I AM!: December 1 is World AIDS Day and the emphasis for 2009 is Universal Access and Human Rights:
Understanding HIV and AIDS from a human rights perspective can be difficult. Human rights are often misunderstood and can sometimes be seen as abstract ideals with not much practical relevance for real people.
The slogans for the World AIDS Day materials were designed to bridge that gap and underscore the importance of awareness of Human Rights.
Among the key slogans adopted:
I am accepted.
I am safe.
I am getting treatment.
I am well
I am living my rights.
Access for all to HIV prevention treatment care and support is a critical part of human rights.
After the Expulsion: Our regular readers know that the Feast of the Expulsion is celebrated at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco on the last Sunday in December. The Feast of the Expulsion commemorates the expulsion of St. Francis and First United Lutheran Church from the ELCA on December 31, 1995 following disciplinary proceedings over the congregations' role in calling and ordaining Pr. Ruth Frost, Pr. Phyllis Zillhart, and Pr. Jeff Johnson in 1990.
(We hear, very unofficially of course, that Pr. Anita Hill of St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul will preach at this year's Feast of the Expulsion worship.)
St. Francis has not returned to the ELCA yet, but we read with interest this note from the St. Francis Times:
In January the council will contact Rev. Nancy Feniuk Nelson, Bishop's Associate of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA, for guidance with our pastoral call process.
With Forks and Hope: Some of our readers expressed puzzlement on receiving the November 27 email bulletin from Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned North America (LCNA). The email bulletin began:
I've heard from a variety of sources that those who oppose full inclusion are voicing concerns about the grants we have received from the Arcus Foundation, and that perhaps outside political forces were setting our agenda and methods.
The bulletin goes on to explain in broad strokes how LCNA is funded and what LCNA spends money on. It also reiterates LCNA's mission:
LC/NA embodies, inspires, educates and advocates for the full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the Lutheran communion, its ecumenical and global partners.
What might have elicited this report? Our diligent network of far-flung reporters turned up Is it politics or the Spirit? (a discussion topic on the ALPB Forum) and an article titled Foundation provided $250,000 for efforts to change ELCA teaching and policy on marriage and homosexual behavior on page 4 of the November issue of CORE Connection, the Lutheran CORE newsletter.
Now, of course, there's also an ALPB topic on the LCNA response: LCNA responds with sadness...
As to what any of this might mean, we can offer only the words of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson:
They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
What's Love Got To Do With It?: On October 14, the Parliament of Uganda heard the first reading of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009:
The object of this Bill is to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (ii) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Government entity in Uganda or any non governmental organization inside or outside the country.
The bill defines three general classes of offense: Homosexuality (punishable by life imprisonment), Aggravated Homosexuality (a capital offence), and Promotion of Homosexuality (punishable by a fine and a prison sentence of 5 - 7 years). We encourage you to read for yourself the anatomically detailed descriptions of these offenses in the text of the bill.
In parliament, the bill must be read three times, with debate and possible amendments at each step, to become law.
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On October 15, 17 human rights organizations issued a statement condemning the bill and urging its immediate withdrawal.
On November 20, the Chicago Consultation called on Episcopal and Anglican leaders to oppose the bill, and on November 27, a joint statement was issued by the House of Bishops (Anglican church of Canada) and the Conference of Bishops (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC)):
The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, along with the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, express our dismay and concern over the draft proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently before the Parliament of Uganda.
The proposed Bill would severely restrict the human rights of Ugandan citizens both at home and abroad by infringing freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, freedom of organization, and legitimate advocacy of civil rights. It would impose excessive and cruel penalties on persons who experience same-sex attraction as well as those who counsel, support, and advise them, including family members and clergy...
[W]e call upon our own Government of Canada, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to convey to the Government of Uganda a deep sense of alarm about this fundamental violation of human rights and, through diplomatic channels, to press for its withdrawal.
Not Sola Discordia?: On November 18, representatives of Lutheran CORE announced their intention to begin work on a proposal for a new Lutheran church body for those who choose to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Lutheran CORE Chairperson Rev. Paull Spring remarked:
Many ELCA members and congregations have said that they want to sever ties with the ELCA because of the ELCA’s continued movement away from traditional Christian teachings. The vote on sexuality opened the eyes of many to how far the ELCA has moved from Biblical teaching.
We do not envy Lutheran CORE's leaders the task they have taken on: it will not be easy to found a church whose members have in common only their discontent with the ELCA. That new church will need to work out how it might move beyond dissatisfaction with the ELCA's affirmation of LGBT clergy to some more positive witness. How will that church relate to Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) or The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS)? How will that church bring the Gospel to LGBT people? How will it observe World AIDS Day? How will it respond to overt homophobia?
Lutheran CORE members are already struggling to define their movement as something independent of the ELCA's twenty years of wrangling over the place of LGBT people in the church. On November 25, there appeared in the Morning Call an article by Lutheran CORE member Rev. Steve Shipman titled Lutheran Coalition for Renewal not primarily focused on homosexuality which reads in part:
The Lutheran Coalition for Renewal is not primarily focused on homosexuality. In fact, it is down the list of our issues. How the Bible functions as authority for Christians, our failure to call people to faith as shown by the decline in membership and participation in too many congregations, and avoiding the revealed Name of God are bigger matters for us. We also realize that homosexuality is not the biggest challenge regarding marriage and family issues.
Minnesota Public Radio Wants to Know: Minnesota Public Radio recently invited people to respond to the question Would you leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America?.
Respondents were also asked why they feel called to leave or to stay, what they look for in a church, and what effect a new Lutheran denomination would have on respondents, their churches, and their communities.
Apparently MPR got an earful: more 1100 responses in four days. Melody Ng, an analyst who works with MPR's Public Insight program, commented on the responses:
Of the people who wrote to us, most said they haven't considered leaving the church over the ELCA's stance allowing people in committed same-gender relationships to be pastors. In fact, many were concerned that we are giving too much attention to those who want to leave, rather than focusing on the story that most individuals and churches plan to stay with the ELCA. Some wrote to say that this change will bring them back to the church, or keep them from leaving.People who have considered leaving or have already left the ELCA said they can't be part of a church that disobeys God.Many, many people would be deeply saddened should the church split. Some said losing congregations would impair the ELCA's ability to do missions work overseas (though one person stated he now can evangelize gay friends here in the U.S. without feeling like a hypocrite).
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