The Zen of No Action: The 2009 Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) was held in Vancouver, British Columbia June 25-28 with the theme In Mission for Others: Signs of Hope. None of our far-flung reporters could be present, but we tuned in to several of the web casts, and this was not an easy meeting for anyone.
In her report, Presiding Bishop Susan Johnson described the economic challenge facing the ELCIC:
In the 23 years since the church was formed, giving within congregations has increased, basically keeping up with inflation. Yet at the same time financial support from congregations to synods has flat-lined so that over time synods have been greatly affected by the accumulated affect of inflation. Synod support to the National Church has decreased in actual dollars and, when compounded with inflation, has meant the National Church is operating with just over one-third of the purchasing power it had in 1986. This has resulted in staff and program cuts and impacted our ability to do mission. When you factor in the demographics of our church, it is anticipated this pattern will only increase sharply over the next few years.
A summary of the convention's actions describes measures passed by the convention, but in many respects the ELCIC's 2009 convention was more complicated than those actions suggest. Indeed, the convention spent a surprising amount of time and parliamentary energy voting to take "No Action" on a number of meaures.
Our friends at Lutherans Concerned North America (LCNA) were on the scene and sending email reports (which, like their synod assembly reports, do not appear on the LCNA website: if you really want the news, just join LCNA and get the email). Eventually, the folks at Solid Ground published a detailed account of the business sessions.
Not So Friendly, Not So Cooperative: On June 23 in Louisville, Kentucky, the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted to terminate its relationship with Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas following a year-long study by the SBC Executive Committee in response to a motion from the floor at last year's meeting. Broadway Baptist was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention for 127 years. The decision to expel Broadway Baptist was made with no discussion from the more than 8,000 Baptists attending the meeting.
Among the congregation's members are at least two same-sex couples, and some of Broadway Baptist's openly homosexual members serve on church committees. Broadway Baptist was involved in a 2008 controversy regarding pictures of same-sex couples in the church directory.
Supporters of the Executive Committee recommendation said that while the convention fully supports ministering to the homosexual community, Broadway Baptist was in violation of Article III of the SBC Constitution, which states:
Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.
Executive Committee members had suggested a statement from the church condemning homosexuality would have been beneficial; the church declined.
Friendlier, More Cooperative: To Form a More Perfect Union was the theme of this year's San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade, and according to reports we received, a good time was had by all.
We're fairly certain most attendees missed the weekend's most important event: the 10:30AM Sunday Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Mark Holmerud (Sierra-Pacific Synod) and Bishop Marc Handley Andrus (Episcopal Diocese of California) on Beale Street between Folsom and Harrison where the LCNA and Integrity contingents had assembled to join the parade.
The first "Gay Freedom Day" parade in San Francisco was held in 1970. We do not know when the Eucharist was first celebrated on the streets of San Francisco waiting for the parade to begin.
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!
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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.
Kieschnick Addresses Hate Crime Bill: On June 25 LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick issued a pastoral letter to LCMS clergy. Among the topics discussed are district conventions, points of unity ("25 major doctrines on which the synod is in agreement"), points of disagreement (who may be allowed to commune, the role of women in the church, acceptable forms of worship, and inter-Christian relationships), the number and supply of LCMS pastors, the "Fan into Flame" initiative, and a note on Federal Hate Crime legislation:
Late in April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 249 to 175 H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which expands the definition of "hate crimes" to include those against individuals based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. A companion bill has been introduced into the Senate-S. 909, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. A hearing on the bill has been scheduled for today (June 25) in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If passed, this legislation is expected to be signed into law by President Obama, who has expressed support for the legislation in the past.
What does this mean for the pastors and members of our churches who speak out against homosexuality based on the Word of God? The answer is unclear. One of H.R. 1913's sponsors, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., says that the proposed law will target only those who participate in violent acts against homosexuals and "does not infringe on free speech in any way." However, critics of the bill, including Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, contend that religious ministers and teachers face possible prosecution if someone who commits a crime claims to have heard his or her religious leader speaking against homosexuality.
To my knowledge there has been no legal analysis of the legislation to date, and its definitions of sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity have yet to be determined by the courts. However, I urge you to be informed and involved citizens, and to contact your representatives in Washington now with your questions and concerns.
My staff and I will monitor the bill's outcome closely to keep you informed of any new developments.
One resource that might be helpful for people on all sides of the issue is Questions and Answers about the Hate Crimes Bill for People of Faith by Rachel Laser and Lanae Erickson for Third Way:
With hate crimes legislation coming up, there are some in the faith community who are concerned that the bill will impede religious freedom or punish religious objections to homosexuality. This memorandum seeks to answer these questions from the perspective of an organization that cares deeply about gay rights and also religious freedom, and sees people from both communities as people of good will.
Issues, Etc. Anniversary: June 30, 2009 marks the one-year anniversary of the return of the radio program Issues, Etc. (Christ-centered, Cross focused Talk Radio). To observe the anniversary, there will be an open house at the Lutheran Public Radio studio in Collinsville, IL, beginning at 4:00 pm followed by a free informal dinner at the American Legion beginning at 6:00 pm.
Issues, Etc. was formerly hosted by KFUO, a radio ministry of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). The show was abruptly cancelled in March 2008, but resumed broadcasting on June 30.
Another Extraordinary Deanship: As if in answer to our partial list of ELCA conferences served by deans who are rostered with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), the ELM Blog reports that Pr. Erik Christensen has been elected dean of the Central Conference of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod. Pr. Christensen also serves as Co-Chair of the ELM Covenant Circle.
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