Prop. 8 to Stand (For Now): Promptly at 10:00AM on Tuesday May 26, 2009, the Supreme Court of California posted it's opinion in the matter of the legal challenges to Proposition 8 the ballot initiative (approved by a majority of those voting in November, 2008) that amended the California constitution to revoke the right of same-sex couples to marry. The court decided to let Proposition 8 stand:
Having been approved by a majority of the voters at the November 4, 2008 election, the initiative measure lawfully amends the California Constitution to include the new provision as article I, section 7.5.
The court was also asked to rule on the approximately 18,000 same-sex marriages that were licensed in California between May and November, 2008:
Applying well-established legal principles pertinent to the question whether a constitutional provision should be interpreted to apply prospectively or retroactively, we conclude that the new section cannot properly be interpreted to apply retroactively. Accordingly, the marriages of same-sex couples performed prior to the effective date of Proposition 8 remain valid and must continue to be recognized in this state.
Preparing for the court's announcement, our friends at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco held a special service of blessing at 8:30AM Tuesday morning. In San Francisco and other cities the court's announcement was followed by protests and demonstrations against both Prop. 8 and the decision to let it stand. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries pastors Rev. Dawn Roginski and Rev. Megan Rohrer were at the front of a clergy contingent marching along San Francisco's Market Street toward the civic center.
Meeting in the Middle: On Saturday May 30, attendees of the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly in Fresno, California will have a unique witnessing opportunity as they rub shoulders with the tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of equality advocates who will assemble in Fresno for Meet in the Middle 4 Equality. Meet in the Middle is a day-long event in Fresno, the midpoint of the state, to launch a "statewide and national effort toward full federal equality."
Meet in the Middle activities include the 14.5 mile Equality March from Selma, CA to Fresno and the Equality Rally beginning at noon. The site for the Equality Rally is about a 10-minute walk from the site of the synod assembly.
For the Avoidance of Doubt: The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was held May 21-27 in Edinburgh, and among the many issues under consideration was the appointment of Rev. Scott Rennie as pastor of Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen. Rev. Rennie is Church of Scotland's first openly gay minister, and while a majority in the parish support his appointment, there are many throughout the Church of Scotland who object. A formal complaint against the appointment was raised by Rev. Ian Aitken. Sinfully Delicious: You'll be the envy of everyone in your lectionary study group, and your Fair Trade Coffee will be sinfully delicious because you're drinking it from the Official LutheranConfessions.com MUG! Be the Life of the Party:
On May 23, the General Assembly considered Dissent and Complaint of Rev. Ian Aitken and Others Against a Decision of the Presbytery of Aberdeen. A motion was made to grant the dissent and complaint and to rescind the call issued to Rev. Rennie by the Aberdeen Presbytery. A counter motion was made to refuse the dissent and complaint because proper procedure had been followed. The counter motion also enjoined the assembly to:
affirm for the avoidance of doubt that this decision does not alter the Church’s standards of ministerial conduct.
The counter motion was approved by a vote of 326 to 267.
In a subsequent session, the General Assembly created a special commission to prepare a study (to be delivered to the General Assembly in 2011) on the church's policies for ordination and induction into ministry. The Assembly also added the following instructions:
Instruct all Courts, Councils and Committees of the Church not to issue press statements or otherwisetalk to the media or to make decisions in relation to contentious matters of human sexuality, with respect to Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland, until 31 May 2011...
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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:
Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.
Instruct Presbyteries to observe a moratorium on ordinations and inductions which might appear to prejudice the Special Commission before it reports.
Relief from Steeple Envy: Is your church's steeple tall enough? Now, thanks to Concordia Publishing House (CPH), any church can be a "tall-steeple" church. CPH has partnered with Piedmont Fiberglass in Taylorsville, North Carolina to make it possible for any church (or for that matter any home or garage) to have an attractive, durable steeple.
The Piedmont Fiberglass brochure describes steeples ranging in height from approximately fourteen feet ($1500) to forty-five feet ($18,550).
Piedmont Fiberglass also offers installation services for your new steeple and a wide range of steeple accessories (louvers, windows, interior lighting, and custom colors).
CPH has also partnered with IHS Studios, an ecclesiastical arts studio in Fredericksburg, Texas, to provide design, fabrication and installation of art glass windows
Even More Celebrity Endorsers/Detractors: It has been a busy week for celebrity endorsements (and denouncements) of the proposed, recommended ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality and the accompanying recommendations regarding both recognition of same-sex relationships and rostering of clergy in same-sex relationships.
On the denunciation side, Open Letter to CWA Voting Members has been published on the Lutheran CORE web site. The original letter was signed by 60 "church leaders and theologians" and as of this writing claims 1035 signers, though it's hard to tell how many of those signers might be Lutherans. The letter urges voting members "to defeat all the proposals from the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality that the Church Council has forwarded to you."
On the endorsement side, eighteen members of the faculty of Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago have signed a response to the social statement and recommendations:
The crucial question before the church is not whether the current recommendation on ministry policies challenges long-standing scriptural interpretations and ecclesiastical practices. It obviously does. Rather, the ultimate question is whether the recommendation on ministry policies proclaims Christ [Christum treiben] and his message of grace more faithfully than older interpretations and practices. We, the faculty of LSTC, are convinced that it does and, therefore, support the approval of the recommendation.
We note that with the ELCA Churchwide Assembly still three months away, there is considerable double dipping among the celebrity endorsers and detractors. Many of those who have signed the documents cited above had signed earlier endorsements or denunciations as well. To date we are unaware of any celebrity who has both denounced and endorsed the proposed social statement. (Naturally theologian Franz Bibfeldt is Lutheranism's best hope for such a stance.)
We were asked "What makes someone a celebrity endorser/detractor?" Our celebrities include any person who stands outside the decision-making process (for example, anyone who is not a voting member, ELCA Bishop, Churchwide staffperson, or member of the Church Council) who attempts to influence the Churchwide Assembly's decision. Forget American Idol: we are all celebrities.
The Big Tent: This week we received the following second-hand, doubly anonymous tip:
Many a assembly synod attendee has certainly turned to a friend over the years and said, "What a circus!" Well, unnamed sources have confirmed that one Midwest ELCA synod will be fully embracing those sentiments with a full-fledged circus theme for their evening hospitality event this year. Plans include clowns, jugglers, and a center ring. No news about whether or not the bishop will wear a special hat.
There was no indication which synod might be planning circus-themed entertainment, and we're not sure our tipster would notice. In our synod, the bishop always wears a special hat.
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