Northwest Synod of Wisconsin Earns Board of Pensions Health Plan Discount: The Northwest Synod of Wisconsin is the first of 65 ELCA synods to earn a 2 percent discount on 2008 contributions it makes to the church's health benefits plan for its employees. For the NW Synod of Wisconsin, the discount will result in savings of more than $20,000 for the rest of this year.
The discount is part of an ELCA Board of Pensions incentive program to help ELCA employers (synods, seminaries, congregations and Churchwide offices) encourage eligible employees and spouses to complete the confidential Mayo Clinic Health Risk Assessment offered through the Board of Penions EmbodyHealth Web portal.
An employer qualifies for the discount when more than 75 percent of their eligible employees complete the health risk assessment
A scorecard indicating each employer's progress toward the 75% goal is published on the BOP web site. You might want to check your synod's progress. It appears to us that the Montana Synod has a good chance to become the 2nd synod to qualify for the discount.
NW Synod of Wisconsin Bishop Duane C. Pederson said the synod promoted the health risk assessment at all synod gatherings and at visits to pastors and congregations. The synod made laptop computers available at its synod assembly so ELCA health plan members could complete the assessment on the spot.
The ELCA Board of Pensions is a $7 billion nonprofit corporation providing retirement, health and other benefits and related services for ELCA pastors, lay ministers, employees and their families.
The health risk assessment has been available to plan members for four years, but 2008 is the first year financial incentives have been offered to those who complete the assessment.
Synods and organizations still have time to earn the 2% discount for 2008 by completing the health risk assessment. The 2008 health risk assessment closes Sept. 30.
New Wave of Gay Seminarians: In October last year we reported on a blog entry Where Are the Queers? from a student at Luther Seminary who had yet to encounter any LGBT seminarians.
Last week Minneapolis news site City Pages stepped forward with A New Wave of Gay Seminarians Prepares to Take the Pulpit by Bradley Campbell.
The article introduces Luther Seminary students Lauren Wendt, Dustin Nelson, Brenda Froisland, and Margaret Kelly. They are a personable group who share their insights into faith, seminary education, and growing up gay. They also share some of the frustration of preparing for careers that the church might deny them. If you've never had the opportunity to get to know a gay seminarian, this might be a good place to start.
Author Bradley Campbell also includes a short side piece discussing Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
Forgiveness, Warnings on 'Non-Canonical' Gestures: The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church denounced the actions of two bishops who participated in religious rites with Eastern Catholics but stopped short of punishing them:
The Holy Synod disapproves of the non-canonical gestures made by the two leaders and accepts their change of mind and repentance as a first sign of their correction.
On May 25, Nicolae Corneanu, the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of Banat received Holy Communion at a liturgy in the Greek-Catholic Church in Timisoara in the presence of the apostolic nuncio to Romania Archbishop Francisco Javier Lozano. Earlier, in an Epiphany celebration, Bishop Sofronie of Oradea blessed water together with a Greek-Catholic hierarch.
The Synod emphasized that hierarchs, priests, deacons, monks and laity of the Romanian Orthodox Church are not permitted to commune in other Christian Churches. Clergy violating this prohibition may be defrocked and excommunicated; laity risk excommunication.
Tensions between the Orthodox Church and the Greek-Catholic Church in Romania arise in part because Greek-Catholic church properties were seized in 1948 by the Communist government and handed over to Orthodox control. According to some accounts, approximately 2,500 churches were confiscated in 1948, and currently the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church has recuperated only 200.
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Following the 1989 anti-communist revolution in Romania, Metropolitan Corneanu was the only Romanian Orthodox bishop to ask forgiveness for having cooperated with the state police under the communist regime. He is also the only Orthodox bishop to have returned confiscated church properties to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church.
Retired Clergy Rebuffed: On July 17, United Methodist Church Bishop Beverly J. Shamana issued a ruling of law to declare a resolution of the California-Nevada Annual Conference "void and of no effect." The resolution (Item 21: Commendation of Retired Clergy Volunteering to Conduct Same-Gender Marriages), adopted by the annual conference on June 21, commended more than 60 retired clergy who offered to perform same-gender marriage ceremonies in the wake of the California court ruling that allows gay couples to marry. The bishop's ruling reads in part:
While the resolution is a commendable gesture to the congregations of the conference in offering the pastoral counsel of a number of retired clergy to persons contemplating same-gender marriage under the laws of California, it steps over a disciplinary line when it commends these clergy to the congregations for the purpose of 'performing same gender marriages or holy unions. It is not within the power or prerogative of an annual conference to offer the services of its clergy to perform acts which the General Conference has declared to be chargeable offenses against the law of The United Methodist Church
Speaking on behalf of the retired clergy, Rev. Don Fado, a retired Methodist pastor in Sacramento said:
Nothing has changed by the bishop calling the resolution null and void. As far as we're concerned, we're available, and the conference knows we're available, and we've made our witness and will continue to do so.
Anticipating the bishop's ruling, on July 17, in Harrisburg, PA, delegates to the church's Northeastern Jurisdictional (NEJ) Conference voted to support retired California-Nevada clergy who perform the marriage ceremonies. The NEJ resolution also asks for lenient disciplinary action against clergy who disobey church law on the issue.
More Womenpriests: On July 20, at Church of the Covenant, a Protestant church in Boston, three women were ordained into the priesthood and a fourth into the diaconate under the auspices of Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP).
The newly ordained women are Gloria Carpeneto of Baltimore, Judy Lee of Fort Myers, Fla., and Gabriella Velardi Ward of New York City, and Mary Ann McCarthy Schoettly of Newton, New Jersey.
Bishop Dana Reynolds (pictured) presided at the ordination. Bishop Reynolds, ordained to the priesthood in 2005, was ordained into the episcopate on April 9th.
The Archdiocese of Boston issued a statement reiterating the Vatican stance that those who participate are excommunicated automatically (latae sententiae):
Catholics who attempt to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the women who attempt to receive a sacred order, are by their own actions separating themselves from the church.
RCWP insists the ordinations are legitimate because Catholic bishops in good standing ordained their first members to become female priests and bishops, and consequently the women being ordained stand in apostolic succession.RCWP has not released the names of the bishops who consecrated the first women bishops to protect the bishops from sanction by the Vatican. RCWP has indicated that the names will be released after the male bishops have died.
Gravida - Lactans - Defessa: Recently we encountered for the first time Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Parturition (CSPP):
You too are a Concordian Sister of Perpetual Parturition, regardless of how many kids you have, if you believe in having a God-sized family. And if you buy into that Concordia business (we're talking Confessions here, not those money pits where we went to college).
We may not see eye-to-eye with the Concordian Sisters on some matters, but we heartily endorse their attitude:
The Concordian Sisters cannot be held responsible for poor reading comprehension on the part of visitors to this blog. If readers find our notions offensive, they are more than welcome to quit offending themselves...
Frankly, we'd rather be a Concordian Sister than a Brother of John the Steadfast.
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