The Best Construction on Everything: Perhaps you knew that the ELCA Conference of Bishops (COB) has an Open Meetings Policy. For reasons that we don't pretend to understand, one of our far-flung reporters wanted to brush up on the details of the bishops' open meetings. The Fall, 2009 COB Meeting will be held October 1-6 at the Lutheran Center in Chicago. Registration for this meeting closed on September 11, 2009.
When our far-flung reporter visited the ELCA web site, there were links to the open meetings policy, but they all led straight to the site's generic Page Not Found page.
Naturally, our far-flung reporter informed us, and being inquisitive sorts, we spent a few idle moments trying to guess the correct web address for the page. We had no success. We are sure the policy (whatever it is) is still in effect, and we imagine that the broken link is nothing more than a symptom of last year's web site upgrade.
Where Do Synods Come From?: The annual convocation of Lutheran CORE was held September 25-26 at Holy Spirit Parish in Geist, Indiana. Approximately 1200 people attended the event which was part pep rally and part constitutional convention. No doubt more details will be forthcoming.
On the constitutional convention side, those present approved a constitution for Lutheran CORE and adopted a resolution authorizing the Lutheran CORE steering committee to study whether to remain in the ELCA or to separate from it.
Pr. Paull Spring, chairperson of Lutheran CORE, characterized the group's objectives:
Lutheran CORE will be a free-standing synod for all faithful Lutherans. We are going to do things that synods typically do: strengthening personal faith and congregational life, providing resources for congregational ministry, developing new congregations, supporting global missionaries, providing some forms for theological eduction for pastors, developing mechanisms for theological reflection and conversation related to Scripture and the Confessions.
This raised several questions in our minds:
We wonder what will happen when it turns out that some of that synod's faithful Lutherans are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered? A synod cannot be open to all faithful Lutherans and hold LGBT Lutherans at arm's length.
We wonder what "free-standing" means, but we will wait for Lutheran CORE to clarify .
And finally, we wonder where exactly do synods come from?
ELCA synods are described in Chapter 10 of the ELCA Constitution. Chapter 10.01 gives the Churchwide Assembly responsibility for assigning names and geographical boundaries to ELCA Synods, and Chapter 10.01.11 lists the names and geographic boundaries of the ELCA synods. This suggests to us that a constitutional amendment would be required to establish a new ELCA synod. The synod itself must be incorporated and must have a constitution, and the articles of incorporation and constitution must be ratified by the ELCA Church Council.
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Pr. Sophie's Tweets:
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Causes of Nullity: Our readers, citing unusually reliable sources, report that "some" ELCA Bishops have floated the idea that pastors who were ordained extra ordinem might need to be "re-ordained" to be accepted on the ELCA clergy roster.
The case for Reordination is not an easy one for Lutherans to make. In church history, arguments about reordination usually hinge on establishing the cause of nullity (the reason for declaring an ordination invalid), and while the idea of reordination has been floated, no causes of nullity have been forthcoming to date.
Our friend Pr. Megan Rohrer (pictured, with fairy wand) has written an open letter to ELCA Bishops urging them to reject the idea of reordination.
Our favorite part of the letter is a short parable:
A man refuses to attend a wedding because of his religious principles. Years later after seeing the faithful relationship the man changes his mind. When he goes to the married couple to tell them his principles have changed, he also asks the couple to get remarried now that he is willing to show up. Do you think the couple would agree? How would their children feel? Further, what if their salary was based on the number of years they were married or they had to pay for a new marriage license?
We heartily endorse the letter's punch line:
I urge you to listen to your Lutheran gut, and make the right decision.
If you aren't a bishop, Pr. Rohrer would like you to send the open letter to your bishop, but be aware that if you aren't Pr. Megan Rohrer, you'll need to rewrite some portions of the letter.
The Company of the Unchurched: On September 22, we received an email bulletin from WordAlone announcing the publication of Rev. Dr. James Arne Nestingen's article Joining the Unchurched. The lead sentence is certainly provocative:
In its August assembly in Minneapolis, going by the definition set down in Augustana VII, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America effectively declared that it is no longer a church.
Augustana VII is Article VII of the Augsburg Confession. Here is the text of Article VII in its entirety:
Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4, 5. 6.
We believe it is a gross distortion of the Gospel to assert that the one holy Church is contingent on the systematic exclusion of anyone whom Christ died to save, and we are not persuaded by Rev. Dr. Nestingen's argument.
We do, however, understand his pain. It is a not-too-distant relative of the pain felt by any LGBT Lutheran who answered the call to ministry over the last 20 years. The pastors on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) roster and the congregations that support them are acutely aware of the pain that occurs when the church behaves in unchurchly ways.
When Rev. Dr. Nestingen joins the "unchurched," the company of those whom the ELCA has disenfranchised, he will find himself rubbing shoulders with Pr. Ross Merkel, Pr. Steve Sabin, Pr. Bradley Schmeling, and the San Francisco congregations First United Lutheran Church, and St. Francis Lutheran Church.
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