Clouds of Celebrity: Synod assembly season is safely past, but as the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly approaches, we find ourselves once again awash in celebrities (defined here as 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).
The first of this new wave of celebrities to come to our attention is former ELCA Presiding Bishop Rev. Herbert Chilstrom who has come forward with an open letter (dated July 21) in response to the open letter from Lutheran CORE. The Lutheran CORE open letter was addressed to the voting members for this year's churchwide assembly. Bishop Chilstrom's open letter is addressed to some of the signatories of the Lutheran CORE letter: Richard Bansemer, James Bergquist, David Hardy, Mary Havens, BenJohnson, Ralph Kempski, Paul Martinson, David Preus, James Scherer, Henry Schulte Jr, Franklin Sherman, John Stumme, and Paul Werger. Of course it is also an open letter and we understand that it, too, has been distributed to all the voting members.
Bishop Chilstrom takes on five key points in the Lutheran CORE letter. On the critical question of Biblical witness, Bishop Chilstrom's position is informed by earlier writings of Carl Braaten (who is among the signers of the Lutheran CORE letter). On other issues, Bishop Chilstrom compares the decisions facing the ELCA today with the church's earlier the decision to ordain women. We encourage you to read the entire letter, even if you're not a voting member.
In a letter dated August 1, Carl Braaten responded to Bishop Chilstrom's response to the Lutheran CORE letter. We encourage you to read that, too, and make up your own mind.
Not all of the new wave celebrities are so well-documented. Our friends at Shellfish have re-published a letter addressed to ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson ostensibly from Bishop Nicholas Tai of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hong Kong. Bishop Tai's letter was first published on the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (ALPB) on-line forum by Pr. Richard Johnson who notes only that the letter "was, so to speak, tossed over my transom."
Bishop Tai writes:
Of special concern is the question of homosexual union blessings and the acceptance of ordained clergy in homosexual relationships. A decision to accept these two practices would be a source of profound embarassment for the Lutheran Church in Asia.
Again, we encourage you to read the entire letter.
Also in the wave of new celebrities is the Lutheran Youth Organization whose triennial convention was held July 26-29 at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. The ELCA News Service reported that:
Delegates passed a resolution supporting adoption of a proposed social statement on human sexuality that the ELCA Churchwide Assembly will consider when it meets Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.
The convention urged ELCA congregations to consider including a statement in their mission statement or other church documents to welcome all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or "questioning" people.

We hear that the LYO convention endorsed not only the social statement, but the recommendations on ministry policy as well.

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 MUG!

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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.

    God Bless Albania: On July 29, Prime Minister Sali Berisha of Albania announced that his government would propose legislation to recognize same-sex marriages. While it has been acknowledged that the proposal "may spark debate", the prime minister's party controls 74 of the 140 seats in the legislature, and the measure is likely to be approved later this year.
    Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox religious leaders in Albania voiced disapproval.

    Not An Illness: On July 31, Ecumenical News International (ENI) published a cryptic item that read in its entirety:
    Homosexuality is not an illness, says Dutch Pentecostal group
    Utrecht, Netherlands (ENI). A Pentecostal denomination in the Netherlands has declared that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of being cured during a national debate on sexuality and religion in the armed forces.

    A bit more context is available from the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. The pentecostal group is Verenigde Pinkster- en Evangeliegemeenten (VPE) (in English, United Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches). In a July 14 article the newspaper Trouw alleged that VPE military chaplains had held prayer services to cure gay soldiers. VPE spokespeople denied the allegations in no uncertain terms and ultimately issued a joint statement with the Foundation for Homosexuality and the Armed Forces (in Dutch, Stichting Homoseksualiteit en Krijgsmacht (SHK)) to declare that homosexuality is not an illness and that VPE chaplains had not attempted to practice a prayer cure for gay soldiers.

    The Lost is Found: A few weeks ago we reported what appeared to be translation difficulties with an opinion piece by Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned North America (LCNA). A far-flung reporter called our attention to the Summer, 2009 issue of Concord (the LCNA newsletter) where we were surprised to find an article titled The Lutheran Magazine Changes Eastwood "My View" Article without her Permission.
    Ms. Eastwood's original text reads:
    Views within the ELCA range from punitive rejection to prophetic advocacy. But the documents and motions being presentedby the Sexuality Task Force and the ELCA Church Council take neither position-rather landing instead at a philosophical middle ground of tolerance, adjusting policies accordingly.
    In the July issue of The Lutheran this was rendered this as:
    Views within the ELCA run the gamut. But the documents and motions being presented by the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality and the ELCA Church Council take no position - rather, a middle ground..
    The August issue of The Lutheran came out this past week, and we looked at the on-line version for some explanation or acknowledgment of what had happened but found none.

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