A Woman Bishop in Helsinki: On June 3, Pastor Irja Askola was elected bishop of the Diocese of Helsinki in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF). Pr. Askola is the first woman to be elected bishop in the ELCF.
A service of consecration is planned for September 12 at the Helsinki Cathedral. Bishop Askola will take office September 1, 2010 when Bishop Eero Huovinen retires. Bishop Huovinen has served as bishop since 1991.
Pr. Askola received the Master of Theology degree in 1975 and was ordained to the ministry in 1988. Her home parish is Alppila. She is presently serving as Special Assistant in Theological Affairs for Bishop Mikko Heikka.
The ELCF first approved the ordination of women to the priesthood in 1986.
Bishop-elect Askola's homepage can be found at http://www.irjaaskola.fi.
Open Communion: Is it safe to receive communion at your church? Can someone with a food allergy participate in communion without risking serious medical consequences? Do the bread and wine we offer keep some people away from the table?
Our friends at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) have been thinking about these and other food-related questions, and on June 3, ELM's Covenant Circle adopted a formal policy concerning food served at ELM events:
ELM is committed to working against oppression and discrimination and for inclusion. As part of that commitment, we recognize that failure to meet the food needs of participants in ELM events can be a barrier to participation. This policy outlines the expectations for meeting the food needs of expected participants in ELM events which should be followed by event organizers.
The policy goes on to discuss how food needs can be met in three different contexts: Holy Communion, events with a defined constituency that include meals, and open invitation events where food is provided.
The Communion Access policy reads in part:
Theologically and politically, Holy Communion as a symbol for our unity in Christ is strongest when we find ways for all people to participate as fully as possible. One relatively easy way to accommodate the elements to people with specific food needs [is] to always offer a low-allergen/gluten-free alternative host alone or in addition to other bread.
Another easy way to increase communion access is to offer grape juice in addition to or instead of wine.
The policy also describes safe-handling procedures to avoid contaminating communion elements with allergens.
We spoke with one member of the Covenant Circle who volunteered that ELM would share its food policy with any congregation and other group interested in food safety.
Can of Worms: The Rapid City Journal reports that on June 11 the 2010 Assembly of the South Dakota Synod rejected the ELCA's stance on sexuality and called for the 2011 Churchwide assembly to rescind the changes that were approved by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.
The measure adopted by a vote of 251-243 asserts that the sexuality social statement is in violation of the ELCA's confession of faith as described in Chapter 2 of the ELCA constitution.
The Feast of Saint James: We mentioned recently that a rite of reception for LGBT pastors being reinstated and received onto the ELCA clergy roster would be held July 25 in the Sierra Pacific Synod. The pastors being received are the Rev. Paul Brenner, the Rev. Jeff Johnson, the Rev. Craig Minich, the Rev. Dawn Roginski, the Rev. Megan Rohrer, and the Rev. Sharon Stalkfleet. The Rev. Ross Merkel will be reinstated to the roster in the same service.
More details have emerged. The rite of reception will be held at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco at 4:00PM on Sunday July 25. An unnamed insider tells us that Pr. Nadia Bolz-Weber (pictured), the mission developer for House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado will preach.
Also on July 25, the congregation of St. Francis Lutheran (SF) will vote to determine what its relationship to the ELCA will be. St. Francis was expelled from the ELCA on December 31, 1995 for its role in calling and ordaining Prs. Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart, and Jeff Johnson in January, 1990.
July 25 is the Feast of St. James (Son of Zebedee). The saint's remains are said to be in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. When 25 July falls on a Sunday, it is a "Jubilee" year, and a special east door is opened for entrance into the Santiago Cathedral.
Acts 1:26: On June 2, the Lutheran Reporter posted a Question/Answer session with the 5 candidates nominated for the office of LCMS President: Rev. Matthew Harrison (pictured left), Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick (pictured right), Rev. Herbert Mueller Jr. (pictured below left), Dr. Carl C. Fickenscher II (pictured below right), and Dr. Daniel L. Gard (pictured bottom left).
Each candidate was asked 4 questions:
Q1: How would you judge the health of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod today?
Q2: In today's 'whatever works for you culture,' how can the LCMS best reach out to people with the Good News of Jesus and testify to the truth of God's Word?
Q3: During this year's convention, delegates will consider proposals to restructure the way the Synod is organized. What is your opinion of the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance?
Q4: In our present economic environment, money and resources seem tight everywhere. As president, how would you lead the Synod (nationally and locally) in stewarding its resources and people?
If the measure of proof texts per question is any indicator, Pr. Harrison will win by a landslide. All together his responses contained 16 Scripture references, of which the first was by far the most impressive:
I'm giddy with hope (Rom. 15:4–13)!
Anyone who can proof text his own emotional state must be considered the front runner for LCMS President.
Pr. Mueller was a distant 2nd place with 2 proof texts. Dr. Fickensher offered only 1: 1 Cor. 1:2.
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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.
Incumbent President Gerald Kieschnick and Dr. Gard offered no Scriptural references for any of the questions posed. Dr. Gard, however, deserves honorable mention for closing each of his responses with Kyrie eleison.
The election will be held at the 2010 LCMS Convention in Houston, July 10-17.
Anglican Anguish: We keep an eye on the Anglican Communion.
In spite of the differences in church polity, the Anglican example offers an instructive point of reference for the differences of opinion that Lutherans have among themselves. We will be the first to acknowledge that there are language barriers between ourselves and the far-flung reporters who staff our Anglican Desk. Our tireless translation department does its best to render Anglican news items in terminology that Lutherans will understand but, being Lutheran, our translators never feel they've done a completely satisfactory job.
The latest chapter in the Anglican saga began on May 15, 2010 with the ordinations of Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool to serve as bishops suffragan in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
Because Bishop Glasspool's life partner is a woman, her consecration as bishop violates an anglican "moratorium" on admitting partnered gay clergy to the episcopate. (There are three such moratoria, asking members of the communion to refrain from consecrating partnered gay or lesbian bishops, to refrain from blessing same-sex relationships, and to refrain from "cross-border interventions" from one Anglican province into another.)
In his Pentecost Letter to the Anglican Communion Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (pictured left) declared that disregarding any of these moratoria would have consequences:
I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces -- provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) -- should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members.
The Archbishop's letter closes with: I wish you all God’s richest blessing at this season.
In a June 2 pastoral letter to the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (pictured right) responded. Her letter reads in part:
The Spirit does seem to be saying to many within The Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God's good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones. The Spirit also seems to be saying the same thing in other parts of the Anglican Communion, and among some of our Christian partners, including Lutheran churches in North America and Europe, the Old Catholic churches of Europe, and a number of others...
The Episcopal Church has spent nearly 50 years listening to and for the Spirit in these matters...
When a diocese elected such a person in late 2009, the ensuing consent process indicated that a majority of the laity, clergy, and bishops responsible for validating that election agreed that there was no substantive bar to the consecration.
The Episcopal Church recognizes that these decisions are problematic to a number of other Anglicans. We have not made these decisions lightly. We recognize that the Spirit has not been widely heard in the same way in other parts of the Communion. In all humility, we recognize that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions...
We do not seek to impose our understanding on others. We do earnestly hope for continued dialogue with those who disagree, for we believe that the Spirit is always calling us to greater understanding.
We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures...
As Episcopalians, we note the troubling push toward centralized authority exemplified in many of the statements of the recent Pentecost letter...
We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the Communion... We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private.
The Presiding Bishop's letter closes with: May God's peace dwell in your hearts.
In a June 3 letter (reported on June 7), The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon (pictured left), secretary general of the Anglican Communion, informed the Episcopalians serving on the communion's ecumenical dialogues informing them that their memberships had been discontinued.
Among those affected were Rev. Thomas Ferguson and Assistant Bishop William Gregg (Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue), Bishop C. Franklin Brookhart (Anglican-Methodist International Commission for Unity in Mission), the Very Rev. William H. Petersen (Anglican-Lutheran International Commission), The Rev. Carola von Wrangel (Anglican-Old Catholic International Coordinating Council.
Kearon also wrote to Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada asking if its General Synod or House of Bishops had formally adopted policies authorizing public rites of same-sex blessing, and to Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone, inquiring about the current state of his interventions into other provinces.
In a June 8 press conference, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori described the sanctions as unfortunate:
I don't think it helps dialogue to remove some people from the conversation. We have a variety of opinions on these issues of human sexuality across the communion ... For the archbishop of Canterbury to say to the Methodists or the Lutheran [World] Federation that we only have one position is inaccurate. We have a variety of understandings and no, we don't have consensus on hot button issues at the moment.
As if in response to Rev. Kearon's letter, on June 10 the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada approved A115: Affirmation of Sexuality Discernment. The Sexuality Discernment Report stated, among other things:
At this time, however, we are not prepared to make a legislative decision.
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