Seminarians for Structured Flexibility: ELCA seminarians are the latest group of celebrity endorsers to offer an opinion about the recommendations accompanying the ELCA's proposed social statement on human sexuality. AN OPEN LETTER FROM LUTHERAN SEMINARIANS TO THE BISHOPS OF THE ELCA was composed by Benjamin Cherland, Heidi Lemke, Karri Whipple, and Marcie Zook and as of this writing, there are 239 signatories. The signers support the recommendations put forward by the task force that drafted the social statement:
After careful consideration of the issue at hand and its influence on the life of the church, we stand in solidarity affirming the recommendation for structured flexibility within the rostering requirements of the ELCA. Acknowledging the potential limitations of structured flexibility, we nonetheless seek here to establish our steadfast support for the rostering of "members who are in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gendered relationships."
More Than 10 Million Served: On April 29, the Faith Sharing Counter ("number of unreached or uncommitted people with whom the Gospel has been shared") for the Ablaze! program of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) passed the 10 million mark.
Begun in 2004, Ablaze! is an evangelism initiative to "ignite 100 million hearts with the Gospel!" by the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, October 31, 2017.
Interested Laymen: You may know that in 2005 Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) President Gerald Kieschnick appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG) and charged it to:
...do a thorough, zero-based assessment of the entirety of the system of governance and organizational structure ... [with] recommended improvements [that] ... suggest a form of structure and governance for the decades ahead that is appropriately representative, incorporating sufficient checks and balances of authority without being cumbersome, clumsy, or excessively complex. It should facilitate maximum operating efficiency in behalf of and in support of the members of our Synod in accomplishing the mission of our Lord and His church…
BRTFSSG will present its final report to the Synod's 2010 convention.
LCMS District Conventions in 2009 have the opportunity to hear an interim report from the BRTFSSG on 20 topics. Attendees at district conventions also have the opportunity to participate in a BRTFSSG survey.
Recently, four men (Eric Ramer, Stephen R. Johnson, Ken Meier, and Robert Rodefeld) who have come to be known collectively as the Interested Laymen have put the 39-question BRTFSSG survey on a web site for anyone to take. The Interested Laymen sent an invitation to participate to all LCMS clergy with the request to pass the invitation to other LCMS members:
We thought it would be a good idea for every member of churches in our synod to have a chance to take the BRTFSSG survey and provide input to this process.Not everyone agreed it was such a good idea. According to reports on the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (ALPB) on-line forum and the Brothers of John the Steadfast blog, the LCMS Council of Presidents has resolved to discourage participation in the unauthorized survey. Atlantic District President David Benke, writing on behalf of the Council of Presidents, has asked the interested laymen to cease and desist. They have done neither. Stay tuned.
Twenty Questions: In March, Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison fired Ruth Kolpak who had served as pastoral associate St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Beloit, WI. Sloth Never Looked So Good: If you're going to do nothing, you might as well do it in style. Tell the world you aren't afraid to sin boldy by slipping into the Official LutheranConfessions.com T-SHIRT! Be the Life of the Party:
Details of Ms. Kolpak's dismissal were scanty in March. The communications director for the diocese noted a the time:
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It is out of respect for the dignity and good reputation of every person involved, in this and all personnel matters, that specifics cannot and will not be discussed.
But questions persisted, and ultimately the diocese issued a document titled Points of Clarification: FAQs, regarding Ms. Ruth Kolpack, and a bishop’s responsibility featuring twenty questions over a wide range of topics:
Question 1 "Why was Ms. Kolpack fired?",
Question 4 "You keep talking about 'catechesis.' What is that?"
There's an evasive quality to some of the answers. See, for example, question 10 which reads in part:
Q: Is it true that Ms. Kolpack was not given an opportunity to confront her accusers, and that there was no due process in this matter?
A: What is true is that this should never have happened. A bishop should be able to trust that every priest, deacon, religious and lay person tasked with catechesis is teaching the truths of the Church. But this is not always the case.
Question 16 includes a multi-part answer that not only summarizes the Roman Catholic Church's stands on both gay marriage and the ordination of women, but also dismisses the possiblity of dissent within the church.
Regarding gay marriage:
Thus, homosexual acts, are "sins gravely contrary to chastity," and therefore, "all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions."
Priestly ordination is denied to women in part because of Matthew 9:15:
Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?.
Apparently the church's reasoning is that since there can be no female bridegrooms (see the discussion of gay marriage), ordination is not available to women.
Regarding dissent, question 16 says:
[I]f one is unable to give personal assent to this teaching of the Church, if one chooses to challenge it publicly or teach to the contrary, they have, by definition, removed themselves from full Communion with the Catholic Church.
Church and Marriage in Kenya: In Kenya, there are seven Acts of Parliament relating to Marriage — Marriage Act (passed in 1902), African Christian Marriage and Divorce Act (passed in 1931), Matrimonial Causes Act (1941), Subordinate Courts (Separation and Maintenance Act), Mohammedan Marriage and Divorce Registration Act, Mohammedan Marriage Divorce and Succession Act and the Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act. All the laws regarding marriage pre-date Kenyan independence and are, in general, based on English laws which have long since been updated or repealed in England.
After Kenyan independence in 1963, a revision of marriage laws was attempted in 1970, but failed.
In 2007 another marriage act was proposed, a single piece of legislation to replace the existing laws. That measure is expected to come before Kenya's Parliament this year.
One aim of the bill is to bring all the various forms of marriage in Kenya under an act of Parliament and to make marriages easier to register. Currently "customary" marriages are not registered, and without registration, proof of marriage depends on testimony of elders and relatives. The new bill would also recognize marriage by cohabitation: couples that have lived together for at least two years may apply for a marriage certificate.
The bill is the first piece of marriage legislation in Kenya to set a minimum age (18) for marriage for both men and women.
The proposed marriage act would also recognize polygamous marriages and establish rules for polygamous relationships: couples applying for marriage certificates must declare in advance whether the marriage will be monogamous or polygamous and disclose any partners with marital rights.
The Episcopal News Service picking up a story from Ecumenical News International reports that church leaders have seized on the provisions regarding polygamous marriage and called for rejection of the bill:
Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi: The law will confuse citizens. It will cause chaos in families. It should be rejected.
Rev. David Gathanju, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa: As Christians, we do not permit polygamy. Neither is it the solution for relationships outside marriage.
Rev. Calistus Nyagilo, the Nairobi Roman Catholic Archdiocese administrative secretary: When we allow polygamy, we go back hundreds of years.
We were unable to find any public statements from Evangelical Lutheran Church In Kenya (ELCK) Presiding Bishop Dr. Walter Obare Omwanza about the proposed legislation.
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