Rivers in the Desert: January 20, 2010 is the 20th anniversary of the ordination extra ordinem of pastors Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart, and Jeff Johnson. There was no Extraordinary Candidacy Project, there was no Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, there was no Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
There were two San Francisco churches, First United and St. Francis who were convinced that the ELCA could not afford to deny Ruth, Phyllis, and Jeff the vocation of pastor.
Bishop Lyle Miller of the Sierra Pacific Synod dismissed the ordination:
Our church cares very much about a ministry to gay and lesbian people, and it's unfortunate . . . that these improper ordinations have happened before our church has done the necessary study and preparation. It's simply unwise and unproductive for those who favor gay ordinations to have done this.
Krister Stendahl, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Stockhom, took a different view. His letter of support was read to those assembled for the ordinations:
Since I cannot be with you at your ordination which—it seems—must take place extra ordinem, I want to send you a greeting affirming my conviction that the steps that your congregations and you are taking stand well before God.
A New York Times report quoted Pr. Frost:
It may not be this ministry; it may not be Ruth, Jeff and Phyllis. But if it is not Ruth, Jeff and Phyllis now, it will be Susan and Peter and whoever later on, because this will happen. This will come to pass.
And twenty years later, after the ordinations extra ordinem of Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart, Jeff Johnson, Donna Simon (2000), Craig Minich (2001), Anita Hill (2001), Sharon Stalkfleet (2002), Jay Wiesner (2004), Erik Christensen (2006), Megan Rohrer (2006), Dawn Roginski (2007), Jen Rude (2007), Jen Nagel (2008), Lionel Ketola (2008), Lura Groen (2008), Jay Wilson (2008), and Steve Keiser (2009) a great deal of ministry that might otherwise have been neglected has indeed come to pass thanks to many more congregations convinced that the church simply cannot afford to deny the pastoral vocations of LGBT people.
Changes at CCLM: Monday January 18 marked the 14th annual celebration of Martin Luther King Day at Central City Lutheran Mission (CCLM) in San Bernardino California. It was also the farewell for Executive Director Rev. David Kalke (pictured) who founded CCLM in 1996 and developed the ministry into one of San Bernardino's leading social-service providers.
CCLM describes itself as Bringing the Word through the Creation of Community: A Neighborhood Development Project Empowering People. Among its programs are a health clinic, a community garden, a winter homeless shelter, meal and food-pantry programs, literacy classes, after-school tutoring and youth-culture programs.
Until October 29, 2004, CCLM was also on the roster of congregations in the Pacifica Synod and Pr. Kalke had a synodical call for his work at CCLM.
Earlier in 2004 CCLM issued a call to Pr. Jenny Mason to be associate pastor. Pr. Mason lives in a committed same-sex relationship and is rostered with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) (then the Extraordinary Candicacy Project (ECP)).
Pr. Mason's call was in violation of ELCA policy and the synod council of the Pacifica Synod initiated disciplinary proceedings under the streamlined process described in Section 9.23 of the ELCA Constitution. By action of the synod council, Pr. Kalke's synodical call was revoked and CCLM became the third worshipping community (following St. Francis and First United of San Francisco) to be expelled from the ELCA. CCLM is the only community to be expelled under section 9.23.
In 2004, Pr. Kalke responded to the expulsion:
To suggest that it's OK to feed the poor but not share the Word and Sacraments is a clear attack on a pastoral project that has been remarkably effective. The ELCA has few successes in its outreach to poor and oppressed people, and the mission has been recognized as one of them. And so it's obvious that the Pacifica Synod and its leadership are simply not ready to practice the diversity and inclusive vision to which they give lip service.
This is not only about gays and lesbians in the ordained ministry. It's about the right of the poor and oppressed to be members of the ELCA and not just objects of its congregations' charity.
After the expulsion, CCLM continued as an independent worshipping community with services six days each week.
Pr. Kalke will lead a new institute for social change in Mexico including a Spanish school in which students will learn the social and political reality of Mexico and be offered volunteer opportunities.
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CCLM's board has not yet named a new executive director.
Welcoming Sunday: Are you a Reconciling Lutheran? If so, your time is almost here.
Each year the last Sunday in January is observed as Welcoming Sunday, a day for congregations from various denominations to witness to God's love for persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Among Lutherans in North America, Welcoming Sunday is celebrated as Reconciling in Christ Sunday for the Reconciling in Christ Program hosted by Lutherans Concerned North America (LCNA).
Begun in 1983, Reconciling in Christ (RIC) is a program for Lutheran communities of faith to answer the inclusive call of the Gospel by welcoming people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Currently, there are over 445 Lutheran settings on the RIC roster, including congregations, campus ministries, synods of the ELCA and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, camps, colleges, and other independent organizations.
This year Pr. David Eck of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Fairview, North Carolina compiled resources for congregations wishing to emphasize the themes of welcoming and reconciliation into worship.
There's also a bulletin insert with background information about the RIC and Reconciling Lutherans programs.
Endorsing the Ordination of Women in the Middle East: On January 12, delegates to the 6th General Assembly of the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) received a report from the fellowship's theology committee, which found no biblical or theological reasons to oppose the ordination of women. After in-depth discussion, the 29 delegates voted unanimously to adopt a statement supporting the ordination of women to ministry in the FMEEC's churches and called on member churches to implement this recommendation.
The statement was drafted in Arabic by Bishop Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land who serves as FMEEC president. The conference interpreter produced an English translation:
The Sixth General Assembly supports the ordination of the women in our churches in the position of ordained pastor and her partnership with men as an equal partner in decision making. Therefore we call on member churches to take leading steps in this concern.
FMEEC is an association of 16 Protestant (Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed) churches in North Africa and the Middle East. Formed in 1974, FMEEC's purpose is to strengthen the mission and ministry of its member churches through training and formation of leadership and laity, both women and men, and promoting unity through joint work and education.
Legalism and License: Issues, Etc. is more than a radio show. There's now the Issues, Etc. Journal edited by host Pr. Todd Wilken (pictured). Not long ago, we received the Winter, 2009 issue of the journal in email, and while there are many points on which we might disagree with Pr. Wilken, it occurred to us that his Legalism and License article in that issue could suggest some helpful ways of thinking about the anguish that many in the ELCA are struggling with.
Pr. Wilken traces both legalism and licentiousness, which appear at first to be opposites, to a common misunderstanding: God cannot forbid something I cannot avoid. In Pr. Wilken's words:
The assumption Legalism and License share, "God cannot forbid something I cannot avoid," undermines both Jesus' sinlessness, and his sacrifice for sin. The legalist believes he can avoid sin, and manage (if only occasionally) to live sinlessly. If he is right, then the legalist doesn't need the sinlessness of Jesus, or if he does, he only needs it when he fails to avoid sin. The licentious person believes he has permission to sin. If he is right, then the licentious person doesn't need Jesus to suffer the penalty for his sin.
The article might not be your cup of tea, but if you're interested, the full text of article is available on the Brothers of John the Steadfast web site. You can also get a copy by subscribing to the Issues, Etc. Journal.
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