Forest Sounds, Animal Noises: Apart from official pronouncements about the proposed, recommended social statement on Human Sexuality from the taskforce that crafted the statement, the ELCA Conference of Bishops, the ELCA Church Council, and various synod assemblies, we have now begun to see what might best be called "celebrity endorsements" on all sides of the issue.
First (March 23) there were the 3 Lutheran Theologians (Carl Braaten, Robert Benne, and Paul Hinlicky) who responded to the proposed social statement on human sexuality and its accompanying recommendations: in plain language that does not do justice to their colorful remarks, they were against it.
Some time later (about April 23) The Rev. Herbert W. Chilstrom, the first presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), contributed his assessment. He was for it.
At about the same time, a letter affirming the social statement and recommendations was published with signatures from approximately 100 "teaching theologians " (At this writing, 138 people have signed the letter.) The letter was composed by Ralph W. Klein and Barbara Rossing, both on the faculty of Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC).
It is not known at this time what Garrison Keillor's opinion might be. In any case, we understand he is now an Episcopalian.
Sex and The Synod in NE Pennsylvania: On May 9, the Northeast Pennsylvania Synod will sponsor Sex and the Synod, Perspectives on Homosexuality in Scripture and Ministry at Muhlenberg College.
The day-long event is designed to find ways to help members of the synod live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements and difficult conversations about this topic.
Among the presenters are Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) professorsDr. Erik Heen and Dr. Jon Pahl and Dr. James Nestingen, professor emeritus at Luther Seminary. Dr. Pahl is among the signers of the "teaching theologians" letter noted elsewhere in this issue. We imagine the presenters disagree on many points, and their interactions should provide an instructive case study on techniques for living together faithfully in the midst of disagreements.
We feel a word of consolation to straight people in the Northeast Pennsylvania Synod might be in order: don't worry, you can have sex, too.
Synod Assembly Roundup: Four synod assemblies (Alaska, Arkansas-Oklahoma, N. Texas-N. Louisiana, and Northeastern Minnesota) were held on the last weekend in April, but apparently it is not a simple matter for news to escape from a synod assembly.
The sketchy reports we hear are that one synod (N. Texas-N. Louisiana) passed and another (Arkansas-Oklahoma) defeated resolutions urging the 2009 Churchwide Assembly to require a super majority to adopt any recommendations associated with the social statement on human sexuality. No doubt there's more to the story than those results, but people seem pre-occupied with swine flu
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Once again this year WordAlone has produced a synod assembly scorecard with dates for all synod assemblies and links to all synod web sites. As of this writing, no notes have been published for the 2009 assemblies.
Lobby Day: On Tuesday, April 28, dozens of faith leaders representing the Transgender Religious Leaders Network went to Washington, D.C. to encourage legislators to support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913). H.R. 1913 extends existing federal protections to include "gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability" and allows the Justice Department to assist in hate crime investigations.
In addition to contacts with individual legislators, the faith leaders delivered an open letter signed by 55 religious leaders urging passage of H.R. 1913.
Among the faith leaders were Lutherans Nicole Garcia representing Lutherans Concerned/North America (LCNA), Seth Donovan, Pr. Megan Rohrer, and Pr. Jay Wilson. Prs. Rohrer and Wilson are rostered with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM).
On Wednesday April 29, the full House of Representatives approved H.R. 1913 by a vote of 249 to 175.
PLTS is RIC: Our far-flung reporters filed their reports at 10:35AM on April 26: the board of directors of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) voted sometime, no one could say precisely when, on Saturday, April 25 to re-affirm the seminary's statement of welcome and to seek designation as a Reconciling in Christ seminary, the ELCA's first.
The PLTS statement of welcome reads in part:
PLTS is an inclusive community and offers hospitality to all who participate in our programs of study. As disciples of Christ committed to public leadership among Godís people in diverse and challenging cultural contexts, we eagerly learn from and welcome one anotherís diversity, including, but not limited to, theological perspective, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, relationship status, age, physical ability, social and economic status and sexual orientation.
Our reporters indicate that the Board of Directors moved into executive session for a little more than two hours to consider the matter. When the meeting went back into open session, observers were admitted including a number of seminarians, who, having apparently completed their sermons and worship plans for Sunday, were in a celebratory mood. We understand that the vote taken in open session was unanimous.
The Reconciling in Christ program is a project of Lutherans Concerned North America (LCNA). Begun in 1984, the program now includes 360 ELCA congregations, 23 synods, and 17 ELCA organizations.
At 4:30 on April 26 we received email from PLTS Seminary Relations with a link to a press release on the PLTS web site.
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