point at issue is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. There is of course a range of opinion on these matters in the Church and, as you know, homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.
...I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese.
Civil partnerships have been legal in England since December 2005.
Archbishop Henry Orombi of the Anglican Church of Uganda described the ceremony as "blasphemous" and called on Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to take action.
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