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ELCA Sexuality Statement

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Episcopal Ironies

by Sarah Wilson — April 08, 2010

As you may have already read in our sister publication Forum Letter, Higgins Rd. has released its liturgical guidelines for the reception into ministry of persons who were “ordained” in some sense through the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, barred until last August from ministry in the ELCA because of their not living in accordance with Visions & Expectations. The liturgy is identical to the ordination of any other candidate, save for changing the phrase “Will you serve God’s people?” to “Will you continue to serve God’s people?” (though one hopes that all candidates for ordination are continuing in service, not starting it for the first time), and allowing communities to decide for themselves whether or not they want to call it ordination. Call it what you like; that’s what it is. A rose by any other name…

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In Statu Embarassmentionis

by Paul R. Hinlicky — March 12, 2010

Six months have now passed since the event which will go down in history as the shoals struck in the slow, miserable shipwreck of the ELCA. It will be a slow, painful drowning, not a dramatic plunge like the fishing trawler at the end of the movie “The Perfect Storm.” It is a confused and confusing situation, a compound of panic and denial. Today we find ourselves not so much in statu confessionis at an apostate and persecuting church, but rather, so to speak, in statu embarassmentionis in a disintegrating one which has made us all de facto congregationalists...

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Why There Must Be New Beginnings

by Robert Benne — January 16, 2010

I wrote the following tract independently of editor Sarah Hinlicky Wilson’s lengthy editorial entitled “Why Stay?” in the Winter 2009 issue of Lutheran Forum. While my ensuing piece does not deal directly with all the points she raises, it is an effort to give reasons for participating in CORE’s new beginnings. Participating in CORE’s new association and/or church will mean “departing” from the ELCA, though that “departing” will mean different things for different people and congregations. While respect is due those who decide to stay fully in the ELCA to persevere and resist, there are many compelling reasons to “depart” and to shift loyalties and support to CORE’s independent association for renewal and/or a new Lutheran church. In addition to the points I have elaborated in the main body of the essay, I would like to list three objective facts that are pushing CORE to establish both an association for all Lutherans who want to envision and model Lutheranism at its best as well as a new church for those congregations who decide they must leave...

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Marriage Analogies: Hinlicky Responds to Benne

by Paul R. Hinlicky — December 01, 2009

Unlike those who deliver pronouncements and then blame others merely for not agreeing with their superior insights, Pastor Ley and now Prof. Bob Benne are exemplary interlocutors. They assume an opponent’s good faith, engage substantively with their arguments, give reasons for apparent dissent and then press opponents to make their own ideas clearer in the face of objections. Good critics do not impose an alien standard from a posture of superiority but rather ask disputants in terms of their own best concerns to explain their meaning in view of possible objections. The benefit of this kind of rational and charitable deliberation is that, if certain ideas come consequently to be seen to contain repugnant implications, one can draw back. Or, in turn, if objections fail to sustain logical or evidential force, the objections of good critics nevertheless move the common deliberation of the matter forward by exposing or eliminating unworthy resistance to what may prove to be a faithful, albeit innovative, development of Christian teaching. I can think of several famous cases for the latter from the history of doctrine: the homoousios of the Nicene Creed and Luther’s insertion of the exclusive particle, alone, in his translation of Romans 3:28...

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A Substitute Motion from the Dustbin

by Sarah Wilson — November 25, 2009

Some of us regular commentators on the Sexuality Statement and Recommendation earlier this year put together this substitute motion for the churchwide assembly, our proposal to replace what was originally offered. As far as I know, nothing ever happened with it, and it's pretty unlikely it would've gone anywhere anyway. But the arguments are still sound, so we offer it here as a matter of interest and edification...

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Marriage Analogies: A Further Response

by Robert Benne — November 23, 2009

I am hesitant to join in this debate with my colleague, Paul Hinlicky, because I had hoped that he would not take the opportunity upon receiving a trenchant critique by Pastor Ley to respond by reiterating his argument for “recognizing but not blessing” gay and lesbian unions. Hinlicky’s argument had caused quite an uproar earlier among orthodox dissenters in the ELCA because it seemed to be another sort of argument for reaching the same conclusion, the public recognition of gay and lesbian unions. Reiterating that argument has the possibility of igniting sharp differences between him and the vast majority of CORE members whose company he had recently joined, and therefore would jeopardize his role in the unfolding of CORE. So I am hesitant to add momentum to a conversation that can be damaging to his role in CORE and to the CORE project itself. Re-starting this debate does a service to neither him nor the movement. And it upsets me because I want one of the most productive and creative Lutheran theologians in America “on our side”...

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Marriage Analogies: A Response to a Response

by Paul R. Hinlicky — November 17, 2009

I am grateful to Pastor Ley for his exemplary challenge to the possibility I have lifted up since 2005 of the “recognition, not blessing” of same-sex unions in the context of Christian community. He is not the only one to have objected, but he has made the best case against it. We need his kind of carefully reasoned and theologically acute questioning, in which participants intend Christian orthodoxy and charitably assume the same of others in the face of apparent disagreement. As pastoral theologians addressing controverted matters, we should aspire to submitting our possible solutions to vexing problems to the mind and judgment of the church under the Word and keep ours egos out of it. In replying to his challenge accordingly, I want to acknowledge that I don’t have a vested interest in my own pet idea of “recognition, not blessing”; it is indeed possible that I can be persuaded that it “untenable,” perhaps even “silly,” as one not-so-exemplary interlocutor put it. Before I deal with that, however, it is worth a moment to reflect on the history of my idea...

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An Analogy between Heterosexual Remarriage and Homosexual Marriage?

by Lauren R. Ley — November 07, 2009

In past months I have come to support the view that the blessing of homosexual relationships, even if described as just and loving, undermines the divine institution of marriage. Proponents of same-sex marriages ruefully point out that serial marriages don’t inspire respect for Christian marriage either. Yet the church still supports remarriage after divorce. Many people need remarriage to keep from an even worse fate, fornication, promiscuity, sexual addictions, crippling loneliness, etc. If this is true of heterosexuals, might it not be true also for homosexuals?...

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Bodies and the Body

by Amy C. Schifrin — November 02, 2009

When I visit my white-haired saints in the nursing home and ask them how they are, not one of them has ever said, “Well, Pastor, I’m in this existential morass.” They talk about their aching shoulders and their failing eyesight; they show me their scars, which are more than I’d ever wanted to see; and at the last, when they really trust me, they include me among those who know the particularities of their digestive malfunctions. It’s the body they talk about: what can be seen, felt, and touched. They talk about that which can experience pain. They talk about that which can be resurrected...

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Response to a Bishop's Communication on the CWA

by Steve Carlson — October 24, 2009

I am currently an ELCA pastor of two rural congregations in western Wisconsin near the city of Menomonie in the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin. Near the time of the end of the churchwide assembly, our synodical bishop, Duane Pederson, sent out a communication to all in our synod, summarizing his observations. To my ears it sounded like a “party line” communication that had little respect for the bound consciences of those opposed to the controversial decisions at churchwide. I thought there should be a synod-wide response to this letter, but when I met the bishop on September 24, 2009 at a conference pastors meeting, he said there would not be one (through the Synod website, or presumably through their email system with us pastors, either). I expected that, but given all the local optioning that has been allowed in recent years, I thought I would give it a try. So I have sought another avenue to bring this to greater light—not only his letter but also my response to it, which both my congregations and the bishop himself have seen...

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Broken Keys

by Ian Wolfe — October 21, 2009

The church has given to her ordained ministers through the gift of the Holy Spirit the power and authority to exercise the apostolic ministry to bind and loose sin. Traditionally Luther’s Small Catechism included a section on the Office of the Keys, although not written by Luther himself. I note with regret that current editions of the Small Catechism from Augsburg Fortress have omitted any discussion about the Office of the Keys. The third question on the Office of the Keys included in most every edition of the Small Catechism is: “What do you believe according to these words [John 20:22-23]? I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself”...

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The View from the "Other Side"

by John Stendahl — October 17, 2009

An ELCA pastor sent this to us as an example of the kind of hermeneutical and exegetical reasoning behind support for the marriage and ordination of homosexual persons. We present it here in the interest of promoting a fair and open dialogue, allowing people to speak for themselves. We especially ask commenters here to take the arguments presented at their strongest and best, since it remains our conviction that only through honest debate, not polemic and pot-shots, that we have any hope of resolving this divisive issue...

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The ELCA’s Recent Decisions in Light of Scientific Research

by Mark Ellingsen — October 09, 2009

With the ELCA Assembly’s approval of the Sexuality Statement and the associated resolutions, it is high time that all sides go to the meat of the matter, to try to understand precisely what homosexuality is. Recent neurobiological breakthroughs on this subject and the consequences of findings of the Human Genome Project for the ELCA’s decisions simply did not receive the attention they deserved, just as the media in general has not promoted this data in our broader public discussions. Why not? Let’s see...

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A Still More Excellent Way

by Erma Seaton Wolf — September 25, 2009

We needed a more excellent way. All of us, there in the Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis, were locked into this most unchurchly of debates that would be settled in this most unchurchly of manners. The democratic process of majority rule is good for many things, but determining the path for a church body to thread through a highly contentious theological issue is not one of them. And this church failed. It failed all of us, all those who rejoiced at the outcome of all the votes, all those who sat with their faces like flint at the bitterness of the end of this road. And we failed the Church, all of us together, in that carefully quota-determined equally-chosen membership of those not-delegates not-representative-but-still-speaking-for-all-of-us highest legislative body in “this church,” for we did not, could not find the more excellent way that Paul spoke of in his struggle with his divided church in Corinth...

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One Church’s Response

by Sarah Wilson — September 19, 2009

The council of a congregation in the Lower Susquehanna Synod has made these resolutions pending approval at the annual congregational meeting...

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Reflections from an Ecumenist, a Charismatic, and a Philosopher

by Sarah Wilson — September 14, 2009

Michael Root, recently retired dean of Southern Seminary and long-time ecumenist, has started a blog on the state of the ELCA after the Churchwide Assembly that is well worth the reading. Larry Christenson, retired ELCA pastor and contributor to the current issue of Lutheran Forum, recently shared his thoughts on the aftermath of the CWA...

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The Loyal Opposition

by Dan Biles — September 09, 2009

The issue in the ELCA, post-churchwide assembly is: What are we going to do now? How will we live together in this very fractured church, in spite of our disagreements? Some advocate leaving the ELCA and forming a new Lutheran church altogether. I do not think it is viable alternative. It strikes me as sectarianism, even if it goes by the name Lutheran. Those who cut off from a relationship always bring the wounds from the previous relationship into any new church they create, usually in unhealthy ways. So, if we stay, how shall we live? Borrowing from our English and American political history, I suggest that we become the loyal opposition...

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Post-Mortem: Separation, Not Divorce

by Paul R. Hinlicky — September 05, 2009

The shipwreck in Minneapolis has now taken place. The ELCA was organized twenty years ago with this outcome in mind, as we warned at that time at the Call to Faithfulness conferences. It took longer than the religious Left expected, indeed ten years of hard battering on the gates (with the collusion of the church bureaucracy) before exhausted and out-spent defenders collapsed. There are still some in the agonized middle of this dispute who cling to the thought that “structured flexibility” and “bound conscience” represent a workable “live and let live” solution. A valid sentiment, but, unhappily, wishful thinking...

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Time to Exercise Your Bound Conscience

by Sarah Wilson — September 02, 2009

So, here we stand. A tiny portion of the ELCA's membership, somewhat more than 500 people, have decided at a single event to overturn the historic teaching of the church, without any real attempt to back it up scripturally or theologically or even persuade most members of the church. Alas. But they have thrown us a bone--we are allowed to exercise our bound consciences. So let's get to work. Here are three continuing resolutions proposed by various persons in the ELCA and sent to us at LF--we are going to let them remain nameless, lest their bound consciences come under attack by other bound consciences--for congregations to consider adopting as part of their constitutions...

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Assembly Coverage

by Sarah Wilson — August 17, 2009

The ELCA churchwide assembly takes place from the 17th to the 23rd of August. Our colleague at Forum Letter, Richard O. Johnson, is attending and his live reporting is available through the ALPB site. Please click over there for up-to-the-minute information. Our own coverage and commentary here will resume in September.

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Now in Print

Winter 2014


Winter 2014 Cover

In this issue:

Reintroducing Candlemas

St. Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg,
Morningstar of India

The Book That Cost a Cow

A Sermon Commemorating
the Outbreak of World War I

Learning to Love Leviticus

The Ecclesiological
Implications of an Open Table

...and much, much more!

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