Monday, August 13, 2007

ELCA Lutherans to allow pastors in gay relationships

From Reuters:
Homosexual Lutheran clergy who are in sexual relationships will be able to serve as pastors, the largest U.S. Lutheran body said on Saturday.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed a resolution at its annual assembly urging bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in "faithful committed same-gender relationships."

The resolution passed by a vote of 538-431.

"The Church ... has just said 'Do not do punishments'," said Phil Soucy, spokesman for Lutherans Concerned, a gay-lesbian rights group within the church. "That is huge."

The ELCA, which has 4.8 million members, had previously allowed gays to serve as pastors so long as they abstained from sexual relations.

The conference also instructed a committee that is developing a social statement on sexuality to further investigate the issue. The committee is scheduled to release its report in 2009.

Since the ELCA was founded in 1988, the group has ordered three pastors in gay relationships to be removed from their ministries. The most recent case was decided in July when the ELCA's committee on appeals voted to remove an openly gay pastor from St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta.

The gay clergy issue has become a flashpoint in other faiths, including the Anglican Church.
That's a 55% majority. Quite large--but not overwhelming. One wonders what this means for the ELCA? For Lutheranism in America? I presume there will be a fair number of folk (45%?) who strongly disagree with this new "law" in the ELCA.

Are evangelical catholic Lutherans in the ELCA now asking "What does this mean for us?" Will they go LCMS? Will they leave the Lutheran Church entirely for some other body (Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical?).

On majorities, I was inspired to thought by a petition in yesterday's Prayer of the Faithful in my local parish:
"Let us pray for our elected representatives in the goverment, that they remember they are elected to serve everyone, and not just minorities".
I immediately thought that the better prayer would have been " serve everyone, and not just majorities".


At Monday, August 13, 2007 1:57:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

IMHO, we've got plenty of room for the many fine confessional Lutherans who have endured much from the ELCA, and I'd love to see them! How much more is needed to demonstrate that this church body, whatever its name, has nothing to do with Lutheranism?

At Monday, August 13, 2007 8:38:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Or, in much the same way that you argue about the Post-Vatican II Church, one could argue that ELCA Lutheranism is where Lutheranism will always end up when it follows its essential nature to the final conclusion. But then, arguing in that way would be uncharitable.

At Monday, August 13, 2007 11:44:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

Good point, David. It seems to me that ELCA Lutherans are not going to leave the ELCA en masse. It's just not going to happen. If anything, those LCMS congregations that do practice intercommunion with the ELCA (and they are out there) are in the greater danger of going down the same road. I've visited enough former LCMS congregations that now belong to the ELCA.

If I may, since the "Jump" post has been archived I would like to address Past Elder's post about Jaroslav Pelikan (only this one time, I promise, and then I'm done with it).

First of all, I have never been in any Lutheran pastor's study (and I've seen a few) that did not incorporate Pelikan's scholarly works.

I still remember the chapter in his acclaimed work "The Riddle of Roman Catholicism" dealing with conversion and ecumenism that at that time he felt Christians should stay where they were planted, otherwise the continual traffice between the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox worlds would simply impede the reunion of the churches. Obviously he turned around on that position (as did most of us posting here).

I wasn't aware of Pelikan's association with Collegeville prior to my becoming Catholic. It is interesting though that in the end he did not seek a "purer" form of Lutheranism but did indeed swim the Bosphorus. In fact Pelikan's father, a Slovak Lutheran pastor once told him that "he combined German Lutheran scholarship and Slavic Orthodox piety." Keeping in mind Pelikan's Slovak/Serbian roots there's a clue there although ethnic influence would never have been enough in Pelkan's case. He was simply too well informed for that.

As far as Eugene Kennedy is concerned, I remember reading several of his books many years ago. Even then, as a Lutheran, I recognized his thinking for what it was. Just lump him in with the Richard McBriens, et al. and the graying heads of Call To Action.

At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 1:01:00 am , Anonymous Joshua Martin said...

As I read on another blog referring to Episcopalians, the best advice for any ELCA members aghast at this is (to quote Tolkien): "Fly, you fools!" (Cf. Rev 18:4.)

At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 1:17:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Are evangelical catholic Lutherans in the ELCA now asking "What does this mean for us?" Will they go LCMS? Will they leave the Lutheran Church entirely for some other body (Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical?).

Well, so far the flow of ELCA Lutheran scholars has been in the direction of Rome and Constantinople. And a couple from the LCMS have come home to Rome.

I'm waiting to see how long Carl Braaten will hold on. So far he has maintained his determination to remain in the ELCA but after his letter to the presiding bishop was published, I am left wondering.

At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 7:38:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

A "Chuckle Nod" to Joshua (I've just coined the term) for the Tolkien/Revelation reference. I can just see Gandalf crying out to the 45% of the faithful in the ELCA, standing there like startled rabbits as the Balrog approaches!

Christine, re Pelikan, he was a giant on the 20th Century historical theology scene. Pity he never wrote his Apologia to tell us the whys and wherefores of his conversion. I actually phoned him once to ask this question. See my old blog at for the response.

And Braaten? Well, don't hold your breath. You only have to read his Open Letter to Bishop Mark Hanson ( to find out what he is thinking.

Interesting, I found this thread on the ALPB Forum Online discussion board about whether disaffected ELCAers would go LCMS or not. It started in March and is still going at 25 pages long:

At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 9:54:00 am , Anonymous William Tighe said...


or else simply go to and then click on "Mere Comments" at the top.


At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 10:34:00 am , Blogger Peter said...

I recall reading a spoof some years back in the form of a fictional news write up of the 'first ordination of a practicing lesbian bishop' in the Anglican communion. The spoof included all the usual cliches such as liturgical dancers, smoking ceremonies, a feminist trinity and so on. What caught my attention at the time was the portrayal of three traditional anglicans praying in the back pew. Two of which were in tears as they prayed while a third kept shaking his head saying "One more thing, just ONE more thing and I'm outa here!"

I chuckled at the time, but then thought, what will it take for me to leave the Lutherans? Just one more thing? Maybe two? How much will I endure for the sake of my own comfort, salary, friendships and family?

The scary thing today was googling
for that old spoof by typing "ordinarion of lesbian bishop" yielded so many articles about so called ordaintions of lesbian bishops that, well, the joke is nowhere to be found. Or, rather, perhaps the joke is EVERYWHERE to be found?

At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 1:32:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Judas H Living Priest on a raft.

ELCA Lutheranism is where Lutheranism will always end up when it denies its essential nature, falisifies and/or modernistically reinvents the faith of the Confessions as Vatican II did the Catholic faith and follows the essential nature of THAT to its final conclusion.

Bless us and save us, Mrs O'Davis.

Hell's Bells, the whole LCMS synod is in danger of going down the same road, about a quarter to a half century after them! I'd hate it if that happens, but bottom line, if it does, so bloody what? I didn't profess the faith of Jesus Christ as accurately taught in the LCMS, and I don't mean LCMS when I profess belief in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church!

What! You don't believe in Parent, Redeemer and Sanctifier? Heard that one at Mass (as distinct from mass). From a nun.

At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 4:41:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

What is it you think I said about Pelikan?

He was a close personal friend of one of the most liberal voices from the abbey and a charter board member of one of the most liberal "ecumenical" think tanks, sponsored by the abbey, none of which is inconsistent with being a renowned scholar. They've got a ton of them up there.

I knew these guys. I'm not about to say I didn't see what I saw and heard what I heard.

I could probably get elected President of the Missouri Synod and they'd still send appeals for money! God bless me, they have donor levels named for guys who taught me! I'll try to fish out my copy of "Renew, Create and (something else, can't remember)" that Godfrey gave me on the way back from a lecture on Etruscan art. I think that's where I learned that "obedience" was now "creative fidelity".

Jumping Judas Priest.

Speaking of Lutheran pastors studies, I'm amazed at how often one finds Bishop Sheen's "Life of Christ" in them. Then again, I've seen much more Richard McBrien than Sheen et al. in priest's studies -- those who have them, that is.

At Tuesday, August 14, 2007 11:14:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

Christine, re Pelikan, he was a giant on the 20th Century historical theology scene.

Yes, David he certainly was.

I do recall reading Carl Braaten's letter to Bishop Hanson. Braaten was always one of my favorite Lutheran theologlians. The chapter on the Lutheran Confessions in his book "Principles of Lutheran Theology" alone made it worth buying the book.

Braaten is a fine example of what true evangelical catholicity represents.

Good to see the eminent Dr. Tighe posting here!

At Wednesday, August 15, 2007 6:44:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Hell's Bells, the whole LCMS synod is in danger of going down the same road, about a quarter to a half century after them!

Shoot, might be sooner than that. Go online and read the Pentecost 2007 issue of the DayStar Journal, particularly Pastor Karl Wyneken's "Let's Include Women in the Pastoral Office."

Yes, Virginia, the LCMS does have a left wing with its own set of hermeneutics. Their time will come.

Another very interesting observation from this issue regarding the Specific Ministry Pastor Program and how it will reshape the pastoral ministry in the LCMS. I see the seeds of it in the LCMS mission congregation in my neighborhood and what it portends for the LCMS.

Daystar Journal notes that:

5. A further splintering of the unity of the Synod. As an outgrowth of the loss of catholicity, parishes served by the Specific Ministry pastor will be more and more disengaged from the theological life of the Synod and ultimately from the Synod itself.

Older Missouri Synod Lutherans can remember when one could visit any LC-MS congregation and feel at home with the theology and worship of that congregation. Variations in practice have always existed, of course. But the goal was always unity of doctrine.
I've commented several times on the truth of that statement. It was what I experienced in the LCMS growing up.

The LCMS, becoming another American Protestant denomination.

At Thursday, August 16, 2007 9:13:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

I too am very honoured by Dr Tighe's visit to this blog. And astounded by the long discussion on this matter in the comments to the Touchstone link. It shows this is a live issue in the States.

And PE, I don't get your logic. You say that "ELCA Lutheranism is where Lutheranism will always end up when it denies its essential nature, falisifies and/or modernistically reinvents the faith of the Confessions as Vatican II did the Catholic faith and follows the essential nature of THAT to its final conclusion."

But how come then the ELCA is going in a direction completely opposite to that of the Catholic Church, which has remained steadfastly against both women priests and homosexual activity?

At Thursday, August 16, 2007 11:18:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

As troubling as those two developments are, I am even more nonplussed by what has happened in the ELCA since that body established full communion with the UCC, ECUSA, Presbyterian Church, et al. After redefining "satis est" down to the lowest common denominator and having shed in practice, if not officially, any pretense of being bound by the Confessions the ECLA continues to travel in complete opposite directions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

It is simply an illusion that the ELCA and the Catholic Church are in the same boat.

At Friday, August 17, 2007 1:31:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm pretty impressed by that prayer re: minorities.

Although I certainly see your point, David.

At Friday, August 17, 2007 1:39:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

How about that? Christine and I agree! The ELCA and the Catholic Church are not in the same boat. Institutionally: their respective liberals are much the same. The ELCA and the catholic church are not in the same boat. The ELCA and the evangelical Lutheran church are not in the same boat.

Now, brother, the antecedent for "THAT" in my comment was "falisifies and/or modernistically reinvents the faith of the Confessions". Which I then likened to Vatican II falsifying and modernistically reinventing the Catholic faith. Sentence construction wasn't very good on my part -- and my feeling that English isn't the best language for serious thought anyway. My dissertation adviser (who went through my text with Strunk in one hand and the University of Chicago Manual of Style in the other) often complained that my English read like a literal translation of something from German.

The destinations of the ELCA and the Roman Church are different, but they are the alike in being not the historic confession and practice of Lutheranism and Catholicism, respectively. That's what I meant.

At Friday, August 17, 2007 11:02:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

PE, my husband was teasing me terribly yesterday as we traded observations about the pre and post-conciliar church.

In the old days, he says, he could get in and out of Mass in 45 minutes or less. Since there was only a one-year lectionary we didn't have to be bothered by three readings, one from the Old Testament yet (which thoroughly explains why my very devout Irish co-worker who grew up in the "good old days" had absolutely no clue that there was a Temple sacrificial system in the OT).

Further, said himself, all this handshaking and singing gets on my nerves. In the old days we just let the priest do what he was being paid to do -- entertain us with the altar servers. Nowadays the little old ladies can't even pray their rosary throughout the Mass because there's so much going on.

The Bible? Never saw or read one in his home.

Then he gives me a big grin and walks out the room.

Isn't he terrible?

At Saturday, August 18, 2007 2:06:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Amy Welborn reports:

Yesterday evening, the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (is that right?…..) was celebrated in St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in Burlington Vermont. Celebrated by Burlington Bishop Salvatore Matano. The church was apparently packed - as you can see from the video, and you might want to take a look a the television news report here. Kudos for reporter for describing things accurately - the priests facing the same way as the people, not with his back to ‘em, for example.

Of course, the media still routinely confuse the Tridentine rite with the "Latin Mass" in the Novus Ordo, but they'll figure it out in time.

It's beginning. Deo Gratias!

At Saturday, August 18, 2007 2:21:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

No, it's ending. Or rather, it's ended. The novus ordo in any language, including its original Latin, is still the novus ordo, now designated as the ordinary rite of the Roman church, and the "extraordinary" rite is allowed under the cunning co-opt Motu only by recognition of it as valid. Which cannot be. That's the issue. Not the language, the rite.

At Sunday, August 19, 2007 10:43:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Oh I don't know, Past Elder. A priest, can't remember his name, said he expects it to take about ten years before people "get it" again. Who knows -- as the younger generation prays in the way of their forefathers it could sow some seeds. As a people pray, so they believe. We shall see.

A friend of mine who desparately pines for the old days tried attending an SSPX chapel. She said it just wasn't the same, she didn't feel at home.

At Sunday, August 19, 2007 12:39:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

That's the issue. Not the language, the rite. Which got me thinking about my husband's little Polish American grandmother (very petite lady). The woman got a sixth grade education and then worked here entire life, up until she was almost 80 as a seamstress.

She was a faithful communicant at her parish all her life. Never missed a Sunday.

When the Mass began to be offered in the vernacular, she never missed a beat. Know what? If someone had asked her the difference between the "Novus Ordo" and "Tridentine" rites she probably would have given them a look of total incomprehension.

All she knew was that each Sunday at Mass she received the Body and Blood of her Savior and it was enough.

I suspect for the many folks who will rejoice at the return of the Tridentine, even "extraordinarily" they won't much care either.

I was just surfing the website of the SSPV. They aren't "sure" that there's a valid Pope on the chair of St. Peter.

These splinter groups are a hoot.


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