Saturday, August 11, 2018

Riding off to a larger stage. . .

So it is time to move on. . . for Nadia Bolz-Weber, anyway.  She has become an icon of the ELCA and its envisioned future of welcome without judgment, of a God who loves you as you are, and with an edginess that is just offensive enough to be interesting (not unlike some of our favorite comedians).  But she has decided there is a larger stage than her congregation.  The world is her stage and she thinks she is ready for prime time.
With silvering hair, dark makeup and liturgically inspired tattoos, Nadia Bolz-Weber stood late on a Sunday afternoon in early July to celebrate her final service as pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints, the Denver church she founded a decade ago as a 39-year-old divinity student.

The service was like any other at HFASS (pronounced “half-ass”): children played freely in the aisles, the a capella choir finished its opening hymn and Bolz-Weber invoked God using both feminine and masculine imagery. Only the regular members might have noticed the presence of so many first-timers packing the church, taking a final opportunity to hear its celebrity pastor preach.

In mid-June, Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran and now one of the best-known mainline Protestant preachers in the country, announced she would be leaving to explore life as a full-time “public theologian.”
Indeed, Bolz-Weber is a former standup comedian, along with being a recovering alcoholic.  She has woven her brand of dark humor into her message of welcome and her version of rather traditional Lutheran theology mixed with a very progressive view of things that are the subject of culture wars in most churches.  Everyone knew the day was coming.  Bolz-Weber has maintained a very busy schedule of speaking engagements since she first hit the pages of a Denver paper in 2011.  What will happen to the HFASS waits to be seen though the day to day work of pastoral care and parish leadership was long ago shared and then ceded to others.

One of the concerns in all of this is that her model has lifted up a God who is met in community as much as anywhere else, perhaps more than anywhere else.  Though Bolz-Weber's congregation had Holy Communion and Bible study, the real attraction for many who came and still come has been the community -- open doors, open minds, no judgment, and no fear of the baggage that people bring.  This as much as anything else has been her key to filling the room with people.  At times she sounds thoroughly Lutheran and at other times she sounds like she has never met Luther.  Many Lutherans are not sure what to do with her but in her home in the ELCA she has become a pivotal figure for youth gatherings and church groups seeking some good news for a church that in its 25+ years has lost more members than some denominations ever had.  She insists that she is leaving to reach those who have not yet approached a church door or tried and been rebuffed.  Maybe she will prove successful but the jury is still out on whether or not she fairly or adequately represents what it means to be Christian or Lutheran.  I expect we have not heard the last of Nadia Bolz-Weber though I also expect there are other stars waiting to be noticed who will probably make her seem rather tame.  While that excites some, it gives me great concern.

BTW her current associate, Reagan Humber, is an Episcopal priest (no problem since the ELCA and ECUSA are besties) has a drag queen as a partner.  You can tune in here for more on him/her/ahhhh well, you know what I mean.


Unknown said...

"Maybe she will prove successful but the jury is still out on whether or not she fairly or adequately represents what it means to be Christian or Lutheran."

Come again?


Anonymous said...

Nadia is all about shock value in public speaking. She wants to
surprise her audience with her use of foul language. Her grasp of
Christianity is equal to a regular comedian on Saturday Night Live.

Anonymous said...

Just keep in mind that it all starts with women's ordination, and the road is always downhill from there.

I can't explain exactly why it has to be this way, but the empirical evidence all points in that direction. There are those who argue that women's minds are just as good as men's, that their pastoral sense may even be better than that of men, but all that not withstanding, this is always the outcome.

Maybe, just maybe, our parishes might want to look again at Scripture?


Carl Vehse said...

It seems that papist or Presbyterian online rags are the go-to places to find articles hyping Lufauxrans.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Veith made a striking comment in his book "Authentic Christianity" that has stuck with me. In his discussion of post modern thought he said (I'm paraphrasing) every time humanity develops their own set of laws and morality they fail in some way - he was including in this churches that teach a twisted or false doctrine. There is a reason why God established a common set of laws for mankind to follow. (Regardless whether we are able to faithfully keep this law on our own, it's a binding element that brings us to Christ.) I'm not sure how doing things such as using foul language during a service, tattooing a body, etc. are things that actually bring people to Christ vs. attract people to the leader behaving in this manner. I wonder what will happen to the church once the charismatic leader leaves? It is sad to see what is happening and I feel for the people. But God works in mysterious ways and I'm sure there will, on an individual basis, be good that comes out of even this.


Carl Vehse said...

BTW, how is heavy metal MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson doing as a LCMS pastor?!?

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Simply put, with the Age of Reason far behind us, we are moving forward in the Age of Lunacy, and Bolz Weber is a rising star among the role models. I think it is a huge black mark on the Lutheran identity, and ELCA is an embarrassment. So now that the Lutheran body has been badly maligned and polluted, what do we do? How do we reclaim it? Perhaps, we can only speak out, and we had better find the will to be more unrelenting and courageous, because Bolz Weber and her followers will make Lutheranism disappear.

Anonymous said...

Bolz Weber is not a Lutheran in the classic sense of theology.
She is her own brand of rough and tumble Christianity. Her target
audience is not white suburbanites, but a blend of down and outers
who need any type of hope available.

Pastor Peters said...

She will undoubtedly be successful in her solo career because she is both captivating and entertaining. That is not the same as being successful in speaking faithfully the faith, the whole counsel of God. In that she has proven to be rather uneven -- sometimes shining with clarity on the power of God's mercy in Christ and other times muddying the waters rather than clarifying things. In this, she is not unlike the ELCA -- occasionally right on but maddeningly off target most of the time.

Anonymous said...

"Bolz Weber is not a Lutheran in the classic sense of theology."

"Bolz Weber is not a Christian in the Biblical sense of Christianity."

There, fixed it for you.

Anonymous said...

What happens to a congregation that loses its celebrity pastor? Yes, that is a rhetorical question. That congregation will be forgotten by most people in due time.....

What happens when the Lutheran World Federation leadership tries to keep its member denominations from knowing that the International Lutheran Council exists? What are they afraid of?