Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Who is the victim?

So now, after 20 years, one of the few congregations in the ELCA removed because of its gay and lesbian stance, has decided to let its painful wounds heal and rejoin the Church now on its side of the issue.  The article quoted below (Huff Post/San Francisco) describes the decades of pain and hurt they endured because of their prophetic stance and puts the emphasis upon their grace and forgiveness to end their separation from their national church body.  But who is the victim here?

First and St. Francis chose to disregard the structures of the church body to which they belonged, to violate the standards of conduct for clergy, and to flaunt this before their church by doing what was illegal.  Then, when they were treated with great patience but finally expelled, they act as if they were the victims in the whole mess.  They were not prophetic (at least in the sense of Scripture and tradition) but rebels and just because the church that kicked them out chose to rebel in similar fashion and jettison the historic faith and practice does not justify nor vindicate their claim. The victims of the ELCA mess are the faith and the practice of that faith.  ELCA knowingly chose to disconnect from the stance of the Lutheran confessions and the unbroken practice of the Church.  They were not and are not alone in their rebellion against Scripture and tradition but might does not make right.  Besides, they still and will for a very long time still represent a minority of Christians.  Other Lutherans, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Orthodox (plus Protestants like the Southern Baptists) make up the vast majority and they are on the opposite side of this issue.

The idea that these were positive and forward thinking and the rest of us are backward thinking is ludicrous.  There is no positive and forward thinking in breaking with your Christian past.  It is so very frustrating when again and again the Church is portrayed as the oppressor for being faithful and the rebels as being wise and loving and prophetic.  This is the terrible lie which is being foisted upon the people in the pews but their passivity leaves the power in the hands of those breaking with Scripture and tradition.  Christ is the victim in such lies and distortions perpetrated in the name of being prophetic, forward thinking, and loving.

Read for yourself:
After nearly two decades of separation sparked by its inclusion of a gay pastor, a San Francisco congregation has finally rejoined the Lutheran Church.

On Sunday, First United Lutheran Church voted to rejoin the church nearly three years after receiving an apology and an invitation to reunite, according to the Examiner.

The reunion follows a 17-year split between the congregation and the Lutheran church after the congregation ordained--and refused to abandon--an openly gay pastor. The congregation was suspended in 1990, and formally expelled in 1995. Another San Francisco congregation, St. Francis Lutheran Church, was also cut loose for its protection of two lesbian pastors in the same year.

Finally in 2009, The Lutheran Church voted to admit gay and lesbian pastors into the clergy, issuing an apology and an invitation to reunite to both of the San Francisco congregations.

"There's been an acknowledgment that these two congregations were forward-thinking and committed to their ministry," said Bishop Mark Holmerud to the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. "They took a stand, paid the consequences, and our church has finally seen the wisdom of our opening the rosters to all committed gay and lesbian couples. And we're all the better for it."
St. Francis Lutheran Church accepted the invitation. But members of First United, still wounded from years of exclusion due to discriminatory practices, didn't immediately embrace the invitation.
"Opinion in the community was divided," wrote First United Reverend Susan M. Strouse in a blog post about the congregation's consideration. "Some asked, 'Well, why wouldn't you?' Others, 'Why would you?'"

But on Sunday, First United finally accepted.

"It's like we've been without a part of our body," said Holmerud's assistant Nancy Nelson to the Examiner. "This is a time to celebrate a painful period in our church coming to a close."
In her blog post, Strouse described the process that eventually led to the church's decision:
"The discussion revealed some fear: of loss of identity, of uniqueness, of forgetting our history," she wrote. "It also revealed awareness: of the need to forgive, of the danger of moral superiority, of the courage of the ELCA to change the policy. And possibilities: of what gifts we could bring to the denomination, of being part of working for change from within the system, of being part of something bigger than ourselves."


Anonymous said...

The ELCA was a different church body in 1990 compared to today. Over twenty years ago, two ELCA congregations were removed by the main body over doctrinal issues. Now that the ELCA has changed, those two congregations are welcomed back.

How many congregations have split from the LCMS over the past 50 years. Some congregations left because the LCMS was considered too "conservative"; Other congregations left because it thought the LCMS was viewed too "liberal." Since the LCMS is a lot different now than in 1965 (in the years prior to the Seminex walkout), would any of those departed congregations be interested in returning. Why or why not.

Anonymous said...

I remain shocked that grandma in a rural Iowa congregation would be content for her congregation to remain in the ELCA. This implies that her congregation and a congregation in an urban, more liberal part of the country share the same values. Since many congregations have stopped sending money to ELCA headquarters, we know that this is not the case.

I do understand that many congregations have voted to join the LCMC and the NALC, but isn't the theology the same minus the homosexual issue? If it were not, then why did they all wait until 2009 to leave. Furthermore, why does grandma choose to remain in the ELCA?

Anonymous said...

"Evangelicalism is 10 miles wide and a half and inch deep, and it is getting less deep."

--Chris Rosborough

Fighting for the Faith

"Jerks of the Bible"
Broadcast August 06, 2012


On a side note, I do wonder if Lutheran theology suffers from the same disease. It is getting watered down from liberals (ELCA/NALC/LCMC) on the left, and from the Willow Creek Association and Saddleback (LCMS/AALC) on the right.

"Where's the meat?"

Anonymous said...

My mother in law, 83, is still in the ELCA. Her brother was an ELCA pastor way back when. I just heard from a relative that his own wife would sneak out of service and go to the LCMS church. Strange.