St. Francis Accepts Synod Invitation: At a congregational meeting after worship on Sunday, July 25, members of St. Francis Lutheran (SF) considered the following resolution:
Resolved, that St. Francis Lutheran Church joyfully desires to be restored to membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and accepts the invitation of the Sierra Pacific Synod to begin the process.
St. Francis (along with First United Lutheran Church was expelled from the ELCA at the end of 1995. Expulsion was prescribed by a 1990 disciplinary hearing following the congregations' calls and ordinations extra ordinem of Prs. Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart, and Jeff Johnson.
It is important to note that the resolution was a statement of intent, a response to the invitation offered to the congregation by the most recent synod assembly. The resolution was not in itself a proposal to return to ELCA membership.
Debate was spirited and focused on practical matters: what would the process of re-joining the ELCA look like? would there be changes to the congregation's constitution? what would the timeline be? what assistance, if any, could the synod office provide in the congregation's upcoming call process?
Our reporters on the scene indicated that the congregation had given the question of ELCA membership a lot of thought and members were generally well-informed.
Voting was by written ballot and the measure passed 69 to 1.
The statement of intent allows the congregation's leaders to continue to work on the process that will bring St. Francis back into the ELCA Constitutional changes, if any are required, must be proposed and ratified, most likely at the congregation's annual meeting in early 2011. If all goes well, St. Francis could be welcomed back into ELCA membership at the Sierra Pacific Synod's 2011 assembly.
Ten Things to Like: The Sierra Pacific Synod’s July 25 Rite of Reception has come and gone. The Sierra Pacific Synod 7 (the Rev. Paul Brenner, the Rev. Jeff Johnson, the Rev. Craig Minich, the Rev. Dawn Roginski, the Rev. Megan Rohrer, and the Rev. Sharon Stalkfleet) were duly received onto the ELCA clergy roster in a ceremony that included the participation of four bishops: Bishop Mark Holmerud of the Sierra Pacific Synod, Bishop Dean Nelson of the Southwest California Synod, Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke of the Oregon Synod, and Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California. Central Great Lakes Synod bishop Thorvald “Wally” Noe-Effingway was unable to attend.
As of this writing, however, none of the newly received pastors is listed on the ELCA web site’s Rostered Leader Lookup.
The rite of reception was reported by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, the New York Times, and many others. Video clips of the service are available on the sps7rite blog.
Our ever-diligent reporters were also on the scene and charged to ferret out answers to our readers’ questions about the event: is the rite of reception anything more than a re-named rite of ordination? Could this service do anything to lighten the burden of two decades of struggle for recognition of LGBT clergy in the ELCA? Our reporters failed to submit a timely news report. Indeed they failed to file a news report at all. In place of their customary reportage, they offered this list of the Top Ten Things We Liked about the Service:
10. The Easter Fire: Worship planners called for an out-of-season (though one would be hard-pressed to say that resurrection is ever untimely) Easter fire on the sidewalk in front of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church where attendees could “burn their spiritual baggage”.
Our staff did not think much of this idea at first, but then they witnessed the unfolding of a small drama over the fire. A rather large, bearded attendee approached the fire with two copies of Vision and Expectations (V&E), the ELCA document that mandated celibacy of ordained leaders who are “homosexual in their self-understanding”. The bearded man inquired politely if the pamphlets could be put on the fire. Meredith Gardner, a seminarian tending the fire, replied that she didn’t think so because after all, the ELCA was not discarding Vision and Expectations entirely, the document was simply being revised. Burning the whole pamphlet, she reasoned, might be taken as an attack on standards of conduct in general. Of course, she added, if the bishop comes over and says it’s okay, then I guess it’s okay. The man thanked her, pocketed the pamphlets, and entered the church.
At the end of the service, however, the fire was still in place, and in the mean time the enterprising worshiper had torn out a scrap of paper containing the sentence that spelled out the celibacy requirement. He thanked Ms. Gardner for her guidance and contributed that scrap to the fire.
9. Dixieland Dykes: Just outside the church doors, the Dixieland Dykes ensemble of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band helped worshipers get into an appropriately celebratory mood. Their uptempo take on What a Friend We Have in Jesus was a particular hit with our reporters.
8.Original ECP Board: By coincidence, all eight original members of the board of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project were in attendance. Pictured are (l. to r.) Rev. Dr. John Elliott, Dr. Mari Irvin, Rev. Jeff Johnson, Sherry Matson, Dr. Margaret Moreland, Rev. Stan Olson, Greg Egertson, and Elizabeth Thompson. The ECP was formed in 1993 to credential openly gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender seminarians, candidates, ordained and commissioned ministers preparing for professional vocations in independent Lutheran parishes and congregations of the ELCA. In 2007, ECP merged with Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries (LLGM) to become Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM).
7. The Liturgical Parasol: There may be no more apt liturgical symbol for reconciliation, no better way to declare a safe space, than the pink, glittery, fringed parasol. The entrance procession included one accompanying the Gospel text. Being a Lutheran service, there was no second line dancing.
6. Judith Dancer: There was, however, dancing. Judith Dancer is the minister of embodiment at Ebeneezer Lutheran Church in San Francisco, and she created a dance piece to follow the first lesson, the story of Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers (Genesis 45: 4-15). While
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Gregory Jahnke, Don Pender, and Timothy Zerlang performed Selah (an instrumental piece by Steve Green, Judith danced out a story of alienation, rejection, perseverance, reconciliation and welcome.
5. The Sounding of the Shofar: At the beginning of the service, between the confession and absolution, aShofar was sounded. The Shofar, a musical horn traditionally made from the horn of a ram, is used in Jewish worship to announce the New Year and the new moon, to introduce Shabbat, to inaugurate the Jubillee Year, to carry out the commandment to sound it on Rosh Hashanah, and to mark the end of the day of fasting on Yom Kippur once the services have completed in the evening.
Our reporters insisted that the sounding of the Shofar gave this rite of reception its signature sound (“a fine, centering note”) and contrasted this with the signature sound of the first extraordinary ordinations in January, 1990. That service began with furious drumming from the Sons of Orpheus percussion ensemble.
4. The Readings: When was the last time, if ever, you heard the Hebrew scriptures read in Hebrew in Lutheran worship service? When was the last time, if ever, you heard the Gospel read by a lay person in a Lutheran worship service? Both those things happened in this service.
The first lesson was from Genesis 45, the story of Joseph being re-united with the brothers who had abused him and sold him into slavery. The text was printed in English in the service folder, but Rabbi Reuban Zellman, recently installed as assistant rabbi and music director at Congregation Beth-El in Berkeley, read the lesson in Hebrew.
Nicole Bohn, a member of First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco, took the role of Gospeler and read the parable of the generous land owner in Matthew 20.
3. Romans 9: 20 - 30: The second lesson was read by The Rev. Dr. Ev Kalin, Professor Emeritus at Pacific Lutheran Seminary and a member of the Candidacy Panel for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Romans 9: 20 - 30 reads in part:
But who are you, O human, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?..
As it is written in Hosea:
I will call them 'my people' who are not my people;and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one
It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,'You are not my people,'they will be called 'children of the living God.'
Said one of our reporters: “If that was in the Bible all along, why has this struggle been so difficult?”
2. Pr. Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Sermon: Preaching was Pr. Nadia Bolz-Weber of House for All Sinners and Saints, an ELCA mission congregation in Denver. Pr. Bolz-Weber’s introduction to Lutheran spirituality came at Pr. Ross Merkel’s church St. Paul Lutheran in Oakland. From the parable of the landowner (Matthew 20: 1-16), she described the kingdom of God:
[W]hat makes this the kingdom of God is not the quality of the people in it. The kingdom of God is like a glorious mess of a kingdom where Paris Hilton and Hilton Perez and Fred Phelps and Fredrick Beuchner and ELM pastors and Core Lutherans all receive the same mercy we never saw coming because we were too busy worrying about what everyone else is doing.
What makes Lutherans blessed is not, as I thought, that they’re somehow different from the people in the Church of Christ where I was raised. What makes us all blessed is that God comes and gets us, dumb as we are; smart and faithful as we are; just as we are. Because the kingdom of God, is founded not on the quality of the people in it but on the unrestrained and lavish mercy of the God who came and got us.
Pr. Bolz-Weber’s entire sermon is available in text and video on the Sarcastic Lutheran blog.
1. The Bishop Speaks the Confession: The Rite of Reception began with a genuine surprise, an unexpected reversal that did more than our reporters thought possible to dispel any misgivings they may have had about the event.
Bishop Holmerud introduced the rite of confession with the words ”Friends in Christ as we gather, we seek to speak the truth of the difficulties we have witnessed in our church.
Not 10 minutes earlier, our reporters had witnessed Amalia Vagts (Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries ) and ELM Covenant Circle member Dr. Margaret Moreland practicing the confession to follow. But having introduced the confession, Bishop Holmerud continued:
Our church of the reformation has been too long captive to bias and misinformation.
We have not remembered the life giving words of our own Confessions.
We have not respected the gift of sexuality, nor the joy, delight and vulnerability sexual intimacy creates between loving partners.
We have not honored faithful and loving promises, marriages, and covenantalrelationships.
We have not acted quickly enough, for some have died and have not made it tothis day.
We have not accorded all families the dignity and respect they deserve.
We have not spoken up.
We have betrayed fellow members of the body of Christ because of cultural prejudice.
We have misused Scripture as a tool of discrimination.
We have forced celibacy upon too many, a gift God grants to only a few.
We have encouraged silence and complicity.
We have promoted invisibility and dishonesty.
We have hardened our hearts with bitterness and condescension.
We have intimidated and disciplined, censured and expelled.
Our actions have destroyed faith and have led people away from the gospel's call to love and justice.
Bishop Holmerud stopped speaking, the Shofar was sounded. After a moment of silence, Amalia and Margaret spoke the response they had not rehearsed:
But now thus says the Holy One who created you, who formed you:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Thus says the Holy One who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,...
Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
To give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
Bishop Holmerud then pronounced the absolution, and the entrance procession began.
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