The ELCA Conundrum

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Two recent news reports illustrate the conundrum before the ELCA.

On the one hand, Pr. Richard Johnson in the December issue of the Forum Letter (not available online; subscribe here – it is well worth the subscription price) describes the November meeting of the ELCA Church Council. The Council, he reports, is committed to the finding in Sexuality Social Statement that the ELCA has no consensus at present on the morality of homosexual partnerships and thus the four positions outlined in the Social Statement should all be respected as valid in the ELCA (a bad argument, but that is another matter). This attitude would seem to imply that if a majority of a synod council or candidacy committee finds such partnerships incompatible with the ordained ministry, they should be able to vote their convictions.

On the other hand, an ELCA news release (here) quotes ELCA Secretary David Swartling expressing concern that the resolutions of the NE Iowa Synod (here), which embody that freedom to vote one’s convictions, seem incompatible with the ministry recommendations adopted by the Churchwide Assembly.

Secretary Swartling may be correct, but the problem does not lie with the NE Iowa Synod resolutions. The problem lies in the divergence between the Social Statement (which argues that the church has no position on the sexuality questions) and the recommendations on ordained ministry (which, as amended by the ELCA Church Council and adopted by the CWA, implicitly affirm a specific position).

Secretary Swartling dodges the bullet by saying the Church Council will need to decide the issue in April. Their task is not to be envied.

[I have not made any posts for a while. I worry about repeating myself and have needed to attend to other tasks. I should return to posting more regularly soon.]

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42 Responses to “The ELCA Conundrum”

  1. Pastor Keith A. Hunsinger Says:

    I have long known that Lutherans are paradox mongers. This is another case. We say we have “no consensus” yet we endorse the most extreme position. We call for “bound conscience” and “structured flexibility” yet treat CWA’s as if they were the Council of Niceae and treat their edicts as law in all the land.

    If it weren’t all so serious it could be laughable. I have no idea how the Church Council will treat this and I’m on the blasted thing!

    Thanks Dr. Root for your continued comments and insights.

  2. Travis Norton Says:

    I’m finding the implications of this contradiction in my teaching. Since the vote those on the revisionist/progressive(?) side are emboldened to assert their opinion since it feels to them that the ELCA has their back so to speak. On the other hand I feel more timid in teaching a traditional ethic because despite what Bishop Hanson said in the recent town hall meeting that my position is not one of a dissenting minority it certainly feels that way. In the past I could refer to the church’s teaching on sexual ethics as one of the ways Christians stand apart from the rest of culture and live out our faith in Christ. I didn’t have to go into detail, but could make a list(much like the New Testament, i.e. no premarital sex, no cohabitation, no homosexual sex, no adultery etc) But now if I even refer to sex I’m in for a debate and the point that I’m trying to teach in class is lost. Furthermore even though only the teaching on homosexual sex has been changed, the others seem open to debate now as well. No longer is my stance the teaching of the church, it has been reduced to mere individual opinion that has no more validity than any other opinion. I don’t want every sunday school class to turn into a debate on homosexual sex, but it’s there in the room like a ticking time bomb every Sunday.

    • Ray McCraw Says:

      Well put. It almost seems we have been reduced to one of the “believe what you want to believe churches.” I long for the structured beliefs that have directed our lives and beliefs these centuries. This entire situation is very disconcerting and unscriptural in my opinion.

  3. Gregory Davidson Says:

    The ELCA Church Council seems like the United Nations: pronouncements are issued, but there’s no power to enforce. Since no one has clearly defined the extent of the “bound conscience” principle, the NE Iowa Synod has done all of us a great favor. Now comes the process of hammering out what exactly we mean by bound conscience. I think the ELCA was closer to a bound conscience position before the 2009 CWA. Now it is clearly moving into advocacy mode based on the actions of the 2009 CWA authorizing the abandonment of millenia of interpretation.

  4. Gregory Davidson Says:

    Travis, all our teaching jobs just got harder in that the CWA 1009 actions reveal the extent to which we are not of one mind among ourselves or with respect to traditional teaching on human sexuality. Besides departing from the design God gave for marriage and family, the PALM concept opens the door wide to a whole range of relationship configurations, while at the same time taking away any basis for opposing them. While it makes our teaching job more challenging, it also directs us to ground our teaching on those sources more enduing than “mere human opinion.” I think that will help us all (teachers and learner alike) in the long run, but it will be uncomfortable and tiring until we build up our resources and abilities.

  5. Pastor Keith A. Hunsinger Says:

    The arguments may seem to be in questions of homosexuality but the real fracture line is what does it mean any longer to say, “the Bible is the sole, authoratative rule and norm for the faith and life of the Church and its people”? It is not about sex but about scripture!

    • Ray McCraw Says:

      It appears the ELCA is saying scripture is “man breathed” and no longer “God breathed.”

    • Judith Says:

      Absolutely true!
      Before the CWA decisions, I could deal with homosexuality on a pastoral basis; now I have to deal with it as a matter of confession concerning my understanding that it is sin according to scripture.

  6. Gregory Davidson Says:

    So individual congregations and even individual believers are left on their own to decide what is authoritative, trustworthy, helpful, and true. I wonder how this “new teaching” will affect other areas of the ELCA’s life together?

    • Pastor Keith A. Hunsinger Says:

      To some degree that has always been true, but at least there has been a call to a common consensus, the voice of the Church. Not only have we violated that common consensus in these actions but worse (at least as far as I’m concerned) we have said that there is no “authoratative” voice. It is precisely that change that the NW Iowa Synod is claiming has violated the churchwide constitution.

      • Marshall Hahn Says:

        Thank you, Pastor Hunsinger. You understand the concerns raised in our memorial to the Churchwide Council. It is my hope that the Council can address the substance of those concerns rather then simply deal with the procedural issues involved as commented upon in Secretary Swartling’s “non-comments.” The memorial raises confessional and constitutional issues concerning the decisions of the CWA and the criteria by which they were approved. If the Council simply deals with procedural concerns to the neglect of those confessional and constitutional issues, this will simply deepen the confessional crisis this church is in.

        Marshall Hahn

  7. Tony Metze Says:

    Some years ago when I read Robert Bellah’s book, Habits of the Heart, and read about a young woman named Sheila who made up her own religion, calling it Sheilaism, I laughed. Today it appears that CWA 09 is following the Sheilaism path. Check out the New York times opinion piece by Charles Blow on this selective spirituality. I have a link on my blog also.

    • Judith Says:

      My husband and I have found Bellah’s book very insightful. And we LOVED the concept of Sheila-ism as a faith.

      True story from my first parish (early 80’s): Ruth (God rest her soul) was at my Bible study on Easter texts. She made some comment about “when I come back, I want to be an eagle.” I said, Ruth, we’re Lutherans! We don’t believe in reincarnation! Ruth replied, “Well, I’m a Lutheran, and I believe it, so it must be a Lutheran teaching!”

      That was an instructive moment for a new pastor! Disheartening, but instructive! The impulse to self-definition of Scripture’s teaching that culminated in CWA has been a long time coming.

  8. Conrad Derrick Says:

    It seems to me that Sec. Swartling is drawing a line in the sand that is inconsistent with any notion of structured flexibility and bound conscience. A number of synods expressed the “bound conscience” of their constituencies when they voted to send memorials to the CWA urging rejection of the Human Sexuality Statement and Ministry Policy Changes. The actions taken recognized the lack of consensus on these issues. Mr. Swartling is a lawyer. Normally when there is a lack of consensus on a policy it is the status quo that is maintained, instead of the implementation of the proposed change in policy about which there is no consensus. That is why the recommendations called for respecting bound conscience. I would like to know on what authority Mr. Swartling is speaking, or if deference is being given to him because of his legal background.

    • Wayne Kofink Says:

      Unlike the old ULCA which had a method for resolving issues of bound conscience specified in its constitution, the ELCA has no such provision. The closest procedure it has is specified in the constitution 13.41.04. “The secretary shall prepare interpretations, as necessary, of the
      Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. If a board, committee, or synod disagrees with the interpretations, as rendered, the objecting entity may appeal the secretary’s interpretation to the Church Council.” This is the authorization for Secretary Swartling making statements. Unfortunately, the only appeal to the Secretary’s interpretation is the Church Council which is hardly a neutral party.

  9. David Hallen Says:

    John reported to Jesus that a man was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but was not one of their designated followers. (Mark 9:38) Jesus’ response was is a warning against a narrow, orthodox and exlusive spirit. Healing and helping are not limited to an “in-group” but are common to all who follow Jesus. The disciples are exposed as being jealous, not only of each other but also of an “out-sider”. Practicing faithfulness is fine with Jesus if the words and deeds authentically represent the God who is revealed in Christ.

    There is an important lesson for us in this exchange. The gospel of Jesus Christ is an inclusive fellowship. It loses its power and grandeur if we try to limit it to only our way–our opinions, our traditions, our speculations. Ours is not a time for deifying man made religious barriers or catering to hyphenated Christians. The words of Jesus have a srong present-day application when He rebuked the disciples for trying to restrain the man who ‘wasn’t a member of their group”. “Forbid him not; for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us in on our part (9:39-40).

    Ladies and Gentlemen, give pause to your legalistic diatribe’s, consider the good of the church and the reality that we can remain one church, and that we can compromise our actions, without compromising our beliefs.

    It is not a crass observation to notice your focus on procedure and bylaws, but I urge you to set aside your education, your perceptions, and notice that Jesus did not ask what dogma the man preached, whether he was Jew or Gentile, Married or Single.
    Read what Jesus says. What better guidance could you have?

    Leave a Reply

    • Lance Henderson Says:

      Dear David,

      I’ll continue to look to scripture, and I ask you to look at reason as well.

      Your critique of the current focus found among the traditionalists on procedure and by-laws is dubious. Can you deny that it has been the revisionists consistantly working, strategizing, grabbing funds from any source to support their work at synodical & churchwide assemblies that has brought us to where we are today? Even as late as post-CWA 2007, the church was in the curious position of upholding policies on one hand and urging the same church to pay the policy no mind. (Recall CWA passed a resolution to urge bishops not to discipline those in violation of Vision & Expectation–that’s pure procedural legalistic acrobatics in my view.) Yet, even at that point when all these matters could still be contended with at the pastoral level, the revisionists still did not let up, and squeaked out a victory at Minneapolis. Now after this narrow parlimentary victory, the victorious revisionist say “Ah! The Spirit has spoken!”

      To now accuse traditionalists of being too litigious is preposterous.

    • David Charlton Says:

      There are some important distinctions that David overlooks:

      1. Jesus’ disciples had discovered others who were doing good deeds in Jesus name. They were casting out demons, but they could as easily have been feeding the poor, healing the sick, cleansing lepers, etc… That what they are doing is good is not in question. The disciples questioned their right to do it in Jesus name. It would have been another matter entirely if they had found a group of people doing questionable acts in Jesus’ name. “We found someone commiting adultery in your name.” “We found someone commiting fornication in your name.” “We found someone bearing false witness in your name.” The principle is not that any deed done in Jesus’ name is good, it is that anyone who does a good deed in Jesus name should not be prevented from doing it.

      2. Jesus told his disciples not to prevent those casting out demons in his name from doing so. He did not tell them to immediatley install them into the office of Apostle. That a person is doing good deeds in Jesus’ name does not immeditately qualify them for ordination. Much less does it entitle them to ordination. If that were the case, then there would be no reason to maintain candidacy committees, seminaries, or disciplinary committees.

      There are many people in same-sex relationships who do good deeds in the name of Jesus Christ. The question is not whether they should be prevented from doing those good deeds, but whether those good deeds in and of themselves qualify them for ordination.

      David Charlton

  10. Pastor Travis Norton Says:

    Dan,

    How would you advise the church to deal with false teachings if not by discussing them openly? The story you chose to apply to this case assumes that there is nothing wrong with proposing that homosexual sex is permissible within the Christian church. If your assumption is correct then that scripture applies. If your assumption is incorrect then perhaps other sayings of Jesus would be more applicable. In Matthew 16 Jesus warns the disciple against the yeast of the pharisees and sadducees warning them against false teaching that has a way of spreading.

    I’m with you that Jesus welcomes all people into his family, into salvation. He is willing to forgive all sins and sinners. But I think it is fair and worthy to discern what kinds of behavior are appropriate for members of Christ’s family and what kinds are not. When there is disagreement the default answer is not simply to accept the disputed behavior, but rather to go to our sources of authority(Scripture Church Tradition etc) for guidance. Do you disagree?

  11. Pastor Travis Norton Says:

    oops, I meant to address that to David Hallen. sorry

  12. David Hallen Says:

    My initial response will probably be deleted. It was too long, and I just woke up! Let me try to practice some brevity.

    Pastor Norton, I do disagree and make note that you do not mention prayer as a form of guidance, yet you mention tradition, which when viewed historically is dubious, at best. Jesus disagrees with “tradition”
    several times throughout the book of Mark. Luther rejected many traditions. Similar to Lance’s post, you both assume the authority to determine who is a Christian or part of Christ’s family. By your opinion, Quakers are not Christians, members of the UCC are not Christians, and any person who draws different conclusions from you, are not Christian.

    Secondly, it was not even possible for gays to discuss their humanity or faith openly for centuries, and I would submit that we have all discussed this topic openly, as are almost all churches nationwide.

    How is that Roman Catholics remain one church, without splintering into synodical divisions? Because they simply disagree with church doctrine, often very outspokenly but do not abandon the Church.

    Revisionism is a part of Christianity, one could almost say it is traditional! Both of your arguments were used to support slavery, deny the full role of women in the Church and a host of other cultural precepts that have been modified.

    I would add that just because you disagree with me, I would never imply that you were not a member of “Christ’s family”, nor would I have a problem kneeling right beside either one of you in communion.

    As I understand it, your congregations are not being forced to accept a gay pastor, yet you feel it necessary to continue to DEFROCK a gay pastor who has been in a long-term union, even despite the congregations overwhelming support of their gay pastor.

    I believe that there are more important theological elements of Lutheranism that bind us together, and I think many times “compromise and tolerance” can be practiced without forcing you to change your personal beliefs.

    As for a “small margin” regarding ANY vote, it’s always the people whose side lost, that give great meaning to that, yet if you would have won by a “small margin” the vote would be completely valid.

    I believe that because homosexuals are a naturally occurring minority, much like people who are left-handed (what do you think God’s purpose was for having some people be left-handed, when the overwhelming majority are not?). It was tradition, for a long time, to try all manner of forcing the left-handed person to behave against their nature.

    At some point, this practice was considered, revised, and the stigma ( a stigma over being left-handed, surrounded by superstition regarding it) fell into history.

    I am not trying to insist everyone agree with me or they aren’t Christian, and I believe you were given more compromise than you ever offered people who disagreed with you.

    We are saved by Grace through faith, and times change and beliefs and interpretations are revised. If this were a conversation over Christology, it would be different. This is about civil rights, and the belief of many that human sexuality was not fully understood by people living in primitive times. There are many revisions that we have made. That is why women are no longer silent in church, nor do Lutheran pastors now own slaves.

    • Michael Root Says:

      The earlier comment was, in fact, too long.
      M. Root

    • Daniel Says:

      The statement is that the writers of the Bible and those who lived in antiquity are primitive in there thinking. Your quote: “This is about civil rights, and the belief of many that human sexuality was not fully understood by people living in primitive times.” You obviously have a lot of history to read. People who lived in antiquity were by no means primitive. You might study how advanced the Egyptians were in mathematics thousands of years ago. You might study the thoughts of the philosophers and early advances in medicine that we are only beginning to rediscover as more advanced than our present day thinkers . Most everything we have today is based on the early building blocks of those primitive times. The Bible was not written in a vacuum or without divine intervention as your statement seems to indicate.

      • David Hallen Says:

        Anthropology: A person belonging to a nonindustrial, often tribal society, especially a society characterized by a low level of economic complexity.

        The term “primitive” is commonly used to describe people of those times. One need only google “primitive Hebrew ” to find a host of topics and references. It is also, a commonly used phrase in both theology and history, both of which I am well-read. Your presumption that I lack historical knowledge seems more contrived to insult rather than dialogue.

        Your concluding statement is completely erroneous. I never stated that “the Bible was written in a vaccuum”. To the contrary, between the Old Testament and the New Testament, it was written over a great period of time, by different people.

        Your statement of medicine as compared to those times is either overly idealistic or improperly worded. Anyone diagnosed with a serious medical illness would most likely depend on professionally educated physicians and specialists than rudimentary herbal discoveries made long ago.

        It is interesting that you only mention Pagan Cultures to show advanced thought. The Hebrews lived much more simple lives than the Egyptions or Romans in terms of engineering, mathematics, and invention.

        Obviously sociiety is built up (or evolves) from what you then, yourself, term “primitive” times. For me to even use the word, would negate that I implied a vacuum. Society does not exist in a vacuum nor did anything I wrote imply that. I also never stated the Bible was without divine intervention, which could occur from Adam and Eve to present day. I find your whole last sentence totally erroneous to anything I wrote. Perhaps you misunderstood.

        Any society that has to write laws to instruct its’ people that intercourse with animals is highly inappropriate, or exhorts its’ members to stone people to death for sexual transgressions can be viewed as primitive.

        Ironically, it is your comments that seem to exhort that we remain in a vacuum.

  13. Pastor Travis Norton Says:

    David,

    Just to clarify–I was not saying that people who hold to a false teaching are not Christian. Rather I was saying that even though Jesus welcomes ALL and is willing to forgive ALL, there are still behaviors that are appropriate for members of the Christian family and those that are not. Just because my son disobeys me doesn’t make him less a part of the family, but just because he’s part of my family doesn’t make his behavior appropriate or beyond reproach.

    Also- I agree, prayer is as important as Scripture, Tradition etc. in determining God’s intent for us as a church.

    If we take our connection in Christ seriously–the union that is established in Holy Baptism and sustained in Holy Communion–then we can’t just ignore what other congregations are doing because “no one is forcing us” to accept those engaged in homosexual sex. We are members of one another which is ofted a burden but also a gift. That’s why we can’t ignore each other or just go off in divergent practices.

    Let me repeat just to be clear–I am not questioning people’s salvation when discussing homosexuality–I think that’s another category altogether and you are right I don’t have the authority to make that distinction(judge not!). Which brings up by the way that I think the command not to judge is about determining who is saved and who is not. I do think we have been given the authority to correct(and recieve correction) regarding behavior.

  14. David Hallen Says:

    Pastor Norton-
    I thank you for the clarification. Please note that many who vote on this subject do not recognize the distinction.
    Secondly, you state another “personal belief” about the commandment to “Judge Not..” referring to salvation only. Christ does not say that. It could have a broader implication as well. Is that your personal belief, or is it one that also needs to be examined as “False Doctrine”?
    I again, submit, that Paul went off with a divergent practice for the Gentiles, with which the Ebionites strongly disagreed. They basically disappeared from history, though they were amongst the very first Christians. Their doctrines disappeared with them. Had they not accepted compromise, Christianity would not have spread through the Roman Empire. So your statement that “divergent practices” cannot be tolerated, is in complete contradiction to very early historic Christian compromise regarding practice (circumcision, dietary laws, traditional Hebrew laws, etc. Your argument would have prevented this vital compromise!
    Your example of a family, could be used to suit both arguments. Our family believed that members of churches often did not accept all doctrinal statements but believed most of them, and I think that’s true of every church.
    I would reiterate that your statements do not in any way deal with the church’s historical revisions concerning slavery, the role of women in church, nor did they strongly fight racism which was pervasive for decades. I also believe that too much politics in the church weakened it’ ability to effectively rebuke the Nazi party, since the church strayed from centering on Christ and indulged in political matters such as nationalism.
    I think defrocking gay pastors who have been beneficial and liked by their congregations is wrong. If you do not reach a consensus with your family member do you separate the family?
    I will still pray that the ELCA be not separated by this issue, but allow for a moderate measure of freedom of religious opinion, without choosing absolute orthodoxy, nor falling into complete postmodern subjectivism on our Christology and central beliefs over Salvation and the role of the Church.
    Separations led to even more off-shoots with results that were even more severe than the issues that divided them originally. I have spoken my share, and will leave you to consider the matter as your consciences and prayer guide you. I hope my efforts at least gave you some consideration of another viewpoint.

    Much thanks to the moderator for his tolerance and assistance.

  15. David Hallen Says:

    Pastor Norton-

    Also, what if my (and others) assumption IS correct? You admit that the scripture I quoted would apply. You quote alternative scripture if it “did not” apply. I would point out, that also in Mark, we have Jesus taking the Pharisees and Saducees to task multiple times for their strict interpretation of both law and tradition. So would not the postings on this sight, give one pause as to who needs protected from the false teachings of the Pharisees and Saducees (Matthew). The very jist of Jesus’ arguments with both centered on their strict adherence to laws, traditions, to the detriment of the Spirit? The yeast of the Pharisees and Saducees seems more apparent to me in the fundamentalist legalism advocated by “traditionalists” (a term I wouldn’t consider flattering) as opposed to “revisionists” (which could be used against anyone that has worked towards civil rights and appropriate Christian behavior and practice regarding civil rights.

    Traditionalists caused stigma agains those who were divorced (for decades, even though Jesus directed his rebuke at the Pharisees and Saducees).

    Is it possible that diversity could work to moderate extremes, so that we don’t keep accusing the other side, but work toward our higher calling?

    I keep using the compromise of practice towards the Gentiles, because it is historically a SIGNIFICANT example of compromise that neither forced change on the Ebionites but did allow for the acceptance of Gentiles. I state the latter historical events that befell the Ebionites, to point out that things occur which were not foreseen. No one condemned the Ebionites for their traditional beliefs, but the Romans destroyed the Temple, the Ebionites died out, and the example is particularly in contrast to your view of non-compromise.

    Pastor Norton–pause on your statement about my comment. What if it is correct and my choice of scripture applies? What if your choice of scripture also applies if I am correct? Please answer–THAN WHAT?

    Compromise was not a characteristic of the Saducees or the Pharisees, and you seem to advocate the same practice! I don’t mean that harshly, I am asking you to reason the possible ramifications if you are wrong!

    Further, you have not proven that you are right! You assume you are right. You believe you are right. You teach with that assumption.

    What if you are wrong? Think of what you instill into gay youth? Look at the outcome of your teachings. It gets misconstrued with a trickle down effect to people who aren’t even Christian, let alone Lutheran. They become ashamed of their own children, shun them, and we no that oftentimes the result is a Matthew Shepperd, who was not an isolated case. We end up with gay youth having 3 times the suicide rate and that does not give you pause? It scares a lot of reasonable people, Christian or not. It led to gays marrying out of fear, and that itself was horrible for both parties. It led to laws imprisoning gays, even after the Holocaust. I beg you to take this to God the next time you pray and ask for guidance with the desire for God’s answer, not his support of your opinion.

    Also, do you think that gays should be allowed to teach? Should we be allowed to teach only public schools and not Christian or Lutheran schools? I am not being rhetorical! Do you recognize the violence that gay people endure? Did you ever try to imagine what it would be like for someone to tell you that you “chose” your heterosexuality?

    My email is shallen1963@gmail.com. I am disabled and spend my time alone. I welcome you to dialogue with me, because I really haven’t been able to discuss these issues with family or even my pastor (who is liberal). I haven’t gotten shunned by liberals who resented my disagreement with the use of the term “marriage”. I thought “union” was better, and I got lectured by straight liberal friends via email! I had one partner, he died of AIDs, I lived in Greenwich Village, couldn’t get him insurance and I knew strategically that using the term “marriage” would result in backlash. Now a bunch of gays agree with me, but not the liberal straights…but they aren’t suffering the backlash!

    I would welcome a chance to dialogue with Lutherans about this…but this page is not the right place. My disability keeps me home 95% of the time so I study theology, history and computers–but I have been celibate since 1991 (I am 46) and it didn’t stop skinheads from bashing me in broad daylight in Jackson Heights, NY. It didn’t stop employers who fired me the very day they realized I was gay. Your teachings, despite the pretty ‘god still loves gays” disclaimer has horrifying ramifications.

    It is always better to hold up Christ’s gospel than personal experience, but I really would like to have a Lutheran pastor dialogue with me.
    My pastor’s liberalism regarding gays, far surpasses her treatment of people with my type of disability.

    Yet, I remain a Lutheran. I was baptized Lutheran, I read theology and pray in my apartment every day. And it seems so easy for people to just
    choose an opinion, and I wonder how much love and concern they really have, or if it’s just people debating people over opinion, without a call for the Holy Spirit. There are MANY ramifications to both sides that people haven’t even discussed! It’s the same rhetoric.

    I find arguing to be very upsetting. Calm emails discussing theology and social realities…fine. In a Christian spirit I would love to have any pastor dialogue with me because I am educated, I can respect people’s views,
    but I know that I practically live the life of a monk, and I spend more time talking about Jesus, when I can get out, with the most unlikely people.

    So the anger by so many Christians over this is DAUNTING to me.

    Perhaps you could educate me in areas that I lack understanding.
    But I know that my pastor would prefer not to even get an email from me, because I, a gay man, am not as liberal as she!

    So the whole issue is ironic and almost laughable, but it’s too serious to laugh about.

    It’s an open invitation.

    David

  16. Pastor Travis Norton Says:

    David,

    I appreciate your response. I’ve gone back and forth with others on the Gentile inclusion argument-which I contend is also about salvation and not about whether a particular behavior is Christian or not. But I would like to hear what Dr. Root or Dr. Yeago have to say about that one.

    In your post there are several side issues that I think we can all agree on. We can condemn all abuse that gay persons have endured. One should not be barred from the church, from teaching from being pastors simply because they are gay.

    A lot of confusion comes with a failure to maintaingcategories. I’ve been careful to say that it is a behavior that I oppose namely homosexual sex and not a person be they gay or other. I believe that the tradition has got it right on the proper place of sex–that it be a gift shared within marriage and that marriage is something for one man and one woman.

    In all of this I could be wrong, of course. But if I am wrong, then the burden of proof is on those believing that the traditional interpretation of scripture is wrong. I’ve heard many arguments and have listened to them carefully and am just not persuaded. Many arguments seem to stem from an assumption that because someone was born gay that the behavior they desire to participate in must be approved by God. But this doesn’t jive with our belief that we are fallen creature and the way we are born and the world we are born in are in serious need of rescue.

    I would really appreciate it if Dr. Root or Dr. Yeago respond to some of these arguements we are making. Maybe I’m completely off base with the way I’m responding. I’m certainly open to correction.

  17. David Hallen Says:

    Actually you are kinder than the posts i read before I found this one, and they upset me so much (and surprised me) that for various reasons I diatribed, and the moderator was polite and I decided to repost something shorter. So I am criticizing anyone on this page. I did not mean to post on page of people who shared a belief. It it were an open debate page that would be different. So with regards to that, I am impressed that you all have been very civilized. That is what I expect from Lutherans.
    Keep in mind, that the gentile agreement also effected the view of our Christology, it made it more inclusive. The Ebionites were satisfied to continue their lives as Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah. So without the compromise, there would not have been a development of the Trinity, it’s doubtful that Christianity would have spread had they continued to insist on circumcision and what would have happened to Christianity at all? I am pointing out to you, that they permitted an exception for the Gentiles that had significant ramifications without sacrificing their own traditions. Both existed at the same time, did they not? : ^ )

    As for gays and sexuality, straights set us up to fail. We used to be stoned, gay teens are being hung in Fundamentalist countries (over 10,000 in Iran alone…mostly teens). I would add that those against gay unions seldom involve themselves in the plight of gay people.

    Everyone ignores the left hand, right hand argument as to simple, yet it is so symbolic of how people’s brains are different, function differently.
    I am celibate for my own reasons. But I don’t feel that I would suddenly be sinning if I had a long-term partner.

    I don’t believe in promiscuity (leads to disease and hurts people), I don’t believe in adultery, and to expect all gays to be sexless is a burden that you would not wish for yourself.

    We know people aren’t born to be bank robbers, thieves, gossips.

    But now that we have a larger view of the world and are educated, it is clear the the percentage of homosexuals is about the same, and to expect us to be celibate (since you deny us union for those we love dearly) is like expecting anyone born different to go without sex.
    Aren’t you placing a burden on us that you would not wish for yourself?
    Don’t you believe that Unions would result in less promiscuity, more committed relationships, less drug and alcohol use, less STDs. So were is the down side? It’s because it feels wrong to you.

    And why shouldn’t it? We aren’t portrayed as humans on tv. We’re shown only comedically, stereotypically. Educated gays move to large cities with gay communities that live in bubbles from the rest of the country and through most of history, they had to hide.

    Many gays were just thrown away by their families. I knew gays with Aids whose families would not visit. So the parents are removed from the gays life, laws are made to persecute (if not kill in OT), unions are not recognized and so what are gays to do? They go out, the rebel, they party, they drink, they self-medicate (as do many straights).

    We think it’s wrong. It’s pretending we don’t exist. It’s not showing us on tv, if you never see gay couples around you, or dancing, it will look strange to you (I have seen many straight couples dancing and that seemed strange).

    You’re saying that you accept a gay person, but they have an innate desire to sin, as if they had a gambling problem!

    What would you have us do? Live lonely lives, and worse–loveless lives.
    These expectations teach gays at a young age to lie. They instill low self-esteem and you have not, as an educator responded to the fact that so many young gays commit suicide.

    My mother was like Anita Bryant. They were downright cruel to me and we were a close family. We made a truce after 10 years of me alone, to not discuss it. My mother promised she’s pray about it. And she prayed for years. She shocked me that she decided that although she thought marriage was for heterosexuals, that she believed in domestic partnerships and civil rights. She told me this right after the Lutheran announcement (which I missed) and she sobbed about how cruel they had been to me. Well I love my parents and forgave them anyway, but it was a weight lifted off my shoulders that had almost snuffed out my desre to live, it certainly affected my behavior in life, and I respect her because most people don’t change their minds by asking God to answer, they pray assuming their beliefs are God’s. If we can barely meet Christ’s most important commandments, the rest is moot. I’m sorry but it’s true. Your answers are weak and powerless over how less committed “Christians” the families that drag their kids to church behave. In the church where I was baptized and grew up one of my best friends attended. His mother picked up something and told him not to be friends with me…I was in jr. high. She said hello to me kindly every Sunday but her son told me what she said. Your well-meaning opinions allow society to continue denying people their civil rights. There are pastors and priest that don’t keep the beliefs you are stating, and I bet that there are gay ones (unless they’ve been defrocked) who have.
    The world is mostly straight. That’s the way should be. But there is variety. The world is characterized by it. And if he so abhored homosexuals, why in the world did he create Bonobos, which are genetically as close to us as chimpanzees, and are intelligent and practice homosexuality veraciously.
    i’m not saying human sexuality is the same as animals, but I do wonder where this idea comes from that we are supposed to live sexless, loveless lives, but feel “loved” when we go to church.

    I have been snubbed in congregations that support and invite gays!

    There’s real life, and there’s theory. There are ramifications to these human rules about sexuality which are based on ignorance. Do you follow the rules of “cleanliness” as the Old Testament does, in terms of women’s natural cycles? Most people don’t.

    You would chain us with your belief, and not allow us to just exist. We’re not going to increase in number! This fighting is inded comparable to superstition of people being born left-handed.

    I would never expect you to be celibate and not be able to choose a partner in life. I have gone without one, and I have still been mistreated because being gay is about more than just sex.

    And gay men are less violent than straights, they are usually kind and compassionate, and I try to just remind them that Jesus said “Go to your private room and pray” so that they need not lose their faith, just because the church is trapped in idealogical blindness. A blindness that refuses to see, to look around, to use their eyes and their minds. To think about the consequences of their beliefs. They don’t have to because they don’t have to LIVE the consequences of your belief!

  18. Sally Says:

    David, God bless you. I’m not a pastor. I have been working in home health care for over 30 years. I’ve worked with all sorts of folks in all sorts of relationships with all sorts of medical issues. Life is what it is and it is not always fair. Some babies are born with Down’s Syndrome, or spina bifida, or cerebral palsy and endur hardships every day of their life. We don’t know why these children must suffer, often into adulthood, often outliving their parents who sacrificed for them. Others are born with HIV or fetal alcohol syndrome or drug addictions because of the behavior of their mother. Behavior matters! These children may also have lifelong health issues, both physical and mental. If we want to be loving, then prevention is the key. Some of my patients are permanantly brain damaged because of an accident caused by a drunk driver. Behavior matters! The way I read scripture is that God made this world good, but Satan bullied his way into it to destroy that which God created. We’ve been caught in this age long spiritual battle and will be in it until the second coming of Christ. So we acknowledge that sin exists, it does not discriminate, and we can’t escape it. But by acknowledging its effects we can strive to love our neighbors, and sometimes that means saying, NO. Have you ever been around a two year old? As a mother and grandmother I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve said a stern NO for their own good. We spend much more time correcting their self determination and potentially harmful behavior than we do praising their innate goodness. Maybe that’s because we are born into sin and cannot free ourselves. So my take on life goes back to what did God intend for the world to be “good” ? Before Satan comes he made us male and female and he made us in His image. After Satan appears so does doubt, denial, hiding from God, making excuses etc. Satan has a way of taking something good and twisting it for his own purposes. Sexuality, created by God has goodness at its core. But sex has been twisted by Satan for exploitation in all sorts of ways that leads to harmful, hurtful, destruction of lives which leads to separaton from that which is good. So what are we to do as a church? Do we uphold that which God declared good, for the reason he intended it and proclaim marriage is between one man and one woman? Or do we cave to our fallen human desires and then, out of empathy and desire to love our neighbor allow our neighbor to convince us otherwise. Isn’t that exactly how Satan spoke to Eve, twisting God’s words? Unfortunately, I think the ELCA has twisted God’s words and now expects us to be tolerant and accepting because it is the “Christian ” thing to do. Sometimes we just have to say NO, even to the leaders of this church.

  19. David Hallen Says:

    Politely, I can not accept your comparisons of a 2 year old child, serious medical conditions (of which I suffer, hence disability) to be compared to being gay. Several of you have made condescending comparisons (perhaps not intentionally) as if you were speaking to a 2 year old child. “To the pure, all things are pure, to the unpure nothing is pure.” Promiscuity, adultery, there is no question that they can be hurtful. Sexuality in this country is not practiced by heterosexuals as your idealistic view. A number of illnesses with children and babies are from alocholics, crack addicts, parents who beat or abuse their children. Your approach is to list a plethora of sad and unpleasant things, to defend your personal belief that homosexuals, by definition are sinful. If reviewed as logical argument…it does not flow, it is flawed. Have you considered that sometimes we just have to say “NO” to church leaders…which is what many people on the opposite side of you are trying to do! Jesus declared “Love God with all your heart and soul. The second commandment is like the first…Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Again–I keep hearing sweet sounding twiting of Scripture. I am told much of my key arguments actually applied to “only to Salvation.” Well, isn’t that the point? Salvation! Isn’t that the Good News.?
    I have noticed that every time I have quoted Jesus Christ Himself, someone has ADDED/MODIFIED it to suit their own beliefs. ‘This applies only to this”,” that applies only to that”. Says who? If Christ meant it ONLY to apply to this or that, certainly He would have said so. Home healthcare? God bless you too. I watched my grandmother suffer with dementia for 16 years, and my mother’s health suffered for it. There are horrible things in this world, but your mentioning of some of these unfortunate scenarios of the human condition, to then turn around and use it as an excuse to continue harmful bigotry of gays is daunting to me, however, it is a common rhetorical type of spin to gain the reader’s empathy only to misapply it to the target. It in encourages me that Christians are to offer comfort. They are not to judge (unless of course you feel otherwise). It takes a lot to work in home healthcare, and I respect that. But you, yourself, are trying to use emotional triggers of unrelated topics, only to justify your opinion.
    When we speak of the Law, to what does it refer? Were the laws on stoning truly God’s law? And why give such a law, only have it changed?
    Again, you make an assumption that someone is closer to God, or more spiritiually solid simply by virture of being born heterosexual. How fortunate to be on the winning team! I hear people try to identify gays with “this sinful world” and yet the world is overhwelmingly heterosexual, it’s terribly anti-gay and has been since the dawn of man’s ignorance.
    We, who do not share your beliefs, have to be as vigilante in our convictions, as the gay community used to say “Silence equals Death”.
    I’ve had someone admit that prayer was as important as tradtion (Prayer is MUCH more important than tradition. Tradition is also history, and we as a church love to ignore history lest we offend ourselves and each other because it’s never been pretty!). I would point out that I never used the term “marriage”. It’s irrelevant to me. I used the term “Union” or “partnership”. But I have debated so many different points that no one has adequately answered. You just all say nice sounding things, but will not look at the ramifications and pain that have resulted in the continuation of bigotry in the name of religion. And we all know how politicians use religion to horrible ends. I find it ironic that fundamentalists make it sound like gays wish to divide the church, when I am trying to convince you to just compromise at least for a time, without huffing off. That was it. I know I am not going to convince you to change your mind about gays. Also, empathy and the desire to “love our neighbor” are not from fallen human desires. Are you kidding? Human desires have always been violent, intolerant, and warlike. It was Jesus who told you to not just love your neighbor “But love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Technically, he raised that standard when he said “love each other even as I have loved you” which is a further elevation of that law. You are modifying Christ’s law, saying that you can’t let your love for neighbor allow you to change your mind! I have had people change my mind, I’ve had life change my mind, I’ve had prayer change my mind, and I’ve had scripture change my mind. I worry about people who never seem to change their minds, because they innately believe themselves to be right and that God is on their side. His thoughts are not our thoughts. This really comes down to who is putting emphasis (or parentheses) on scripture as to what is a priorty for Christian concern. It you think this is it, forget about the billions of people who are not Christians! Let’s just quibble over this small group of gays that have not proven to be the beasts of history that heterosexuals have been!
    Unknowingly, you are “disengaging” the commandment by trying to modify it with your opinions. By so doing, you are limiting yourself as to receiving and practicing it. Let him who has ears, listen. I would suggest re-reading Jesus’ statements, without adding any modifiers. Then pray, then rethink your statements. That’s not a put down–I do it constantly!
    Jesus also said that there were many things that he could say that the disciples could not bear, or receive. John tells us that all could not be written down, and I can’t help but feel that he chose common people, so that the basic tenets of God’s salvation be focused on.
    What do you wish to happen? To break communion with Episcopalians and the UCC because they don’t share your beliefs? Even though the vote was close, I still think it shows people are trying to say “NO” to what we believe was cultural. No one has responded to the fact that gay unions would help decrease the many negative aspects of sexual activity that everyone talks about. Did I ever even try to imply that behavior has no ramifications? Of course it does! A drunk driver, a theif, a murderer, a crack addict, these are all behaviors. They aren’t born that way, they are obvious choices and no one is trying to make them pastors of recognize that gays are not straight people that just decided to try being gay like it’s a gambling habit. I am sorry if I repeat some statements, but I hear the same arguments from conservatives over and over and they are misguided and often not logical. They appeal to empathy but no Christ’s word. You try to warn people not to be moved by empathy, yet your whole first paragraph tries to do that very thing with unrelated topics and suffering! You are practicing what you are preaching against!
    As for the spread of AIDs into pandemic proportions perhaps that “sin” is due greatly to opposition to condoms.Have you read the issues going on in Africa with Aids? Did you read anything about AIDS on World Aids Day? The problems and ignorance faced by Lutherans and other Christians groups is ghastly! Straight men believe that raping a virgin will cure them? And you are worried about a gay person trying to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

    Many believe that unions or partnerships offer civil rights, an equality that you vote against and withhold from us. HETEROSEXUALS made these institutions, and marriage is not confined to Christianity. If you oppose it in the church, why do you oppose domestic partnership rights?
    Letting gay people suffer alone in hospital rooms because their partner is not “family” when many of their “families’ are MIA??

    Please note, Satan did not twist God’s words. He lied and told them something else. I am not twisting God’s words, nor adding modifiers. If you reread the posts, people have “added on” to every single quote of Jesus Christ that I have offered.

    God bless you too, but please remember to pray and to keep on praying. Proper prayer is to pray for God’s guidance, not pray condescendingly for others “to understand you”. And as for “Blessed are the peacemakers” I would think that would indicate compromise moreso than what was the status quo. Pharisees and Saducees clung to the letter of the laws, and lost all Spirit of it. Peace usually requires compromise, and oftentimes it’s the right way to go. Compromise on Jesus? NO. Compromise on hypocritical double standards? By all means!

    God bless you in your work but even that noble work, as a Lutheran you realize we are talking about SALVATION.

    I know you wish to be kind in stating your beliefs. I thank you for that, but the type of argument you build up, and then the conclusion that you draw is not a logical one. It is a faulty argument style. I’m sorry, but it is. Sometimes people have to say “NO”, but at this point, I am convinced that God’s flock is spread throughout the world, in different churches, and it is Christ who will judge. It’s time to say ‘NO’ to the injustice suffered by gays through the centuries. Destroying their lives, or making them as horrible and unpleasant and lonely as straights possibly could.

    But your beliefs are so idealistic, not even followed by so many disgraced pastors, and yet you would defrock respected pastors who are preaching Jesus Christ vehemently and convincingly. Christ told his disciples not to stop those who did so. Please read earlier post. do you realize how much work, study, prayer, ministry these people have done. The lives they have touched, the WORD they have spread. To have it taken away by your modifications to Christ’s commandments.

    I have a few illnesses going on, none of which have anything to do with being gay, nor do they effect my ability to be a Christian and pray for the unity of our church. WIth a 50% divorce rate, it seems to me that even marriage, take a back seat to SALVATION, and that is where the Christian message dwells and is of utmost importance. I spend my time trying to refocus people on Christ. I don’t wish to see division over this, but as one pastor acknowledged, you just may be wrong. Why do 3 times as many gay children commit suicide? You think saying “the church loves you but you are by nature desirous of a particular sin that we focus on, and are silent on so many others” helps anyone?

    I met a former college football player who after his first sexual experience, feared so much over his father’s reaction he jumped off of dry dam. Just because he was gay. A DRY DAM! So your BEHAVIOR…teaching and instilling this “ignorance (in my view) has reactionss too!
    He survived and has lived the rest of his life a paraplegic. He went on to become educated in suicide prevention. He’s paralyzed, he’s gay, and he’s Christain. And one can’t be around him without being humbled. I’m sorry, what you are preaching is not grace. To me it is a twisting of the Gospel. Again–in the A & E story, the serpent LIED, he did not twist God’s teachings. Twisting God’s teachings is more characteristic of modifying Christ’s statements. God Bless you!

  20. David Hallen Says:

    woops..meant to type “dam” not “damn” at the end. twice! [Corrected by moderator.] Everyone have a very Merry Christmas! God bless and let’s all keep praying. Upon this, we all agree…”For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is the Gospel, according to John 3:16.

  21. Lance Henderson Says:

    David,

    You are a courageous man providing many good reminders of how deeply these very issues touch people’s lives. I am reminded of how during the CWA floor debates, there were many moving stories that were summed up with words like “Jesus would be welcoming [to GLBT]”. Then someone at the red microphones would stand up and say something about the clarity of Scripture on the issues and our obligation out of Christian love compels us to proclaim repentence from sin in Jesus’ name. For me, it was a disappointing way to frame the argument. It was as if the church must choose to be either “welcoming” or “preaching repentence”. In fact, Jesus does both. And the church is therefore obligated to do the same. As you remind us, these are Jesus’ very own words.

    To the revisionists’ credit, they have demonstrated clearly that much of the church is not truly welcoming. Sadly, the church reflects so much of culture that ostracizes, neglects, and even acts violently to GLBT persons. And to the traditionalists credit, I think there has been a great deal of thought and concern about how we might get around all this in the face of some very clear biblical proscriptions. This is not the case where Scripture says nothing about homosexual acts and therefore the church can essentially make up its mind about it. This is a case where there are multiple Scriptural references condemning homosexual acts and the revisionists are encouraging the church to–under certain conditions–not simply dismiss those scriptural proscriptions, but in fact to celebrate the violation of them. Folks are thinking very hard on these things. And while there is so much ignorance surrounding the topic, I think it unfair to characterize those who think differently than you on these issues as assumed to be speaking out of “ignorance”.

    I thought that the previous church practice where those who were seeking ordination and were homosexual in their self perception were expected to abstain. This could have been a suitable compromise. There is nothing in Scripture about sexual identities (a very 20th century notion), so it allowed the acknowlegement of the person without an indictment on their identity. On the other hand, it said that certain things were simply not be considered God-pleasing. However, this proved untenable because revisionists insisted that forbidding expression of their sexual indentity added up to an indictment. (I’m curious how the B’s of GLBT will be allowed the expression of their sexual identity in the future.)

    I agree about how this discussion is adiophoric to salvation, but I’m not so willing to say it’s unimportant. Complex issues are always here and on the horizon. I had an interesting hypothetical discussion talking about aging baby boomers . The healthy husband of some completely incapacitated woman who took up company with another woman from his church. The healthy spouse was certainly opposed to divorce not wanting to abandon his wife, but he was genuinely lonely. His new relationship was brought him much happiness and relief. Few in the church (except those snarky busybodies) condemned their actions. Most were happy to mind their business. The question for the pastor just to consider is “is it an adulterous relationship?” and if so, does she say anything about it. If she declines to say anything about, what would happens when she is asked to celebrate it in some way?

    Thanks for your thought provoking posts.

    Peace & Merry Christmas!
    Lance

  22. David Says:

    Lance, I wish you a Merry Christmas too.

    I think my use of the term “ignorant” is valid. I said it was my personal opinion, and unless you are gay, you would be ignorant, because you have no idea how unchangeable, and how much a part of you simply IS.

    I certainly find that to be a less condescending approach, than constantly being besieged with comments about parents disciplining their 2 year olds. I am not a 2 year old. I am 46, I well-educated on the Bible, on Comparative Christianity, Church History, Textual Criticism (most Christians can barely deal with that!) and I am gay. I know what it is like to be told it’s a choice, when that’s nonsense. Easy to say when it’s not you. Try telling yourself it was a choice. When did you make it? Do people choose to be heterosexuals? It’s quite silly and it is ignorant.
    I remember praying for God to ‘change’ me and His answer was “No”. This stuff about church “loving gays” but considering them sinful is just a more polite form of mannerly exclusion and judgmentalism, rationalized by scriptural inconsistency.

    Both a straight and a gay person can fornicate, commit adultery, be sexually promiscuous, be monogamous, be celibate, be in love, be in a good relationship or a bad relationship. They can both be single, and they both should have the right not to be single.

    By casting the gay person as a sin, which is what most do in reality, is a grievous error and cruelty that has lasted for centuries.

    For a church to say that it loves gays but they are by their nature sinful and prevent them from establishing unions is wrong, and those of us who agree with this must stand up for that belief.

    I read posts where people negate their consciences (lest they tricked by empathy to approve sin) and others post that they are “bound by conscience” is just an example of how anti-gay thinking is a prejudice that is all over the map.

    Other than the gay inclusive Lutheran congregations, the treatment towards gays is cold to say the least. In other denominations, they are downright hateful and cruel. Lutherans that object to gays being pastors or being able to join unions are simply practicing a type of “manners” with a posture of “you are loved”…”your nature is sinful” being so pointless. It just sounds better.

    I think there is a difference between persistent and tenacious. Persistence usually comes from energetic people, who are not suffering or struggling with a matter. They simply are persistently convinced that they are right. Persistent people are seldom troubled or question themselves. They are persistent in their certainty. Persistent people are just waiting for the next round.

    Tenacious people, have suffered and therefore understand suffering. They are down-trodden but get back up again and again. They are tired, but do not stop and surrender to hurts and insults and mistreatment. Tenacious people are bound by more than their opinions, and conscience. They are bound by life experience. They continue to struggle though they don’t desire it. They continue to press forward and do not stop, although they wish it to stop. They wish for peace, but carry their crosses because they must for themselves and for others like them.

    Gay people come from families, are parts of families, and there are no words to post that could convey what a lifetime of being gay means.
    Gay people are tenacious. They have had to stand up to parents, relatives, neighbors, former friends, fellow church goers, politicians, hate-mongers, bullies. We have been scapegoats, objects of ridicule and mockery, theories and wild opinions. We have been classified as abominations, mentally ill, we’ve been shunned, beaten, murdered, imprisoned.

    But we have been tenacious, and although each generation may have it easier because of those who have gone before them, each generation will demand more rights. Will reject old culturally-instilled prejudice, whether it be through Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Stalinists, Nazis, Skinhead, Klansmen…

    I am sorry…you all have the same bigotry, some from hate-mongering, some from ignorance, and some from being raised by parents who teach them.

    I learned that self-pity is a horrible thing. So I simply state this as fact. I am not seeking pity. It’s useless.

    I am simply being tenacious, and have done so, since I was about 23. I am sure I am not alone, and as straights begin to reject what was once “not mentioned” in public, when they see and are educated as to how history has treated gays, then more and more will press the issue.

    Again, I never thought I would change anyone’s mind, but I will say I loved God since a child. Through horrible illness and disability I hold on t o my faith, at times so dark, there is no warm, fuzzy feeling to accompany it. At times, it is just KNOWING without feeling.

    I have gone threw much of this horrible treatment and it hurts, it’s painful, but when one thinks about our reality, that we have a loving and merciful God that knows us so intimately and is constantly with us, then how can one not be tenacious? How can one not keep from singing?
    “Thou He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

    So please don’t think of me as some gay activist. I am a Christian, who happens to be gay and is tenacious because it is the right thing to do.
    I can’t say I am energetic enough to be persistent. It’s tiring and there are so many Christian issues, this is just one.

    But in our world, our focus should be on Christ and not over-focusing on this issue. I guess decades of it have numbed as to understanding the anger, the vehemence. I am just weary of it, and wish we could all move on! I am so tired of even hearing about being gay that it’s nauseating to me. But I don’t want younger gays to go through what I did. And so if this is part of how I spend my time, to at least put a human element, a human expression of life experience as a gay man, than so be it. Because when you think of laws and rules and forget about the humans to which you are applying them, it’s so much easier for you if you only hear from those that agree with you…and this has led to the dehumanization and vilification of gays…and it’s much more sad than you would imagine.

    Having said that, ours is a loving God. I always liked Mahalia Jackson singing “His Eye Is On the Sparrow”. I know that I am looking forward to spending Christmas with my family and for having so much of this go into the past! It is a time to celebrate family and Christ and share that loving spirit, that we so quickly forget sometimes.

    Peace and Merry Christmas.
    May God grant us all guidance. I know I constantly need it!

  23. David Hallen Says:

    Lance that was a very nice post. I agree that it is no doubt a large issue to many, and i suppose at my age I am just weary of it! I feel anyone would be “ignorant” on the issue, given that they are not gay and know how difficult that realization and inability to change, as if it were a choice, truly is.
    As for bisexuals, I am as clueless to understand that state of being and perhaps am prejudice to consider it may be psychological denial. However, I don’t know. What I would expect, is that if one were bisexual, he/she would be bound to love, honor, cherish the person with whom they were in Union with. If a bisexual man chooses to marry, he is bound to his marriage. An attractiver person of either gender is uncacceptable in terms in infidelity…agreed? If this man/woman chose to commit to a man, again that is a union. To cheat, is to commit adultery. To sleep with various partners is promiscuity (fornication)–of which the world is replete. I caught so much grief from gays and liberal straights over my opinion that we need not call gay unions “marriage”.
    I find it semantics. I felt that the term “union” should be used, and perhaps that is a 20th-21st century concept, but only to straights. Gays have through the centuries sought partnership, lived in secret, or denial.
    If we look at “judging the fruit of the vine” we can see that by not pressuring gays to lie (from childhood) we strengthen their character to stand up for their beliefs. We prevent gays from erroneously marrying straights just to “hide” or “fit in”. This was the point of Brokeback Mountain, which actually showed the hurt and burden inflicted on the wives, and the struggle that the two men could not resolve throughout their lives. It’s a shame the movie sounds like a joke to people, because it was very human, and it made you think. I joke with gay friends as to why the word has to be “marriage” and I did warn of a backlash that could have been far less in intensity had we stuck with “union”. But let me share with you, how “domestic partnership” was failing gay people. In NY, the rights afforded gays in DPs were not civilly equal. However, NY State had a law, that all marriages from other countries were to be afforded the same rights as a marriage in the US. So my gay cousin and his domestic partner went to Canada, got married and returned to NYC with equal rights. As for that, do we see Canada falling apart from gay marriages. BTW, my cousin and his partner have been monogomous and dedicated for years, since his early twenties! They are very much a couple. When my partner and I lived together in NYC, we were very well known socially. The butcher, the bakery..everyone was nice to us saying we were “nice boys”. They thought of us as a couple. We were on the cover of the Village Voice, and it said “Everybody knows these two”. So we were visibly a couple. But not to my parents, who never saw him, never spoke to him, and that whole part of my life is unknown to them. My partner would have loved my parents, and had they met him they would have loved him. Such was NOT the case with my brother’s first wife, which ended in divorce.
    Scripture…I am with you on the ten commandments, although one wonders why child abuse is absent, when “coveting thy neighbors wife” is listed. Those very people who wrote those levitical laws in deuteronomy and leviticus, probably disciplined their children rather harshly and we would not accept that behavior today. There is no way probable that people of that day, in much smaller numbers and strict cultural identity could have understood gays.
    If Jesus, or anyone, tried to tell those people what the future would hold..space shuttles, television, airplanes, sports cars. They would have deemed you mad. So old testament scripture, whose authorship is unknown in many cases, is questionable. Moses is considered the author by tradition only, factually…that’s not the case. I would point out that I am not a Jew, so that covenent does not apply to me, nor would Jews expect that. That was a covenant between God and Israel (I still think many laws were wrong and not of God’s making. Genocide is attributed to God in the Old Testament, killing even babies. So OT references to gay people don’t ring true to me. Stoning people for sins rather than forgiving does not sound true either now nor then. Jesus comes with the knowledge of what His Father taught him. He created a “new covenant” in His blood. It is that covenant that offers salvation to not only to Israel but to the Gentile world. I was never under the first covenant. Now, Paul makes references to male prostitutes in pagan ritual, but there is great debate over the hermeneutics of his statements. Further, he speaks of women turning away from their “natures”. This sadly is a sin, but does that refer to straight women who turned away from their normal behavior with regards to Pagan worship which for many sects was highly mixed with sexual debauchery. Also, we do not follow all of Paul’s beliefs. Scripture is a guide, but it is not all infallible. If we build Christendom on the sand, we risk it being impugned by others by historical fact, errors, etc. If we base Christianity on Jesus Christ, and the message of His salvation, we are basing it on solid foundation. Jesus spends far less time teaching about sexual behavior as He does pointing out hypocracy or expounding on how to treat people, how not to judge, to love others as ourselves, to spread HIS GOSPEL. Not to teach the old covenant, but to teach the new covenant. As for Adam and Eve, it is true that Hebrew tradition spoke of Lilith, who God made before Eve, and she had no interest in Adam and left! Genesis itself is a mixture of two very distinct Jewish traditions. When Paul does speak of “gay prostitutes” this word is often mistranslated into “homosexual” leaving out the prostitute aspect. In Ezekiel 16:48-50 God compares Jerusalem to Sodom, saying “Sodom never did what you and your daughters have done.” He explains that the sin of Sodom was that “She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” God then sent an angel to rain hell fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah. The sin was against Hebrew Law of Kindness to Strangers.
    It was Christians, not Jews, that used the term Sodomy and they associated the word with non-vaginal intercourse and also bestiality (which isn’t even mentioned in that story). What those people did was try to rape. It was not a city of gay people as so many people astonishingly believe! I have hard time understanding how bestiality is even mentioned so much…it’s just abhorrent to think that people would even need to be told how “whacked” that is, and the man-made insult comparing two gay humans that love each other to such a vile unrelated act, is horrific. I can’t believe how misguided some Christians are on the subject. Even when Paul criticized the male pagan prostitutes in Romans, he ends “AND SO ARE ALL OF YOU”. Yet that last line should have been at the end of that paragraph. It was arbitrarily seperated into a different chapter. In reality, the New Testament did not break up the story with chapters and verses, and that sentence was intentionally moved to weaken Paul’s condemnation of hypocracy and he concludes, like Christ, “so do not judge” (see Romans). So scriptural coverage of this topic is not as clear cut as you indicate (in my belief and others).

    Christianity has too often become puritanical phariseeism and turns a lot of people off. That is why so many gays are turned away from church, and it’s not surprising. Again, Scripture does not condemn slavery, and many cultural roles applied to women are based on epistles that we know Paul did not write, they were pseudoepigraphy! Most scholars acknowledge this. So to grant infallibility to unknown sources, and their opinions doesn’t seem all that authoritative. Christ’s words are authoritative. Jesus says “His words” shall never pass away. The NT is of much later construction. Jesus says that “the meek shall inherit the Earth”, Revelations spills out apocalyptic death and destruction contrary to Christ’s statement. That’s one reason why Luther did not give it much weight spiritually, and for a long time it was not given much weight until it finally made it into the Bible. Earlier versions of the Bible do not include it.

  24. David Hallen Says:

    I promised the kind moderator that I have finished with my comments. I do appreciate how respectful you have all been, and Lance I do agree with you about revisionists and traditionalists. It would be nice if the blend worked as a “checks and balances” with both sides finding moderation without pressuring others to suffer issues of conscience.

    I do concede and worry because the gay community does have a lot of problems and I am uncertain as to whether immediate or gradual change is the correct course.

    I do appreciate a lot of traditional beliefs in the church. I do recognize that many traditionalists are good Christians and I also realize that a self-righteous person can be a liberal, conservative, atheist, or just a critic!

    I think when we voice our opinions, especially me, one can sound self-righteous and your kindness with your postings and the moderators tolerance have reminded me of the respect that is due you, even we disagree! Thank you Lance for your post. I read it and it was well worth reading and beneficial. I am grateful to you and all others who posted and dialogued with me. I may have debated back, but I usually go back and reread and rethink. So thanks to all of you!

    Have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS. We know that God will prevail!
    I leave you alone now to offer each other support, and hope my disruption was just a way of adding a human face to the subject.

    Everyone take care and God Bless!!!

    David

  25. David Hallen Says:

    Mr.Charlton,
    Paul uses the term “Apostle” differently than do other writers in the Bible. Junia was referred to as one of the greatest of the Apostles, but they manually altered this by the creation of “Junias” as if it were a male, however no such name is recorded as being used in that era or for Palestinian Jews (see “Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”). You are completely missing my point by trying to split hairs over a large point that Jesus is making…and if you wish to do so, you should respond to Christ’s entire quote as it applies to the way you wish to craft it, lest you twist scripture. Further, preaching is a good deed, that can be done in Christ’s name. Are you saying they were just casting out demons in Christ’s name, but as Christians they were not preaching about Christ. In which case, what was the point. Were they mute, opinionless, but casting out demons with no Christian message to preach? How far out there do you have to reach to blur a very obvious Christian message. Who practices adultery in Christ’s name. Oh..Henry VIII, Defender of the Faith and founder of the Anglican Church, which opposes gays. Thanks for reminding me!

    I doubt if Christ cares if one is Lutheran or Methodist or Baptist, and we are not saved by some theological test. We are saved by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

    As for your second point, Jesus did not institute any of those things you mention. Were you being serious or rhetorical?

    • David Charlton Says:

      Mr. Hallen,

      There are several things I would like to say in response:

      1. It would be more helpful if you would have used the reply button so that your response would have followed my post.

      2. What you consider splitting hairs is not. It is making distinctions. You say that I missed Jesus larger point. Wrong. I disagree with you about what his larger point is. I do not think that Jesus’ larger point is about who is qualified for the office of ministry, but about who is to considered a legitimate disciple of Christ. It is more akin to the statment you make in your second paragraph. It demonstrates that Lutherans, Methodists and Baptist can all be considered Christians. So, you tell me not to split hairs. I counter by saying, “Don’t blur distinctions to make a point.”

      3. You say Jesus did not institute any of those things I mention. By “those things” do you mean the office of ministry? The office of Apostle? If so, I disagree with you. Or do you mean seminaries, candidacy committees and call committees? Well of course, he didn’t institute those. The ELCA and previous bodies did. However, do your mean to say that because Jesus did not institute them, they should be disbanded. I agree that the logic of your original assertion leads to that conclusion, but do you really believe that?

      3. To the charge of twisting scripture that you make, who is engaging in rhetoric here? I didn’t realize that disagreeing with your interpretation meant that I was twisting scripture. Please show me how I twist scripture by failing to agree with your conclusion.

      4. In summary, my primary objection to your argument is that you have made several leaps that are not warranted by the text. The text does not ask or answer the question about who is morally fit for the office of ministry. The church has never interpreted this text to mean that anyone who has either proclaimed the Gospel or done a good deed in Jesus’ name is automatically qualified or entitled to exercise the office of ministry. Neither has it interpreted this text to mean that once a person has preached or ministered in Jesus name, they cannot be removed or disqualified from the office of ministry on moral or ethical grounds. You seem to think that is does mean that. (Or at least that it means that in the case of people in PALMSGR. ) I argue that you have failed to make your case.

      Rev. David Charlton

  26. Michael Root Says:

    At some point, I do get tired of reading comments on a posting, so at 40+ comments, I am cutting off this thread.
    M. Root

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