Friday, July 23, 2010
Distinction and Difference
The article described the observance of No Fossil Fuel Sunday on August 1 -- an event designed "to send a message of accountability to oil companies." It mentioned three congregations of the ELCA -- three of which I knew (well, used to think I knew). According to the article, the three congregations (Atonement, Saugerties; St. Paul, West Camp; and Christ (Woodstock) were plan on observing "No Fossil Fuel Sunday" by pledging to use no lights, organ, air conditioning, fans, etc... Refreshments will be made without electricity (unless made the day before). They will urge people to carpool and one Pastor is walking 15 miles for the cause.
After living just down the road from these congregations, having been friends with those serving as their Pastors, and thinking I knew them, I do not know what to make of these ELCA congregations. Have things changed so much in the nearly 18 years we have been gone from New York? At one point in time, I did not think the gap between these then LCA and my Missouri parish was so great. Now it seems we are a world apart.
I am not saying we are on opposite political sides; we may well be. What I am reacting to is making such an observance the agenda for Sunday morning worship. Surely it represents a distinct and great difference between what a member of the LCMS and a member of these ELCA congregations expect on Sunday morning. While we might both have a stewardship Sunday asking us to re-examine how we use the resources God has supplied us, this goes beyond stewardship. In fact, it replaces the proclamation of God's Word and the announcement of His kingdom with current events and trendy politics, substituting an agenda of Word and Sacrament with an ecological viewpoint as if the two were the same. I confess I do not know what to think.
It is very disconcerting to me and makes me fear for the Lutheranism that wears the ELCA brand. When local congregations substitute such blatant political posturing for the proclamation of the Gospel, it is no longer possible to assign blame merely to Higgins Road and the headquarters of this church body. It is as if we no longer speak the same terminology. What is the Gospel? When advocacy for or against certain fuels and a green agenda are seen as the equivalent of proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we have almost lost the ability to speak a common language and dialog together about the things that divide us. Such is not the language of the Confessions and represents the sad betrayal of a once great church body. I am relieved that I now live a thousand miles away for it would be even harder to watch up close this sad demise.