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ALPB => Your Turn => Topic started by: 1Ptr5v67 on July 21, 2008, 08:38:08 AM

Title: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: 1Ptr5v67 on July 21, 2008, 08:38:08 AM
An excerpt from a lengthy essay in the August/ Sept issue of First Things:
The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline
by Joseph Bottum
Joseph Bottum is editor of First Things.
http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6254

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Intellectual community may be even more decisive. Over the past thirty years, Mainline Protestantism has crumbled at the base, as its ordinary congregants slip away to evangelicalism, on one side, or disbelief, on the other. But it has weakened at the head, too, as its most serious theologians increasingly seek community-that longed-for intellectual culture of people who speak the same vocabulary, understand the same concepts, and study the same texts-in other, stricter denominations.

All these themes appear in the open letter the elderly Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten wrote in 2005 to Mark Hanson, the presiding bishop of the Mainline branch of Lutheranism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is, in its way, a terribly sad document, as he notes how the Lutheran Church in which he was brought up "has become just another" Mainline church. "I must tell you," he explains to Bishop Hanson, "that I read all your episcopal letters that come across my desk. But I must also tell you that your stated convictions, punctuated by many pious sentiments, are not significantly distinguishable from those that come from the liberal Protestant leaders of other American denominations."

There used to be a distinct Lutheranism that he understood, Braaten writes. He learned it "from Nygren, Aulen, Bring, Pinomaa, Schlink, P. Brunner, Bonhoeffer, Pannenberg, Piepkorn, Quanbeck, Preus, and Lindbeck"-a roll-call of once famous Lutheran thinkers-"not to mention the pious missionary teachers from whom I learned the Bible, the Catechism, and the Christian faith." All that "is now marginalized to the point of near extinction."

Indeed, Braaten insists, the church's "brain drain"-the parade of contemporary Lutheran theologians, one after another, joining other denominations-is caused by this loss of any unique Lutheranism: "While the individuals involved have provided a variety of reasons, there is one thread that runs throughout the stories they tell. It is not merely the pull of Orthodoxy or Catholicism that enchants them, but also the push from the ELCA. . . . They are convinced that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become just another liberal Protestant denomination. . . . They are saying that the Roman Catholic Church is now more hospitable to confessional Lutheran teaching than the church in which they were baptized and confirmed."

The letter is, in fact, a long litany of loss: disjointed, heartfelt, flailing; a bewildered catalogue of all the things Braaten thought mattered. He carefully lists his antique political credentials ("I am a life-long political liberal. . . . My wife and I opposed the unjust war against Vietnam")-as though that would give him standing. ­Educated at Harvard and Heidelberg, he records his contributions to the high theological controversies of Lutheran days gone by-as though that would save him from irrelevance. He names the long generations of his family's missionary work in Madagascar, Cameroon, and China-as though Bishop Hanson would suddenly remember the 1920s world of prestigious mission boards and halt the tumble of Lutheranism down into the miniature melting pot that is Mainline Protestantism in twenty-first-century America.

The influence of the Lutheran Chu rch was bigger back when its ambitions were smaller. While the denomination was growing from a set of German and Scandinavian immigrants' churches to a full member of the American Mainline, Lutherans typically wanted only to hold their faith, supporting the nation in general while speaking out against specific social ­failures. The civil-rights movement, for instance, showed a strong Lutheran component, although the Prohibition-era war on alcohol was not joined by many church members. Local campaigns against pornography always had high Lutheran participation, but by the 1950s the Lutheran vote in national elections was largely indistinguishable from the general voting patterns of the rest of the country. They influenced American culture mostly by being themselves: a significant stream in Tocqueville's undivided current.

Where are they now? Well into the twentieth century, Lutherans were uncomfortable with their relation to other Protestant churches. The more conservative branches of Lutheranism still maintain some of that old distance: Neither the Missouri Synod (with 2.5 million congregants) nor the Wisconsin Synod (with 400,000) are members of the National Council of Churches, for example. But about this much, Carl Braaten is right: The largest branch, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has merged itself almost entirely with the other liberal Protestant denominations.

V

Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran-the name hardly matters anymore. It's true that if you dig through the conservative manifestos and broadsides of the past thirty years, you find one distressed cry after another, each bemoaning the particular path by which this or that denomination lost its intellectual and doctrinal distinctiveness.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

An excerpt from:
The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline
by Joseph Bottum
Joseph Bottum is editor of First Things.
http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6254
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dave_Poedel on July 21, 2008, 11:33:10 PM
This is a very profound paper.  Dr Bottum is very aware of the idiosyncrasies of Protestantism and one has to wonder how this large number of saints will continue to serve faithfully.  As in any Church, there are a majority of true Believers in the mainline, as well as a very large number who are confused about the future.

I truly wonder how much your average Methodist, Presbyterian, ELCA Lutheran (or even LCMS Lutheran, though not classified as mainline by most sociologists of religion) member of the local congregation know or even care what is happening in their denomination.  I know that I have a lot of trouble getting my folks to care about what happens at the District or Synod level, and I can't imagine it's much different in most congregations. And, truth be told, most of my folks are in open disagreement with practices that are "defining" of our Synod such as close communion.

Will the mainline survive because there are alive and vibrant congregations in the denomination?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on July 22, 2008, 12:48:18 PM
Will the mainline survive because there are alive and vibrant congregations in the denomination?

That's the "million-dollar-question" now, isn't it... My guess is that the "mainline" will survive, but that individual "mainline denominations" will not...  I suspect that, as the author noted, as doctrinal "distinctiveness" continues to dissipate, and as numbers (of parishioners) continues to decline (be it through age or whatever), you will begin to see actual consolidation between denominational bodies, both out of praticalities/necessity and out of shared mission.  One could see an eventuality where segments of the ELCA and the TEC/PECUSA could one day merge to form some sort of shared ecclessial body (NO!, I am not "fear mongering" about CCM, here...) because they share so much in common and numerically need each other to maintain an ecclessial "gravity."  The same could be seen amongst some segments of the UCC and various bodies (including the ELCA...  There is historical precident for this one...).  About the only "mainline" body that could concievably remain unchanged would be the UMC (United Methodist Church) which (1) has sufficient numbers to weather the storm for an extended time, (2) has a sufficiently strong "brand" identity yet a deliberately flexible confessional identity to allow a huge diversity of membership, and (3) is still seen as the "acceptable"/default denomination of American civil life (which is what the Episcopal Church once was).  But even here, the UMC continues to threaten to "fly apart at the seams" every three years as they wrestle with issues.  In the end, I think the torch has past from the Episcopal Church to the UMC as the "standard bearer" of mainline American "Protestantism."

As to the "rest of us" (those of us within the ELCA, TEC/PECUSA, PCUSA, American Baptists, and even the UCC/Disciples of Christ who remain wedded to confessional life as opposed to a "mainline" identity),  I think we will face a rough patch where we will face ecclessial shattering and a nomadic life.  Perhaps, like the mainline, we too will consolidate: Anglo-catholics and "high Church"/Evangelical catholic Lutherans for instance.  Or maybe we will be forced to realign with other global ecclesial bodies like what is happening in the Anglican communion.  Some, doubtless, will choose the "independent" route.

But I think the "fight" for the identity of the "mainline" has largely been decided.  The question now is what lies ahead.  Perhaps I am wrong in my predictions...  Lord knows I have no academic credentials to backstop them.  But this is my best guess... 

And never let us forget: whatever the future, Christ will prevail.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: doxtalker on July 22, 2008, 02:55:48 PM
 The First Things article looks interesting -- I've just started reading it. My first thought, though, is whether it really makes sense to talk about "the way it is."  Maybe the author will produce proof for what he's saying. But just the beginning -- Remember, there was a time in America when there were all these sects, and they made up America.
  Where I live, these sects all seem to go on. Even the Mennonites on their farms.
 What does amaze me, though, is how little religion seems to matter to so many youngish people (20 to 50 years old) with whom I work. It seems they could care less. I wonder ... do they really find life so satisfying that they don't feel a need for God. Or are they, perhaps, as Ernest Becker says, in deep denial?

Larry
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: HopefulSeminarian on July 22, 2008, 03:44:14 PM
I may being naive but I believe there is a beginning of a migration away from the Mega Church, charismatic, Evangelic and back to the Higher-Mass/ritual style churches. The following is mainly my opinion and thoughts.

I left the ICOC, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Churches_of_Christ, in 2000 and gave up on all organized religion. In 2003 I found a church in Minneapolis while I was attending Augsburg that had the ritual and Mass style I grew up with as a Roman Catholic but also a freedom to debate and discuss.

I am now a Seminary and MA student, hence my login name, though not currently going for ordination. The ELCA has given me much and I am grateful.

One of my area's of personnel study deals with church migration and the factors that lead to this event. In my research on this potential shift, I do not have enough hard data yet to start quoting but I’m working on it, I have found more and more people are seeking to return to a “Higher style of service” and to a church that does have a tradition but still deals with the world.

Is the ELCA dealing with many different issues? Yes but at least the are addressing them and allowing for study and debate.

I believe, and I know I may be an idealist, and pray that the ELCA will grow with more of the faithful and even unfaithful who wish to come know the salvation given by Jesus Christ.

Just my two cents and my opinion

Edward Arrindell
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: E. Swensson on July 22, 2008, 04:14:41 PM
Yes, it is a sad trend, a sad paper, and of course, we are in the midst of a trend (so many sad papers). Since there is no hope for the faith of a generic denomination, perhaps we can preach resurrection to its members. That is, Lutheranism was once known for teaching of a lively faith. Can we not be born again?

I was just at another lecture on sociology. I am being convinced that sociology can only count corpses, not bring any to life.

"But, oh, faith, it is a living thing, sharp and active as any two-edged sword."
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 22, 2008, 04:37:23 PM
The article does not say why it was "good" having Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. in distinctive denominations.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Kevin Palmer on July 22, 2008, 05:13:44 PM

Perhaps, like the mainline, we too will consolidate: Anglo-catholics and "high Church"/Evangelical catholic Lutherans for instance.  Or maybe we will be forced to realign with other global ecclesial bodies like what is happening in the Anglican communion.  Some, doubtless, will choose the "independent" route.


I actually find it a rather appealing prospect to think that perhaps in the not so distant future, evangelical catholics of various stripes would join together and bring all of us one step closer to reunion with Rome.  But that's probably just wishful thinking...   :)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on July 22, 2008, 10:34:01 PM
I for one hope those of you who dream of some cross denominational coming together of Evangelical Catholics with an eventual return to Rome might consider a slightly different path.  I would hope that you could see you have more in common with Word Alone types than you may think.  Go back to Braaten and Jenson's two volume work on Dogmatics, and you will find a major chapter on the atonement by Gerhard Forde.

We who treasure our confessional routes not for nostalgia sake but for impelling our witness and service do differ in our ecclesiological understandings.  I hope our working together, however, is not short lived and that we then split into our more pure camps.  In the immediate future we are needed to bring common voice.  Some of us believe we need each other long term also.  I believe Steven Tibbits and I could actually enjoy some good times over some good beer, German or domestic, and the Kingdom would be extended by both of us being in the same communion.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: bajaye on July 22, 2008, 10:41:18 PM
For some reason I picture Pastor Tibbetts as solely a German beer kind of a guy.  And the Kingdom is already extended by the both of you.

Brian
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: deaconbob on July 22, 2008, 11:24:13 PM
Maybe its me,but I don't see WA and Evangelical Catholic's under one roof. However, having said that,I pray for the continued witness of each to the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior. And yes, I can see some sizable segment of the PECUSA (TEC) and the ELCA "merge", especially as 2009 Assembly and The Primates Gathering fall-out/ discernment begins to evolve. Suspious of "foreign oversight" an American expression of these two Traditions may emerge ( Although I would insist that the Episcopalians acknowledge there were Calvinists and didn't invent incense/miters/bells). As the UMC re-discovers the Sacraments, it is most encouraging, but perhaps we need to admit, that we lutheran's aren't Protestants, but reformed Roman Catholic's and have a witness to offer a sinning and conflicted world. It has been spoken of before, but a via-media LC-MS and the ELCA. And perhaps, GOD is bringing us to our knees , because we and not His angels have started to seperate wheat from weeds, and mixing it all up, yet again.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on July 22, 2008, 11:35:44 PM
I for one hope those of you who dream of some cross denominational coming together of Evangelical Catholics with an eventual return to Rome might consider a slightly different path.  I would hope that you could see you have more in common with Word Alone types than you may think.  Go back to Braaten and Jenson's two volume work on Dogmatics, and you will find a major chapter on the atonement by Gerhard Forde.

We who treasure our confessional routes not for nostalgia sake but for impelling our witness and service do differ in our ecclesiological understandings.  I hope our working together, however, is not short lived and that we then split into our more pure camps.  In the immediate future we are needed to bring common voice.  Some of us believe we need each other long term also.  I believe Steven Tibbits and I could actually enjoy some good times over some good beer, German or domestic, and the Kingdom would be extended by both of us being in the same communion.

Don't forget, Paul, that that question runs both ways...  So far, WA has been mostly an attempt at getting out from under one roof with us nasty Romish evangelical catholics.  When the major attempt at producing a worship book is underwritten with the principle of "reclaiming" the liturgy from the encroachment of "Roman" influence, it cannot help but make this evangelical catholic wonder why in the world I would be "wanted" or "want" to be in that ecclesial body?

Or more precisely, WA would need to stop seeing us as the enemy at the same time as EC's needing to "warm" to WA... 

But that being said, I have never said that there are not things that WA and EC's can not work on together or that we cannot share a good beer together.  ;D

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on July 23, 2008, 09:16:50 AM
I would readily admit that WA types have had and still do chafe at ecclesiological questions around ministry issues.  Maybe in the end, as a personal Evangelical Catholic friend said to me, these issues will send us in different directions.  She could not abide the Reclaim folk.

So I may be naive.  What I believe unites us is our sacramental understandings.  Aside from arguments over the eucharistic prayer, I see us both holding to God's coming to us in gracious ways through the Lord's Supper.  Pietism is not the defining understanding of WA.  We see the Triune God working through the Word to restore us to faith.  This saving activity of God centered in Jesus Christ is sacramental in its very nature.  It comes to us through proclamation, baptism, and the Lord's Supper.  God holds the important action for us.  The canonical Word is authoritative for us.

Yes, we may be uncomfortable with one another, but I am hopeful that folks working together on CORE issues will discover that this is a coming together that is not only pragmatic but of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe some of feel this tent is too broad, and that goes both ways.  I believe our commonalities overwhelm our differences.

I do not believe the majority in the ELCA would identify themselves as liberal protestant.  The levers of power do seem to be held by those forces.  We do not necessarily need to separate ourselves from them.  If we are to be leaven in this dough and have any chance of making a difference and staying as one, then some of us have to stick together.  Even if leaving some day becomes the alternative, I still see merit in being together.  I acknowledge not all agree.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Kevin Palmer on July 23, 2008, 12:04:36 PM
As an outsider looking in, there are certainly some positive things about Word Alone.  But I think it more likely for evangelical catholics to merge together, given a greater ground of commonality.  I can't imagine many EC's (myself included) being willing to toss out the beauty and depth of the full liturgy because WA feels some is too Romanish.  As an LCMS pastor, one of my long-standing problems with my own church body has been its stubborn (and wrong-headed) opposition to eucharistic prayers.  If a move were made in the future for a via media between LCMS and ELCA, it would be unthinkable to me to go back to arguments over eucharistic prayer and other liturgical issues as a church body.

But having a good theological discussion/argument over some beer (or ale...I prefer Guiness)?  I'll do that anytime!
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: deaconbob on July 23, 2008, 09:50:09 PM
Beer is a good start. I do believe that there would be a keen interest to discern a via-media between the LC-MS and the ELCA (EV's). And no, as I stated above, WA would not fit. But then again, we are no about 'fashioning" a Church to reflect us, but Christ. And if we, by the grace of GOD, discern that in faithfulness we can no longer belong to either church tradition because of grevious doubts about their theology and practice, are we not called to reform, or day say, leave? Then we assemble, around Word and Sacrament, with other fellow believers.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Kevin Palmer on July 24, 2008, 03:24:15 PM
Beer is a good start. I do believe that there would be a keen interest to discern a via-media between the LC-MS and the ELCA (EV's). And no, as I stated above, WA would not fit. But then again, we are no about 'fashioning" a Church to reflect us, but Christ. And if we, by the grace of GOD, discern that in faithfulness we can no longer belong to either church tradition because of grevious doubts about their theology and practice, are we not called to reform, or day say, leave? Then we assemble, around Word and Sacrament, with other fellow believers.

Exactly.  And that day may be coming soon.  Lutheran pastors who are faithful to Scripture and confessions, as well as solid liturgical practice, already gather as a ministerium in the Society of the Holy Trinity.  They aren't currently looking to start a new church body, but those who would likely make up such a via media are to be found there.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: MSchimmel on July 24, 2008, 03:58:37 PM
Beer is a good start. I do believe that there would be a keen interest to discern a via-media between the LC-MS and the ELCA (EV's). And no, as I stated above, WA would not fit. But then again, we are no about 'fashioning" a Church to reflect us, but Christ. And if we, by the grace of GOD, discern that in faithfulness we can no longer belong to either church tradition because of grevious doubts about their theology and practice, are we not called to reform, or day say, leave? Then we assemble, around Word and Sacrament, with other fellow believers.

Exactly.  And that day may be coming soon.  Lutheran pastors who are faithful to Scripture and confessions, as well as solid liturgical practice, already gather as a ministerium in the Society of the Holy Trinity.  They aren't currently looking to start a new church body, but those who would likely make up such a via media are to be found there.

When things are said and done I sort of expect this kind of deck shuffling - EC's from ELCA and LCMS and perhaps confessional evangelicals of the WA/LCMC stripe and the "Pro-incumbency Low Church" LCMS forming two via medium (do I have that Latin suffix right?  :P ) - respectful of each other - but not likely to craft a union.  That would leave an ELCA that is the Liberal-Protestant Mainline and the two "Anti-incumbency" LCMS groups to figure out how to get along or divide.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on July 24, 2008, 08:57:07 PM
Bob and Kevin, are you telling me you cannot abide living in a church body long term in which common understandings of Word and Sacrament are held unless we all conform to homogeneous liturgical practises?  It is too repulsive to you to have to live alongside of folk who don't see the eucharistic prayer as essential and have a lock step understanding of ministry with you?

It seems both ECs and WA types have this irrational fear that their form of worship will be eventually proscribed if we stay together.  I guess I must be nuts, but all my life even in the old ALC we had what we called high church and low church congregations and pastors.  I am having difficulty seeing this other than mutual elitism.  No, I don't suppose I will ever warm up to everything you hold dear.  Do you really think you have more in common with those in the Anglican tradition than you do with those who together honor the faith as seen through the theological lense of Martin Luther and our confessional writings?

Maybe, if all hell breaks loose, we will all be so wounded that we will flee to very homogeneous groups.  We can more easily then in our "nomadic" state lick our wounds and pick up the pieces.  I suppose that may have some merit.  I think we all better do some careful thinking about what constitutes the center and the boundaries we believe we must go to the mat for.

I guess if your dream is being reunited with Rome and that some of us are hopeless protestants, then maybe what you are saying is the only alternative.  Some of us see much good in what is happening within Roman Catholocism these days, but it is true we do not share your passion for the reform movement to be over soon.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on July 24, 2008, 09:49:24 PM
Long ago I posted some quotations from the Great Courses series on How to Listen To and Understand Great Music, which devoted one whole session to the Lutheran Church Cantata. The lecturer, whom I believe is Jewish, made the point that worship wars were going on in the Lutheran churches of Bach's day, with the issue being low-church folks suspicious of operatic music (which sounded too much like the secular popular music and too high-falutin') and the high church folks who were gung-ho for it. The folks who hired Bach were of the low church variety, and they included it in Bach contract with the city that he should not arrange he music a way as to be operatic. The lecturer made much of the point that Bach obviously lied (or least didn't live up to his half of the bargain) when he signed it, because he produced very high church, operatic music.

When I first posted it, my point was that the people opposed to secular-sounding music in church have switched from the low church to the high church side of the wars. My point now is simply that there have always been worship wars.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on July 24, 2008, 10:39:21 PM
I agree, Peter, that there have always been worship wars.  I am not sure what your message for all of us is in that.  The question I am simply trying to surface is if these wars have to do us in in anything like life together.

For some of us what long term will do us in is a disowning of what our heavenly Father was and is up to through his only Son, our Savior and Lord, coming to us in redemptive ways through Word and Sacrament.  I have been under the distinct impression that those of us on this forum in large numbers are united on these central issues.  I would hope for the sake of our witness to our beloved Church and to the unbelieving world that this could be seen as sufficient.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on July 24, 2008, 10:48:28 PM
I agree, Peter, that there have always been worship wars.  I am not sure what your message for all of us is in that.  The question I am simply trying to surface is if these wars have to do us in in anything like life together.

For some of us what long term will do us in is a disowning of what our heavenly Father was and is up to through his only Son, our Savior and Lord, coming to us in redemptive ways through Word and Sacrament.  I have been under the distinct impression that those of us on this forum in large numbers are united on these central issues.  I would hope for the sake of our witness to our beloved Church and to the unbelieving world that this could be seen as sufficient.

Absolutely.  Another "always" is the debate over the correct meaning of "good works".  James complements Paul in that Abraham's faith was accountd to him as righteousness, not placing Isaac on the altar - that was an outcome of his faith.  Too many "works wars" are and have "always" been around - even though Scripture should seem clear, as in the only "good works" that are acceptable to God are those that He prepared in advance for us to do, including and through the Gift(s) that the Holy Spirit assigns to each for the good of all.
Instead, the "freedom from the yoke of sin" has become "sin boldly" rather than humble recognition that it is the penalty from which we are freed, not given a freedom that now equals licentiousness.  "Good Works"?  There's a divisive topic that, paradoxically, could become a "uniter".
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pearson on July 24, 2008, 11:44:58 PM
Are you telling me you cannot abide living in a church body long term in which common understandings of Word and Sacrament are held unless we all conform to homogeneous liturgical practises?  It is too repulsive to you to have to live alongside of folk who don't see the eucharistic prayer as essential and have a lock step understanding of ministry with you?

What I wonder about, Paul, are the reasons some folks might give for avoiding the use of a Eucharistic prayer, and the reasons some might give for always using one.  Those reasons are often a reflection of a deeper theological divide than that simply between "high church" and "low church."  And that divide is frequently constituted on all sides by strongly held convictions on the role of ecclesiology and liturgical practice, respectively, in the tasks of mission, witness and theological reflection.  I suspect it's those convictions that may estrange us from one another, if anything does, and not the question of a "lock step" conformity to homogeneous worship forms.  We have among us incommensurate conceptual schemes as to what counts as the proper definition of "church," and that invariably leads to chaos.

Tom Pearson
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on July 25, 2008, 12:51:14 AM
I am sure once again you have shown wisdom, Tom.  While I do believe I am neither completely ignorant of those firmly held convictions on both sides nor completely minimizing them, yet I know there is substance to the debate that should not be dismissed.

I expect that my concerns are more pragmatic than I sometimes acknowledge.  I see those of us who care deeply about these matters in ways capable of giving serious leadership to be too small even when put together. 

One of the reasons I keep asking about historical precedents is that I have this gut feeling that some folk have gone this road before and we're too caught up in the moment to see the wrong turns we might take.  It's not just a matter of can't we just get along.  It's just a wondering if God really wants us to draw the wagons in the configurations we feel make us most comfortable.  Maybe comfort is really truth, but then again maybe it's just too narrow or too tight a circle.  Of course I could just be too tired and need to let all of this have a rest.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Ken Kimball on July 26, 2008, 09:06:58 PM
Over on “Refrain and Restrain”  thread on 7/24 Paul Knudson wrote:
 
Quote
It was good to read your long post, Ken Kimball, back on page 18.  I wonder how you see this fitting in to the discussion going on under the topic of "The Death of Mainline Protestantism." 

I really ought to be working on the pastor’s piece for our parish August newsletter, but in a fit of minor madness Thursday night I emailed Paul Knudson and promised him I’d post some sort of response. 

Anyway in the quote box below is the piece I posted over on the Restrain-Refrain thread where it was promptly and vigorously ignored for five pages, amidst the usual back and forth of the usual parties (I rather felt like one of those fellows in old time comedies walking blithely unscathed and unnoticed through a roaring bar room brawl or dining hall pie fight).     I take Paul’s comment as an invitation to repost it here where at least it may get whacked over the head with a chair or take a pie smack in the face.   I offer it as one who agrees that mainline denominations are dying (if not already dead) but that many, if not most, orthodox congregations with orthodox pastors will continue to have a future, some just surviving, others thriving.  By “orthodox” here, since mainline includes others besides the ELCA, I mean a clear and unequivocating commitment to Nicene Christianity including the traditional teaching restricting sexual intercourse to marriage of one man and one woman.  And of course, as regards the ELCA, I as member of Lutheran CORE have some thoughts as to long term survive and thrive strategies that do not necessarily mean departing the ELCA a.s.a.p.

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Quote
Brian Stoffregen wrote: “Marriages work best when both agree on the same interpretation of "faithful"." 

Ken Kimball writes: The same is true of denominations.  This "any-interpretation goes” stuff simply consigns the ELCA to endless bickering and whittling away of our confessional foundation down to a "saved by grace" universalism in which faith in Jesus is optional and God is reduced to a screen of our projected self-image.  Within this institutional chaos traditional Lutherans (both evangelical catholics and reforming evangelicals) will have to work together to confess and bear witness and do the ministry of the church while the institutional ELCA becomes increasingly irrelevant.  The irony is that the amorphous chaos of the ELCA still provides bare structures and an arena in which ec's and re's can work together without having to split on issues of ecclesiology.  Efforts to leave the ELCA and form a new church body will likely splinter along ecclesiological lines. 

Hence the best strategy for traditional Lutherans seems to be: stay, maintain what minimal connections to synods and the ELCA have to be maintained (though in some synods, happily, where traditionalists are in leadership at the bishop or synod council level, the degree of involvement with the synod by traditional congregations and pastors can be considerably more than in revisionist synods), build relationships with traditional congregations, pastors, and reform groups, working to identify, nurture, defend, and produce what traditional seminarians and pastors we can, and doing what we can to keep traditional congregations and synods from going over the cliff with the rest of the ELCA (and helping connect traditional congregations and pastors)--while being and doing church as faithfully and effectively as we can. 

In ten years time, I would hazard the assertion, the bulk of revisionist congregations led by revisionist pastors will have continued to decline and disappear while traditional congregations, if they have their act together, will have grown and strengthened.  Consider that, so I've been told, that the only congregations in Sierra Pacific that average more than 100 at worship are all traditional, orthodox while the worship attendance and membership of revisionist congregations continues to decline.  Across the ELCA there are probably exceptions where RIC churches are growing or maintaining but I think the majority of ELCA congregations that are growing and thriving are traditional/orthodox.  Over time then, despite their present political hold on the ELCA's structure and leadership, the revisionists will see their base of congregations shrink and disappear.  Of course, there are many traditional/orthodox congregations that are shrinking as well--but more from the demographics of their rural locales.  The most important thing then that the traditional/orthodox need to do is to work together to do well the mission of Word and Sacrament, discipleship, evangelism, and the raising up/training of orthodox seminarians and pastors.

Ken Kimball 
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Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Ken Kimball on July 26, 2008, 09:09:49 PM
Paul Knudson wrote:
Quote
You live and minister in northeast Iowa.  You have been a bridge between the Evangelical Catholic and Reforming Evangelicals as I believe you call some of us (kindly I might add).  Do you have any interest in wading into the notion that long term there will be some kind of cross denominational coming together of those with compatible ecclesiologies and that this will trump Lutheran confessional identity?

I guess we can agree to work together for the short term and yet have little interest in a long term association.  I wonder if Lutheran themes such as law/Gospel, a theology of the cross, justification by grace through faith, confessional writings, catechetical grounding in the Small and Large catechisms, and the like don't still create bonding among us in the midst of our differences.

I would hope in the end we could share the concerns you ended up stating about our commission to evangelize and to prepare and nurture pastors committed to central matters of the faith.

As an evangelical catholic myself I’m skeptical as to the genuine possibility of some sort of formal church-body like clumping of compatible ecclesiologies across denominational lines, particularly in regard to my evangelical catholic brothers and sisters.  I do not see much future for EC’s of mainline denominations leaving their denominations to form some sort of Evangelical Catholic configuration separate from the Roman Catholic Church, not even as a way station on the way to Rome.  For those EC’s, whether Lutheran or Anglican (or even the handful among the UCC, PCUSA, or other reform/Protestant bodies), who reach their Popeye point in their denominations (“that’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more”), the jump will be straight to Rome, not any intermediary body—with the secondary discovery that the grass for evangelical catholics is no greener in a typical Roman parish than it was in the denomination they left.  Lutheran EC’s who think ecclesiological affinity and practice trumps Lutheran confessional identity are—I think—pursuing a Platonic chimera that does not exist; at least for me, my evangelical catholic identity was received and informed through the Lutheran Confessions, not separate from them.
 
I think that christology precedes and informs ecclesiology.  Any ecclesiology and any ecclesiastical ordering that does not have a prior foundation and agreement on orthodox christology will become merely a semi-Christian sect and ultimately a separate religion from orthodox Christianity.  The supposed or hoped for unity of those who share an aesthetic affinity for “high church” worship orders and practices and ecclesiastical ordering   will be proved by or founder on their underlying christologies. 

The same of course is true of those who share an aesthetic affinity for “low church” worship orders and practices and ecclesiastical ordering.    I think Lutherans of the reforming evangelical type have to resist a temptation and susceptibility to a reactive Protestant slide into continual splintering over issues of authority and church order, fleeing “pernicious Romanism” for an equally Platonic chimera, an ideal form of a pure church that does not exist in reality. 

When I use “christology” I also include the attached presuppositions regarding God’s Triune revelation and understanding of “sin” because these inform and define christology.  “Justification” may be the article on which the Church stands or falls but without the grounding of the first three articles of the Augustana (God, Sin, and Son of God), “justification” is unintelligible, which is one of the reasons I object to those who claim to be orthodox because “I believe in salvation by grace” but are cavalier in their appropriation and interpretation of the first three articles of the Augustana. 

I guess that’s why I’m part of Lutheran CORE.  Rather than investing my energies and those of the congregations I serve in endless speculation and planning for some new and ideal and pure church body (anybody remember that it will still have to be made up of sinners?), I’m building relationships with those within the ELCA who share an orthodox christology (including the Lutheran insight into the dark depths and pervasive reality of sin along with a thorough devotion to orthodox Trinitarianism and understanding of the Incarnation, especially of the finitum capax infinitum).   If we have agreement on christology (and its attached presuppositions) we can educate each other and learn from each other to appreciate and respect and make room for our differing ecclesiologies.   

Ken
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Ken Kimball on July 26, 2008, 10:07:15 PM
Are you telling me you cannot abide living in a church body long term in which common understandings of Word and Sacrament are held unless we all conform to homogeneous liturgical practises?  It is too repulsive to you to have to live alongside of folk who don't see the eucharistic prayer as essential and have a lock step understanding of ministry with you?

What I wonder about, Paul, are the reasons some folks might give for avoiding the use of a Eucharistic prayer, and the reasons some might give for always using one.  Those reasons are often a reflection of a deeper theological divide than that simply between "high church" and "low church."  And that divide is frequently constituted on all sides by strongly held convictions on the role of ecclesiology and liturgical practice, respectively, in the tasks of mission, witness and theological reflection.  I suspect it's those convictions that may estrange us from one another, if anything does, and not the question of a "lock step" conformity to homogeneous worship forms.  We have among us incommensurate conceptual schemes as to what counts as the proper definition of "church," and that invariably leads to chaos.

Tom Pearson

And then Tom there are those odd ducks among us--here I name myself--who use Eucharistic Prayers 2/3 of the Church Year but for the other third of the year (usually about this time) feel free to offer the bare Verba alone (albeit with seasonal Preface and Sanctus).   Asked by some about why I use Eucharistic Prayers, I answer because we are free to do so and I find the prayers to be a powerful recounting and proclamation of the Gospel with the focus on Christ's atoning passion and death and resurrection victory.  Asked by others about why I don't use them every Sunday, I answer because we are free to do so and are not compelled to use the Eucharistic Prayers.  There are other reasons to use or not use that I employ, whether in honor of the ancient and medieval and present church catholic or in demonstration of evangelical freedom.  So I'm curious about what hidden divides you see behind the use and non-use of the Eucharistic Prayers.  I still think the real divide is christological and the understanding of original sin--more so than the ecclesiological or liturgical divide.

Ken

BTW, I'm looking forward to seeing you at Minneapolis in August 09, where you will be a CWA Voting Member and I'll be there with Lutheran CORE.  Wished there was the opportunity to sit down with you over a couple of Guinness' before then--I always learn so much from you and Scott Y and Lou Hesse.   
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: jrubyaz on July 26, 2008, 10:58:29 PM

Ken, Paul

Don't forget, I am buying, and Pearson is going to be there as well!!

Jeff Ruby

Are you telling me you cannot abide living in a church body long term in which common understandings of Word and Sacrament are held unless we all conform to homogeneous liturgical practises?  It is too repulsive to you to have to live alongside of folk who don't see the eucharistic prayer as essential and have a lock step understanding of ministry with you?

What I wonder about, Paul, are the reasons some folks might give for avoiding the use of a Eucharistic prayer, and the reasons some might give for always using one.  Those reasons are often a reflection of a deeper theological divide than that simply between "high church" and "low church."  And that divide is frequently constituted on all sides by strongly held convictions on the role of ecclesiology and liturgical practice, respectively, in the tasks of mission, witness and theological reflection.  I suspect it's those convictions that may estrange us from one another, if anything does, and not the question of a "lock step" conformity to homogeneous worship forms.  We have among us incommensurate conceptual schemes as to what counts as the proper definition of "church," and that invariably leads to chaos.

Tom Pearson

And then Tom there are those odd ducks among us--here I name myself--who use Eucharistic Prayers 2/3 of the Church Year but for the other third of the year (usually about this time) feel free to offer the bare Verba alone (albeit with seasonal Preface and Sanctus).   Asked by some about why I use Eucharistic Prayers, I answer because we are free to do so and I find the prayers to be a powerful recounting and proclamation of the Gospel with the focus on Christ's atoning passion and death and resurrection victory.  Asked by others about why I don't use them every Sunday, I answer because we are free to do so and are not compelled to use the Eucharistic Prayers.  There are other reasons to use or not use that I employ, whether in honor of the ancient and medieval and present church catholic or in demonstration of evangelical freedom.  So I'm curious about what hidden divides you see behind the use and non-use of the Eucharistic Prayers.  I still think the real divide is christological and the understanding of original sin--more so than the ecclesiological or liturgical divide.

Ken

BTW, I'm looking forward to seeing you at Minneapolis in August 09, where you will be a CWA Voting Member and I'll be there with Lutheran CORE.  Wished there was the opportunity to sit down with you over a couple of Guinness' before then--I always learn so much from you and Scott Y and Lou Hesse.   
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 26, 2008, 11:11:12 PM
I'll probably be in Minneapolis next year as well, working as usual. Maybe ALPB should organize a dinner for forum alpbers.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: bajaye on July 27, 2008, 07:40:08 AM
Given the ELCA’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity I think it entirely appropriate that a couple of local Orthodox ALPB-type also be invited – at least for the beer.

Brian (and Bob)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pearson on July 27, 2008, 11:02:02 AM
So I'm curious about what hidden divides you see behind the use and non-use of the Eucharistic Prayers.  I still think the real divide is christological and the understanding of original sin--more so than the ecclesiological or liturgical divide.

I suppose I'd say that for some folks -- not the odd ducks in our midst, mind you -- the ecclesiological and liturgical divide (regarding which attitudes toward Eucharistic Prayers are often symptomatic) might be constructed along the following lines.  There are some who are convinced that, since Holy Scripture was written, redacted and ratified by representatives of the Church, that the fnal authority in matters theological is the Church and her traditions, not Scripture itself.  As a corollary, there is the further conviction that theological novelties have to be tested against the weight of the diverse yet bounded traditions of the Church, and not merely against Scripture.  They understand that the Church is the historical and institutional incarnation of the Body of Christ throughout history, and is neither reducible to the local congregation nor inflatable to "the invisible church."  They are persuaded that while Word and Sacrament are sufficient for the unity of the Church, Word and Sacrament are embodied in the historical liturgies of the Church and are not a set of abstract ideals that can be captured in non-traditional liturgical concoctions motivated by some trendy vision of "mission."  They believe both Word and Scarament ought to be proclaimed regularly, weekly if possible, for the comfort of Christian consciences tormented by sin, and because that has been the traditional practice of the western Church. They view ordination as a "setting apart" for the whole Church, and not as "ordination to place": meaning that ordination is prior to a particular call, and not the other way around.  Some will insist that ordination implies an ordering within an apostolic succession, however that is defined.  A few even harbor a dirty little secret -- that ordination does in fact confer a charism that distinguishes, in some effective but non-soteriological way, the ordained from the non-ordained.  Lutherans have scant theological resources for trying to explain how this works, but it is the teaching of the Church catholic in the west, it is our heritage, and the conviction is there.  As a result, this will mean (among other things) that only the ordained should consecrate the elements of the Eucharistic meal.  It's not just a matter of good order.

I know there are many Lutherans on the other side of the divide who will strongly dissent from at least half of these positions, if not most of them.  Again, attitudes toward Eucharistic Prayers are often initially, and sometimes superficially, symptomatic of deeper theological convictions on such matters as I've indicated above.

BTW, I'm looking forward to seeing you at Minneapolis in August 09, where you will be a CWA Voting Member and I'll be there with Lutheran CORE.  Wished there was the opportunity to sit down with you over a couple of Guinness' before then--I always learn so much from you and Scott Y and Lou Hesse.   

I'll be eager to see you in Minneapolis as well, Ken; I remember first meeting you at the CWA in Chicago last year.  And you've gotta want to escape the frozen north where you live 'long about January, so why not plan a jaunt down to balmy South Texas like so many of your parishioners do?  We serve Guinness (with a Tequila chaser) down here, too.

Tom Pearson
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pearson on July 27, 2008, 11:04:20 AM
Don't forget, I am buying, and Pearson is going to be there as well!!

Let's do it, Jeff.  But only because you're buying.

Tom Pearson
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pearson on July 27, 2008, 11:15:54 AM
I'll probably be in Minneapolis next year as well, working as usual. Maybe ALPB should organize a dinner for forum alpbers.

Let's do this, too.  Isn't Jerry Kliner also a voting member in '09?  Anyone else?  Richard J., Brian S., Erma W., Eric S., Kurt W., Brian B., Joseph C., or the host I'm forgetting to mention?  I'll bet we could even lure Pr. Tibbetts to the Twin Cities, if he's not already offered to do his traditional Assembly floor duties.  I think a dinner is a swell idea.  I'd pay good money to see Charles A. and Eric S. cuddle up and share a glass of pale ale and a couple of straws.

Tom Pearson 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2008, 01:22:54 PM
I'll probably be in Minneapolis next year as well, working as usual. Maybe ALPB should organize a dinner for forum alpbers.

Let's do this, too.  Isn't Jerry Kliner also a voting member in '09?  Anyone else?  Richard J., Brian S., Erma W., Eric S., Kurt W., Brian B., Joseph C., or the host I'm forgetting to mention?  I'll bet we could even lure Pr. Tibbetts to the Twin Cities, if he's not already offered to do his traditional Assembly floor duties.  I think a dinner is a swell idea.  I'd pay good money to see Charles A. and Eric S. cuddle up and share a glass of pale ale and a couple of straws.
I might be persuaded to attend. I've been to three CWA as a volunteer or visitor. The idea of spending a week in the summer not on Yuma, AZ, is always attractive. Down here the "natives" don't consider it hot until the temperature is over 110 -- and we've already had a number of hot days. All the other days were only over 100 -- that's a warm day.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Ken Kimball on July 27, 2008, 01:42:40 PM
I'll probably be in Minneapolis next year as well, working as usual. Maybe ALPB should organize a dinner for forum alpbers.

Let's do this, too.  Isn't Jerry Kliner also a voting member in '09?  Anyone else?  Richard J., Brian S., Erma W., Eric S., Kurt W., Brian B., Joseph C., or the host I'm forgetting to mention?  I'll bet we could even lure Pr. Tibbetts to the Twin Cities, if he's not already offered to do his traditional Assembly floor duties.  I think a dinner is a swell idea.  I'd pay good money to see Charles A. and Eric S. cuddle up and share a glass of pale ale and a couple of straws.

Tom Pearson 

Looks like the organizing task will fall to us who will be there and split the checks (but I will gladly accept a Guinness from Jeff!).  South Texas in January is tempting and inviting Tom.  With Mark Braaten as the LC3 rep to the CORE Steering Committee, we will need to find a way to meet somewhat further south than we have so far. 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on July 27, 2008, 02:23:15 PM
I very much appreciate your weighing in on this, Ken.  I find so much in your posts that rings true to me.  I would hope those of you on the CORE Steering Committee are having healthy debates or exchanges on these long term issues as well as on the pragmatics of how best to prepare for the CWA assembly in 2009.

I am curious as to the reactions of some of the other EC participants to your questioning cross denominational coming together of ECs short of a returning to Rome.  Also I wonder also if that return would bring the peace and fulfillment expected.  I would think some of the other theological points you made bring to focus some pretty significant bonds we in the Lutheran family hold in common.

Surely, Tom, you wrote very clearly of the positions that were articulated by both sides in the CCM debate.  Undoubtedly there are those in both camps who still hold strongly to those views, and probably would prefer in an ideal world to have birds of a feather on these matters sticking together. 

In reading of the various groupings within the orthodox wing of the Anglican Communion, I do not know enough about them to know how they will come together.  I believe I have more in common theologically with many within the EC group than I do, for example, with those in the Association of Free Lutheran Churches.  I see them as Pelagian in matters of the will and understandings of sin and redemption.  I reiterate that I believe we need to claim together a robust sacramental understanding of the faith.  I'm simply saying that I do not see it as any bed of roses for us in WA to look to some of those groups who never joined the ELCA in the first place.  How do we keep from being just one more splinter group?

I guess I hope in the mean time we can still work together to try to be voices for re-centering the ELCA.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: deaconbob on July 27, 2008, 03:43:11 PM
I for one am not going anywhere, anytime soon. The ELCA is where I found the breath of grace and have not been the same since, THANKS BE TO GOD!. Today, yet again, I was priveledged to witness a man receive the Holy Sacrament in many, many years. He did not come forward to receive, so i went back to him. He said he hadn't been to confession in many years. I asked if he was sorry for his sins, and he said yes, Do you ask GOD to forgive you your sins? he said yes! I then placed my hand upon his head and declared GOD's forgiveness for his sins. He stood up ever so slowly and very humbly received the Body and Blood. After Mass he came over to me and broke down in tears. No, GOD is alive and well in and about His Church! As long as their is a vineyard, I'm here.
Would like to be part of the gathering at CWA, but alas I was not voted as a delegate  :((elected to synod council). I too would pay to see Eric and charles sipping beer together. Heck, I'd pay just to see Eric and Charles in the same room! ;D
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on July 27, 2008, 03:53:56 PM
I'll probably be in Minneapolis next year as well, working as usual. Maybe ALPB should organize a dinner for forum alpbers.

Let's do this, too.  Isn't Jerry Kliner also a voting member in '09?  Anyone else?  Richard J., Brian S., Erma W., Eric S., Kurt W., Brian B., Joseph C., or the host I'm forgetting to mention?  I'll bet we could even lure Pr. Tibbetts to the Twin Cities, if he's not already offered to do his traditional Assembly floor duties.  I think a dinner is a swell idea.  I'd pay good money to see Charles A. and Eric S. cuddle up and share a glass of pale ale and a couple of straws.

Tom Pearson 

I half wish I was... But, no, I'm not a voting member to next year's CWA... 

I say only "half-wish," because the way things seem to be shaping up, I think it's going to be a spectacle that I might not miss being a part of....

But as to buying a drink or two, I'm always willing to be part of that! ;D

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2008, 04:00:35 PM
I for one am not going anywhere, anytime soon. The ELCA is where I found the breath of grace and have not been the same since, THANKS BE TO GOD!. Today, yet again, I was priveledged to witness a man receive the Holy Sacrament in many, many years. He did not come forward to receive, so i went back to him. He said he hadn't been to confession in many years. I asked if he was sorry for his sins, and he said yes, Do you ask GOD to forgive you your sins? he said yes! I then placed my hand upon his head and declared GOD's forgiveness for his sins. He stood up ever so slowly and very humbly received the Body and Blood. After Mass he came over to me and broke down in tears. No, GOD is alive and well in and about His Church! As long as their is a vineyard, I'm here.
Would like to be part of the gathering at CWA, but alas I was not voted as a delegate  :((elected to synod council). I too would pay to see Eric and charles sipping beer together. Heck, I'd pay just to see Eric and Charles in the same room! ;D
Even though one is not a voting member, one can sign up to be a volunteer (and have some work to do -- but you get a nifty T-shirt that says "volunteer") or sign up as a visitor and have no work to do. Just drink beer and visit. There are separate "visitors' sections" to keep us separated from the people who can vote. There is a small fee to be a visitor to pay for name tags and other papers we receive.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: bajaye on July 27, 2008, 04:14:53 PM
Given the ELCA’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity I think it entirely appropriate that a couple of local Orthodox ALPB-type also be invited – at least for the beer.

Brian (and Bob)


Hey, we're serious.

 :(
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pearson on July 27, 2008, 04:19:02 PM
Even though one is not a voting member, one can sign up to be a volunteer (and have some work to do -- but you get a nifty T-shirt that says "volunteer") or sign up as a visitor and have no work to do. Just drink beer and visit. There are separate "visitors' sections" to keep us separated from the people who can vote. There is a small fee to be a visitor to pay for name tags and other papers we receive.

You can also be designated as a "congegational observer," which involves something like getting your congregtaion to anoint you as such and then paying a nominal registration fee.  The advantage is that you receive prior to the Assembly all the printed documents and materials the voting members do, you sit in a special section closer to the action, and you get a lotta respect back home.  It's worth doing.

Ken, it looks like you're in charge of organizing the dinner.  Jeff, you're responsible for paying.  Orthodox Brian and Bob, you find the best nearby beverage dispensing establishment.  Jerry, you bring fans for Brian S. and pettable cats for Charles A.  Me, I'll handle the beer disposal.  Who am I leaving out?

Tom Pearson

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 27, 2008, 05:00:56 PM
Paul Knudson writes:
How do we keep from being just one more splinter group?

I comment:
I make bold to offer some suggestions.
Do not think of yourself as a "splinter group."
Do not use armageddon language about the situation.
Do not consign those with opinions different from yours to anything lower than the first circle of Hell. Better yet, don't condemn them at all, keep thinking of them as fellow believers and workers in the Kingdom.
Do not believe that everything depends upon "winning" in parliamentary procedures.
Do not believe that everyone in authority is against you (even though some in authority might be).
Have some prayers, or coffee, or conversation with people from one of those "other" groups.

Paul Knudson writes:
I guess I hope in the mean time we can still work together to try to be voices for re-centering the ELCA.
I comment:
Me, too, although I don't know what the "center" is. The point is, we should all be working together for, not the ELCA (although that is one of our vehicles), the kingdom of God as imperfectly expressed through our congregations, synods, dioceses, presbyteries, classes and denominations.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: deaconbob on July 27, 2008, 07:18:48 PM
"Congregational observer" maybe I can be bumped up to "conference observer", which should not be a problem as I will be paying. Sounds like a plan...or did I just "invite" myself to a 'closeted party" :o
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 27, 2008, 08:13:01 PM

Don't forget, I am buying, and Pearson is going to be there as well!!


Wait, wait, what about me???? >:(
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: deaconbob on July 27, 2008, 08:39:48 PM
"closeted " means EC's in hiding
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on July 27, 2008, 08:57:54 PM
I don't really understand how you, Charles, can speak of my entrees as you did above.  How in the world can you interpret what I have said with consigning anyone to the first circle of hell.  I try very hard not to speak in such language and have no interest in getting into a hassle with you.

Guess, however, that you are free to make whatever judgments you wish.  It does seem, however, that a number of folk are trying to think out loud in a constructive fashion of possible future scenarios.  It seems helpful when the heat is not all that hot to speak over possible configurations that may be alternatives to the status quo.  You seem to judge any of this as a betrayal of the ELCA. 

Sorry if I finally hit your hot button.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pastorg1@aol.com on July 27, 2008, 09:03:28 PM
Even before entering the first circle of hell, Dante is shown the souls sitting right inside the hinges of hell: the poor, timid weenies who didn't take a stand one way or the other, neither for good nor evil, and who sigh in envy for the shouts and screams of the deserving tortured farther on.

Peter Garrison
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Erme Wolf on July 27, 2008, 10:13:17 PM
Given the ELCA’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity I think it entirely appropriate that a couple of local Orthodox ALPB-type also be invited – at least for the beer.

Brian (and Bob)


Hey, we're serious.

 :(

I think you are most needed at this gathering.  (And the ELCA CWA will be in need of your prayers.)

Erma
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Ken Kimball on July 27, 2008, 10:25:05 PM

Don't forget, I am buying, and Pearson is going to be there as well!!


Wait, wait, what about me???? >:(
Richard I could use some organizational help!   :)
Ken
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 27, 2008, 10:45:14 PM
Paul Knudson writes:
I don't really understand how you, Charles, can speak of my entrees as you did above.  How in the world can you interpret what I have said with consigning anyone to the first circle of hell.  I try very hard not to speak in such language and have no interest in getting into a hassle with you.

I respond:
Sincere apologies, Paul; I had not intended the "suggestions" to apply directly to anything you had written. They are for those "out there" (and there are many) writing their screeds online and in newsletters from various groups. If you do not speak in such language, you are already following my suggestions. For which, thanks.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on July 27, 2008, 11:25:02 PM
Apology accepted, Charles.  And you may remember that indeed I did speak of my appreciation for your article in The Lutheran on renewal movements.  I do feel you did an excellent and balanced article.  And I do find at times our exchanges get too heated and can assign motives to those we disagree with that are unfair.

Some of us wish we could convince the likes of you that some significant stuff is amiss in our beloved Church.  Some times you seem to agree in general but then seem called to the defense.  That can keep us honest, but we often wish for more from you.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2008, 11:32:36 PM
Hey, we're serious.
Maybe that's the problem. Perhaps we need more frivolity.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 28, 2008, 05:54:10 AM
Paul Knudson writes:
Some of us wish we could convince the likes of you that some significant stuff is amiss in our beloved Church.  Some times you seem to agree in general but then seem called to the defense.  That can keep us honest, but we often wish for more from you.

I comment:
Thank you for the good words about the article in The Lutheran. The "likes of me" agree that "some significant stuff is amiss in our beloved Church" (which, by the way, is not an unusual or a new condition), but are less apocalyptic about what it is or what we should be doing about it.
I've just finished a two-year interim at a parish that left the LC-MS 33 years ago,  and was ALC prior to the ELCA merger. Much of what was the "old" LC-MS remains there and the pastor for the last 27 years was more like the "old" ALC and generally kept the parish aloof from the ELCA.
In these past two years, we have had a marvelous time together. They are now eager to take part in synodical and ELCA events, we have grown slightly with possibilities for more growth in the future. Giving has increased; and they have had a Presbyterian pastor fill in when I was gone.
We have discussed sexuality - with some wide-ranging disagreements - experimented with ELW liturgies, and they have begun to plan some new types of outreach. A new pastor, a woman with 24 years experience, begins her ministry there in two weeks. The parish is likely to lose four of five people whose view of the Bible and other things might mean they will not feel comfortable with the new pastor (or with me, should the interim have continued).
But the church gave me a rollicking going-away lunch, a generous gift, and a book of comments that almost made this aging Swede emotional.
So, while we as a church have some problems; I am not carrying a sign which says "The end is near," nor am I predicting the decay or death of the ELCA.
So, cheers!
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Team Hesse on July 28, 2008, 11:20:50 AM
Don't forget, I am buying, and Pearson is going to be there as well!!

Wait, wait, what about me???? >:(

Musings from the pig pen --

I would actually be willing to buy a plane ticket to Minneapolis for the opportunity to meet with the gang that seems to be willing to gather there.  As at our little mini-convention in Odessa TX last week, the really fun times are had gathered around tidbits to eat and 'stuff' to drink, and I'm not all that sure that that isn't where the true business gets done... away from the business.

Another random thought:
It's interesting to watch the process of guessing (or envisioning) the future of Lutheranism in N.America.  The people gathered in Odessa last week (Augsburg Lutheran Churches) asked me to cast the vision for the group as my contribution to the convention, and I basically failed at the task.  I refused to do it because every time I've attempted to envision the future based on what I think is a God-pleasing paradigm, God has taken me to the woodshed for my pride and made it clear that the future is in His hands.  I cited several examples of this in my speech which I won't bore you all with here, but suffice it to say I won't cast visions anymore.  I leave that to God. 

What we're called to do is to Go, Baptize, and Teach.  So that's what I'm going to do.  As to where I fit in in this N.American thing we call Lutheranism, I've pretty much given up "fitting in" also.  My functionalist understanding of the office of ministry is probably closer to WELS than anything; my willingness to engage other viewpoints is closer to ELCA than anything; my respect for Lutheran history and theology, and the wizardry of trained academics gives me great respect for the LCMS; so to whom do I go?  Sadly, (because it's so small), the most consistent, inclusive, and robust Lutheran theology I've found is in Augsburg.

As I said, musings from the pig pen this morning.  Just let me know where the alpb festivities are being held in Minneapolis, or S. Texas, or wherever else.  I do love engagement with people who take Luther and his teachings seriously.  Even if my lenses are skewed differently.

Lou

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2008, 12:20:25 PM
I would actually be willing to buy a plane ticket to Minneapolis for the opportunity to meet with the gang that seems to be willing to gather there.
Is your suitcase large enough to bring ribs for everyone?

Quote
I won't cast visions anymore.  I leave that to God.

Then, it seems to me, the questions are: Does God communicate his vision to us? What role do we have in bringing God's vision to fruition?

While the KJV of Proverbs 29:18 is often quoted about the necessity of vision -- there is a variety of translations of that verse.

(KJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

(NKJV) Where there is no revelation,[or prophetic vision] the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NIV) Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(ESV) Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,[or the people are discouraged] but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(NASB) Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NRSV) Where there is no prophecy, the peeople cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.

(CEV) Without guidance from God law and order disappear, but God blesses everyone who obeys his Law.

(The Message) If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.  

It seems to me that whether it is a vision, a revelation, a prophecy, or guidance, there is a necessity for that to be seen/heard/understood by us for it to have an effect on our lives.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on July 28, 2008, 12:27:53 PM
I would actually be willing to buy a plane ticket to Minneapolis for the opportunity to meet with the gang that seems to be willing to gather there.
Is your suitcase large enough to bring ribs for everyone?

Quote
I won't cast visions anymore.  I leave that to God.

Then, it seems to me, the questions are: Does God communicate his vision to us? What role do we have in bringing God's vision to fruition?

While the KJV of Proverbs 29:18 is often quoted about the necessity of vision -- there is a variety of translations of that verse.

(KJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

(NKJV) Where there is no revelation,[or prophetic vision] the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NIV) Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(ESV) Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,[or the people are discouraged] but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(NASB) Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NRSV) Where there is no prophecy, the peeople cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.

(CEV) Without guidance from God law and order disappear, but God blesses everyone who obeys his Law.

(The Message) If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.  

It seems to me that whether it is a vision, a revelation, a prophecy, or guidance, there is a necessity for that to be seen/heard/understood by us for it to have an effect on our lives.

Waaaay too much time on your hands, Brian...

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: edoughty on July 28, 2008, 01:37:42 PM
I would actually be willing to buy a plane ticket to Minneapolis for the opportunity to meet with the gang that seems to be willing to gather there.
Is your suitcase large enough to bring ribs for everyone?

Quote
I won't cast visions anymore.  I leave that to God.

Then, it seems to me, the questions are: Does God communicate his vision to us? What role do we have in bringing God's vision to fruition?

While the KJV of Proverbs 29:18 is often quoted about the necessity of vision -- there is a variety of translations of that verse.

(KJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

(NKJV) Where there is no revelation,[or prophetic vision] the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NIV) Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(ESV) Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,[or the people are discouraged] but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(NASB) Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NRSV) Where there is no prophecy, the peeople cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.

(CEV) Without guidance from God law and order disappear, but God blesses everyone who obeys his Law.

(The Message) If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.  

It seems to me that whether it is a vision, a revelation, a prophecy, or guidance, there is a necessity for that to be seen/heard/understood by us for it to have an effect on our lives.

Fascinating. 

In any case, if you ask me, good ribs are a blessing.

Erik
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on July 28, 2008, 01:46:57 PM
I would actually be willing to buy a plane ticket to Minneapolis for the opportunity to meet with the gang that seems to be willing to gather there.
Is your suitcase large enough to bring ribs for everyone?

Quote
I won't cast visions anymore.  I leave that to God.

Then, it seems to me, the questions are: Does God communicate his vision to us? What role do we have in bringing God's vision to fruition?

While the KJV of Proverbs 29:18 is often quoted about the necessity of vision -- there is a variety of translations of that verse.

(KJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

(NKJV) Where there is no revelation,[or prophetic vision] the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NIV) Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(ESV) Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,[or the people are discouraged] but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(NASB) Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NRSV) Where there is no prophecy, the peeople cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.

(CEV) Without guidance from God law and order disappear, but God blesses everyone who obeys his Law.

(The Message) If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.  

It seems to me that whether it is a vision, a revelation, a prophecy, or guidance, there is a necessity for that to be seen/heard/understood by us for it to have an effect on our lives.

Fascinating. 

In any case, if you ask me, good ribs are a blessing.

Erik
Visions of ribs.  Perhaps we're back to Genesis 1-3 and how it relates to the possible/assured/never happen "death of mainline protestantism"?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Kevin Palmer on July 28, 2008, 01:52:22 PM
Bob and Kevin, are you telling me you cannot abide living in a church body long term in which common understandings of Word and Sacrament are held unless we all conform to homogeneous liturgical practises?  It is too repulsive to you to have to live alongside of folk who don't see the eucharistic prayer as essential and have a lock step understanding of ministry with you?


No, that's not what I'm telling you.  I've abided living in the LCMS this long without homogeneous liturgical practices and those who oppose eucharistic prayers.  My only point is that if a via media comes forth some day, whenever that day may be, it is more likely that the evangelical catholics of various stripes would merge due to their already existing commonality.  If you don't want to use eucharistic prayers, then don't.  You'll get no grief from me.  But I don't care for a church body that irrationally opposes such things, or carries its anti-Roman bias to the extent that it still refuses to use the word "catholic" in the creeds, and if a new body were formed, I would hope those attitudes would not be part of it.  That's all I was saying.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on July 28, 2008, 01:58:43 PM
Bob and Kevin, are you telling me you cannot abide living in a church body long term in which common understandings of Word and Sacrament are held unless we all conform to homogeneous liturgical practises?  It is too repulsive to you to have to live alongside of folk who don't see the eucharistic prayer as essential and have a lock step understanding of ministry with you?


No, that's not what I'm telling you.  I've abided living in the LCMS this long without homogeneous liturgical practices and those who oppose eucharistic prayers.  My only point is that if a via media comes forth some day, whenever that day may be, it is more likely that the evangelical catholics of various stripes would merge due to their already existing commonality.  If you don't want to use eucharistic prayers, then don't.  You'll get no grief from me.  But I don't care for a church body that irrationally opposes such things, or carries its anti-Roman bias to the extent that it still refuses to use the word "catholic" in the creeds, and if a new body were formed, I would hope those attitudes would not be part of it.  That's all I was saying.
Is it really (or "still", if so) an anti-Roman bias, or does it reflect concern about how "catholic" means just about every other version of modern American church regardless of doctrine?
I really don't know - but would be interested to learn.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Kevin Palmer on July 28, 2008, 02:05:54 PM
Is it really (or "still", if so) an anti-Roman bias, or does it reflect concern about how "catholic" means just about every other version of modern American church regardless of doctrine?
I really don't know - but would be interested to learn.

Well, there is still an anti-Roman bias among older parishioners in the LCMS.  I have some in my own congregation who are vehemently opposed to using the word "catholic" in the creeds, because "I'm not Roman Catholic."  And I can't be too upset with them...it's what they were taught.  So I guess my own experience is that, yes, there is an anti-Roman bias reflected in the decision to not use that word. 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 28, 2008, 02:36:13 PM
Pastor Kliner writes (Re Pastor Stoffregen's listing of variants):
Waaaay too much time on your hands, Brian...

I muse:
But when is looking closely at scripture ever a bad use of time? Would you rather someone spent an hour watching Oprah?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on July 28, 2008, 02:58:50 PM
I would actually be willing to buy a plane ticket to Minneapolis for the opportunity to meet with the gang that seems to be willing to gather there.
Is your suitcase large enough to bring ribs for everyone?

Quote
I won't cast visions anymore.  I leave that to God.

Then, it seems to me, the questions are: Does God communicate his vision to us? What role do we have in bringing God's vision to fruition?

While the KJV of Proverbs 29:18 is often quoted about the necessity of vision -- there is a variety of translations of that verse.

(KJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

(NKJV) Where there is no revelation,[or prophetic vision] the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NIV) Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(ESV) Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,[or the people are discouraged] but blessed is he who keeps the law.

(NASB) Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

(NRSV) Where there is no prophecy, the peeople cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.

(CEV) Without guidance from God law and order disappear, but God blesses everyone who obeys his Law.

(The Message) If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.  

It seems to me that whether it is a vision, a revelation, a prophecy, or guidance, there is a necessity for that to be seen/heard/understood by us for it to have an effect on our lives.
And, hence, INTERPRETATION !!  By its nature creating Versions triggers interpretations by the editor - or is it the other way around? 
8 Versions.  Which interpretations of what versions correlate with which "mainline protestant denominations"?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2008, 05:40:04 PM
And, hence, INTERPRETATION !!  By its nature creating Versions triggers interpretations by the editor - or is it the other way around? 
8 Versions.  Which interpretations of what versions correlate with which "mainline protestant denominations"?
Lutherans do not authorize one "right" translation. As far as I know, none of the mainline denominations do that. So, main-liners are faced, sometimes, with a multitude of different translations/interpretations of a passage of scriptures. Ambiguity is part of who we are as readers of different translations. And, there is something beyond the Bible with it's myriad of translations that unites us as ELCAers (and other mainliners). I've stated before that it is our constitutional Confession of Faith. It states what we believe as ELCAers.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Ken Kimball on July 28, 2008, 06:31:42 PM
And, there is something beyond the Bible with it's myriad of translations that unites us as ELCAers (and other mainliners). I've stated before that it is our constitutional Confession of Faith. It states what we believe as ELCAers.

Really?  I'm inclined to think, "Not really."  Traditional-orthodox and progressive-revisionists seem to "interpret" our ELCA Confession of Faith quite differently.   I'm not sure that constitutes any real unity.

Ken Kimball 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2008, 07:14:17 PM
Really?  I'm inclined to think, "Not really."  Traditional-orthodox and progressive-revisionists seem to "interpret" our ELCA Confession of Faith quite differently.   I'm not sure that constitutes any real unity.
How then do you interpret it? How might your interpretation of it be different than mine?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on July 28, 2008, 08:29:38 PM
And, hence, INTERPRETATION !!  By its nature creating Versions triggers interpretations by the editor - or is it the other way around? 
8 Versions.  Which interpretations of what versions correlate with which "mainline protestant denominations"?
Lutherans do not authorize one "right" translation. As far as I know, none of the mainline denominations do that. So, main-liners are faced, sometimes, with a multitude of different translations/interpretations of a passage of scriptures. Ambiguity is part of who we are as readers of different translations. And, there is something beyond the Bible with it's myriad of translations that unites us as ELCAers (and other mainliners). I've stated before that it is our constitutional Confession of Faith. It states what we believe as ELCAers.

I think you rely too much on an administrative document, Brian.  The ELCA constitution is merely a practical, organizational document, hence why it almost immeadately points beyond itself.  To hold the authority of the Constitution in higher regard than the Scriptures (which are the norma normata), the chief Lutheran symbols (ie. the Creeds and the Confessions), and even the body of tradition within the Lutheran community, is a sad misplacement of trust. 

Besides, constitutions can be ammended.  If we were to ammend the "Confession of Faith" in the ELCA constitution, would that then change what you believe?

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Ken Kimball on July 28, 2008, 09:51:33 PM
Really?  I'm inclined to think, "Not really."  Traditional-orthodox and progressive-revisionists seem to "interpret" our ELCA Confession of Faith quite differently.   I'm not sure that constitutes any real unity.
How then do you interpret it? How might your interpretation of it be different than mine?
See Pastor Kliner's comments in the previous post.  He's pretty much where I'm at.   
Ken Kimball
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: J. Thomas Shelley on July 28, 2008, 10:09:20 PM
And, hence, INTERPRETATION !!  By its nature creating Versions triggers interpretations by the editor - or is it the other way around? 
8 Versions.  Which interpretations of what versions correlate with which "mainline protestant denominations"?
Lutherans do not authorize one "right" translation. As far as I know, none of the mainline denominations do that. So, main-liners are faced, sometimes, with a multitude of different translations/interpretations of a passage of scriptures. Ambiguity is part of who we are as readers of different translations. And, there is something beyond the Bible with it's myriad of translations that unites us as ELCAers (and other mainliners). I've stated before that it is our constitutional Confession of Faith. It states what we believe as ELCAers.

I think you rely too much on an administrative document, Brian.  The ELCA constitution is merely a practical, organizational document, hence why it almost immeadately points beyond itself.  To hold the authority of the Constitution in higher regard than the Scriptures (which are the norma normata), the chief Lutheran symbols (ie. the Creeds and the Confessions), and even the body of tradition within the Lutheran community, is a sad misplacement of trust. 

Besides, constitutions can be ammended.  If we were to ammend the "Confession of Faith" in the ELCA constitution, would that then change what you believe?

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS


Jerry, I remember the pathetic video released by former PBp Herbert W. Chilstrom in the wake of the 1993 Draft Statement on Human Sexuality debacle entitled Can We Talk About This?.

Near the beginning of the video PBp Chilstrom said that as Lutherans we need to turn to our foundational documents--and then he picked up not a Bible, not the Book of Concord, but the Model Constitution for Congregations!   So Brian is in august company in making that assertion.

Not that I agree with what is being asserted!
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on July 28, 2008, 10:52:36 PM
And, hence, INTERPRETATION !!  By its nature creating Versions triggers interpretations by the editor - or is it the other way around? 
8 Versions.  Which interpretations of what versions correlate with which "mainline protestant denominations"?
Lutherans do not authorize one "right" translation. As far as I know, none of the mainline denominations do that. So, main-liners are faced, sometimes, with a multitude of different translations/interpretations of a passage of scriptures. Ambiguity is part of who we are as readers of different translations. And, there is something beyond the Bible with it's myriad of translations that unites us as ELCAers (and other mainliners). I've stated before that it is our constitutional Confession of Faith. It states what we believe as ELCAers.

I think you rely too much on an administrative document, Brian.  The ELCA constitution is merely a practical, organizational document, hence why it almost immeadately points beyond itself.  To hold the authority of the Constitution in higher regard than the Scriptures (which are the norma normata), the chief Lutheran symbols (ie. the Creeds and the Confessions), and even the body of tradition within the Lutheran community, is a sad misplacement of trust. 

Besides, constitutions can be ammended.  If we were to ammend the "Confession of Faith" in the ELCA constitution, would that then change what you believe?

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS


Jerry, I remember the pathetic video released by former PBp Herbert W. Chilstrom in the wake of the 1993 Draft Statement on Human Sexuality debacle entitled Can We Talk About This?.

Near the beginning of the video PBp Chilstrom said that as Lutherans we need to turn to our foundational documents--and then he picked up not a Bible, not the Book of Concord, but the Model Constitution for Congregations!   So Brian is in august company in making that assertion.

Not that I agree with what is being asserted!
Huh...1993.  "Due to technical difficulties, reality ends here.  We apologize for any inconveniences."
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: J. Thomas Shelley on July 28, 2008, 11:09:03 PM
[
Huh...1993.  "Due to technical difficulties, reality ends here.  We apologize for any inconveniences."

15 years later and we are still reviewing a Draft Statement on Human Sexuality.  Deja vu all over again.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: deaconbob on July 28, 2008, 11:18:39 PM
hence the thread, death of mainline protestantism.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 28, 2008, 11:31:53 PM
How long did it take to sort out the two natures of Christ? Longer than 15 years, I think.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on July 28, 2008, 11:35:00 PM
How long did it take to sort out the two natures of Christ? Longer than 15 years, I think.
So the discussion of topic is destined to continue until a date certain?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 29, 2008, 01:49:22 AM
I think you rely too much on an administrative document, Brian.  The ELCA constitution is merely a practical, organizational document, hence why it almost immeadately points beyond itself.  To hold the authority of the Constitution in higher regard than the Scriptures (which are the norma normata), the chief Lutheran symbols (ie. the Creeds and the Confessions), and even the body of tradition within the Lutheran community, is a sad misplacement of trust.
Corporations have two legal documents and one optional one.

1. The Articles of Incorporation which define it as a corporation in regards to the state. This is the highest legal document. If there are conflicts between this and the other documents, the Articles win.

2. The Constitution (which is not legally required by the state, but it is by the ELCA,) defines the congregation as part of the ELCA.

3. The Bylaws (and continuing resolutions,) which spell out how the congregation will run itself.

Your statements about your beliefs above are no different than the ELCA's statement of faith. Practically speaking, we do not approach scriptures with a blank page. All kinds of people can read scriptures for all kinds of different reasons. As Lutheran Christians, we approach scriptures with a pretty full page. We read scriptures with a belief in the Trinity: one God in three persons. We read scriptures with a belief that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, the Son of God. We read scriptures believing that God's Word comes to us as Law and Gospel.  We read swcriptures believing that our Confessional writings help us to properly understand the words of the Bible. So are the things I see the Confession of Faith declaring about ourselves to the world.

Quote
Besides, constitutions can be ammended.  If we were to ammend the "Confession of Faith" in the ELCA constitution, would that then change what you believe?
If it were to be amended, it would indicate a change in what the ELCA believes. If it is no longer what I believe, why would I stay in an organization whose beliefs I consider faulty?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 29, 2008, 06:45:49 AM
Furthermore, the constitutions and similar governing documents are not "articles of faith," but the explanations of the ways we have agreed to operate as the ELCA.
For example, some say a "social statement" should be put out to a vote by congregations or ELCA members. Nothing in our "doctrine" would prohibit us from doing this, and nothing in our doctrine requires us to do this.
But in forming the ELCA and operating in the ELCA, this is not the way we have chosen to adopt a social statement. We have agreed that social statements are adopted, after appropriate review, by a church-wide Assembly.
That doesn't make the social statement a "law," nor does it make it an "article of faith."
Similar agreements apply to ordinations, congregations, clergy, and synods. We have agreed to act and make our decisions in certain ways.
Personally, I don't like some of the "ways." But nothing that I dislike rises to a level that would cause me to leave the ELCA, or willfully go another direction and take the consequences.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on July 29, 2008, 08:29:48 AM
How long did it take to sort out the two natures of Christ? Longer than 15 years, I think.

This is a very interesting comparison.  The implication would be that the theological import of this decision -- on EITHER side -- is equivalent to a dogma that is at the heart of the Christian faith.  This comparison validates the concern of those who see the question re: homosexual behavior as embodying a whole host of hermeneutical, soteriological, and christological issues such that different faiths are being expressed depending upon how one responds to the question. 

"Big tents" don't work on this understanding.  And I think that the comparison may be quite apt, Charles.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 29, 2008, 08:50:15 AM
Scott writes:
The implication would be that the theological import of this decision -- on EITHER side -- is equivalent to a dogma that is at the heart of the Christian faith.

I respond:
No, the implication is that the church can take a long time to make a decision .... about anything. And that the discussion continues - with some dissents - even after the decision is made. We haven't sorted out all the wreckage from the 16th Century yet, have we?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on July 29, 2008, 09:28:24 AM
Scott writes:
The implication would be that the theological import of this decision -- on EITHER side -- is equivalent to a dogma that is at the heart of the Christian faith.

I respond:
No, the implication is that the church can take a long time to make a decision .... about anything. And that the discussion continues - with some dissents - even after the decision is made. We haven't sorted out all the wreckage from the 16th Century yet, have we?

You have your implication, I have mine.  Mine is better.  So nyaah.  ;D
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Team Hesse on July 29, 2008, 09:46:53 AM
We haven't sorted out all the wreckage from the 16th Century yet, have we?

Interesting thought, that somehow the 16th century was perhaps worse than any other century...   a quick examination of the history leads me to believe the 16th was one of the more benign, when one looks at things before and after.  Plagues, death, disease, destruction, war were far worse in centuries before and since.

Lou
a 16th century man
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 29, 2008, 09:52:25 AM
Well, Lou, while the theological triumps of the Reformation era were grand indeed, we of that heritage also have to take some responsibility for the wars, civil unrest, national factionalism and other disruptions to life that occurred because of the Reformation and have plagued us since.
Does one ever ponder how things might have been had our Blessed Dr. Martin been of a slightly different temperament, especially in his mid- and late-years? Supposing the focus on reforming thought had shifted to Erasmus?
And before the pouncing begins, I say I treasure the heritage of those years and our Dr. Luther. But it wasn't all good, the results.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Hughes on July 29, 2008, 10:11:37 AM

Interesting thought, that somehow the 16th century was perhaps worse than any other century...   a quick examination of the history leads me to believe the 16th was one of the more benign, when one looks at things before and after.  Plagues, death, disease, destruction, war were far worse in centuries before and since.

Lou
a 16th century man

 Well ... I have a sense the 30 years war was particularly hard on Europeans.

    If it could be argued the Reformation set the stage for what would come, Tilly and his mercenaries for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Tzerclaes,_Count_of_Tilly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Tzerclaes,_Count_of_Tilly),  makes you wonder what stage is being set in our generation with the impending death of mainline protestantism doesn't it?

Brian


Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Team Hesse on July 29, 2008, 10:38:58 AM
Well ... I have a sense the 30 years war was particularly hard on Europeans.

Yes indeed -- but the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) was during the 17th century, not the 16th.
Given the diminished ravage from the plague in the 16th, and the relatively benign wars like Smalcald that occurred in the 16th, it seems to me the 16th wasn't all that bad.  'Course there was that whole bit with the Turks in the Balkans, but the Balkans have always been a mess. 

Quote
    If it could be argued the Reformation set the stage for what would come, Tilly and his mercenaries for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Tzerclaes,_Count_of_Tilly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Tzerclaes,_Count_of_Tilly),  makes you wonder what stage is being set in our generation with the impending death of mainline protestantism doesn't it?

It is indeed a scary thought.  If something as benign as Luther attempting to re-center the church on the forgiveness of sins can be seen as a forerunner of such things as Tilly, the Thirty Years' War, and even the holocaust, as some so posit; and given the fact that the 20th century was by all measures the bloodiest century in human history; and given the fact that once again religious fanaticism has become the starting point for human conflict (Islamism) -- one can only shudder at what may be coming.
Or, maybe it's just time for The Rapture  ::)

Lou
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on July 29, 2008, 10:41:25 AM
We haven't sorted out all the wreckage from the 16th Century yet, have we?
Valuable point.  And a few years further back, after The Fall, God sorted out the wreckage through Jesus Christ, yet we're still tussling about what the Fall was, who caused it, did it really happen, and how it was the fault of the other guys!  So, I am not sanguine about sorting out 16th Century wreckage any time soon - and the Original Sin problem still plagues us if we do not follow God's plan.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Team Hesse on July 29, 2008, 11:11:57 AM
Well, Lou, while the theological triumps of the Reformation era were grand indeed, we of that heritage also have to take some responsibility for the wars, civil unrest, national factionalism and other disruptions to life that occurred because of the Reformation and have plagued us since.

But would the alternative have really been better?
Eternal optimist that I am, (??), I happen to believe the world is better off because of Luther than without him.  As for all those things being 'caused' by the Reformation, I think that's debatable because all those things were happening before the Reformation also.
Quote
Does one ever ponder how things might have been had our Blessed Dr. Martin been of a slightly different temperament, especially in his mid- and late-years? Supposing the focus on reforming thought had shifted to Erasmus?

If Erasmus had been the focus, we'd all be free-willers, worried about whether we've made a good decision for Jesus, and how well we can fulfill the law. 
Oh -- maybe Erasmus did win...
in which case, all of the above negatives should really be blamed on Erasmus and not Luther.

Quote
And before the pouncing begins, I say I treasure the heritage of those years and our Dr. Luther. But it wasn't all good, the results.

When has anything been all good in human history?  Ain't gonna happen.

Lou

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pastorg1@aol.com on July 29, 2008, 12:00:56 PM
Might as well commence at the commencement:

Why did God permit Adam to sin?

Well, according to Saint Augustine, (God's Punishment and Help Divine, Part II. X. 27,) a divine warning of the Fall and Hell would have bummed out the paradisical high Adam and Eve were enjoying. Then, Paradise would not have been Paradise.

"If they had known their future fall and eternal suffering, they would not have been happy, those two who, experiencing such fear, would have been led to unhappiness."

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on July 29, 2008, 12:38:04 PM
"As for Luther, I think he was mainly sour and unhappy, especially in his later years, because he was a mean drunk."

Are you serious?  What evidence do you have that Luther was a "drunk", let alone a "mean" one?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pastorg1@aol.com on July 29, 2008, 01:22:49 PM
Sorry for the thread drift...

I've sent you a personal note...

Peter
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: racin_jason on July 29, 2008, 01:52:04 PM
Hopefully the personal note made the distinction between between being a "drunk" and "mean drunk". A person can only imbibe once a year and still be a mean drunk. Calling a person a "drunk" indicates they get sauced regularly.

I don't think Luther was known to drink substantially more than the average German of his time, though we do know that he suffered from many ailments later in life and that perhaps those ailments contributed to occasional crankiness in his writings.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Marshall_Hahn on July 29, 2008, 04:26:09 PM
Catching up on my online reading, I came across this gem from Pastor Austin.  I take him at his word that none of these are given with any particular person in mind, but are general principles to follow - to which I would whole-hearedly agree.
Paul Knudson writes:
How do we keep from being just one more splinter group?

I comment:
I make bold to offer some suggestions.
Do not think of yourself as a "splinter group."
If you believe yourself to be contending for the "faith once delivered to the saints" that can be no splinter group no matter how isolated you might feel.
Quote
Do not use armageddon language about the situation.
Even if it IS armageddon, we have Jesus' promise that the "gates of hell" cannot prevail against His church - so surely our squabbles will not cause the Church of Christ to falter - no matter what happens to our own ecclesial communion.
Quote
Do not consign those with opinions different from yours to anything lower than the first circle of Hell. Better yet, don't condemn them at all, keep thinking of them as fellow believers and workers in the Kingdom.
There is not need to consider those who disagree with you as evil - but just mistaken.  As I recall, the first circle of hell in Dante's inferno was reserved for the righteous pagans - for that was as far as human virtue and knowledge could reach.  And Dante had a great affection for those he encountered therein - including his guide, Virgil.
Quote
Do not believe that everything depends upon "winning" in parliamentary procedures.
The victory that really matters has already been won on the cross.  Parliamentary votes are important - but not ultimately so.
Quote
Do not believe that everyone in authority is against you (even though some in authority might be).
The only one in authority who really matters has already declared Himself to be "for you" - even when you are wrong.
Quote
Have some prayers, or coffee, or conversation with people from one of those "other" groups.
What better way to give faithful witness to the truth as you understand it!

Quote
Paul Knudson writes:
I guess I hope in the mean time we can still work together to try to be voices for re-centering the ELCA.
I comment:
Me, too, although I don't know what the "center" is. The point is, we should all be working together for, not the ELCA (although that is one of our vehicles), the kingdom of God as imperfectly expressed through our congregations, synods, dioceses, presbyteries, classes and denominations.
Sometimes more imperfectly than others.  Conceivably with such imperfections that it may lead one to conclude that the only faithful response is to separate from a particular congregation, synod, diocese, presbytery, class, or denomination.  It is conceiving of such a possibility that is the subject of this thread.  And it is helpful to keep these suggestions from Pastor Austin in mind while considering this possiblity.

Marshall Hahn
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: buechler on July 29, 2008, 04:50:49 PM
The article does not say why it was "good" having Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. in distinctive denominations.

True, but it does say that it was certainly better for them and for the country when they actually stood on distinctives instead of brushed them aside for some feel good theology. Notice that Bottum's article actually treats LCMS and WELS slightly but more favorably than the NCC crowd.

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 29, 2008, 04:52:16 PM
Marshall Hahn writes (re my modest suggestions)'
I came across this gem from Pastor Austin. ....

I respond:
And a moment of strange, unfamiliar warmth swept over me for just a nanosecond...

Then Pastor Hahn writes (re my comments about an imperfect church body):
Conceivably with such imperfections that it may lead one to conclude that the only faithful response is to separate from a particular congregation, synod, diocese, presbytery, class, or denomination.  It is conceiving of such a possibility that is the subject of this thread.  And it is helpful to keep these suggestions from Pastor Austin in mind while considering this possiblity.

And I respond:
Ah, chilled back to "reality," or at least one view of it.
So now the "death of mainline Protestantism" is taken as a given, and the subject of this thread is how to leave it ere putrefacton sets in.
Then - of course and alas!- my modest suggestions are no longer appropriate.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 29, 2008, 04:53:45 PM
Pastor Buechler writes (re my comment on the denominationalism of previous times):
True, but it does say that it was certainly better for them and for the country when they actually stood on distinctives instead of brushed them aside for some feel good theology.

I ask:
Explain how it was "better".
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: buechler on July 29, 2008, 04:56:53 PM
Pastor Buechler writes (re my comment on the denominationalism of previous times):
True, but it does say that it was certainly better for them and for the country when they actually stood on distinctives instead of brushed them aside for some feel good theology.

I ask:
Explain how it was "better".

I respond: Read the whole article again carefully. ;) Since it is Bottum's article you will have to seek his understanding.

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Marshall_Hahn on July 30, 2008, 10:43:23 AM
Marshall Hahn writes (re my modest suggestions)'
I came across this gem from Pastor Austin. ....

I respond:
And a moment of strange, unfamiliar warmth swept over me for just a nanosecond...

Then Pastor Hahn writes (re my comments about an imperfect church body):
Conceivably with such imperfections that it may lead one to conclude that the only faithful response is to separate from a particular congregation, synod, diocese, presbytery, class, or denomination.  It is conceiving of such a possibility that is the subject of this thread.  And it is helpful to keep these suggestions from Pastor Austin in mind while considering this possiblity.

And I respond:
Ah, chilled back to "reality," or at least one view of it.
So now the "death of mainline Protestantism" is taken as a given, and the subject of this thread is how to leave it ere putrefacton sets in.
Then - of course and alas!- my modest suggestions are no longer appropriate.
How so, Pastor Austin?  "Conceiving of such a possibility" is a long way from considering something as a given - it is simply that:  thinking about the possible ramifications if such a situation became a reality.  The situation that I am considering is this:  what would be the point at which those "imperfections" would lead me to conclude that the most faithful response is to separate?  I am saddened if such an exercise upsets your sensibilities, but I believe it is prudent to consider such things in light of the article mentioned, the situations I see (from afar) in some of our full communion partner churches, and proposals that have come before our ELCA.  And I do consider your suggestions to be thoughtful and good reminders to me and others who are considering these things.  And I am glad that, for one shining nanosecond, at least, we were joined in a moment of heart-warming communion.

Marshall Hahn
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 30, 2008, 11:18:51 AM
My apologies, Marshall Hahn, but I read your comments as saying that we were at the point where decisions had to be made, that the "imperfections" had been defined and determined to be cause for leaving.
If we are still discussing non-schismatic "imperfections," then let the discussion - in good, warm fellowship - continue.
Cheers,
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: TravisW on July 31, 2008, 02:18:50 AM
I have no theology nor statistics to add to this thread.  All I have is personal observation and my own opinions.  Take it for what it's worth.

As we are quite aware, the mainline Lutheran synods have experienced a massive decline since the 1960s.  This has followed the same trend as other mainline churches.  Why? 

The WWII and "silent generation" generally grew up in church.  As we all know, not all were ardent adherents to their respective faiths, but that was the status of American culture of the time.  That culture was consistent in America post-WWII.  (Europe post-WWII is a COMPLETELY different story)  American mainline churches offered a fairly balanced theology in the 1940s and 1950s.  It was easy to be a mainline Protestant Christian in America then.  Those who were not believers still attended church, because it was a cultural staple---that's what people did, and the theology was palatable to a degree. 

This started changing in the 1960's.  A different generation grew to adulthood.  This was a generation that valued personal experience over potential theological truth and cultural mores.  The buzz-phrase of the 70's, as far as I understand, commonly became about a personal relationship with God.  Within a relatively short timeframe, it became popular for people to "go fishing rather than to go to church." "It's better to think about God while fishing than think about fishing when in church".  Moreover, it became more common for people to just stop going to church altogether--that started to become an accepted cultural norm.  "Church is just a building". 

This has changed again with my generation (x).  Those whose parents were borderline believers are agnostics.  We are moving toward the post-WWII European paradigm.  Simple theists rarely attend church anymore---it is no longer a societal norm.  Those of devout belief wind up going to more conservative churches.  Why would they do that?  Because the mainline churches are completely behind the times, and are trying to keep up with the wrong audience.  What would have been a marginal Lutheran in the 1960s is now a non-practicing agnostic.  What would have been a devout Lutheran in the 1970s is now becoming a devout Evangelical.  As the mainline churches move left politically, and towards a liberal theology, their importance diminishes as those who are theologically liberal become non-practicing Universalists.

Since I'm Norwegian, cheap, and cynical; I tend to think that a lot of people are being strung along with a lot of hopes that will be dashed.  I tend to think that the mainline churches have tended to move left politically and theologically to avoid butting financial heads with the non-denoms and Evangelicals.  I tend to think that some shepherds are willing to let some sheep die so that the flock will, in some way, survive; rather than keeping solid watch for theological wolves.

...and that's a layman's opinion on mainline protestant churches.   
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 31, 2008, 03:50:27 AM
I agree with most of the sociological analysis; but there can be a good discussion on the connection between that and the theological situation.
Until the 1960s, almost everyone "went to church" or had some connection with the church and that was part of "life." (They also joined bowling leagues, the VFW and American Legion, PTA and fraternal lodges, also a part of "life.") There was community disapproval leveled at those who did not do those things.
That is no longer the case.
Some might contend that the social and intellectual upheavals of the 1960s contributed to the decline of the church, as standard beliefs were questioned and challenged. But I contend that many found the church's engagement with the world appealing, refreshing and stimulating; and that the new approach to theology - now seen as discussion, give-and-take, and an intellectual exercise rather than unquestioning "faith" - kept many people connected with the church, which they now saw as more relevant and "modern" (not a bad word).
It did not all go well. As with the Reformation, some took the "new" ways too far; others used them as an excuse for abandoning the church altogether.
Others continued as before and others who had bad experiences in the church (see the new book "unChristian") could leave without societal disapproval.
The social and intellectual turmoil also stimulated a reaction; and a new kind of "conservatism." Many found the questioning a great threat, and sought places where they believed they would get clear, black-and-white, yes-or-no answers to worrisome problems.
As to whether the decline in mainline church is "massive," and if so, the meaning of that decline; I don't think any of our analyses are compelling. Is there a "new Reformation," and if so, is it the rise of evangelicals or the rise of socially and theologically tumultuous church bodies? Who is playing the roles of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and those folks; and who is attempting to preserve the "church" against the upstarts?
Personally, I'm sure not willing to "let any sheep die." Some may find God calling them to another kind of expression of faith than now exists in many "mainline" churches. Sorry to lose them, but they are still part of the body of Christ. Others may be finding what might be considered "new" expressions of the Christian faith, with elements (like ordination for women, gays and lesbians) that trouble other parts of the Church. They, too, are still part of the body of Christ.




Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: ptmccain on July 31, 2008, 06:01:35 AM
Personally, I'm sure not willing to "let any sheep die."

Except for those in the womb?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 31, 2008, 08:28:03 AM
Pastor McCain injects, following my comment about not letting any of the "sheep" "die":
Except for those in the womb?

I respond:
A dependable and predictable ham-handed response, offered with the usual lack of grace and fellowship, and totally unrelated to the comment that I made or to the reasoned and polite remarks from TravisW. 
 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: buechler on July 31, 2008, 08:55:26 AM
Pastor McCain injects, following my comment about not letting any of the "sheep" "die":
Except for those in the womb?

I respond:
A dependable and predictable ham-handed response, offered with the usual lack of grace and fellowship, and totally unrelated to the comment that I made or to the reasoned and polite remarks from TravisW. 
 

Actually Paul's response is quite on target with regards the title of this thread. If one reads the article and views what is happening in the mainline churches (those who make up the membership of NCC) one sees that there has been a major shift from biblical faithfulness especially with regards abortion, gay/lesbian sex, the estate of marriage, the naming of God, the worship of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ the incarnation of God, etc. Those denominations who have made changes in these things (as well as others) have become irrelevant since they have become at best a mirror of secular culture and at worst helpers in foisting American Civil Religion upon the sheep of the Lord's flock. The sheep scatter and go where they can be safe.

The death of mainline protestantism is based not only on each denomination giving up its distinctives for the sake of collective. The death is based on thse denominations giving up what is distinctively Christian for the sake of relevance with the cultural collective (or at least the cultural collective portrayed by pop culture and academia).

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 31, 2008, 09:54:39 AM
Pastor Buechler writes
...(in) the mainline churches (those who make up the membership of NCC) one sees that there has been a major shift from biblical faithfulness especially with regards abortion, gay/lesbian sex, the estate of marriage, the naming of God, the worship of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ the incarnation of God, etc.
I comment:
No, there has not been a "major shift" from "biblical faithfulness," there has been a shift from what some of you declare to be faithfulness. But some of you do not have the last word for all of us.

Pastor Buechler:
Those denominations who have made changes in these things (as well as others) have become irrelevant since they have become at best a mirror of secular culture and at worst helpers in foisting American Civil Religion upon the sheep of the Lord's flock.
Me:
Where have you been? One of the key themes of those whom you so much despise has been to resist the "civil religion" that assumes far too much about the "religion" of the nation in which we live. This civil religion puts Christianity, or at least God, at the core of all public and political events and links that with the nation. It is the mainline churches that have opposed this misappropriation of the faith.

Pastor Buechler:
The death of mainline protestantism is based not only on each denomination giving up its distinctives for the sake of collective.
Me:
Piffle. Lutherans are still "Lutheran." Methodists are still Methodist (with the various Wesleyan differences). We work more closely together, but we are not one super-church, all squooshed together in a "collective," are we?

Pastor Buechler:
 The death is based on thse denominations giving up what is distinctively Christian for the sake of relevance with the cultural collective (or at least the cultural collective portrayed by pop culture and academia).
Me:
So ahead lies, I fear, more massive discussions about what is "distinctly Christian," and whether we have given it up. You say it is "for the sake of relevance with the cultural collective."
I say that is an unfair and untrue characterization. Does not much of the critique of consumerism, celebrity-ism, American jingoism, and related things in the "cultural collective" come from mainline churches?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on July 31, 2008, 10:31:27 AM
Rev. Austin,

Heretics and heterodox always say that they are being faithful to God.  I mean, who would listen to them if they said they were not?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 31, 2008, 10:42:18 AM
Heretics and heterodox always say that they are being faithful to God. 
And the orthodox always say that they are being faithful to tradition.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 31, 2008, 11:27:06 AM
This started changing in the 1960's.  A different generation grew to adulthood.  This was a generation that valued personal experience over potential theological truth and cultural mores.  The buzz-phrase of the 70's, as far as I understand, commonly became about a personal relationship with God.  Within a relatively short timeframe, it became popular for people to "go fishing rather than to go to church." "It's better to think about God while fishing than think about fishing when in church".  Moreover, it became more common for people to just stop going to church altogether--that started to become an accepted cultural norm.  "Church is just a building".
The 70's gave birth to the "Jesus Movement" and the Charismatic Movement". Dennis Bennett's book, Nine O'Clock in the Morning relates how speaking in tongues had become part of this Episcopal priest's religious experience. When he first publicly shared this experience in 1960, he was asked to resign from his parish. He did, but was called to another one. That is often seen as the beginning of the movement. 1971 was when Maranatha Music began with their first album, The Everlasting, Loving Jesus Music Concert" or Maranatha One came out. Contemporary Christian Music was birthed. I wonder, Is Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa (where Maranatha Music began) considered the first mega-church?

In 1969 I traveled with the Lutheran Evangelical Movement [LEM] headquartered in Minneapolis. Lutheran Youth Encouter [LYE] was beginning in the midwest. Out west, Lutheran Youth Alive [LYA] was being organized. They sponsored congresses for high school youth. (I did a little bit of work with them.) In 1964-1968 I was involved with Young Life at my high school. We grew to be the largest club in the State of Oregon averaging over 200 kids each week. One of the key books and phrases that was used by them was "How to be a Christian without being religious." (It says something about their view of the folks in most congregations.)

So while mainline denomination were decreasing, there was the rise of non-denominational, mega-churches with more performance oriented worship and decision-theology.

There was the rise of non-congregation oriented organizations to spread the gospel. Even as individuals were moving more towards "doin' my own thing," so also there were organizations "doin' their own thing." LEM, LYE, LYA, Young Life, had no official connections with any denomination and, at times, they were critical of denominations.

Did these groups arise to fill a gap that wasn't being done by congregations? Did they arise to meet the needs of the changing culture at the time, e.g., styles of music?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dan Fienen on July 31, 2008, 12:18:15 PM
Pastor Buechler writes
...(in) the mainline churches (those who make up the membership of NCC) one sees that there has been a major shift from biblical faithfulness especially with regards abortion, gay/lesbian sex, the estate of marriage, the naming of God, the worship of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ the incarnation of God, etc.
I comment:
No, there has not been a "major shift" from "biblical faithfulness," there has been a shift from what some of you declare to be faithfulness. But some of you do not have the last word for all of us.

Perhaps we should be talking not about the death of mainline protestantism but the death of authority in the church.  The Bible is ususally held, at least in Lutheran circles, to be the ultimate authority for what is taught and practiced in the church.  But what the Bible ultimately teaches is subject to interpretation and as we have seen in our discussions here that interpretation varies from person to person and from group to group with apparently no way to affirm one interpretation as better or more accurate than another other than I think this way even if you don't so I don't have to accept your interpretation.  So "revisionists" and "traditionalists" both claim to follow the Bible and arrive at opposit conclusions.  How are church people to decide which way to follow?  By what appeals to them?  By who they like?  By what the society around us has decided is the nice position on issues?  By who can say the most nice sounding things without really being pinned down to taking a stand?  Charles complains when being accused of following a shift away from biblical faithfulness that he is not faithful only to what some say constitutes biblical faithfulness.  Yet why should I follow Charles' ideas either, what proof does he offer that his is being more faithful to the Bible than those who dispute his position.

It seems that what we are left with is that there is no authority to say what the church should or should not do.  "Traditionalists" are urged to stay as a part of the church as long as they do not cause trouble or get in the way of the "Revisionsit" elite who are leading the church into the glbt agenda.  Is this how the big tent operates, all are equal but some are more equal than others and the traditional will be tolerated at best?

Dan
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: buechler on July 31, 2008, 12:32:24 PM
Pastor Buechler writes
...(in) the mainline churches (those who make up the membership of NCC) one sees that there has been a major shift from biblical faithfulness especially with regards abortion, gay/lesbian sex, the estate of marriage, the naming of God, the worship of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ the incarnation of God, etc.
I comment:
No, there has not been a "major shift" from "biblical faithfulness," there has been a shift from what some of you declare to be faithfulness. But some of you do not have the last word for all of us.

Perhaps we should be talking not about the death of mainline protestantism but the death of authority in the church.  The Bible is ususally held, at least in Lutheran circles, to be the ultimate authority for what is taught and practiced in the church.  But what the Bible ultimately teaches is subject to interpretation and as we have seen in our discussions here that interpretation varies from person to person and from group to group with apparently no way to affirm one interpretation as better or more accurate than another other than I think this way even if you don't so I don't have to accept your interpretation.  So "revisionists" and "traditionalists" both claim to follow the Bible and arrive at opposit conclusions.  How are church people to decide which way to follow?  By what appeals to them?  By who they like?  By what the society around us has decided is the nice position on issues?  By who can say the most nice sounding things without really being pinned down to taking a stand?  Charles complains when being accused of following a shift away from biblical faithfulness that he is not faithful only to what some say constitutes biblical faithfulness.  Yet why should I follow Charles' ideas either, what proof does he offer that his is being more faithful to the Bible than those who dispute his position.

It seems that what we are left with is that there is no authority to say what the church should or should not do.  "Traditionalists" are urged to stay as a part of the church as long as they do not cause trouble or get in the way of the "Revisionsit" elite who are leading the church into the glbt agenda.  Is this how the big tent operates, all are equal but some are more equal than others and the traditional will be tolerated at best?

Dan

I agree with what you say for the most part. Authority of the church is a big issue and we find a culture that will not tolerate any authority except the unholy trinity of me,myself, and I. The problem is that the main line churches have undermined whatever authority they have had by giving into the culture here and there until they are seen as simply part of the political worldly fabric of society. That authority comes from the Word of God (the written Word found in Scripture), and there was a time when Lutherans actually agreed biblically on the issues of abortion, marriage, sex outside of wedlock, the name of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world, universal salvation,etc. That has now changed dramatically and that has undermined any authority to speak on any issue really.

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 31, 2008, 12:35:20 PM
Is this how the big tent operates, all are equal but some are more equal than others and the traditional will be tolerated at best?
For the most part the traditional is tolerated. (I'm sure that exception to toleration can be found.)

The question is whether or not the traditionalists will find a way to tolerate homosexuals in committed relationships. Most of those that I know, are very traditional in their theology and liturgical practices.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 31, 2008, 12:38:29 PM
That authority comes from the Word of God (the written Word found in Scripture), and there was a time when Lutherans actually agreed biblically on the issues of abortion, marriage, sex outside of wedlock, the name of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world, universal salvation,etc. That has now changed dramatically and that has undermined any authority to speak on any issue really.
There is a very good reason why that changed: a greater emphasis on God's grace that forgives those who have had abortions and been through divorce and had sex outside of marriage. A particular belief or even practice of these issues does not make one a Christian, but trust in God's grace given through Jesus Christ.

Given a church that puts justification by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as a top priority or one where anti-abortion or anti-homosexuals becomes the defining position, I'll take grace every day of the week.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dan Fienen on July 31, 2008, 12:42:36 PM
That authority comes from the Word of God (the written Word found in Scripture), and there was a time when Lutherans actually agreed biblically on the issues of abortion, marriage, sex outside of wedlock, the name of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world, universal salvation,etc. That has now changed dramatically and that has undermined any authority to speak on any issue really.
There is a very good reason why that changed: a greater emphasis on God's grace that forgives those who have had abortions and been through divorce and had sex outside of marriage. A particular belief or even practice of these issues does not make one a Christian, but trust in God's grace given through Jesus Christ.

Given a church that puts justification by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as a top priority or one where anti-abortion or anti-homosexuals becomes the defining position, I'll take grace every day of the week.
Is there a difference between proclaiming the God's grace and forgiveness covers those who have had abortions, been through a divorce, sex outside of marriage or been in a homesexual relationship, and proclaiming that it is good right and salutary to engage in those things?

Dan
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dan Fienen on July 31, 2008, 12:45:42 PM
Is this how the big tent operates, all are equal but some are more equal than others and the traditional will be tolerated at best?
For the most part the traditional is tolerated. (I'm sure that exception to toleration can be found.)

The question is whether or not the traditionalists will find a way to tolerate homosexuals in committed relationships. Most of those that I know, are very traditional in their theology and liturgical practices.

What does it mean to tolerate homosexuals in committed relationships?  It seems to me that what you are asking of traditionalists is that they change their beliefs to match yours on the topic.  That may be good thing - I more than suspect you think it would - but recognize that you are asking that.  At the least you are asking traditionalists to conclude it doesn't matter and that what was once considered sin be so no longer.

Dan
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on July 31, 2008, 12:52:41 PM
Kevin Palmer, could be some fols would be more comfortable with "Arian" than the word "catholic" in the Creeds?  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: edoughty on July 31, 2008, 01:16:42 PM
Is this how the big tent operates, all are equal but some are more equal than others and the traditional will be tolerated at best?
For the most part the traditional is tolerated. (I'm sure that exception to toleration can be found.)

The question is whether or not the traditionalists will find a way to tolerate homosexuals in committed relationships. Most of those that I know, are very traditional in their theology and liturgical practices.

What does it mean to tolerate homosexuals in committed relationships?  It seems to me that what you are asking of traditionalists is that they change their beliefs to match yours on the topic.  That may be good thing - I more than suspect you think it would - but recognize that you are asking that.  At the least you are asking traditionalists to conclude it doesn't matter and that what was once considered sin be so no longer.

Dan

I think there is some wiggle room in that word "tolerate".  Perhaps you're right and traditionalists are being asked to change their beliefs.  On the other hand, those who "tolerate" something are not necessarily asked to change their beliefs-- only their behavior. 

I am not quite convinced that we Christians are called by the scriptures to merely tolerate each other-- I believe Christ set that bar much higher in the command to love one another.  However, this side of the eschaton, sometimes toleration is a place to start -- or perhaps a midpoint.

Erik
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: ptmccain on July 31, 2008, 01:29:19 PM
I'll take grace every day of the week.

But apparently there is little "grace" being shown toward the unborn children who are being killed in their mother's wombs.

I know it is considered by some indelicate to mention such things, but I'm still convinced that as soon as a church starts tolerating the murder of unborn children, and even paying for the procedure in its health plans, it is a fairly good sign rigor mortis has started to set in.

Father Richard John Neuhaus was interviewed recently on the subject of abortion and had, as usual, cogent remarks:

http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/Show18072308H2S1.mp3
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 31, 2008, 01:57:42 PM
But are you not obligated to reject Father Neuhaus as a responsible authority, since he abandoned the LC-MS for the ELCA, and the ELCA for the Roman church, headed by the anti-Christ?  ;)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on July 31, 2008, 02:03:08 PM
That authority comes from the Word of God (the written Word found in Scripture), and there was a time when Lutherans actually agreed biblically on the issues of abortion, marriage, sex outside of wedlock, the name of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world, universal salvation,etc. That has now changed dramatically and that has undermined any authority to speak on any issue really.
There is a very good reason why that changed: a greater emphasis on God's grace that forgives those who have had abortions and been through divorce and had sex outside of marriage. A particular belief or even practice of these issues does not make one a Christian, but trust in God's grace given through Jesus Christ.

Given a church that puts justification by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as a top priority or one where anti-abortion or anti-homosexuals becomes the defining position, I'll take grace every day of the week.

Cheap Grace? ;D
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on July 31, 2008, 02:08:49 PM
I think there is some wiggle room in that word "tolerate".  Perhaps you're right and traditionalists are being asked to change their beliefs.  On the other hand, those who "tolerate" something are not necessarily asked to change their beliefs-- only their behavior. 

Erik

"[change] only their behavior..." 

Seems like I have heard traditionalists use that very same langauge before.  Hmm.   :o
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: TravisW on July 31, 2008, 02:35:01 PM
Is this how the big tent operates, all are equal but some are more equal than others and the traditional will be tolerated at best?
For the most part the traditional is tolerated. (I'm sure that exception to toleration can be found.)

The question is whether or not the traditionalists will find a way to tolerate homosexuals in committed relationships. Most of those that I know, are very traditional in their theology and liturgical practices.

What does it mean to tolerate homosexuals in committed relationships?  It seems to me that what you are asking of traditionalists is that they change their beliefs to match yours on the topic.  That may be good thing - I more than suspect you think it would - but recognize that you are asking that.  At the least you are asking traditionalists to conclude it doesn't matter and that what was once considered sin be so no longer.

Dan

I think there is some wiggle room in that word "tolerate".  Perhaps you're right and traditionalists are being asked to change their beliefs.  On the other hand, those who "tolerate" something are not necessarily asked to change their beliefs-- only their behavior. 

I am not quite convinced that we Christians are called by the scriptures to merely tolerate each other-- I believe Christ set that bar much higher in the command to love one another.  However, this side of the eschaton, sometimes toleration is a place to start -- or perhaps a midpoint.

Erik

I believe that love and tolerance are mutually exclusive in some circumstances. 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: buechler on July 31, 2008, 02:44:07 PM
That authority comes from the Word of God (the written Word found in Scripture), and there was a time when Lutherans actually agreed biblically on the issues of abortion, marriage, sex outside of wedlock, the name of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world, universal salvation,etc. That has now changed dramatically and that has undermined any authority to speak on any issue really.
There is a very good reason why that changed: a greater emphasis on God's grace that forgives those who have had abortions and been through divorce and had sex outside of marriage. A particular belief or even practice of these issues does not make one a Christian, but trust in God's grace given through Jesus Christ.

Given a church that puts justification by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as a top priority or one where anti-abortion or anti-homosexuals becomes the defining position, I'll take grace every day of the week.
Is there a difference between proclaiming the God's grace and forgiveness covers those who have had abortions, been through a divorce, sex outside of marriage or been in a homesexual relationship, and proclaiming that it is good right and salutary to engage in those things?

Dan

Is there a difference? You bet. While Brian may find it a benefit to abandon the authority of Scripture so that certain behaviors are not stigmatized, I think it was true then as it is now that those who uphold the traditional views can and do uphold the Biblical proscriptions and at the same time speak of the power of repentance and forgiveness and the new life it offers. I have had a number of parishoners go wrong with regards issues of sexual morality, yet I continue to preach the Law and the Gospel and some have repented and been given the grace to turn their lives around by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I think Cheap Grace is what the main line is offering, a grace that is not really grace but liscence.

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 31, 2008, 04:40:30 PM
Is there a difference between proclaiming the God's grace and forgiveness covers those who have had abortions, been through a divorce, sex outside of marriage or been in a homesexual relationship, and proclaiming that it is good right and salutary to engage in those things?
I don't know of anyone who says that abortions, divorce, sex outside of marriage, or homosexual relatinoships are "good right and salutary". Sometimes those are the best options.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 31, 2008, 04:46:15 PM
I think Cheap Grace is what the main line is offering, a grace that is not really grace but liscence.
Cheap grace is the result of cheap law. Cheap law is when the proclaiming the law becomes morality rather than the sword of God that kills. Cheap law preaches against abortion; killing law also preaches against those who judge others who have had abortions or who perform abortions. Cheap law preaches against sex outside of marriages; killing law also preaches against anyone who believes that they are more saved by God or are proud because they waited until their wedding day. Cheap law makes only some people sinners. Killing law attacks all of us -- especially those who are proud of their self-righteousness. Once the law actually kills our self-serving attempts at justification, then God's grace is the power that can raise the dead to new life.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dan Fienen on July 31, 2008, 07:58:13 PM
I think Cheap Grace is what the main line is offering, a grace that is not really grace but liscence.
Cheap grace is the result of cheap law. Cheap law is when the proclaiming the law becomes morality rather than the sword of God that kills. Cheap law preaches against abortion; killing law also preaches against those who judge others who have had abortions or who perform abortions. Cheap law preaches against sex outside of marriages; killing law also preaches against anyone who believes that they are more saved by God or are proud because they waited until their wedding day. Cheap law makes only some people sinners. Killing law attacks all of us -- especially those who are proud of their self-righteousness. Once the law actually kills our self-serving attempts at justification, then God's grace is the power that can raise the dead to new life.
I am not sure that I understand you Brian.  Are you implying that trying to avoid committing a sin is not to be preferred over going on ahead and committing a sin and being forgiven for it.  Is trying to be a moral person an ungodly activity for the Christian?  Is the sole purpose for the Christian or the Christian church to consider God's Law, His written desire for our conduct, to be to convict everyone that they are sinners in need of God's grace with no implication intended for guiding the Christian to work toward conducting his life in a God pleasing manner. 

If judging those who commit sin - abortion or coercive sexual relationships for example - is equally sinful as actually doing that or maybe even more sinful ("Cheap law preaches against abortion; killing law also preaches against those who judge others who have had abortions or who perform abortions.")  If it is in my nature (perhaps God made me that way) to be judgmental, why not just let it all hang out.  It just proves that I need God's forgiveness all the more.  If spiritual pride and self-righteousness is sinful (and I agree it is) then doesn't that just prove that if I am prideful I need forgiveness and have therefor been "killed" by the law and ready for God's resurrecting grace.  Why would I even need to attempt to "amend my sinful ways?"  After all, the law is not given to have us amend our sinful ways but simply to convince us of our need for forgiveness.  For that matter, how many "reformed" sinners fall prey to self-righteous pride, they are perhaps better off not trying to go and sin no more lest they become prideful.

I don't think that this is what you mean, but I can't figure out what you do mean.

Dan
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on July 31, 2008, 08:58:13 PM
Rev. Stoffregen says: "Cheap law preaches against sex outside of marriages..."  Apparently Jesus preached cheap Law (John 8).
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on July 31, 2008, 08:59:26 PM
I think Cheap Grace is what the main line is offering, a grace that is not really grace but liscence.
Cheap grace is the result of cheap law. Cheap law is when the proclaiming the law becomes morality rather than the sword of God that kills. Cheap law preaches against abortion; killing law also preaches against those who judge others who have had abortions or who perform abortions. Cheap law preaches against sex outside of marriages; killing law also preaches against anyone who believes that they are more saved by God or are proud because they waited until their wedding day. Cheap law makes only some people sinners. Killing law attacks all of us -- especially those who are proud of their self-righteousness. Once the law actually kills our self-serving attempts at justification, then God's grace is the power that can raise the dead to new life.

What distinction between "cheap law" and "killing law" are you after?  I bet I could substitute something like "the guy's proclamation of law I don't like" for one and "the guy's proclamation of law I like" for the other and come up with an equivalent comparison.  All your two "laws" sound like is the Law preached to different people as applicable to their situation.

E.g., your "killing law" against "anyone who believes that they are more saved by God or are proud because they waited until their wedding day" sounds like it "makes only some people sinners," just like your examples of "cheap law." 

This means that your distinction isn't worth much so it's, uh, cheap.  ;)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: ptmccain on July 31, 2008, 09:03:13 PM
As much as some would like to reduce every conversation here to an endless round of "just how far can I go and still be regarded as a Luther, or even a Christian" or "let's see how often I can repeat mantras like 'grace through faith in Jesus' while denying every fundamental truth of Scripture and shrugging when others do" the cold, hard facts remain.

Paying for and condoning the killing of unborn children is powerful proof that a church body is sick unto death.

Not much fuzz on this peach, folks.

Rearrange the deck chairs and cue the band, but....well,
I'll let this guy explain it.
 (http://www.scifi.sk/Alien/archiv/audio2/gameover.wav)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 31, 2008, 09:49:59 PM
Pastor McCain writes:
As much as some would like to reduce every conversation here to an endless round of "just how far can I go and still be regarded as a Luther, or even a Christian" or "let's see how often I can repeat mantras like 'grace through faith in Jesus' while denying every fundamental truth of Scripture and shrugging when others do" the cold, hard facts remain.
I muse:
So "grace through faith in Jesus" isn't a "fundamental truth of Scripture"? Gee, I thought it was the fundamental truth of Scripture.

Pastor McCain writes:
Paying for and condoning the killing of unborn children is powerful proof that a church body is sick unto death.
I muse (to no avail, I am sure):
The "church body" you have in mind does not do this. Individuals within that church body may seek abortions, just as I am sure individuals within the LC-MS may seek abortions.

Pastor McCain writes:
Rearrange the deck chairs and cue the band, but....well,
I muse, again to no avail, I am sure:
Taking one measurement - membership - the LC-MS is declining almost as fast as anyone else. So one might say that whooping up Ablaze! or whatever is also shifting furniture.
And I shall make the plea again: Is it at all possible to have a discussion proceed on this board without the rancor and denunciations and "sick unto death" labelings? For some, I suspect not. That's too bad.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: hillwilliam on July 31, 2008, 11:27:14 PM

So "grace through faith in Jesus" isn't a "fundamental truth of Scripture"? Gee, I thought it was the fundamental truth of Scripture.

The "church body" you have in mind does not do this. Individuals within that church body may seek abortions, just as I am sure individuals within the LC-MS may seek abortions.


Charles, may I refer you to the book "Justification, The Article by which the Church Stands ior Falls" by Carl E. Braaten? it argues very convincingly that 'justification' is THE fundamental truth of Scripture. If you can say there are any pre-conditions to your salvation, God's justifying of the sinner most certainly is it. It is the ground upon which faith is created by God and is the ultimate expression of His gracious gift. This is something that only God can give and cannot be taken from Him by any appeal to logic. We are beggars at the altar of God and cannot hold Him hostage to a personal understanding of the Gospel that contradicts the plain language of the Scriptures.

The "church body" may not 'seek' abortions but not proclaiming God's word condemning killing is enough to put the church in the  docket for accessory to the crime. The only reason I see being modeled by the Scriptures for taking a life is to protect a life. Seldom the case in abortions.

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: ptmccain on July 31, 2008, 11:53:02 PM
Point in fact,  every protestant mainline church's health care plan pays for abortions, without restriction, during the first trimester or more. It's a horrible tragedy and an inconvenient truth that all the PR-department spin in the world can not paper over with pious platitudes.

Real churches do not pay for elective abortions.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 01, 2008, 12:57:19 AM
I am not sure that I understand you Brian.  Are you implying that trying to avoid committing a sin is not to be preferred over going on ahead and committing a sin and being forgiven for it.  Is trying to be a moral person an ungodly activity for the Christian?  Is the sole purpose for the Christian or the Christian church to consider God's Law, His written desire for our conduct, to be to convict everyone that they are sinners in need of God's grace with no implication intended for guiding the Christian to work toward conducting his life in a God pleasing manner.
First of all, I am talking about our proclamation. If we are just preaching morality, that is cheap law. The gospel is not needed.

Secondly, Luther had two proper uses of the law: to maintain order in society and to convict of sin. We will never succeed in living our lives in a god-pleasing manner, because sin remains a power within our lives. It always corrupts the good we seek to do. Certainly living morally falls under the first use of the law. We can have some measure of success in living morally and rightiously in the world.

Quote
Why would I even need to attempt to "amend my sinful ways?"  After all, the law is not given to have us amend our sinful ways but simply to convince us of our need for forgiveness.
You amend your sinful ways for the sake of the neighbor, for order in society, to stay out of jail, etc. Any police officer or boy scout leader can tell us how to live as good, moral citizens. Within the Church we are to hear that we are all sinners, and that by God's unmerited grace through faith in Christ, our sins are forgiven.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 01, 2008, 12:59:10 AM
Cheap grace is the result of cheap law. Cheap law is when the proclaiming the law becomes morality rather than the sword of God that kills. Cheap law preaches against abortion; killing law also preaches against those who judge others who have had abortions or who perform abortions. Cheap law preaches against sex outside of marriages; killing law also preaches against anyone who believes that they are more saved by God or are proud because they waited until their wedding day. Cheap law makes only some people sinners. Killing law attacks all of us -- especially those who are proud of their self-righteousness. Once the law actually kills our self-serving attempts at justification, then God's grace is the power that can raise the dead to new life.

What distinction between "cheap law" and "killing law" are you after?  I bet I could substitute something like "the guy's proclamation of law I don't like" for one and "the guy's proclamation of law I like" for the other and come up with an equivalent comparison.  All your two "laws" sound like is the Law preached to different people as applicable to their situation.

E.g., your "killing law" against "anyone who believes that they are more saved by God or are proud because they waited until their wedding day" sounds like it "makes only some people sinners," just like your examples of "cheap law." 
Did you not read the word "also" in my post?

Simply stated, cheap law says, "You can do this." The killing law says, "You can't do this."

Cheap law has us relying on our selves. The killing law denies the power of self.

Cheap law says that we've done wrong, but we can do better. The killing law says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1).
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 01, 2008, 01:10:12 AM
The "church body" may not 'seek' abortions but not proclaiming God's word condemning killing is enough to put the church in the  docket for accessory to the crime. The only reason I see being modeled by the Scriptures for taking a life is to protect a life. Seldom the case in abortions.
Where does God's word condemn killing? Have you read through Joshua lately where God commanded the killing of men, women, and children?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dave_Poedel on August 01, 2008, 02:25:26 AM
And I shall make the plea again: Is it at all possible to have a discussion proceed on this board without the rancor and denunciations and "sick unto death" labelings? For some, I suspect not. That's too bad.

But, my dear brothers and sisters, let us never grow weary of trying, each of us, with each post and response, to begin practicing the eternal fellowship that is ours by grace alone, through the faith in our Lord God given to each of us as individuals, to be practiced together.  We are going to spend eternity with each other, why not start regarding each other in that way now?  The day is coming when what we see dimly now will be seen fully as we are fully seen. Amen! Maranatha!

Hey, this is my 1,000st post!  Feeling pretty millennial right now...OK, it's passed
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 01, 2008, 04:55:24 AM
Pastor McCain writes:
Real churches do not pay for elective abortions.

I comment:
Actually, even the so-called "pro-life" churches often do, when the life and health of the mother is threatened. That is an "elective abortion," for the woman may elect to have it or she may elect to give up her life.  And the issue, of course, is: who gets to "elect" - the woman, the man, the doctors, the spiritual advisors - or a separate party that says: no abortions, ever?
But let us not stomp down this fruitless road again.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 01, 2008, 08:28:11 AM
Cheap grace is the result of cheap law. Cheap law is when the proclaiming the law becomes morality rather than the sword of God that kills. Cheap law preaches against abortion; killing law also preaches against those who judge others who have had abortions or who perform abortions. Cheap law preaches against sex outside of marriages; killing law also preaches against anyone who believes that they are more saved by God or are proud because they waited until their wedding day. Cheap law makes only some people sinners. Killing law attacks all of us -- especially those who are proud of their self-righteousness. Once the law actually kills our self-serving attempts at justification, then God's grace is the power that can raise the dead to new life.

What distinction between "cheap law" and "killing law" are you after?  I bet I could substitute something like "the guy's proclamation of law I don't like" for one and "the guy's proclamation of law I like" for the other and come up with an equivalent comparison.  All your two "laws" sound like is the Law preached to different people as applicable to their situation.

E.g., your "killing law" against "anyone who believes that they are more saved by God or are proud because they waited until their wedding day" sounds like it "makes only some people sinners," just like your examples of "cheap law." 
Did you not read the word "also" in my post?

Simply stated, cheap law says, "You can do this." The killing law says, "You can't do this."

Cheap law has us relying on our selves. The killing law denies the power of self.

Cheap law says that we've done wrong, but we can do better. The killing law says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1).

Still don't buy the distinction between "cheap" and "killing."

The proclamation of law that "you executed your baby" is pretty killing.  There's not much you can do about it at that point.  When crushed by the weight of that sin, the only thing that can make you alive again is the proclamation of forgiveness that comes in Christ, a forgiveness that floods over even this.  It renews the one struggling under the guilt and lostness entailed the realization, tellling them that even for this sin did Christ die.

Unless, of course, you're speaking of the distinction between the first (or third) and second uses of the Law.  Then I do agree that there's a difference.  But the way that the Law is heard doesn't depend upon us, so even proclaiming what is intended to be first use (abortion should not be done because it kills a baby and one of the basic functions of all government is to protect the life of its citizens) can easily be heard as second use (you killed your child).

The second use leaves no wiggle room and is killing.  The first, I agree, may leave a person relatively spiritually unscathed.  As Bob Kolb says, "You don't want to nick them [with the Law], you want to kill them" (or something relatively close to that).

Even so, the first use is not "cheap" but necessary for life on this earth.  God uses it to order society, and that's quite important, no?  The descriptor "cheap," it appears to me, unjustly devalues this function and makes a God too small (!) whose will only works out in one particular way.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on August 01, 2008, 08:49:18 AM
Somebody said "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?"  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 01, 2008, 09:00:01 AM
Goodness, has it really come to this?!?  Rev. Stoffregen writes: "Where does God's word condemn killing? "

Ah, Rev. Stoffregen, have you ever heard of the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill"?  Or is that not part of God's Word for some people anymore? 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 01, 2008, 09:07:07 AM
Point in fact,  every protestant mainline church's health care plan pays for abortions, without restriction, during the first trimester or more. It's a horrible tragedy and an inconvenient truth that all the PR-department spin in the world can not paper over with pious platitudes.

Real churches do not pay for elective abortions.

Absolutely.  That this is the case with the ELCA health plan is a complete and total tragedy that cries out to be rectified.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 01, 2008, 10:06:45 AM
Sigh. So do LC-MS members have to withdraw from any health benefits plan that pays for abortion? It's their money doing it, right? And if it is a union or professional organization fund, they have some say in what it pays for. Would not the LC-MS say that an abortion in the case of rape, incest or the threat to the life of the mother might be permitted? Hence "elective."
This assumption of moral superiority or purity really gets tiresome.
But I'll stop there.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 01, 2008, 10:25:27 AM
Sigh. So do LC-MS members have to withdraw from any health benefits plan that pays for abortion? It's their money doing it, right? And if it is a union or professional organization fund, they have some say in what it pays for.

I agree that other health care funds shouldn't pay for abortions, and people should agitate that they not be paid for.  Sorta like some are doing here.

Would not the LC-MS say that an abortion in the case of rape, incest or the threat to the life of the mother might be permitted? Hence "elective."

"Elective" as it's being used here is to refer to abortion for any reason at all, including inconvenience.

Procedures where an abortion is necessary because the baby simply cannot survive with the current state of technology (like in an ectopic pregnancy) or in the case of a mother who is in danger of imminent death due to the physical complications of the pregnancy hardly fall under the category of "elective."  If you want that term to have any meaning, that is.

This assumption of moral superiority or purity really gets tiresome.

I bet it does.  After all, you've done it for quite a while, and any such incredible repetition is bound to be wearying.

Rest in the shadow of the Almighty's wings and be renewed, little lamb. ;)

But I'll stop there.

Sure you will.  :D
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: E. Swensson on August 01, 2008, 11:21:22 AM
Sigh. So do LC-MS members have to withdraw from any health benefits plan that pays for abortion? It's their money doing it, right? And if it is a union or professional organization fund, they have some say in what it pays for.

I agree that other health care funds shouldn't pay for abortions, and people should agitate that they not be paid for.  Sorta like some are doing here.

Would not the LC-MS say that an abortion in the case of rape, incest or the threat to the life of the mother might be permitted? Hence "elective."

"Elective" as it's being used here is to refer to abortion for any reason at all, including inconvenience.

Procedures where an abortion is necessary because the baby simply cannot survive with the current state of technology (like in an ectopic pregnancy) or in the case of a mother who is in danger of imminent death due to the physical complications of the pregnancy hardly fall under the category of "elective."  If you want that term to have any meaning, that is.

This assumption of moral superiority or purity really gets tiresome.

I bet it is.  After all, you've done it for quite a while, and any such incredible repetition is bound to be wearying.

Rest in the shadow of the Almighty's wings and be renewed, little lamb. ;)

But I'll stop there.

Sure you will.  :D

Nothing to add here! Carry on...
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 01, 2008, 12:36:43 PM
in the case of a mother who is in danger of imminent death due to the physical complications of the pregnancy hardly fall under the category of "elective."
The mother can elect to save her own life, or to give up her life for the sake of the child. I believe that the Roman Church takes the position that it is better to save the life of the child than of the mother. The argument is that the mother has been baptized and believes in Christ and so her eternal salvation is secured. The opportunity to be baptized and believe and be saved should be given to the child.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 01, 2008, 12:38:22 PM
I agree that other health care funds shouldn't pay for abortions, and people should agitate that they not be paid for.  Sorta like some are doing here.
So, what do you tell members of LCMS congregations who are paying for abortions through their company health programs?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: buechler on August 01, 2008, 03:04:28 PM
Sigh. So do LC-MS members have to withdraw from any health benefits plan that pays for abortion? It's their money doing it, right? And if it is a union or professional organization fund, they have some say in what it pays for.

I agree that other health care funds shouldn't pay for abortions, and people should agitate that they not be paid for.  Sorta like some are doing here.

Would not the LC-MS say that an abortion in the case of rape, incest or the threat to the life of the mother might be permitted? Hence "elective."

"Elective" as it's being used here is to refer to abortion for any reason at all, including inconvenience.

Procedures where an abortion is necessary because the baby simply cannot survive with the current state of technology (like in an ectopic pregnancy) or in the case of a mother who is in danger of imminent death due to the physical complications of the pregnancy hardly fall under the category of "elective."  If you want that term to have any meaning, that is.

This assumption of moral superiority or purity really gets tiresome.

I bet it is.  After all, you've done it for quite a while, and any such incredible repetition is bound to be wearying.

Rest in the shadow of the Almighty's wings and be renewed, little lamb. ;)

But I'll stop there.

Sure you will.  :D

Nothing to add here! Carry on...

Ditto! ;)

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: bmj on August 01, 2008, 03:39:21 PM
in the case of a mother who is in danger of imminent death due to the physical complications of the pregnancy hardly fall under the category of "elective."
The mother can elect to save her own life, or to give up her life for the sake of the child. I believe that the Roman Church takes the position that it is better to save the life of the child than of the mother. The argument is that the mother has been baptized and believes in Christ and so her eternal salvation is secured. The opportunity to be baptized and believe and be saved should be given to the child.

Yes, and you can read about one courageous and faithful person who was beautified by Pope John Paul II in 1994..
http://www.vatican.edu/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20040516_beretta-molla_en.html

Or another..
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/may/08050108.html

I don't know that your stated reasoning is correct (it is more based on the sanctity of all life, and the fact that it is not ours to give and take, not so much on salvation issues).  However, the fact that the Catholic church teaches unambiguously that life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death is true.  Abortion is an 'intrinsic evil' and a non-negotiable.  I believe the RCC teaching is that if the life of the Mother AND the child are at stake, AND there is no possibility that the child can live, then all measures (including abortion) can and should be taken to preserve the life of the Mother.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dan Fienen on August 01, 2008, 05:57:39 PM
I agree that other health care funds shouldn't pay for abortions, and people should agitate that they not be paid for.  Sorta like some are doing here.
So, what do you tell members of LCMS congregations who are paying for abortions through their company health programs?
That depends.  If they are in charge of setting up the plan and have the discretion to set the terms of the plan, then I would urge them to limit the benefit paid for abortion to be in line with our beliefs.  If it is an employee benefit over which they have minimal control, I would suggest that if they have an opportunity to voice an opinion that they do so, otherwise then even though the plan provides such a benefit, they personally do not have abortions except in such circumstances as are accepted within our beliefs in the matter.

Brian,

You have some strong beliefs concerning same sex relationships.  How can you live in and support with taxes a nation, state, or community that does not exactly put into practice what you believe?  If you feel that LCMS people should be conscience bound not to participate in health plans over which they exercise little control and that provide abortion converage that they believe is wrong, should you not also be conscience bound not to be a part of a community that goes against what you believe is morally correct concerning same sex relationships?  For that matter, if you feel that the war in Iraq is wrong should that not have been a deal breaker and you renounced American citizenship and residence immediately.  Good luck at finding a situation where your moral imperitives are completely followed.

Obviously, if we have strong beliefs concerning abortion, we would much prefer that medical plans and social systems of which we are a part would honor and conform to our beliefs.  That is not always possible though we should exercise what influence we might have.  As, I am sure you try to exercise what influence you have in nation, state, community, and church that your moral imperatives concerning same sex relationships be recognized and followed.   However, in the case of medical insurance provided by a church body for her workers, the church body should be able to exercise considerable influence over the nature and terms of coverage.  What they do should reflect their beliefs.  And from their policy concerning what they will cover, we are, I think justifiably, able to gleen an idea of what they really believe.

Dan
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on August 02, 2008, 01:32:05 PM
Do religious bodies die or morph into being something different?  Case in point New England Puritansim developed into Unitarianism--a long way from Jonathn Edwards.  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: ptmccain on August 02, 2008, 02:54:52 PM
I'm still wondering how we can not but hear a "death rattle" when examine mainline protestantism's position on abortion.

That seems such a dramatically obvious indication of a church's core values.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on August 02, 2008, 09:27:44 PM
Solemn thought but isn't this exactly what Eck or Bellarmine and Borromeo predicted would happen?  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on August 05, 2008, 12:17:20 PM
 :-[ So no one could think of a thing to say after that?  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 05, 2008, 04:02:02 PM
Well, I did think of something to say, but wasn't sure it was terribly helpful.  It has to do with in name versus in fact and would likely be deemed insulting.  The point, however, is that no LUTHERAN Church would countenance such.  Period.  Our Rule of Faith, the Sacred Scriptures, prohibit bringing harm to anyone in their body; and certainly that includes the unborn.  So to use the name Lutheran to cloak this is to show the truth about where one stands as Lutherans (meaning no disrespect to my faithful brothers and sisters in the ELCA who continue to strive to be and remain Lutheran in more than name).
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 05, 2008, 04:04:29 PM
By the way, this article might be an interesting addition to the one originally referred to:

http://books.google.com/books?id=0mUNAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA27

Krauth is always heavy slogging, but so worth it...
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 05, 2008, 04:30:51 PM
Our Rule of Faith, the Sacred Scriptures, prohibit bringing harm to anyone in their body; and certainly that includes the unborn. 
Have you not read the Book of Joshua in Sacred Scriptures? If you have, how can you say that scriptures prohibit bringing harm to anyone when whole cities: men, women, and children were slaughtered by the people acting on God's command?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 05, 2008, 04:47:18 PM
Brian,

Yes, I've read the book of Joshua, but I've also read the NT which interprets and expounds the Old Testament Christologically and in which the Holy Spirit led the inspired writer to sum up: "Love does no harm to the neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."  Abortion DOES do harm to a helpless neighbor, and therefore abortion is not love, or the fulfilling of the law.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Matt Staneck on August 05, 2008, 05:03:37 PM
Isn't citing the violence in the OT a moot point for people on the side of abortion being a so called "necessary" evil?  Many revisionists are quite selective of the OT anyway.  I know people who all but disregard the OT because God does things that is contrary to what they think and feel.  They would rather not deal with the wrathful side of God.  Good thing in faith we don't have to!

M.  Staneck
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Tom Eckstein on August 05, 2008, 06:02:34 PM
Brian,

Yes, I've read the book of Joshua, but I've also read the NT which interprets and expounds the Old Testament Christologically and in which the Holy Spirit lead the inspired writer to sum up: "Love does no harm to the neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."  Abortion DOES do harm to a helpless neighbor, and therefore abortion is not love, or the fulfilling of the law.

Pr. Weedon makes a good point re: Brian's reference to the God ordained violence in the Book of Joshua.  One can hardly use these events in Joshua to condone the practice of Abortion today!  First, unlike those events in Joshua, God has not given us a direct command via a chosen prophet to abort the preborn.  Second, Israel was functioning as a theocracy and in these rare cases was an instrument of God's wrath on earth (whereas the US is NOT a theocracy and God has not revealed that He is using the US government to bring His wrath upon the preborn).  Third, one of the reasons God grew tired of the pagan nations in the promised land is that one of their many unrepentant evils was their offering their children as sacrifices to idols.  The modern practice of abortion is not unlike this evil in that we are offering our children on the altars of the idols of our selfishness and materialism.  Of course, we ALL must repent in this regard.  We could always do more to help our neighbor (Lord have mercy).  But to condone abortion is like condoning the deliberate choice to ignore the poor in our midst when we are in a position to help them.  More could be said, but Pr. Weedon makes an important point!
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 05, 2008, 07:11:48 PM
Brian,

Yes, I've read the book of Joshua, but I've also read the NT which interprets and expounds the Old Testament Christologically and in which the Holy Spirit lead the inspired writer to sum up: "Love does no harm to the neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."  Abortion DOES do harm to a helpless neighbor, and therefore abortion is not love, or the fulfilling of the law.

Pr. Weedon makes a good point re: Brian's reference to the God ordained violence in the Book of Joshua.  One can hardly use these events in Joshua to condone the practice of Abortion today!

Some months back, Brian commented that aborted children were being given the opportunity to be like Christ.  That was a bit disturbing, too.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 05, 2008, 07:31:26 PM
Some months back, Brian commented that aborted children were being given the opportunity to be like Christ.  That was a bit disturbing, too.
I did not say that they were being given the opportunity to be like Christ. As I recall, I asked a question rather than made a statement. If we consider fetuses to be innocent in regards to their suffering and death, isn't that like Christ's suffering and death?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on August 05, 2008, 07:51:38 PM
Yes, Krauth"s Conservative Reformation represents a recovery of Lutheran theology after a century of deterioration.  Could it happen again?  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 05, 2008, 08:26:09 PM
Pr. Weedon makes a good point re: Brian's reference to the God ordained violence in the Book of Joshua.  One can hardly use these events in Joshua to condone the practice of Abortion today!
My comment wasn't specifically about abortion, but about Pr. Weeden's comment about harming another person.

I also question the translation he used of Romans 13:10. If love does no harm to a neighbor, can a Christian participate in a war where s/he might have to harm or kill another soldier? Can a Christian be a doctor or dentist who purposely cause harm to patience -- even if it is for their good.

The Greek word κακός, which is used in 13:10 and also 13:3, 4, 4, within that context, refers to acts that are contrary to civil law -- acts against which the state can and should "bear the sword. In our country, abortion is a legal act. The authorities placed in power by God (according to chapter 13,) execute God's wrath on those who do κακός. They do not consider abortion an illegal act that deserves the wrath of the state. So, if you are going to use Romans 13, you might find it saying something contrary to what you want it to say in regards to abortion.

Elsewhere in Romans (and as the NRSV translates 13:10) it refers to what is wrong or evil, e.g., 7:19, 21; 12:17, 21; 14:20; 16:19; acts which may not actually physically harm another person.

Quote
First, unlike those events in Joshua, God has not given us a direct command via a chosen prophet to abort the preborn.  

You believe that God gave a direct command to kill the men, women, and children in Jericho, Ai, and throughout the region!

Quote
Second, Israel was functioning as a theocracy and in these rare cases was an instrument of God's wrath on earth (whereas the US is NOT a theocracy and God has not revealed that He is using the US government to bring His wrath upon the preborn).
So you don't believe that Romans 13:1-7 can refer to the United States!

Quote
Third, one of the reasons God grew tired of the pagan nations in the promised land is that one of their many unrepentant evils was their offering their children as sacrifices to idols.
I don't recall that the sacrifice of children was ever given for a reason for the slaughter of men, women, and children in Canaan. I know that Jeremiah spoke against the practice, but he wrote many years after Joshua's conquest. Even if the destruction by Joshua was God's wrath against child sacrifice, does that mean it's OK to slaughter the men and women who perform abortions or have abortions? Or should we just drive them out of the U.S., maybe to Canada or Mexico? Then would the United States become more righteous? I don't think so.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on August 05, 2008, 08:41:02 PM
Pro choice is merely symptom that denominations have adopted a secularist agenda and set aside revealed truth. tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Keith Falk on August 05, 2008, 09:31:16 PM
...I don't recall that the sacrifice of children was ever given for a reason for the slaughter of men, women, and children in Canaan. I know that Jeremiah spoke against the practice, but he wrote many years after Joshua's conquest. Even if the destruction by Joshua was God's wrath against child sacrifice, does that mean it's OK to slaughter the men and women who perform abortions or have abortions? Or should we just drive them out of the U.S., maybe to Canada or Mexico? Then would the United States become more righteous? I don't think so.

I have no fancy pictures of red herrings, but please point me to the post where someone suggested that it is ok to slaughter those who perform or have had abortions.  Also, where does anyone say that we should drive people away or that the United States would become more righteous?

Steven... where's that red herring pic?   ;D
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 05, 2008, 09:46:38 PM
Some months back, Brian commented that aborted children were being given the opportunity to be like Christ.  That was a bit disturbing, too.
I did not say that they were being given the opportunity to be like Christ. As I recall, I asked a question rather than made a statement. If we consider fetuses to be innocent in regards to their suffering and death, isn't that like Christ's suffering and death?

Ahh, I found it.  It was with regard to the killing of babies to fix our health problems (a.k.a., stem-cell research on babies [or "fetuses"]).

http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=278.msg6613#msg6613

The link includes Brian's post and my response to it (from a previous profile since deleted).

Oh, and our new daughter is beautiful.  Her cheeks keep getting chubbier, and man is it cute...  :)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 06, 2008, 02:34:13 AM
I have no fancy pictures of red herrings, but please point me to the post where someone suggested that it is ok to slaughter those who perform or have had abortions.  Also, where does anyone say that we should drive people away or that the United States would become more righteous?
It isn't much of a leap to go from God commanding the slaughter of men, women, and children in Joshua because of their pagan beliefs (and especially if one assumes those beliefs included the sacrifice of children,) to believing that God would command the destruction of those who continue the "pagan" practice of child sacrifice.

Again, the purpose of Joshua's killing or driving out the pagan citizens of Canaan was so that the nation of Israel could settle there and not be corrupted by the pagan influences. They did not destroy or remove all the pagans, Israel was influenced, and they felt God's judgment against them.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 06, 2008, 02:39:24 AM
Pro choice is merely symptom that denominations have adopted a secularist agenda and set aside revealed truth. tb
It is clear that scriptures does not consider causing the death of a fetus to be equal to murder (Exodus 21:22). That scripture was part of the ELCA's preliminary discussion about abortion even though it didn't make it into the Statement.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 06, 2008, 08:34:11 AM
Brian,

That is a most odd interpretation of that passage.  I'm not sure how you are reading it, but if "no harm follow" the meaning is that the child is born, but lives, and that the mother lives.  The idea that it means only that the mother lives, even though the child dies, fights against the very sense of the next several verses.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 06, 2008, 09:31:35 AM
It isn't much of a leap to go from God commanding the slaughter of men, women, and children in Joshua because of their pagan beliefs (and especially if one assumes those beliefs included the sacrifice of children,) to believing that God would command the destruction of those who continue the "pagan" practice of child sacrifice.

It is a huge and incomprehensible leap for Christians, who consider Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment the Scriptures. One might keep the yeast separate from the eggs and dough will preparing a meal, but it would be ludicrous to attempt to do so after the meal is served. In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 06, 2008, 09:47:30 AM
Rev. Stoffregen,

You are reading that passage backwards (as Rev. Weedon indicates): it actually does the very OPPOSITE of what you claim.  It shows that the life in the womb is considered to be a life, and on a par with that of the one who has caused its death: "life for life...".  If the passage was speaking of "no harm" to the woman (and not the baby), then what difference would it make if she was pregnant?  Why even speak of her being with child?  Or do you think this would only apply to pregnant women, but that one could harm a woman who was not pregnant and not be liable for any such punishment? 

As Rev. Weedon says, yours is a most odd interpretation.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: edoughty on August 06, 2008, 10:08:26 AM
Brian,

That is a most odd interpretation of that passage.  I'm not sure how you are reading it, but if "no harm follow" the meaning is that the child is born, but lives, and that the mother lives.  The idea that it means only that the mother lives, even though the child dies, fights against the very sense of the next several verses.

I did some looking online and found a couple interesting sites.  One is here, noting Jewish arguments for and against abortion:

http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Articles/Ethics/Medical_ethics/abortion_judaism.html

Another is here, noting that the fetus is not considered "a person" until the head has emerged from the birth canal:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/jud_abor.htm

A third, here, is another decent summary:

http://www.askmoses.com/article/236,656775/What-is-the-Jewish-view-on-abortion.html

exerpt follows:

IN GENERAL
There is a broad consensus among Rabbinical authorities that abortion is generally prohibited. However, they disagree as to whether the prohibition is Biblical or Rabbinic in origin.2

As a general rule, abortion in Judaism is permitted only if there is a direct threat to the life of the mother by carrying the fetus to term or through the act of childbirth. In such a circumstance, the baby is regarded as “pursuing” the mother with the intent to kill her.3

Despite the classification of the fetus as a “pursuer,” once the baby's head or most of its body has been delivered, the baby's life is considered equal to the mother's, and one life does not take precedence over another, because it is considered as though mother and child are both pursuing each other.

WHERE THERE IS DANGER TO THE MOTHER
Where there is danger to the mother abortion is permitted even in far-advanced stages of pregnancy.4


All Rabbinic authorities agree that abortion is permitted when the fetus is the direct cause of the mother's life-threatening condition (e.g. due to toxemia, placenta previa). Many Rabbinic authorities rule that abortion is also permitted when the danger to the mother is indirect (i.e., from a disease unrelated to the pregnancy, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or hypertension).5

However, a fetus may not be aborted to save the life of any other person whose life is not threatened by the fetus, such as use of fetal organs for transplant.

Some Rabbinic authorities also recognize psychiatric factors in evaluating the potential threat that the fetus poses to the mother. However, the danger posed by the fetus (whether physical or emotional) must be both probable and substantial to justify abortion.6  The degree of mental illness that must be present to justify termination of a pregnancy has been widely debated by Rabbinic scholars,7  without a clear consensus of opinion regarding the exact criteria for permitting abortion in such instances.8


Erik
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 06, 2008, 11:57:12 AM
That is a most odd interpretation of that passage.  I'm not sure how you are reading it, but if "no harm follow" the meaning is that the child is born, but lives, and that the mother lives.  The idea that it means only that the mother lives, even though the child dies, fights against the very sense of the next several verses.
Ah, translations offer two quite different interpretations of the passage. In some (ESV, NIV) "the child is born prematurely," in which case, "no further harm" refers to the child. In others (NRSV, NIV footnote, Jewish Publication) "there is a miscarriage," the fetus is born dead or dies soon after birth; in which case, "no further harm" refers to the mother. I based my comments on the NRSV, which tends to be the study Bible in the ELCA. So, from the NRSV translation, if someone causes the death of a child in the womb and the mother is not harmed, the penalty is to pay a fine (not death to the murderer as in all other cases). If the mother is harmed, then the lex talionis applies, but not if only the fetus dies.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 06, 2008, 12:10:17 PM
That is a most odd interpretation of that passage.  I'm not sure how you are reading it, but if "no harm follow" the meaning is that the child is born, but lives, and that the mother lives.  The idea that it means only that the mother lives, even though the child dies, fights against the very sense of the next several verses.
Ah, translations offer two quite different interpretations of the passage. In some (ESV, NIV) "the child is born prematurely," in which case, "no further harm" refers to the child. In others (NRSV, NIV footnote, Jewish Publication) "there is a miscarriage," the fetus is born dead or dies soon after birth; in which case, "no further harm" refers to the mother. I based my comments on the NRSV, which tends to be the study Bible in the ELCA. So, from the NRSV translation, if someone causes the death of a child in the womb and the mother is not harmed, the penalty is to pay a fine (not death to the murderer as in all other cases). If the mother is harmed, then the lex talionis applies, but not if only the fetus dies.

Or, we could go to the Hebrew:  וְיָצְא֣וּ יְלָדֶ֔יהָ

It simply says: "And her children come out."

The LXX interprets the following verse regarding "harm" as applying to the baby, though it makes a distinction between one that is "not fully formed" which results in a fine and one that is "fully formed" which results in the giving of a life for a life.  It should be noted that the "fully formed" bit is not in the Hebrew and is an interpretation on the part of the LXX, but it's instinct to apply the "harm" passage to the baby is dead on.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 06, 2008, 12:37:51 PM
It simply says: "And her children come out."
Or more literally, "they (plural!) come out, her children (plural!)" As the translations indicate, there isn't clarity about whether the "coming out" means alive or dead.

Quote
The LXX interprets the following verse regarding "harm" as applying to the baby, though it makes a distinction between one that is "not fully formed" which results in a fine and one that is "fully formed" which results in the giving of a life for a life.  It should be noted that the "fully formed" bit is not in the Hebrew and is an interpretation on the part of the LXX, but it's instinct to apply the "harm" passage to the baby is dead on.
It should also be noted that the "not fully formed" bit is not in the Hebrew either. The penalty of a fine for a not fully formed baby indicates that it's death was not considered the same as murder. The application of lex talionis when the baby is fully formed indicates that if it died, it was considered murder. Thus, from the LXX, the question: Is causing the death of a fetus murder or not? The answer is: "It depends one how formed the fetus is." The answer from the Hebrew is: "It depends on how you understand and translate 'come out'."
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 06, 2008, 12:50:21 PM
It simply says: "And her children come out."
Or more literally, "they (plural!) come out, her children (plural!)" As the translations indicate, there isn't clarity about whether the "coming out" means alive or dead.

A suggestion -- stick to Greek.  The word order is quite normal in Hebrew or any Semitic language.  Arabic does the same, calling it a "jumla faila" (a "verbal sentence).  The most basic translation is "And her children come out."  The lack of clarity with regard to the "coming out" is rectified when it goes on to specify that if there is no "harm" (i.e., the baby is OK), there is a fine -- perhaps the fee for the midwife.  If there is "harm" in that the baby dies, then it is the lex talionis.  It would be odd if the vagueness weren't subsequently clarified, given that this is a law code, after all.

Quote
The LXX interprets the following verse regarding "harm" as applying to the baby, though it makes a distinction between one that is "not fully formed" which results in a fine and one that is "fully formed" which results in the giving of a life for a life.  It should be noted that the "fully formed" bit is not in the Hebrew and is an interpretation on the part of the LXX, but it's instinct to apply the "harm" passage to the baby is dead on.
It should also be noted that the "not fully formed" bit is not in the Hebrew either.

Thanks for repeating what I just said.

The penalty of a fine for a not fully formed baby indicates that it's death was not considered the same as murder. The application of lex talionis when the baby is fully formed indicates that if it died, it was considered murder. Thus, from the LXX, the question: Is causing the death of a fetus murder or not? The answer is: "It depends one how formed the fetus is." The answer from the Hebrew is: "It depends on how you understand and translate 'come out'."

Yes, wrt the LXX, it is a matter of how fully formed the baby is, and it appears to assume that the baby died.  But since that bit is not in the Hebrew, it is a complete addition.  The "harm" part is in the Hebrew, though, and the LXX's application of it to the baby is exactly right.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Matt Staneck on August 06, 2008, 01:53:40 PM
Great stuff Pr. Yakimow.

What I find most amazing in all of this is that somehow in our minds in the 21st century we are so far ahead of past cultures yet as screwed up and crazy as the ancient Greeks were they absolutely forbade aborting a fetus (See Hippocratic Oath).

Just a thought.

M. Staneck
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 06, 2008, 02:07:02 PM
It simply says: "And her children come out."
Or more literally, "they (plural!) come out, her children (plural!)" As the translations indicate, there isn't clarity about whether the "coming out" means alive or dead.

A suggestion -- stick to Greek.  The word order is quite normal in Hebrew or any Semitic language.  Arabic does the same, calling it a "jumla faila" (a "verbal sentence).  The most basic translation is "And her children come out."  The lack of clarity with regard to the "coming out" is rectified when it goes on to specify that if there is no "harm" (i.e., the baby is OK), there is a fine -- perhaps the fee for the midwife.  If there is "harm" in that the baby dies, then it is the lex talionis.  It would be odd if the vagueness weren't subsequently clarified, given that this is a law code, after all.
My surprise is not the word order, but the plural -- "them" and "children". Was this mother expecting twins?

Quote
Quote
The LXX interprets the following verse regarding "harm" as applying to the baby, though it makes a distinction between one that is "not fully formed" which results in a fine and one that is "fully formed" which results in the giving of a life for a life.  It should be noted that the "fully formed" bit is not in the Hebrew and is an interpretation on the part of the LXX, but it's instinct to apply the "harm" passage to the baby is dead on.
It should also be noted that the "not fully formed" bit is not in the Hebrew either.

Thanks for repeating what I just said.
Some things are worth repeating.

Quote
The penalty of a fine for a not fully formed baby indicates that it's death was not considered the same as murder. The application of lex talionis when the baby is fully formed indicates that if it died, it was considered murder. Thus, from the LXX, the question: Is causing the death of a fetus murder or not? The answer is: "It depends one how formed the fetus is." The answer from the Hebrew is: "It depends on how you understand and translate 'come out'."

Yes, wrt the LXX, it is a matter of how fully formed the baby is, and it appears to assume that the baby died.  But since that bit is not in the Hebrew, it is a complete addition.  The "harm" part is in the Hebrew, though, and the LXX's application of it to the baby is exactly right.
We don't know if the LXX is a "complete addition" or if the translation was based on a different Hebrew text/tradition. From what I've read, the jury is still out concerning the Hebrew source of the LXX. The LXX application is "the baby died." That is the "harm" done to the child. The LXX's question is how fully formed was the fetus. As I've indicated, some translations assume that the fetus comes out dead (as the LXX does). The additional "harm" then applies to the mother. Some translations assume that the fetus is born alive, but may have additional harm to it.

As we in the ELCA are fond of saying, "The interpretation of the passage is ambiguous."
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dan Fienen on August 06, 2008, 02:35:15 PM

As we in the ELCA are fond of saying, "The interpretation of the passage is ambiguous."

Very fond.  Is the interpretation of the passage ever not ambiguous except when the obvious reading of the passage agrees with the left leaning agenda?

Dan
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 06, 2008, 03:31:08 PM
Dan writes:
Is the interpretation of the passage ever not ambiguous except when the obvious reading of the passage agrees with the left leaning agenda?

I comment:
Well, let us see.
Can you give us examples of how "obvious" readings of passages are declared "ambiguous" except when agreeing with a "left-leaning agenda"? (That means you must show us some passages that are maybe "ambiguous" but left alone for the sake of the "left-leaning agenda.")
For that matter, can you define this "left leaning agenda"? Be specific with passages of scripture that you accuse people of mis-reading and be specific as to what is included in this particular "agenda".
Otherwise, you are merely sllinging mud.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 06, 2008, 03:57:24 PM
Dan writes:
Is the interpretation of the passage ever not ambiguous except when the obvious reading of the passage agrees with the left leaning agenda?

I comment:
Well, let us see.
Can you give us examples of how "obvious" readings of passages are declared "ambiguous" except when agreeing with a "left-leaning agenda"? (That means you must show us some passages that are maybe "ambiguous" but left alone for the sake of the "left-leaning agenda.")
For that matter, can you define this "left leaning agenda"? Be specific with passages of scripture that you accuse people of mis-reading and be specific as to what is included in this particular "agenda".
Otherwise, you are merely sllinging mud.

Methinks this would be quite difficult.  There is no Scripture whose "obvious reading" agrees with a "left-leaning" agenda.  ;)   8)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 06, 2008, 03:59:56 PM
I'd settle for one or two examples of how scripture is bent to serve this "agenda," and I would really like to know the items on this "agenda" and if they exist, how they are incompatible with the Gospell.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 06, 2008, 04:00:55 PM
And all the people of God said:  Amen!  ;)

And of course, there is no "obvious reading" of Scripture that permits a purely right leaning agenda either.

Will the people of God "Amen" that as well?

God's sword is two-edged and tends to slice in both directions.  
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 06, 2008, 04:52:31 PM
And all the people of God said:  Amen!  ;)

And of course, there is no "obvious reading" of Scripture that permits a purely right leaning agenda either.

Will the people of God "Amen" that as well?

God's sword is two-edged and tends to slice in both directions.  

I was really just making a joke, but I'll "Amen!" this, too.  If it's understood to mean that God isn't a Republican (He just votes Republican  ;)).
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 06, 2008, 06:55:10 PM
I'd settle for one or two examples of how scripture is bent to serve this "agenda," and I would really like to know the items on this "agenda" and if they exist, how they are incompatible with the Gospell.
The items on the agenda that make the news are in the realm of sexual morality and feminism. But the exclusive claims of Christ, the reality of hell, vicarious atonement, the nature of repentance, and a host of other doctrines are intertwined and at stake. Many theologians (yes, many, and yes, I know them personally, and no, I won't tell you their names, Charles, and I don't care if you call me a liar) reject the idea of an atoning sacrifice as too bloody, violent, and well, pagan for their tastes. And hell? Forget about it. Evangelism with a goal of conversion? Ecclesiastical Imperialism!
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 06, 2008, 07:17:28 PM
And hell? Forget about it.
Which word for hell are you talking about? sheol, hades, gehenna?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 06, 2008, 07:19:00 PM
Rev. Austin asks for one or two examples of how obvious readings of Scripture are bent to advance a left-leaning agenda.  Here are my two:

1) Sodom and Gomorrah were punished because they were "inhospitable", not because God has declared homosexual relations to be sinful.  To advance the left-leaning agenda of legitimatizing homosexuality.

2) This little tidbit from earlier in this thread: "It is clear that scriptures does not consider causing the death of a fetus to be equal to murder (Exodus 21:22). That scripture was part of the ELCA's preliminary discussion about abortion even though it didn't make it into the Statement."  To advance the left-leaning agenda of legitmatizing abortion.

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 06, 2008, 07:26:42 PM
Rev. Austin asks for one or two examples of how obvious readings of Scripture are bent to advance a left-leaning agenda.  Here are my two:

1) Sodom and Gomorrah were punished because they were "inhospitable", not because God has declared homosexual relations to be sinful.  To advance the left-leaning agenda of legitimatizing homosexuality.

2) This little tidbit from earlier in this thread: "It is clear that scriptures does not consider causing the death of a fetus to be equal to murder (Exodus 21:22). That scripture was part of the ELCA's preliminary discussion about abortion even though it didn't make it into the Statement."  To advance the left-leaning agenda of legitmatizing abortion.
And, of course, the right-leaners are certain that Sodom and Gomorrah were punished because they were all homosexuals -- even when Ezekiel 16:49 says: "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy."

They are also certain that Exodus 21:22 means that the mother had a live birth and it later died or was harmed in some way, the perpetrator of the premature birth should suffer in the same way. With that verse, each side can pick their own translation to support their agendas.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 06, 2008, 09:03:33 PM
Rev. Stoffregen,

Sodom was condemned for its great sinfulness, among which are those sins given by Ezekiel in the passage you cite.  But that does not change the fact that the Bible (in both Old and New Testaments) is also very clear that homosexuality is sinful.  The left-leaning agenda bends Scripture here by claiming that the "real" sin of Sodom was its "inhospitality" and thereby removes/negates its other sins (including homosexuality).

As far as the second example I listed, it has been pointed out by a greater Hebrew scholar than I that the Hebrew would indicate the Exodus passage to be a reference to the child in the womb suffering harm, not the mother.  So, if one wants to say a particular translation supports the left-leaning agenda in favor of allowing abortion, one is really bending Scripture by relying on a poor translation.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 06, 2008, 09:11:02 PM
Rev. Stoffregen,

Sodom was condemned for its great sinfulness, among which are those sins given by Ezekiel in the passage you cite.  But that does not change the fact that the Bible (in both Old and New Testaments) is also very clear that homosexuality is sinful.  The left-leaning agenda bends Scripture here by claiming that the "real" sin of Sodom was its "inhospitality" and thereby removes/negates its other sins (including homosexuality).

As far as the second example I listed, it has been pointed out by a greater Hebrew scholar than I that the Hebrew would indicate the Exodus passage to be a reference to the child in the womb suffering harm, not the mother. 
Ah, but like in your first paragraph, ask that greater Hebrew scholar if his understanding rules out the other understanding -- that the harm could be in reference to the mother.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 06, 2008, 09:24:09 PM
Rev. Stoffregen ,

So, you're agreeing with my first example then?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 06, 2008, 10:03:31 PM
And hell? Forget about it.
Which word for hell are you talking about? sheol, hades, gehenna?
I'm talking about the eternal destination of the damned. I don't care what you call it or in what language. I'm very aware of what scholars say about the valley of the dead, the Hellenizing influence in the idea of Hades, etc. It doesn't matter in the slightest. The point is that many liberal "Christians" promote universalism, reject the need for evangelism/conversion, see only a this-worldly potential benefit to repentance, question the idea of vicarious satisfaction, etc. and these are generally the same people who see nothing wrong with sodomy. Thus, while sexual issues and life issues get all the press, it is a whole different worldview or perhaps even a whole different religion that is that issue. This is why a growing number of people see a grand, pan-denominational divide uniting liberals with liberals across denominational boundaries and conservatives with conservatives across denomination boundaries. 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 07, 2008, 12:59:26 AM
Rev. Stoffregen ,

So, you're agreeing with my first example then?
I am saying that one's leanings determine what will be emphasized in scriptures. I agree that it is likely that the town's folk wanting "to know" the visitors is probably a desire to have sex with them (rather than to become acquainted with them). We don't know for certain because they never had contact with them. I've not heard anyone speak in support of (homosexual) gang rape which is likely what would have happened had the visitors (or the daughters) been turned over to the town's folks. See what happened when a woman was turned over to such a crowd in Judges 19:22-26.

I'm sure that if you asked any re-visionists, we would all agree that we are against the kinds of sexual acts suggested in Genesis 19 and in Judges 19 -- whether homosexual or heterosexual.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 07, 2008, 01:07:49 AM
And hell? Forget about it.
Which word for hell are you talking about? sheol, hades, gehenna?
I'm talking about the eternal destination of the damned. I don't care what you call it or in what language. I'm very aware of what scholars say about the valley of the dead, the Hellenizing influence in the idea of Hades, etc. It doesn't matter in the slightest. The point is that many liberal "Christians" promote universalism, reject the need for evangelism/conversion, see only a this-worldly potential benefit to repentance, question the idea of vicarious satisfaction, etc. and these are generally the same people who see nothing wrong with sodomy. Thus, while sexual issues and life issues get all the press, it is a whole different worldview or perhaps even a whole different religion that is that issue. This is why a growing number of people see a grand, pan-denominational divide uniting liberals with liberals across denominational boundaries and conservatives with conservatives across denomination boundaries.
I remember an article by Martin Marty in the Christian Century years ago. He concluded that no one really believes in hell any more. As I remember his argument, he talked about burning one's finger on a match. It is very painful. Then to think that unbelievers would be suffering at least that much all over their bodies for eternity -- how could people who were certain about that kind of punishment for their friends and neighbors or even the unknown cashier at the grocery store not do everything in their power to keep people from suffering the eternal fires of hell. He, and neither do I, see anybody with that kind of fervor for converting those who don't believe. Do you have any evidence that the belief that unbelievers will be burning forever has motivated folks to get out and really witness, cajoling everyone they meet about the necessity of believing in Jesus?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: E. Swensson on August 07, 2008, 07:20:08 AM
And hell? Forget about it.
Which word for hell are you talking about? sheol, hades, gehenna?
I'm talking about the eternal destination of the damned. I don't care what you call it or in what language. I'm very aware of what scholars say about the valley of the dead, the Hellenizing influence in the idea of Hades, etc. It doesn't matter in the slightest. The point is that many liberal "Christians" promote universalism, reject the need for evangelism/conversion, see only a this-worldly potential benefit to repentance, question the idea of vicarious satisfaction, etc. and these are generally the same people who see nothing wrong with sodomy. Thus, while sexual issues and life issues get all the press, it is a whole different worldview or perhaps even a whole different religion that is that issue. This is why a growing number of people see a grand, pan-denominational divide uniting liberals with liberals across denominational boundaries and conservatives with conservatives across denomination boundaries.
I remember an article by Martin Marty in the Christian Century years ago. He concluded that no one really believes in hell any more. As I remember his argument, he talked about burning one's finger on a match. It is very painful. Then to think that unbelievers would be suffering at least that much all over their bodies for eternity -- how could people who were certain about that kind of punishment for their friends and neighbors or even the unknown cashier at the grocery store not do everything in their power to keep people from suffering the eternal fires of hell. He, and neither do I, see anybody with that kind of fervor for converting those who don't believe. Do you have any evidence that the belief that unbelievers will be burning forever has motivated folks to get out and really witness, cajoling everyone they meet about the necessity of believing in Jesus?

Yea and his name is Billy Graham. Take a look at his sermons. They address one topic: going to heaven instead of a very real and infitely painful hell. You are perhaps aware that tens of millions of people came to his Crusades not to mention watched him on TV.

This is not an endorsement, just pointing out Brian is wrong again.

Carry on, and do have a good day ;D
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on August 07, 2008, 10:20:50 AM
Liberlalism like cancer has slowly, silently spread in the bodies of the 'RESPECTABLE" denominations and is now fully metastisized is it not>  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 07, 2008, 10:50:47 AM
And hell? Forget about it.
Which word for hell are you talking about? sheol, hades, gehenna?
I'm talking about the eternal destination of the damned. I don't care what you call it or in what language. I'm very aware of what scholars say about the valley of the dead, the Hellenizing influence in the idea of Hades, etc. It doesn't matter in the slightest. The point is that many liberal "Christians" promote universalism, reject the need for evangelism/conversion, see only a this-worldly potential benefit to repentance, question the idea of vicarious satisfaction, etc. and these are generally the same people who see nothing wrong with sodomy. Thus, while sexual issues and life issues get all the press, it is a whole different worldview or perhaps even a whole different religion that is that issue. This is why a growing number of people see a grand, pan-denominational divide uniting liberals with liberals across denominational boundaries and conservatives with conservatives across denomination boundaries.
I remember an article by Martin Marty in the Christian Century years ago. He concluded that no one really believes in hell any more. As I remember his argument, he talked about burning one's finger on a match. It is very painful. Then to think that unbelievers would be suffering at least that much all over their bodies for eternity -- how could people who were certain about that kind of punishment for their friends and neighbors or even the unknown cashier at the grocery store not do everything in their power to keep people from suffering the eternal fires of hell. He, and neither do I, see anybody with that kind of fervor for converting those who don't believe. Do you have any evidence that the belief that unbelievers will be burning forever has motivated folks to get out and really witness, cajoling everyone they meet about the necessity of believing in Jesus?
Martin Marty concluded foolishly then. I'm assuming your paraphrase of him gets him wrong when you wonder how people "do not do everything in their power to keep people from suffering the eternal fires of hell." In whose power? What power? Cajoling people to believe? At any rate, the problem with such dismissals of hell is that they see it as punishment in the wrong sense. It is punishment, but in the sense of consequence. True, the mystery of election is inscrutable, but the idea that it is solved by declaring everyone saved is nonsense.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 07, 2008, 10:51:59 AM
Yea and his name is Billy Graham. Take a look at his sermons. They address one topic: going to heaven instead of a very real and infitely painful hell. You are perhaps aware that tens of millions of people came to his Crusades not to mention watched him on TV.

This is not an endorsement, just pointing out Brian is wrong again.
I have been to Billy Graham crusades. I sang in a crusade choir. As I recall, whenever he had a crusade in a community, church membership did not go up, even though he and his organization tries hard to connect unchurched converts to a congregation and to inform the congregations of the churched converts of their conversion.

So now we are up to one Christian who believes strongly enough about hell to do everything in his power to see that people avoid those painful fires.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 07, 2008, 10:53:42 AM
Martin Marty concluded foolishly then. I'm assuming your paraphrase of him gets him wrong when you wonder how people "do not do everything in their power to keep people from suffering the eternal fires of hell." In whose power? What power? Cajoling people to believe? At any rate, the problem with such dismissals of hell is that they see it as punishment in the wrong sense. It is punishment, but in the sense of consequence. True, the mystery of election is inscrutable, but the idea that it is solved by declaring everyone saved is nonsense.
Who in our discussions has declared everyone saved?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Pr. Jerry Kliner on August 07, 2008, 10:58:46 AM
And hell? Forget about it.
Which word for hell are you talking about? sheol, hades, gehenna?
I'm talking about the eternal destination of the damned. I don't care what you call it or in what language. I'm very aware of what scholars say about the valley of the dead, the Hellenizing influence in the idea of Hades, etc. It doesn't matter in the slightest. The point is that many liberal "Christians" promote universalism, reject the need for evangelism/conversion, see only a this-worldly potential benefit to repentance, question the idea of vicarious satisfaction, etc. and these are generally the same people who see nothing wrong with sodomy. Thus, while sexual issues and life issues get all the press, it is a whole different worldview or perhaps even a whole different religion that is that issue. This is why a growing number of people see a grand, pan-denominational divide uniting liberals with liberals across denominational boundaries and conservatives with conservatives across denomination boundaries.
I remember an article by Martin Marty in the Christian Century years ago. He concluded that no one really believes in hell any more. As I remember his argument, he talked about burning one's finger on a match. It is very painful. Then to think that unbelievers would be suffering at least that much all over their bodies for eternity -- how could people who were certain about that kind of punishment for their friends and neighbors or even the unknown cashier at the grocery store not do everything in their power to keep people from suffering the eternal fires of hell. He, and neither do I, see anybody with that kind of fervor for converting those who don't believe. Do you have any evidence that the belief that unbelievers will be burning forever has motivated folks to get out and really witness, cajoling everyone they meet about the necessity of believing in Jesus? (emphasis added)

The highlighted portion (by me) is exactly why "mainline protestantism" is dying and why no one will mourn its passing.  After all, if Christianity does not offer salvation, then what exactly does it have to offer?  Might as well go to Walmart or the country club for a round of golf on Sunday....

Thanks for making the point, Brian.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 07, 2008, 11:01:34 AM
The highlighted portion (by me) is exactly why "mainline protestantism" is dying and why no one will mourn its passing.  After all, if Christianity does not offer salvation, then what exactly does it have to offer?  Might as well go to Walmart or the country club for a round of golf on Sunday....

Thanks for making the point, Brian.
1. When has anyone said that we don't offer salvation?
2. Traditionally we have said that we are saved from "sin, death, and the devil." I don't see "hell" in that list. (Even though we are "saved," we still sin, we will die, and the devil often succeeds in his temptations.)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 07, 2008, 11:38:34 AM
Rev. Stoffregen writes: "So now we are up to one Christian who believes strongly enough about hell to do everything in his power to see that people avoid those painful fires. "

Rev. Stoffregen, what exactly IS in our "power" to see that people avoid those painful fires?  I was not aware that I had any power to do that.  I have always confessed, along with the Lutheran Church: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel....even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth..."

But now you are telling me that it is MY job to save these people?  To somehow convert them?  Woe is me!  And woe to them, for I cannot but fail.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 07, 2008, 02:26:55 PM
Rev. Stoffregen writes: "So now we are up to one Christian who believes strongly enough about hell to do everything in his power to see that people avoid those painful fires. "

Rev. Stoffregen, what exactly IS in our "power" to see that people avoid those painful fires?  I was not aware that I had any power to do that.  I have always confessed, along with the Lutheran Church: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel....even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth..."

But now you are telling me that it is MY job to save these people?  To somehow convert them?  Woe is me!  And woe to them, for I cannot but fail.
To repeat what's going on in another discussion: Jesus did command us "to make disciples of all nations". That command indicates that we are to be doing something.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 07, 2008, 03:03:00 PM
Rev. Stoffregen,

In that passage, Jesus tells us to baptize and teach.  Are you wondering if there are Christians (in this case, I guess it would be pastors since they usually are the ones who do the teaching and baptizing) who baptize and teach with all their abilities?  If so, that is much differnt than your initial question ("Do you have any evidence that the belief that unbelievers will be burning forever has motivated folks to get out and really witness, cajoling everyone they meet about the necessity of believing in Jesus?").  Neither you nor I can "cajole" anyone into faith, right?  Isn't that what we confess in the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed from the Catechism?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 07, 2008, 03:05:58 PM
In that passage, Jesus tells us to baptize and teach.  Are you wondering if there are Christians (in this case, I guess it would be pastors since they usually are the ones who do the teaching and baptizing) who baptize and teach with all their abilities?  If so, that is much differnt than your initial question ("Do you have any evidence that the belief that unbelievers will be burning forever has motivated folks to get out and really witness, cajoling everyone they meet about the necessity of believing in Jesus?").  Neither you nor I can "cajole" anyone into faith, right?  Isn't that what we confess in the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed from the Catechism?
I don't believe that seeing people suffering the great anguish of burning forever in hell is what motivates most of us.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 07, 2008, 03:27:48 PM
Rev. Stoffregen,

But isn't that what you asked in your question?  Perhaps I misunderstood you, but I thought that you were suggesting that IS what be motivating us.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 07, 2008, 04:03:59 PM
Well, there was always a good market for preaching that tried to frighten people into Heaven. Johannes Tetzel comes to mind. And some of us who have been around a while notice how Billy Graham's preaching changed over the years.
Then there is this not so little matter of "making disciples," that is bringing people into a faith where the goal is not merely to save one's soul or pitiable body, but to represent the love of Christ in the world.
Seems to me thart this is as much a priority as frightening people about the supposed fires of hell.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 07, 2008, 04:54:36 PM
But isn't that what you asked in your question?  Perhaps I misunderstood you, but I thought that you were suggesting that IS what be motivating us.
I was asking for indications that this is what is motivating us. Marty's essay (to which I agreed) suggests that it is not motivating hardly anyone -- thus his conclusion that few people really believe in hell -- that friends, relatives, and unbelievers will suffer the pain of burning forever -- probably great pain than when we have burned our finger by holding a match too long.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 07, 2008, 04:58:59 PM
Oh, then I misunderstood you.  But I still don't get how you get from 1) folks not "cajoling" everyone they meet to convert them, to 2) no one really believes in hell.  I don't "cajole" everyone I meet because I believe I can't "cajole" anyone into faith; that is the work of the Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel.  But I certainly believe in hell -- and a hell as described in the Bible.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 07, 2008, 08:08:14 PM
To repeat what's going on in another discussion: Jesus did command us "to make disciples of all nations". That command indicates that we are to be doing something.

And getting them to come in through the front door some Sunday to see what's going on strikes me as a good way to start. A congregation that I was a member of for a long time chose as the permanent slogan for their sign in front of the church the phrase "Come, and See".

As the old adage goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. But it seems there's a far greater chance that he'll drink if you do lead him to water, as opposed to keeping him away from water. You can't "make" someone a disciple in the same sense that you can make a ball of yarn into a sweater. But you can "make" a bid pile of wheat by planting seeds. (And I know, God does the real work in that example. But you should catch my drift.)

It strikes me that based on the overall rate of success that Lutherandom is collectively achieving at "making disciples" here in the States, whatever we're doing isn't enough. Even if we aren't comfortable thinking in terms of saving souls from eternal damnation, if we truly believe that it benefits people to enjoy fellowship with other Christians, and to share in worship, and to work together on projects for the good of those in need, then we should be striving to encourage others to share in that experience.

And if we're doing all we can in one-to-one encounters, and that still leaves a lot of work to do, then maybe we need to supplement our efforts with other activities. I can't remember which denomination did it, but I recall a series of billboards with slogans like "C'mon over to my house before the game on Sunday, God" or "You're welcome in an Episcopal Church no matter how many times you've been born". In Pittsburgh, the Roman Catholic Diocese ran a series of 60 second radio spots on regular rock stations talking about theology, and each one also included an invitation at the end.

I don't know exactly what needs done, but I do know you're totally correct. We need to do something.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Gladfelteri on August 07, 2008, 09:34:04 PM
In that passage, Jesus tells us to baptize and teach.  Are you wondering if there are Christians (in this case, I guess it would be pastors since they usually are the ones who do the teaching and baptizing) who baptize and teach with all their abilities?  If so, that is much differnt than your initial question ("Do you have any evidence that the belief that unbelievers will be burning forever has motivated folks to get out and really witness, cajoling everyone they meet about the necessity of believing in Jesus?").  Neither you nor I can "cajole" anyone into faith, right?  Isn't that what we confess in the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed from the Catechism?
I don't believe that seeing people suffering the great anguish of burning forever in hell is what motivates most of us.
Perhaps it is just the area in which I live and the circles in which I move, but for many years, the biggest problem I have had is getting educated people to believe in a transcendent God in the first place.    :-\   If they are not openly agnostic or atheist, they are "functional agnostics" or "functional atheists."  If someone does not believe in God or in the supernatural in the first place, how can theyh be concerned about the possibility of hell.

Blessings,
Irl
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 07, 2008, 11:47:35 PM
I guess I have to disagree with the archbishop again. The biggest problem I have with "educated" people is convincing them that they need not leave their intelligence, questions, doubts and scholarly endeavors behind in order to be involved with the Church. They have no problem with transcendancy, a higher power, or accepting the mysteries of the cosmos. They have a lot of problems with how they perceive (and sometimes wrongly perceive) the church dealing with such things. The hard-line fundamentalists, rigid authoritarians of both Protestant and Roman types, know-it-alls, and close-minded church members have defined the church for these "educated people" and it is a huge barrier to overcome.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 07, 2008, 11:54:37 PM
And one of the problems we face is not "getting people in the doors of our churches." It is getting our people out of the churches into their daily lives armed with the tools and desire to tell people about Jesus and their faith.
Those "educated people" mentioned by the archbishop too often feel they have to set aside their intelligence when they enter the doors of the church. And our people too often feel they have to set aside their faith when they leave.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 08, 2008, 12:06:37 AM
The hard-line fundamentalists, rigid authoritarians of both Protestant and Roman types, know-it-alls, and close-minded church members have defined the church for these "educated people" and it is a huge barrier to overcome.

Good that you can be so "open minded". :D
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 12:20:42 AM
Oh, then I misunderstood you.  But I still don't get how you get from 1) folks not "cajoling" everyone they meet to convert them, to 2) no one really believes in hell.  I don't "cajole" everyone I meet because I believe I can't "cajole" anyone into faith; that is the work of the Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel.  But I certainly believe in hell -- and a hell as described in the Bible.
The typically view of hell is that those who are there are eternally burning. If you have experienced the pain of burning your finger, how could you not be doing everything in your power -- even cajoling others -- so that they would avoid the extreme and everlasting pain that comes from sent to hell. When you see people who are not churched, do you picture them in eternal torment and pain? If so, what do you do about it? If not, then do you really believe in hell?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 12:27:07 AM
If someone does not believe in God or in the supernatural in the first place, how can theyh be concerned about the possibility of hell.
About 40 years ago when I was traveling on a gospel team, we helped a congregation with their "evangelism". We went door to door using Kennedy's questions about why God should let them into heaven. One of the first people we used this method on replied, "I don't believe in heaven. Your question has no meaning for me." The scripts we had memorized from the book didn't deal with that answer. We didn't know what to say. How do we go about evangelizing people who don't believe in heaven (or hell)? Do we have to convince them that these places exist before we can tell them the good news about Jesus? Or can they come to recognize God's love for them in Jesus even without believing in heaven and hell? Are the only or primary benefits we receive by believing in Jesus is going to heaven when we die (and avoiding hell)? Does Jesus have something to offer believers in this life?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paula Murray on August 08, 2008, 12:56:13 AM
Yes, Jesus has something to offer the people of our day.  The problem is that the people of this day all too often believe themselves to be far more knowledgeable than the Son of God himself!  And, when it comes to reconciling the difference between Christ's Law and their will, it is their will that will be done, not God's. 

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

As to heaven and hell, if they do not hear it, how will they believe?  I spent some time with another pastor at a conference activity recently.  We talked about the upcoming texts, and their "hard message," and she said whenever the Gospel or the epistle lessons featured texts like that she skipped them altogether because they made her nervous and she thought therefore they made others nervous too!  Her congregation never ever hears of judgment or even of law, which means of course that she severely undercuts any real possibility that those who hear will really understand grace.

Yours in Christ,
Paula Murray
Pastor, St. Jacobs
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 08, 2008, 02:09:02 AM
Pastor Copek suggests I am not "open-minded" because of my remark about "The hard-line fundamentalists, rigid authoritarians of both Protestant and Roman types, know-it-alls, and close-minded church members"

i plead not guilty. I accept these people in the Church. I only note that they sometimes make it hard for others to be in the church.

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 08, 2008, 08:30:21 AM
I can no more "cajole" someone out of unbelief than I can "cajole" someone out of suffering from cancer.  But I do not want anyone to have cancer, and I do believe cancer is real.  And it would do no one any good if I stood around the street corner, grabbing every arm that passes and telling the person about the dangers of cancer and how it can kill.  "Cajoling" saves no one.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Ken Kimball on August 08, 2008, 10:10:04 AM
If someone does not believe in God or in the supernatural in the first place, how can theyh be concerned about the possibility of hell.
About 40 years ago when I was traveling on a gospel team, we helped a congregation with their "evangelism". We went door to door using Kennedy's questions about why God should let them into heaven. One of the first people we used this method on replied, "I don't believe in heaven. Your question has no meaning for me." The scripts we had memorized from the book didn't deal with that answer. We didn't know what to say. How do we go about evangelizing people who don't believe in heaven (or hell)? Do we have to convince them that these places exist before we can tell them the good news about Jesus? Or can they come to recognize God's love for them in Jesus even without believing in heaven and hell? Are the only or primary benefits we receive by believing in Jesus is going to heaven when we die (and avoiding hell)? Does Jesus have something to offer believers in this life?
"If only for this life we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied." 
I am not naturally religious.  I was, in my late teen years and into my freshman year of college, a professing agnostic who hoped atheism was true (no God to whom to give account of my life and my decisions).  If the overwhelming objective realities of eternity with God or eternity separated from God (Hell) were removed from the Christian faith, then I would return with a pagan glee (mixed with resentment over the years wasted on the Christian dead-end) to my former unbelief, find other work, and spend my Sundays, like the rest of the week, on something other than the lie and fraud of the Church.   Of course to do this you must either reject or revise the New Testament. ANd such revision would really amount to a rejection because such a revision would require the deletion of nearly all the New Testament.  Jesus casts all moral decision making and all decisions about believing and following Him or not in terms of eternal consequences (indeed as C.S. Lewis notes somewhere all or nearly all references to Hell are dominical).  The St. Paul quote from 1 Cor 15 pithily underscores his view of the present in light of the overwhelming realities to come. Remove that view from St. Paul and the few shreds and shards left of his writings are simply unintelligible. 

Yes, Pastor Stoffregen, Jesus does have something to offer believers in this life but those benefits are predicated on the overwhelming objective realities of eternity with God or eternity separated from God.  And I think the pain of that eternal separation will be far worse than fire.  As regards my unbelieving neighbors and acquaintances, I can only affirm what St. Paul wrote in regards to his fellow Jews, "My heart's desire and prayer to God is that they may be saved."  But the saving is not up to me but to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  My only place in relation to that economy is to faithfully preach and teach the Word--and that, as my congregations could attest to you, includes heaven and hell.  I commend to everyone C.S. Lewis' sermon "Weight of Glory" (usually published in a book of the same name along with other of Lewis' sermons and addresses). 

Ken Kimball
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 08, 2008, 10:24:54 AM
Pastor Copek suggests I am not "open-minded" because of my remark about "The hard-line fundamentalists, rigid authoritarians of both Protestant and Roman types, know-it-alls, and close-minded church members"

i plead not guilty. I accept these people in the Church. I only note that they sometimes make it hard for others to be in the church.

My point was that "open-minded" and "close-minded" are open to interpretation.  In my experience people who are traditionalist and/or orthodox are often accussed of being "close-minded" by those who are closed off to any other opinion than their own revisionsts vewpoint.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 12:05:13 PM
I can no more "cajole" someone out of unbelief than I can "cajole" someone out of suffering from cancer.  But I do not want anyone to have cancer, and I do believe cancer is real.  And it would do no one any good if I stood around the street corner, grabbing every arm that passes and telling the person about the dangers of cancer and how it can kill.  "Cajoling" saves no one.
Yet if you knew that there was a sure-fire cure for their cancer, wouldn't you "conjole" them over and over again about the miracle cure -- doing everything in your power not only to tell them about the cure, but get them to make use of that cure? In your illustration, you give no indication of a belilef that Jesus can do anything for those heading towards hell. I presume that you know the way of escape from the painful, eternal fires of hell, but you aren't willing to do everything possible to tell people about this cure -- to get them to that cure whatever it takes -- even grabbing arms on the street to tell them the good news about Jesus Christ so that they won't suffer the torment in hell.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 12:07:52 PM
My point was that "open-minded" and "close-minded" are open to interpretation.  In my experience people who are traditionalist and/or orthodox are often accussed of being "close-minded" by those who are closed off to any other opinion than their own revisionsts vewpoint.
And thus you illustrate a close-mindedness by assuming that re-visionists are not open to other opinions. It seems to me that re-visionists are the ones who talk about a "big tent" where all people can come together and worship. That seems much more open-minded than what I hear from the "traditionalists".
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: E. Swensson on August 08, 2008, 12:17:12 PM
My point was that "open-minded" and "close-minded" are open to interpretation.  In my experience people who are traditionalist and/or orthodox are often accussed of being "close-minded" by those who are closed off to any other opinion than their own revisionsts vewpoint.
And thus you illustrate a close-mindedness by assuming that re-visionists are not open to other opinions. It seems to me that re-visionists are the ones who talk about a "big tent" where all people can come together and worship. That seems much more open-minded than what I hear from the "traditionalists".

Actually, all he is doing is arguing from experience (we know you like that). Traditionalists KNOW that not just "re-visionists" but all sorts of people say one thing and do another. Yes, we know we are guilty of it too. But it is such a noticeable thing, and I mean as subtle as being hit up the side of the head with a big, stinking fish. People say one thing, do another, but this one is so ironic.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 12:18:52 PM
As regards my unbelieving neighbors and acquaintances, I can only affirm what St. Paul wrote in regards to his fellow Jews, "My heart's desire and prayer to God is that they may be saved."  But the saving is not up to me but to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  My only place in relation to that economy is to faithfully preach and teach the Word--and that, as my congregations could attest to you, includes heaven and hell.
Paul did much more than just pray to God that they would be saved. Everywhere he went he talked about Jesus -- in synagogues, in marketplaces, by river banks, etc. No, he can't save people, but he knows who can.

I think that this is the point of Marty's essay -- if people really believed about the torment in hell -- and they know the way to avoid that torment -- why aren't they actively telling everyone about the cure for that eternal suffering? His conclusion, they don't really believe in hell. Whatever their beliefs are about the eternal torment isn't strong enough to motivate them to make fools of themselves by insisting to their unbelieving friends and neighbors that they are going to burn forever unless they make use of the grace God gives them in Jesus. I don't see us doing that. We may preach that to the folks every week in the pews, but they are the saved. They are receiving God's means of grace. What about majority of folks who are not in church on any Sunday? If you really believe that they are going to suffer eternally in hell, what are you doing about it?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 08, 2008, 12:20:22 PM
Rev. Stoffregen,

But my "cajoling" will not cure them.  Only the Physician can do that.  No one, that I know of, has said that we should not be preaching, teaching, and administering the medicine of the Gospel He has given us.  But when we think that our "cajoling" is all-important, we are forgetting who is the Physician, what is the medicine that alone can heal, and dream that it our "cajoling" that matters/cures.

It is as many have said: the central article has seemed to become the Great Commission and not justification.  It is the Gospel that heals.  And that Gospel is given as the Physician prescibed: baptizing, teaching, preaching, absolving, communing -- not by "cajoling".  "Cajoling" is Law, not Gospel.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 12:20:48 PM
Actually, all he is doing is arguing from experience (we know you like that). Traditionalists KNOW that not just "re-visionists" but all sorts of people say one thing and do another. Yes, we know we are guilty of it too. But it is such a noticeable thing, and I mean as subtle as being hit up the side of the head with a big, stinking fish. People say one thing, do another, but this one is so ironic.
In your experiences, who is more open to the "big tent" idea of the church? re-visionists or traditionalists?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: swbohler on August 08, 2008, 12:22:43 PM
What am I doing about people going to hell?  Preaching, teaching, baptizing, absolving, communing.  What else can save them?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 12:27:47 PM
Rev. Stoffregen,

But my "cajoling" will not cure them.  Only the Physician can do that.  No one, that I know of, has said that we should not be preaching, teaching, and administering the medicine of the Gospel He has given us.  But when we think that our "cajoling" is all-important, we are forgetting who is the Physician, what is the medicine that alone can heal, and dream that it our "cajoling" that matters/cures.

It is as many have said: the central article has seemed to become the Great Commission and not justification.  It is the Gospel that heals.  And that Gospel is given as the Physician prescibed: baptizing, teaching, preaching, absolving, communing -- not by "cajoling".  "Cajoling" is Law, not Gospel.
And properly used, the Law leads to the Gospel.

Are you suggesting that if you had an adult child with a disease that would kill him if it went untreated, you wouldn't conjole him to get to a doctor or a hospital that could save his life? We certainly did everything we could to get our son (living in another city) to a hospital when he had symptoms of appendicitis. He went, the appendix was removed, and he is healthy today.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 12:30:46 PM
What am I doing about people going to hell?  Preaching, teaching, baptizing, absolving, communing.  What else can save them?
My guess is that you are preaching, teaching, baptizing, absolving, communing people who come into your church building -- and who, for the most part, are already saved. What about the other 50% or more of the population who don't venture into any church -- who aren't going to come to where you are preaching, teaching, baptizing, absolving, and communing?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pastorg1@aol.com on August 08, 2008, 12:41:48 PM
This is how I handle the great unwashed in my area:

1.  I pay a guy to fly his Stearman bi-plane over the beach areas near-by. He tows a banner which says, "Repent and believe the Good News; the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." "This is eternal life: to know you, the one, true God and the one you have sent, Jesus Christ."

2. I then hire another guy to drive a water-truck from CalTrans on the beach and hose them down while I recite the baptismal formula.

It's handled now and I can relax.

If there isn't a significant change in the local piety in two weeks, then I'm calling in agent orange and napalm.

That'll get their attention.

Peter (Product Placement/Point of Purchase) Garrison
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 08, 2008, 12:52:28 PM
I can no more "cajole" someone out of unbelief than I can "cajole" someone out of suffering from cancer.  But I do not want anyone to have cancer, and I do believe cancer is real.  And it would do no one any good if I stood around the street corner, grabbing every arm that passes and telling the person about the dangers of cancer and how it can kill.  "Cajoling" saves no one.
Yet if you knew that there was a sure-fire cure for their cancer, wouldn't you "conjole" them over and over again about the miracle cure -- doing everything in your power not only to tell them about the cure, but get them to make use of that cure? In your illustration, you give no indication of a belilef that Jesus can do anything for those heading towards hell. I presume that you know the way of escape from the painful, eternal fires of hell, but you aren't willing to do everything possible to tell people about this cure -- to get them to that cure whatever it takes -- even grabbing arms on the street to tell them the good news about Jesus Christ so that they won't suffer the torment in hell.
The reason I don't grab people on street corners is that I don't think it would be effective. Virtually every method of reaching the lost can easily be co-opted by charlatans and kooks, as tv evangelism largely has been. There is no sure-fire method of evangelism, but grabbing people on street corners is a pretty bad one. The fact is, creating faith is every bit as supernatural as the miracle cure you're talking about-- if it really was a miracle and not merely scientific or magic, there would be no sure-fire way of giving it to people. You can't "make use" of a miracle-- it isn't in your power. You're treating evangelism not as the miracle it is, but as science or magic, under our control. But since Brian agrees with Martin Marty that nobody believes in hell anymore, I guess we all lie when we confess in the creed that Jesus descended there (and preached to the spirits in prison, no less).
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 08, 2008, 01:22:31 PM
My point was that "open-minded" and "close-minded" are open to interpretation.  In my experience people who are traditionalist and/or orthodox are often accussed of being "close-minded" by those who are closed off to any other opinion than their own revisionsts vewpoint.
And thus you illustrate a close-mindedness by assuming that re-visionists are not open to other opinions. It seems to me that re-visionists are the ones who talk about a "big tent" where all people can come together and worship. That seems much more open-minded than what I hear from the "traditionalists".

"Closed minded" is not in the ELCA constitution therefore I can't be close minded.   ;D

My point still stands however since the term is open to interpretation.  I'm sure there are people of all stripes who are open minded and closed minded.  And FWIW, the "big tent" folks are open-minded to those who like the idea of a "big tent" but closed minded to those who see such a tent as an impossible and dangerous idea. 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 08, 2008, 01:31:13 PM
Actually, all he is doing is arguing from experience (we know you like that). Traditionalists KNOW that not just "re-visionists" but all sorts of people say one thing and do another. Yes, we know we are guilty of it too. But it is such a noticeable thing, and I mean as subtle as being hit up the side of the head with a big, stinking fish. People say one thing, do another, but this one is so ironic.
In your experiences, who is more open to the "big tent" idea of the church? re-visionists or traditionalists?

In your experience who is more open to Law and Gospel, sin and repentance, and a life transformed by the Gospel?  Revisionists are by and large open to the big tent.  But by and large they are closed to anything that places a demand on ones life, or objective truth, or a host of other traditionalists concerns.  It cuts both ways Brian.  That's my point--closed minded or open-minded is subject to interpretation.  In fact, every one of us has probably thought "I'm open-minded and that other guy is so closed minded."
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pastorg1@aol.com on August 08, 2008, 01:40:59 PM
I agree with Brother Speckhard above about evangelism being a miracle.

Martin Marty reminds us in his book, Lutheran Questions, Lutheran Answers," (Augsburg), of Luther's deus absconditus, deus revelatus, in order to keep us humble in our evangelical duties.

I've seen a miracle in evangelism this week. Certainly one which reveals God working overtly and covertly through the Church in the Holy Spirit to God's glory through His Son.  Worked like this over a period of many years:

1. Long ago, a church brings a Chinese couple to America.
2. They start a business. Have a baby.
3. They have troubles.
4. Pastor guy visits for lunch and, as usual, wears his collar. Learns of troubles. Bring birthday card for baby.
5. Prays for the couple back at church, alone and privately.
6. Meanwhile, Christian friend invites them to worship.
7. "Thorns in side" are removed. Glory given to God.
8. Pastor brings children's Bible and Small Catechism, holy cards as gifts. Couple notes public-Christian-friend.
9. Chat now over lunch on Christian doctrine, history. (Can we eat family-food sacrificed to Buddha?)
10. Worship continues at other church. Glory given to God.

And this is just the revelatus part...

Peter (Being your public Christian, 6-days-a-week for 25 years.) (Saturdays I don't shave and wear mufti...) Garrison
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Johannes on August 08, 2008, 03:15:06 PM
I've seen a miracle in evangelism this week. Certainly one which reveals God working overtly and covertly through the Church in the Holy Spirit to God's glory through His Son.  Worked like this over a period of many years:

1. Long ago, a church brings a Chinese couple to America.
2. They start a business. Have a baby.
3. They have troubles.
4. Pastor guy visits for lunch and, as usual, wears his collar. Learns of troubles. Bring birthday card for baby.
5. Prays for the couple back at church, alone and privately.
6. Meanwhile, Christian friend invites them to worship.
7. "Thorns in side" are removed. Glory given to God.
8. Pastor brings children's Bible and Small Catechism, holy cards as gifts. Couple notes public-Christian-friend.
9. Chat now over lunch on Christian doctrine, history. (Can we eat family-food sacrificed to Buddha?)
10. Worship continues at other church. Glory given to God.

So--was it the pastor's visits and prayers or the Christian friends invitation, etc. that brought them into church?  Who removed the "thorns in side?"  What if the "thorns in side" had not been removed?  Would they have gone to the Pastor's church?  Glory given to God--that's what counts.  Other than who's to say, and besides, who's keeping score anyways?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 03:15:30 PM
This is how I handle the great unwashed in my area:

I pay a guy to fly his Stearman bi-plane over the beach areas near-by. He tows a banner which says, "Repent and believe the Good News; the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." "This is eternal life: to know you, the one, true God and the one you have sent, Jesus Christ."
Hmmm, the punishing fires of hell aren't mentioned once in your mass evangelism approach.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 03:26:53 PM
The reason I don't grab people on street corners is that I don't think it would be effective. Virtually every method of reaching the lost can easily be co-opted by charlatans and kooks, as tv evangelism largely has been. There is no sure-fire method of evangelism, but grabbing people on street corners is a pretty bad one. The fact is, creating faith is every bit as supernatural as the miracle cure you're talking about-- if it really was a miracle and not merely scientific or magic, there would be no sure-fire way of giving it to people.
Aren't the means of grace a "sure-fire way of giving it to people"? If not, how do you understand the means of grace?

Quote
You're treating evangelism not as the miracle it is, but as science or magic, under our control.
Evangelism (ευαγγελιζομαι) is certainly under our control. Literally it means "to proclaim good news". Either we are proclaiming it or not. It is something we do. How our proclamation affects the hearers is out of our control.

Quote
But since Brian agrees with Martin Marty that nobody believes in hell anymore, I guess we all lie when we confess in the creed that Jesus descended there (and preached to the spirits in prison, no less).
Well, some of us are using the 1988 translation of the Apostles' Creed, which is in ELW, where Jesus "descended to the dead" -- in my opinion, and what I have told my congregations, is a better translation of the Greek word hades and the Hebrew understanding of sheol.

There is no indication in 1 Peter 3:19 that those emprisoned spirits are in flaming torment. The "prison" they are in seems to be more in line with the Greek understanding of Hades and the Hebrew understanding of Sheol, rather than Dante's understanding of the Inferno.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 08, 2008, 03:35:33 PM
In your experience who is more open to Law and Gospel, sin and repentance, and a life transformed by the Gospel?
In my experience, the re-visionists are more open to a life transformed by the Gospel. Traditionalists seek to transform lives by use of the Law; but that's my experience. Probably not yours.

Quote
Revisionists are by and large open to the big tent.  But by and large they are closed to anything that places a demand on ones life, or objective truth, or a host of other traditionalists concerns.
Nope, the demands on their lives that the re-visionists see are things like the necessity to accept all sinners as equal and forgiven by God. We see the picture in Revelation of a huge crowd of saints from all over the planet and feel the demand to try and make life on earth a foretaste of that "big tented" life in heaven. We have stated over and over again our belief in the authority of scriptures (but we don't necessary believe in your interpreation of scriptures).

Simply stated, in my experience, open-mindedness is revealed by a willingness to listen to, to try and understand, and to respect the views of others. Some people on both sides are willing to make that attempt. Others are not.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pastorg1@aol.com on August 08, 2008, 04:25:55 PM
From Johannes: So--was it the pastor's visits and prayers or the Christian friends invitation, etc. that brought them into church?  Who removed the "thorns in side?"  What if the "thorns in side" had not been removed?  Would they have gone to the Pastor's church?  Glory given to God--that's what counts.  Other than who's to say, and besides, who's keeping score anyways?

Exactly my point, Luther's and Marty's re: deus absconditus.

Now, with Brother Brian's note that evangelism is "certainly under our control," well- yes and no. We can speak, but only those who "have ears to hear," will hear. My brother is Dr. Science. Not a lot of room in his thoughts for God. "God can't be ruled out- yet," is about as close as he gets to a religious confession.

Now- to the point of evangelism "certainly being under our control." I came from a family which exhibited an odd form of militaristically ordered bohemianism. My dad was an admiral, but my folks also owned a mom and pop recording studio. So, they were arty, but also regimented. Not too religious, having been raised strict Mormon and strict Presbyterian, and of the opinion that a spiritual nature meant someone was "funny."

My father at first was aghast that I would go to seminary- I might as well have told him that I was running away to join the circus and eat fire... But a long while after I had been ordained and out in the parish, he was asked by a friend, "Ralph, do you believe all this Jesus stuff?"

My dad replied, "I believe because he believes."

Peter

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 08, 2008, 08:07:04 PM
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Perhaps it is just the area in which I live and the circles in which I move, but for many years, the biggest problem I have had is getting educated people to believe in a transcendent God in the first place. 

Get 'em to start coming to your church every Sunday, and help the Holy Spririt work on them little by little. Sometimes accepting a bleif in a transcendent God is a process, not an event.

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And one of the problems we face is not "getting people in the doors of our churches." It is getting our people out of the churches into their daily lives armed with the tools and desire to tell people about Jesus and their faith.

Once again, that problem is presented as if the issue of getting more people into the church and getting people to live their faith outside the church are some sort of either/or proposition. We can address both problems, we don't have to select one and ignore the other. In fact, there could well be a great deal of synergism between addressing both situations simultaneously.

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No one, that I know of, has said that we should not be preaching, teaching, and administering the medicine of the Gospel He has given us.

So how do you manage to preach, teach, and administe the medicine of the Gospel He has given us to people who don't ever attend a service to experience your preaching, teaching, and administering of the medicine of the Gospel He has given us?

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Virtually every method of reaching the lost can easily be co-opted by charlatans and kooks, as tv evangelism largely has been. There is no sure-fire method of evangelism, but grabbing people on street corners is a pretty bad one.

Didja ever try sending a postcard to everyone in your ZIP code inviting them to your church? Didja ever spend a few bucks on a billboard ad? How often has your congregation sponsored some sort of open social function or concert in your building that anyone can attend? Didja ever try having an "admission ticket" to your church printed on the back of the cash register tapes in the local grocery store? Sure, grabbing people on street corners isn't a good idea. That doesn't mean that there are no good ideas. God gave us imaginations, which the Holy Spirit will guide if asked. So, we need to use our imaginations and pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us.

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 08, 2008, 08:20:08 PM
Nope, the demands on their lives that the re-visionists see are things like the necessity to accept all sinners as equal and forgiven by God.

Very closed minded.  But perhaps you are speaking only from your experience. ;D
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 08, 2008, 08:55:12 PM
Lutheran Lay Leader,

Did you ever notice that the Apostles never resorted to gimmickry in sharing the Gospel?  Why do you think that is?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 08, 2008, 11:02:12 PM
Lutheran Lay Leader,

Did you ever notice that the Apostles never resorted to gimmickry in sharing the Gospel?  Why do you think that is?

First, I don't think that using the modern communications technology in 2008 is any more "gimmickry" than using Gutenberg's new-fangled movable type printing press was to print Luther's translation of the Bible into German. I mean, the Church got along just fine had copying the Scriptures (in Latin) one copy at a time for over 1,000 years! Whatever could have possessed Martin Luther to use some "gimmick" to spread copies of the Bible, translated into a language that people could actually read? For that matter, the Apostles didn't even have a written Bible to work from. They made do with nothing but the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit. Should we do the same today?

But as for the original Apostles, I am confident that they used every single bit of technology that the 1st century had to offer. The thing is, in the first few centuries of the Christian church, printed post cards and regular mail delivery didn't exist. That could be an excellent reason why the Apostles did send post cards. So, you ask "Why do you think that is?". My answer is, "Because they couldn't. But if they could have, I bet they would have". There were also no cash registers in the stores back then, so putting messages on the back of them couldn't be done.

They did give out food to the hungry, not just communion, but actual meals. So, offering dinners to people to get them to visit the church isn't some new "gimmick". It's something that was also done in the 1st century.

So tell me. Do you use a microphone and public address system in your church? The Apostles didin't use such "gimmicks" in the 1st century. Do you drive to your church in an automobile? The Apostles didn't use such technology in the 1st century. Does your church have a organ? The Apostles in the 1st century didn't use gimmicks like keyboard instruments. Why do you permit such "gimmickry" in your church? Are the Bibles in your church printed by machine instead of being hand-copied by diligent clerics? Why do you permit such "gimmickry" in your church?

Please understand, I see your point. There is merit in being careful in what sorts of adiaphora we embrace. But the fact that some means of technology that was invented by someone who used his God-given intellect to fashion it in the years between the 1st century and today doesn't automatically make it improper to use for spreading the Gospel. If anyone is willing to reject everything that came along between the 1st century and today and to engage in ministry totally eschewing all technologies that weren't around prior to 100 AD, then I'll respect his admonition to eschew using modern communications technology for evangelism. But if someone is willing to pick and choose which technologies he arbitrarily approves and which he arbitrarily rejects, then I'll have a difficult time accepting his guidance without far more persuasive arguments than a single, pithy but meaningless sentence.
 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 08, 2008, 11:11:02 PM
I really wasn't referring to technology at all (which brings advances I embrace and regularly use).  Rather, I was referring to the admission ticket idea specifically.  Sorry, I should have made that clearer.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 09, 2008, 09:47:01 AM
I really wasn't referring to technology at all (which brings advances I embrace and regularly use).  Rather, I was referring to the admission ticket idea specifically.  Sorry, I should have made that clearer.

I put "admission ticket" in quotes because I wasn't referring to something literal. I was referring to using the basic format of a ticket to a sporting event or concert so that at first glance it would look like a free ticket to something one usually would have to pay for. When the person holding the pseudo-ticket read it, they'd see that it was good any time, with no expiration date, no fine print, no obligation, good for unlimited uses, good for the bearer and unlimited guests. In short, it would get someone's attention so they'd read it, and not only invite them to church, it would put a little smile on their face. It would convey the message that we Lutherans are not a stuffy, stodgy lot. It would give the impression that attending our worship services is a  very pleasant and positive experience.

Granted, that's not true of some congregations, but those congergations wouldn't want to use anything that smacked of being imaginative carrying out God's work.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 09, 2008, 09:49:14 AM
I confess I must be stodgy.  That strikes me as gimmickry indeed.  :)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Richard Johnson on August 09, 2008, 10:09:14 AM
I confess I must be stodgy.  That strikes me as gimmickry indeed.  :)

Geez, and you're a lot younger than I am!
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 09, 2008, 10:30:43 AM
I confess I must be stodgy. 

Finally, you've said something that I can totally agree with! :)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 09, 2008, 11:04:57 AM
Lutheran Lay Leader,

LOL and so true!
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 09, 2008, 11:12:19 AM
I think a "gimmick" is something that can be expected to work only so long as it is new and different. So the ticket thing would attract any given person's attention exactly once. If you want to get his attention again, you have to move on to something original; he's not going to keep reading sporting-event-look-alike-tickets. So that is a gimmick. By my definition, anything that relies on being funny, cute, clever, fresh, original, different, or what-have-you to get attention is a gimmick. Anything you could do over and over again is simply a method.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 09, 2008, 12:25:34 PM
I think a "gimmick" is something that can be expected to work only so long as it is new and different. So the ticket thing would attract any given person's attention exactly once. If you want to get his attention again, you have to move on to something original; he's not going to keep reading sporting-event-look-alike-tickets. So that is a gimmick. By my definition, anything that relies on being funny, cute, clever, fresh, original, different, or what-have-you to get attention is a gimmick. Anything you could do over and over again is simply a method.

I won't argue with that one bit. I can't help wondering if God would be pleased or displeased if someone was convinced by some sort of "gimmick" to start attending church and hearing God's Word, and receiving God's Grace, and engaging in Christian fellowship with other Christians. What if we were to get to have a face-to-face conversation with God. Would He say "That was really good that you got someone to come and hear my Word. Good Job."?  Or would He say, "I wasn't too happy about you resorting to a gimmick to get someone to hear my Word. I don't like it when people come into my house unless it's because they were invited with traditional, time-tested methods."?

Does anyone take the position that using "gimmicks" to get someone's attention in order to get them to listen to God's Word is something that displeases God or that angers Him? How many people reading this post would be totally comfortable telling God "I could have got more people to hear your Good News, but I refused to to anything that seemed like a "gimmick"?

And I don't disagree that "gimmicks" can work well at first, but that they wear out and you have to come up with something new. So, would God be pleased or displeased if an evangelism "gimmick" got 100 unchurched people to start coming to church to hear God's Word and receive the means of Grace? And after that gimmick ran its course, would God be pleased or displeased if 100 more unchurched people were reached through the second gimmick? Would God be pleased or displeased if every time a congregation tried a new gimmick to get people to start attending they managed to reach some people who wouldn't have been reached otherwise?

Perhaps it's my undertrained thinking showing here, but when Jesus said "Go and make disciples of all nations", I think He was serious. I don't think he was just kidding.

 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Mel Harris on August 09, 2008, 12:58:11 PM

Would God be pleased or displeased if every time a congregation tried a new gimmick to get people to start attending they managed to reach some people who wouldn't have been reached otherwise?


This has already been discussed in a couple of other threads.  For example:


By the same token their parking lot is full every Sunday. As my mother-in-law often says, "At least it brings people in." "So would topless ushers handing out five-dollar bills," I always reply. :)


Mel Harris
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 09, 2008, 01:04:25 PM
I think a "gimmick" is something that can be expected to work only so long as it is new and different. So the ticket thing would attract any given person's attention exactly once. If you want to get his attention again, you have to move on to something original; he's not going to keep reading sporting-event-look-alike-tickets. So that is a gimmick. By my definition, anything that relies on being funny, cute, clever, fresh, original, different, or what-have-you to get attention is a gimmick. Anything you could do over and over again is simply a method.

I won't argue with that one bit. I can't help wondering if God would be pleased or displeased if someone was convinced by some sort of "gimmick" to start attending church and hearing God's Word, and receiving God's Grace, and engaging in Christian fellowship with other Christians. What if we were to get to have a face-to-face conversation with God. Would He say "That was really good that you got someone to come and hear my Word. Good Job."?  Or would He say, "I wasn't too happy about you resorting to a gimmick to get someone to hear my Word. I don't like it when people come into my house unless it's because they were invited with traditional, time-tested methods."?

Does anyone take the position that using "gimmicks" to get someone's attention in order to get them to listen to God's Word is something that displeases God or that angers Him? How many people reading this post would be totally comfortable telling God "I could have got more people to hear your Good News, but I refused to to anything that seemed like a "gimmick"?

And I don't disagree that "gimmicks" can work well at first, but that they wear out and you have to come up with something new. So, would God be pleased or displeased if an evangelism "gimmick" got 100 unchurched people to start coming to church to hear God's Word and receive the means of Grace? And after that gimmick ran its course, would God be pleased or displeased if 100 more unchurched people were reached through the second gimmick? Would God be pleased or displeased if every time a congregation tried a new gimmick to get people to start attending they managed to reach some people who wouldn't have been reached otherwise?

Perhaps it's my undertrained thinking showing here, but when Jesus said "Go and make disciples of all nations", I think He was serious. I don't think he was just kidding.

I think he was serious, too. But when somebody hears something via gimmick, it affects how they hear it and how other people hear it. For everybody who might actually become engaged by God's Word via gimmick, there are other people who might otherwise have been open to listening to God's Word in some other context, but who now have gimmicky associations preventing them from taking it, as you say, seriously. If I wear a Jeeez-head (with Jesus saying "take, eat" on it--such a thing does not exist so far as I know, but I just came up with it to use a hypothetical example) instead of a cheesehead to a Packer game, I suppose there is an outside chance someone will ask me about it and I can ask them to church. But there is a near-certainty that some Christians will be offended and many unchurched will become further convinced that Christians do not even take their own religion seriously, so why should anyone else. Even if I got a stranger into church by wearing that hat, the net effect in terms of evangelism when all is said and done might be a huge negative. If the one-on-one contact took place in an utter vacuum, then I would be all for it.

I don't think the problem is getting people to look. The Christian church has massive market saturation in the U.S.. You can't scan your radio dial, flip through the channels, read through a newspaper, or drive down a street without seeing a Christian message somewhere. The problem is not getting people to look; it is getting them to take it seriously. Gimmicks are a stumbling-block in that regard.    
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: pastorg1@aol.com on August 09, 2008, 01:14:13 PM
There is also the matter of "selling yourself first," before selling the "product."

St. Francis said it more elegantly, "Preach the Gospel; use words if necessary."

The "feature and benefits," (a salesman's way of showing the customer why he should buy the product,) of knowing the Christian will lead to the reception (one prays) of the motivation behind said Christian's behavior. The hearer will not only hear, but see and feel the features and benefits of being Christian- by meeting a Christian.

As I remind the parishioners welcoming newcomers to church- "Remember, you may be the first designated Christian someone has ever met."

This is the corpus christi, not gimmickry.

Peter Garrison
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 09, 2008, 01:21:50 PM
Pr. Speckhard,

You almost quote the good Dr. Nagel, who commenting on such things noted:

"Uncounted are the multitudes who permanently write Christianity itself off as the product of just another huckster."

We have nothing to sell; we do have eternal life and forgiveness of the sins of the world to give away.  And we want all to have it, as does our Lord.  That's why we don't treat it with gimmickry or used-car-salesmanship.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 09, 2008, 01:41:42 PM
St. Francis said it more elegantly, "Preach the Gospel; use words if necessary."
From what I've read on the internet, there is no record that St. Francis ever said this. (But he probably wishes he had :))

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The "feature and benefits," (a salesman's way of showing the customer why he should buy the product,) of knowing the Christian will lead to the reception (one prays) of the motivation behind said Christian's behavior. The hearer will not only hear, but see and feel the features and benefits of being Christian- by meeting a Christian.
We are to be witnesses. Witnesses are people who have seen, heard, experienced something and they tell that to others. We are not just to tell the story of Jesus; but also share our own stories -- how our belief in Jesus affects our lives, which, my implication, should indicate why believing in Jesus would be a good thing for the other person to do.

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As I remind the parishioners welcoming newcomers to church- "Remember, you may be the first designated Christian someone has ever met."
I've also heard it stated that you may be the only Word of God that the person hears.

Perhaps contrary to what I've just written, I believe that evangelism begins, not so much with speaking or acting, but by listening. How many times in scriptures do we read that God responded to the cries of his people? "You don't throw a drowning person a sandwich, no matter how good the sandwich might," goes a statement in a course on witnessing I've used. To give a child a Christmas or Easter coloring book when they haven't eaten for a day, may not be a very good witness.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 09, 2008, 01:52:56 PM
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By the same token their parking lot is full every Sunday. As my mother-in-law often says, "At least it brings people in." "So would topless ushers handing out five-dollar bills," I always reply. :)

So, if I read you correctly, you're saying that because using an inappropriate activity to get people to come to church would be wrong, so would using appropriate activities, right? Am I getting the gist of what you're hinting at?

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I think he was serious, too. But when somebody hears something via gimmick, it affects how they hear it and how other people hear it. For everybody who might actually become engaged by God's Word via gimmick, there are other people who might otherwise have been open to listening to God's Word in some other context, but who now have gimmicky associations preventing them from taking it, as you say, seriously.

So, if I read you correctly, you're saying that the Lutheran liturgy, and the preaching of God's word isn't sufficiently strong to compensate for the fact that someone who decided to give attending a Lutheran church a try because of a "gimmick" invitation, right? If, on Saturday afternoon, someone sees a gimmicky invitation that says something along the lines of "Come, and See what it's really like in God's house. It's not as stuffy and judgmental as you think it is." and they came to your church and heard you preach a sermon, they wouldn't get it?

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If I wear a Jeeez-head (with Jesus saying "take, eat" on it--such a thing does not exist so far as I know, but I just came up with it to use a hypothetical example) instead of a cheesehead to a Packer game, I suppose there is an outside chance someone will ask me about it and I can ask them to church. But there is a near-certainty that some Christians will be offended and many unchurched will become further convinced that Christians do not even take their own religion seriously, so why should anyone else.

Again, I ask "you're saying that because using an inappropriate activity to get people to come to church would be wrong, so would using appropriate activities, right?"

Why is it that when the issue of using carefully thought out, well-considered means of advertising to issue an appropriate though unconventional invitation to attend worship services is raised, the responses are to see how many ludicrous, off-the-wall, totally inappropriate ideas you can come up with? Why list outlandish examples of ideas that any reasonable person would reject in order to ridicule the idea of using our God-given imaginations to come up with appropriate and effective methods to get more people to "Come, and See"?

Is mocking and belittling a serious and sincere idea to get more people to come to God's house the way that the called and ordained are trained to react to things that they disagree with? Is seeing who can come up with the most outrageous and outlandish mockery of what I've been suggesting what they taught you in seminary?

How do you get from "I was referring to using the basic format of a ticket to a sporting event or concert so that at first glance it would look like a free ticket to something one usually would have to pay for. When the person holding the pseudo-ticket read it, they'd see that it was good any time, with no expiration date, no fine print, no obligation, good for unlimited uses, good for the bearer and unlimited guests. In short, it would get someone's attention so they'd read it, and not only invite them to church, it would put a little smile on their face. It would convey the message that we Lutherans are not a stuffy, stodgy lot. It would give the impression that attending our worship services is a very pleasant and positive experience.", which is what I wrote, to "If I wear a Jeeez-head"? Are you saying that what I suggested was as ridiculous and as inappropriate as wearing a stupid hat like that?

If a gimmick does what I suggest it should do, which is to "give the impression that attending our worship services is a very pleasant and positive experience", how would getting that impression have a negative effect on how the person visiting your church reacted to what he experienced?

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That's why we don't treat it with gimmickry or used-car-salesmanship.

Et tu? Is it so impossible to refute what I've said that you must recast it and miscontrue it as "used-car-salesmanship"? Is the only way that you can think of to excuse the corporate laziness of most of the Lutheran community in the US in being proactive about reaching out to those who aren't already members of the Lutheran club that you'll misrepresent what I've said to turn it into something that is easier to cast aside?

What of that most basic questions I asked? Would God be pleased or displeased if people were lead to enter His house and hear His word through the proper use of a liitle bit of appropriate and imaginative messages?


Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 09, 2008, 01:58:29 PM
We have nothing to sell; we do have eternal life and forgiveness of the sins of the world to give away.  And we want all to have it, as does our Lord.  That's why we don't treat it with gimmickry or used-car-salesmanship.
Witnessing has been described as being similar to telling someone about an excellent restaurant -- we talk about our experiences in that place: good food, reasonable prices, prompt, friendly service, etc. We can't make a person go, but we can do a lot to influence their decision -- even inviting to go with them. Our experience at the restaurant can even go beyond what we receive there, to relationships established there, getting to know the servers, owners, cooks, etc. and being known by them. Eating out can become something more when they greet you by name, when you go not just to have good food, but also conversations with others -- keeping up on the stories of their lives.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 09, 2008, 02:07:27 PM
Excellent, Brian.  And exactly right.  We instinctively praise to others that which we ourselves have enjoyed.  Thus the Psalmist:  "O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together!"  The key to fixing the wimpy witness problem is precisely to make sure that our people truly do "enjoy the Lord" (Westminster Catechism had THAT right) - for part of enjoyment is praising to others what one has enjoyed.  It needs no special technique or gimmick.  It needs only the blessed experience of His mercy and forgiving love.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 09, 2008, 02:26:31 PM
Does anyone take the position that using "gimmicks" to get someone's attention in order to get them to listen to God's Word is something that displeases God or that angers Him? How many people reading this post would be totally comfortable telling God "I could have got more people to hear your Good News, but I refused to to anything that seemed like a "gimmick"?

And I don't disagree that "gimmicks" can work well at first, but that they wear out and you have to come up with something new. So, would God be pleased or displeased if an evangelism "gimmick" got 100 unchurched people to start coming to church to hear God's Word and receive the means of Grace? And after that gimmick ran its course, would God be pleased or displeased if 100 more unchurched people were reached through the second gimmick? Would God be pleased or displeased if every time a congregation tried a new gimmick to get people to start attending they managed to reach some people who wouldn't have been reached otherwise?

Marva Dawn has this statement in Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down.

At the 1987 Vancouver World's Fair, the Christian pavilion's presentation utilized glitzy double-reversed photography and flashing lasers. When I tried to explain my qualms about the production to an attendant who had asked me how I liked their 'show,' she protested that it had saved many people. I asked, "Saved by what kind of Christ?" If people are saved by a spectacular Christ, will they find him in the fumbling of their own devotional life or in the humble services of local parishes where pastors and organists make mistakes? Will a glitzy portrayal of Christ nurture in new believers his character of willing suffering and sacrificial obedience? Will it create an awareness of the idolatries of our age and lead to repentance? And does a flashy, hard-rock sound track bring people to a Christ who calls us away from the world's superficiality to a deeper reflection and meditation? The exhortation of 2 Timothy 2:15 to handle correctly the word of truth must always be our guide when we choose methods -- and the recognition that the Greek word methodia is used only twice in the New Testament and both times pejoratively makes us cautious lest any of our methods be those of the Deceiver. [p. 50]

The two places where methodeia are used in the NT are Ep 4:14; 6:11. A verbal form is used by Polycarp in his letter to the Philippians to warn against those who "pervert [methodeuo] the words of the Lord to suit one's own desires." Pol 7:1

Gimmicks can pervert the words of the Lord. I do not think that God would be pleased by that.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dave_Poedel on August 09, 2008, 02:53:00 PM
I sure do like Marva Dawn's writings. I haven't read her in a while and Brian's quotation of her above is a welcome reminder for me to take her off the shelf and re-read some of her great stuff.

From the issue of laity presiding to ways of getting people to church....that is an interesting snippet of where the Church is today: how much of the past practice is appropriate today?  How do we present the Law to folks who believe that they are basically good people?  How can the call to take up our Cross and follow Jesus compete with Oprah and her gnosticism (available daily, by the way, online at xmradio.com...yuck)?

We have a saving message, expressed in the Holy Scriptures and life-giving, sin forgiving sacraments.  I have made it my practice to stick to that and that alone.  I bless the efforts of the folks to care for those who are already in the church with social gatherings and such.  I will occasionally pay for a tasteful "this reminder is brought to you by Mt Calvary...." on a radio station, I put up a vinyl banner sign with our service time and website address out front of the church as we are on a major thoroughfare.

None of this holds any promise for bringing the unbeliever into our Church.  It may remove an obstacle (I don't know what time that church has services) but it does not attract the unbeliever....the Holy Spirit does that.  What I encourage and teach our folks is that when someone walks through our door, there has been a lot of thought and anxiety in that person to get up enough courage to enter our sanctuary.  I ask them to welcome and assist them with the service folder.  I invited them to sit with other people so as not to try to sing while sitting away from everyone else.

No rocket science here, folks...once someone is situated in our Divine Service, they will receive the best that I can do to present to them the Word of God.  Sure, they will be greeted by others after church, or they can slip out quietly if they wish.  No visitor ribbons, no "introduction of visitors", just an invitation to return.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 09, 2008, 02:59:48 PM
Gimmicks can pervert the words of the Lord. I do not think that God would be pleased by that.

Chalk up another ultra-extreme example that mocks the suggestions I've made.

Can none of you respond to the use of an appropriate, tasteful, well-considered method without bringing up some over-the-top, mega-extreme, totally off-the-wall example that has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue I've raised?

Why can you not respond to a suggestion to send a post-card by mail to everyone in your church's ZIP code with a simply worded invitation to come to a worship service without comparing it to ludicrously exaggerated examples?

Do you think God would be offended by inviting someone to come to His house by sending them a post card? Forget the hyperbole of outragrous and outlandish examples of ill-considered overkill. Is sending an invitation post card to everyone in your church's ZIP code something that would offend God? Yes or No?



Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: navyman on August 09, 2008, 03:13:38 PM
Does anyone take the position that using "gimmicks" to get someone's attention in order to get them to listen to God's Word is something that displeases God or that angers Him? How many people reading this post would be totally comfortable telling God "I could have got more people to hear your Good News, but I refused to to anything that seemed like a "gimmick"?

And I don't disagree that "gimmicks" can work well at first, but that they wear out and you have to come up with something new. So, would God be pleased or displeased if an evangelism "gimmick" got 100 unchurched people to start coming to church to hear God's Word and receive the means of Grace? And after that gimmick ran its course, would God be pleased or displeased if 100 more unchurched people were reached through the second gimmick? Would God be pleased or displeased if every time a congregation tried a new gimmick to get people to start attending they managed to reach some people who wouldn't have been reached otherwise?

Marva Dawn has this statement in Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down.

At the 1987 Vancouver World's Fair, the Christian pavilion's presentation utilized glitzy double-reversed photography and flashing lasers. When I tried to explain my qualms about the production to an attendant who had asked me how I liked their 'show,' she protested that it had saved many people. I asked, "Saved by what kind of Christ?" If people are saved by a spectacular Christ, will they find him in the fumbling of their own devotional life or in the humble services of local parishes where pastors and organists make mistakes? Will a glitzy portrayal of Christ nurture in new believers his character of willing suffering and sacrificial obedience? Will it create an awareness of the idolatries of our age and lead to repentance? And does a flashy, hard-rock sound track bring people to a Christ who calls us away from the world's superficiality to a deeper reflection and meditation? The exhortation of 2 Timothy 2:15 to handle correctly the word of truth must always be our guide when we choose methods -- and the recognition that the Greek word methodia is used only twice in the New Testament and both times pejoratively makes us cautious lest any of our methods be those of the Deceiver. [p. 50]

The two places where methodeia are used in the NT are Ep 4:14; 6:11. A verbal form is used by Polycarp in his letter to the Philippians to warn against those who "pervert [methodeuo] the words of the Lord to suit one's own desires." Pol 7:1

Gimmicks can pervert the words of the Lord. I do not think that God would be pleased by that.


Boy, Brian, this good easily be appied to those who support the gay agenda within the ELCA!  I really shocked  :o :o, that you would even say such a thing, after your stand on the perversion, that God has been against all along, in his Word!  I guess you can use the arguement.

Does the Holy Spirit live were sin abides?  Justification brings Santification, all the work of the Holy Spirit.  One would believe, that Nothing is impossible for Christ, for those who want to leave the gay lifestyle, and live for Christ, the Holy Spirit can and will cahnge them.  For those who continue to live in a sinful lustful state, then he or she has condemed themselves!



Regards!

Don
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 09, 2008, 03:15:43 PM
Gimmicks can pervert the words of the Lord. I do not think that God would be pleased by that.

Chalk up another ultra-extreme example that mocks the suggestions I've made.

Can none of you respond to the use of an appropriate, tasteful, well-considered method without bringing up some over-the-top, mega-extreme, totally off-the-wall example that has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue I've raised?

Why can you not respond to a suggestion to send a post-card by mail to everyone in your church's ZIP code with a simply worded invitation to come to a worship service without comparing it to ludicrously exaggerated examples?

Do you think God would be offended by inviting someone to come to His house by sending them a post card? Forget the hyperbole of outragrous and outlandish examples of ill-considered overkill. Is sending an invitation post card to everyone in your church's ZIP code something that would offend God? Yes or No?
No.

However, some things are gimmicky and over the top.  Some things we do seem to depend more on our technique than our trust in God's Word and God's Power in the world.  Sending a post card--fine.  Invite others--great.  Of course studies show that mailings are not the most effective mission tool.  But sometimes getting one's church to do anything invitational can be a start.  (The most effective strategy is to have members invite their neighbors to worship.)  What I don't like is things like the theme "We're growing something in _______" printed on the front of wild flower seed packets.  (This was recently tried in my area.)  It may "work", it may not but its hard to see that as anything other than a gimmick.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Richard Johnson on August 09, 2008, 03:36:39 PM
 (The most effective strategy is to have members invite their neighbors to worship.)  

Which can be nurtured and encouraged by the congregation. I admit we're no shining star of evangelism, but one thing we've done that has worked nicely is this:

During Advent, we have a midweek vespers service. It is preceded by a 30 minute organ recital of seasonal music. Often our organist pulls in other musicians from the community to do this with him (singers, primarily). The recital transitions immediately into the Evening Prayer liturgy. We publicize the recital in the community as an opportunity, during a very busy season, to sit quietly and reflect for a time on the meaning of the season.

Then, we print up invitations to that effect--they look like a real invitation to something, complete with "You are invited . . . " on the front. We pass out a couple of hundred of these to people at church and encourage them to invite their friends and neighbors.

At the recital, the program is printed on the front of the bulletin, the Evening Prayer liturgy inside. An invitation is at the bottom of the program section to stay for Evening Prayer.

At some of the recitals, I've counted 20-30--close to a third of the total in attendance--who are not from Peace. A few of them leave after the recital, but most stay and enjoy Evening Prayer. Not sure that we've ever gotten "new members" solely from this, but then that isn't really the point, is it?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 09, 2008, 04:15:15 PM

Quote
I think he was serious, too. But when somebody hears something via gimmick, it affects how they hear it and how other people hear it. For everybody who might actually become engaged by God's Word via gimmick, there are other people who might otherwise have been open to listening to God's Word in some other context, but who now have gimmicky associations preventing them from taking it, as you say, seriously.

So, if I read you correctly, you're saying that the Lutheran liturgy, and the preaching of God's word isn't sufficiently strong to compensate for the fact that someone who decided to give attending a Lutheran church a try because of a "gimmick" invitation, right? If, on Saturday afternoon, someone sees a gimmicky invitation that says something along the lines of "Come, and See what it's really like in God's house. It's not as stuffy and judgmental as you think it is." and they came to your church and heard you preach a sermon, they wouldn't get it?

No, you are not reading me correctly. My point had nothing to do with the power of the service and preaching. My point was that for everyone who comes to church because of the gimmick, there are many people who are now less likely to come to church because of that same gimmick. The negative effect of the gimmick might in fact be far greater than the positive, yet the positive is immediate and measurable, so those who oppose it can easily be accused of not caring about the lost. But I'll use a secular example to make my point. I drive past a tax preparation place quite often. Some years I'm tempted to let a professional do my taxes rather than doing it myself, but if I ever decide to do that, I'll never take my taxes to one I drive past. Why? Because they always hire a high school kid to stand outside in a big foam statue of liberty to draw attention to their buiding. It gets my attention, no question, and I'm sure it gets them some customers or they wouldn't keep doing it. But how many customers like me does it lose them? I tax my taxes at least moderately seriously; I won't entrust them to the foam statue of liberty people. Same with buying a car. If Crazy Earl has lost his mind (yet again) and is offering insane savings, he'll get customers, but he will have lost me as a potential customer because, while I'm no expert at cars, I'm not making a major purchase from Crazy Earl. Same with home mortgages-- the people selling them with a gimmick do indeed gain customers, but also lose many more potential customers. And anyone who can be induced to come to a new church is likely to be somebody with big questions. People take their own spiritual lives very seriously. For everyone who decided to attend church as a visitor because of a gimmick, there are many people who, if and when they ever do decide attend a church, will pass on the chance to go to the one that tried to appeal to them with gimmicks.

As for the Jeeez-head, that isn't nearly as inappropriate as some of the actual stuff available in the typical Christian bookstore or online. I just didn't want to use a real example for fear of offending somebody who has used it. But if you can simply dismiss the Jeez-head as "inappropriate", how can you object when others dismiss other gimmicks as inappropriate? What are the criteria?   
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 09, 2008, 04:59:25 PM
Gimmicks can pervert the words of the Lord. I do not think that God would be pleased by that.

Chalk up another ultra-extreme example that mocks the suggestions I've made.

Can none of you respond to the use of an appropriate, tasteful, well-considered method without bringing up some over-the-top, mega-extreme, totally off-the-wall example that has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue I've raised?

Why can you not respond to a suggestion to send a post-card by mail to everyone in your church's ZIP code with a simply worded invitation to come to a worship service without comparing it to ludicrously exaggerated examples?

Do you think God would be offended by inviting someone to come to His house by sending them a post card? Forget the hyperbole of outragrous and outlandish examples of ill-considered overkill. Is sending an invitation post card to everyone in your church's ZIP code something that would offend God? Yes or No?
For the most part, it is a waste of money. Does wasting money offend God? I don't know. (It often offends people who contribute to the congregation.)

As a mission developer pastor said to me some years ago over the same issue: It is likely that the congregation would have a better return on the money spent if they gave every member $100 to personally invite someone to church.

If people contribute money to send post cards to folks in a zip code area and believe that they are doing evangelism, I think that that is offensive to God. If an evangelism committee feels good that they have done this act of evangelism -- and that's all they've done, I think that that is offensive to God. In these cases, the sending of postcards becomes a cop-out for really doing evangelism, which is personally talking to other people about Jesus, about the church, etc.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 09, 2008, 05:18:59 PM
Gimmicks can pervert the words of the Lord. I do not think that God would be pleased by that.

Chalk up another ultra-extreme example that mocks the suggestions I've made.

Can none of you respond to the use of an appropriate, tasteful, well-considered method without bringing up some over-the-top, mega-extreme, totally off-the-wall example that has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue I've raised?

Why can you not respond to a suggestion to send a post-card by mail to everyone in your church's ZIP code with a simply worded invitation to come to a worship service without comparing it to ludicrously exaggerated examples?

Do you think God would be offended by inviting someone to come to His house by sending them a post card? Forget the hyperbole of outragrous and outlandish examples of ill-considered overkill. Is sending an invitation post card to everyone in your church's ZIP code something that would offend God? Yes or No?

A post card is not a gimmick. People get post card reminders to vote, post cards fom loved ones on vacation, even post card bills sometimes. In an of itself a postcard is neither here nor there. But anything cutesy or clever associated with it might be merely a gimmick. Sending post cards is more like putting a sign in front of your church-- it helps people know that you're there. But post cards, like signs, can be gimmicky turn-offs, too, and I've seen plenty of them. So as long as we're agree that gimmicky is not the way to go, let the signs and post cards abound.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: R Lewer on August 09, 2008, 07:18:27 PM
We have used post cards to promote our school. The value is that our church is not on a main road and many people would not know we exist without some way of making ourselves known to the general public. We do not consider this a gimmick. Ways of becoming positively known may depend on the situation. Laypeople tend to be more successful in their invitations if the people they are inviting already have a positive attitude toward the church.  Some call this "pre-evangelism." "Pre-evangelism and lay invitations should work together.

In my experience lay invitations are more likely to happen when the members themselves are pleased with their congregation and its work and worship. The success of the invitations tends to be more likely if the public already has a positive attitude toward the church.

Finally, it is the Word and Sacrament through which the Holy Spirit converts people or renews them as the case may be. But first they need to come into contact with word and Sacrament. Word and sacrament may be done exceedingly well, but if one one hears it what will happen?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: hillwilliam on August 09, 2008, 11:17:31 PM
We have used post cards to promote our school. The value is that our church is not on a main road and many people would not know we exist without some way of making ourselves known to the general public. We do not consider this a gimmick. Ways of becoming positively known may depend on the situation. Laypeople tend to be more successful in their invitations if the people they are inviting already have a positive attitude toward the church.  Some call this "pre-evangelism." "Pre-evangelism and lay invitations should work together.

In my experience lay invitations are more likely to happen when the members themselves are pleased with their congregation and its work and worship. The success of the invitations tends to be more likely if the public already has a positive attitude toward the church.

Finally, it is the Word and Sacrament through which the Holy Spirit converts people or renews them as the case may be. But first they need to come into contact with word and Sacrament. Word and sacrament may be done exceedingly well, but if one one hears it what will happen?

It has been my understanding the Lutherans were primarily responsible for inviting neighbors to church and providing a welcoming environment. If our guests were to be converted to Christianity, it was because the Word was proclaimed rightly and the sacrament was administered in accordance with the scriptures. In other words, conversion is a function of the Holy Spirit.

This puts a heavy burden on our Pastors to proclaim the word as law and gospel and explain the difference. But the individual Christian has a responsibility also to proclaim the good news. As Erma Wolf said in another thread, "Having solid worship that is unapologetically Lutheran is part of that, but only part.  People have to have good experiences talking about their faith with others inside the church in order to dare to talk about the faith in more risky situations.  That may be the most important evangelism program any congregation can have.  But it will take time and determination.  And we better be honest about why we want to do evangelism.  Are we trying to build the denomination so it will continue to be "relevant" (and what does that mean?), or are we trying to witness to the power of Jesus Christ to save sinners from Death and the Evil One?"

Why we have an evangelism program is every bit as important as how successful it is.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Paul L. Knudson on August 10, 2008, 11:30:59 AM
I have just completed a new book, The Courage to Be Protestant, by David Wells, published Eerdmans.  The author weighs into some of the concerns being contested in the last several posts. 

One of his most pointed critiques is of the place of marketing principles that he sees being far more destructive than most are willing to acknowledge.  He writes pointedly about the way evangelical churches have bought into the consumer mentality with its emphasis in meeting felt needs as drawing our witness away from its center on the truth we meet in Jesus Christ and his redemptive work.

It all seems so neutral and simply a tool to be used learned from the business community.  He sees it, however, as a powerful way to focus on the "self" that reigns supreme and is inevitably an obstacle to faith, to an utter dependence upon the gracious sovereignty of God.

While he betrays his lack of understanding of the sacraments, it is otherwise a great read.  It doesn't mean we cannot learn from those who lead in the "world" out there, but we better be also aware of the hidden hazzards we'll encounter along the way.

One of the aspects of the book I liked was the willingness of one within the world of evangelicalism to take on his own in the name of calling them back to the center and foundation of truth.  I continually look for voices within our own Lutheran tradition willing to be so forthright in their constructive critiques.  Those voices seem to me to be too few and too frequently criticized as being disloyal when they do speak boldly.  I emphasize "constructive" critiques.  We need clear thinkers who understand what is at stake before us as does Wells among those in the camp of evangelicalism.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 10, 2008, 02:45:42 PM
One of his most pointed critiques is of the place of marketing principles that he sees being far more destructive than most are willing to acknowledge.  He writes pointedly about the way evangelical churches have bought into the consumer mentality with its emphasis in meeting felt needs as drawing our witness away from its center on the truth we meet in Jesus Christ and his redemptive work.

It all seems so neutral and simply a tool to be used learned from the business community.  He sees it, however, as a powerful way to focus on the "self" that reigns supreme and is inevitably an obstacle to faith, to an utter dependence upon the gracious sovereignty of God.

I'm reminded of Mark Twain's cat. Twain told the story of how his cat once sat down on a hot stove. It learned its lesson, and never sat down on a hot stove again. It never sat down on a cold stove again, either.

I don't think anyone would dispute that there have been over the years, some preachers who preached sermons that might have done more harm than good. Maybe they weren't well written. Maybe they were based on errant theology. Maybe the preacher didn't write in in advance with assistance and inspiration from the Holy Spirit and decided to just wing it in the pulpit. Whatever the reason, I'm sure no one will disagree that in the past 2,000 years there have been some bad sermons preached. Does that fact mean that no sermons should ever be preached?

I have been on the receiving end of more than a few invitations to Come, and See the services at Fundagelical Bapticostal churches. One thing I noticed that was common to all of the invitations was a strong emphasis on "meeting felt needs". When a Fundagelical Bapticostalists have witnessed to me about how wonderful their particular mega-church is, it usually comes down to "Do you like spirit-filled music? We have that! Do you want to hear about how to avoid going to hell? We'll tell you how!", and so on. The live, in-person, one-on-one evangelism of the Fundagelical Bapticostals uses the exact same medium that those in this thread not only claim is the best medium, many also claim it's the only medium that's proper to use.

Now, if a Fundagelical Bapticostal can use the "proper" communications medium to convey the same improper message that the Fundagelical Bapticostals also communicate through mass media, why on earth can't the Lutherans use the mass media to communicate the same "proper" message that we're expected to communicate using the "proper" medium?

Why couldn't a Lutheran organization run a radio commercial with a message that was theologically sound that encouraged people to visit their local Lutheran church on Sunday to find out more? Understand, I'm not talking about something that's done instead of one-on-one evangelism. I'm talking about something that's done in addition to one-on-one evangelism. Or, exploit the possible synergy. Air a series of TV spots that are theologically sound, not gimmicky, but in each one mention one aspect of theology. One spot could talk about what "Sola Gratia" means. Another could explain "Sola Fide". The tagline would be to show a Luther Rose seal and the words "To learn more, ask a Lutheran". The other part of the campaign would be to have recruited and trained lay people to speak articulately about our understanding of God, and to wear small lapel pins with the Luther Rose on them, along with the words "I'm a Lutheran. Ask me."

I know, there will be some who'll declare that a "gimmick". I'm confident that there are some in here who could condemn the times in Acts of the Apostles where we find out that sometimes Peter, Paul and other disciples took advantage of opportunities to address large crowds of prospective converts instead of just talking to them one-on-one. I imagine there are some in here who'll claim that when Paul told some of the assembled people of Athens that the "unknown god" they had an altar for was, in fact, the one and only real God that it was just Paul exploiting a gimmick, and that he should have waited and talked to each one individually.

That synergistic campaign I suggested was a quick idea that came to me as I typed. I imagine that it'll get nitpicked to pieces over petty details. I suppose it would be far too much to expect to think that anyone might read it and see the basic seed of an idea within it that could be developed by the application of many minds all guided by the Holy Spirit into something that would be both effective and that would avoid the possible pitfalls. I'm not optimistic about that happening in here. I'm sadly confident that the bulk of the responses to that suggestion will be like most of the other responses. We'll read the usual recasting of that idea into something totally and completely different, with the snide suggestion that it couldn't possibly work. 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Gary Schnitkey on August 10, 2008, 03:21:10 PM
Why couldn't a Lutheran organization run a radio commercial with a message that was theologically sound that encouraged people to visit their local Lutheran church on Sunday to find out more? Understand, I'm not talking about something that's done instead of one-on-one evangelism. I'm talking about something that's done in addition to one-on-one evangelism. Or, exploit the possible synergy. Air a series of TV spots that are theologically sound, not gimmicky, but in each one mention one aspect of theology. One spot could talk about what "Sola Gratia" means. Another could explain "Sola Fide". The tagline would be to show a Luther Rose seal and the words "To learn more, ask a Lutheran". The other part of the campaign would be to have recruited and trained lay people to speak articulately about our understanding of God, and to wear small lapel pins with the Luther Rose on them, along with the words "I'm a Lutheran. Ask me."

"The Lutheran Hour" comes to mind.  To a certain extent, so does "Grace Matters", although some would disagree that this program is theologically sound.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 10, 2008, 03:37:47 PM
"The Lutheran Hour" comes to mind.  To a certain extent, so does "Grace Matters", although some would disagree that this program is theologically sound.

Those came to my mind as well. The thing about long-form programs like that is that they tend to preach to the choir (not that doing that is a bad thing!). I'm talking about actually buying :30 and :60 spots that would be heard by people listening to their favorite radio stations, not programs that mostly Lutherans tune in to. I think that's what scares many people about any ideas along these lines. There are two principle objections that don't stand up to closer scrutiny, yet are repeated as if they were articles of faith.

1. Other denominations have used TV and radio commercials to convey theologically unsound messages. Therefore, all TV and radio commercials automatically turn into unsound theology because radio waves are the work of the devil. If we Lutherans do anything that the Baptists have ever done, then we'll lose our denominational identity. That's why we never let our youth groups go swimming. We're afraid people might think we're Baptists.

2. We Lutherans cannot do more than one thing at a time. Walking and chewing gum simultaneously is a tough enough challenge. If we do anything to spread the Good News other than one-on-one conversations, then the handful of Lutherans who do engage in one-on-one evangelism will immediately stop, and the Lutherans who never started in the first place will continue to never start. It is a total impossibility that when a Lutheran finds out that his synod is using the mass media to bring more people into God's house that he'll be inspired to get behind the synod's leadership and start evangelising on his own.

Ask most of the pastors in here who have weighed in on this issue. Go back and read the objections in previous posts to expanding the methods we use to spread the Good News. I don't think there are any that don't support either one or the other of the above objections, unless they support both.


Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 10, 2008, 03:48:02 PM
LL,

I do not mean to be unkind, but I honestly think you have effectively set up two straw men and knocked them down.  I don't think ANY pastor came close to saying what you are attributing to them here.  At any rate, if you recognize what *I* said in what you summarized, I do not believe you heard me. 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 10, 2008, 03:59:16 PM
In truth, Lutherans have a distinguished career in radio and television ministries: The Lutheran Hour, Davey and Goliath (and the wonderful D&G specials), This is the Life (wasn't that the name of the LC-MS tv drama?), Lutheran Vespers, award-winning commercials, Christmas and Easter specials over the decades, and lots more. The goal isn't always "evangelism."
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 10, 2008, 04:08:23 PM
"The Lutheran Hour" comes to mind.  To a certain extent, so does "Grace Matters", although some would disagree that this program is theologically sound.

Those came to my mind as well. The thing about long-form programs like that is that they tend to preach to the choir (not that doing that is a bad thing!). I'm talking about actually buying :30 and :60 spots that would be heard by people listening to their favorite radio stations, not programs that mostly Lutherans tune in to. I think that's what scares many people about any ideas along these lines. There are two principle objections that don't stand up to closer scrutiny, yet are repeated as if they were articles of faith.

1. Other denominations have used TV and radio commercials to convey theologically unsound messages. Therefore, all TV and radio commercials automatically turn into unsound theology because radio waves are the work of the devil. If we Lutherans do anything that the Baptists have ever done, then we'll lose our denominational identity. That's why we never let our youth groups go swimming. We're afraid people might think we're Baptists.

2. We Lutherans cannot do more than one thing at a time. Walking and chewing gum simultaneously is a tough enough challenge. If we do anything to spread the Good News other than one-on-one conversations, then the handful of Lutherans who do engage in one-on-one evangelism will immediately stop, and the Lutherans who never started in the first place will continue to never start. It is a total impossibility that when a Lutheran finds out that his synod is using the mass media to bring more people into God's house that he'll be inspired to get behind the synod's leadership and start evangelising on his own.

Ask most of the pastors in here who have weighed in on this issue. Go back and read the objections in previous posts to expanding the methods we use to spread the Good News. I don't think there are any that don't support either one or the other of the above objections, unless they support both.

My only polite reply is:  What are you talking about?   ???
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 10, 2008, 05:13:38 PM
Quote
At any rate, if you recognize what *I* said in what you summarized, I do not believe you heard me. 

I heard you when you said this, "What I am opposed to is the notion that an evangelism committee relieves the rest of the congregation of their responsibility to witness.", yet despite several mentions that I propose evangelism by committee to be in addition to evangelism by individuals, you have never once even acknowledged that it is possible to have a combination or evangelism by committee (ie. using mass media) as well as evangelism by individuals. 

Or when you said "The WITNESS of the whole people of God is in no way endangered or threatened by the fact that there is an office established by Christ in her midst to preach the reconciliation and to distribute the Sacraments.", yet did not take that a step further and acknowledge that The WITNESS of the whole people of God is in no way endangered or threatened by the fact that there is also a simultaneous effort by the larger church to bear witness using mass media and other methods. If the former, which you said, is possible, why is the latter, which you pointedly did not say, impossible?   

My only polite reply is:  What are you talking about?   ???

1. Other denominations have used TV and radio commercials to convey theologically unsound messages. Therefore, all TV and radio commercials automatically turn into unsound theology because radio waves are the work of the devil.

Quote
One of his most pointed critiques is of the place of marketing principles that he sees being far more destructive than most are willing to acknowledge.  He writes pointedly about the way evangelical churches have bought into the consumer mentality with its emphasis in meeting felt needs as drawing our witness away from its center on the truth we meet in Jesus Christ and his redemptive work.

Quote
When I tried to explain my qualms about the production to an attendant who had asked me how I liked their 'show,' she protested that it had saved many people. I asked, "Saved by what kind of Christ?" If people are saved by a spectacular Christ, will they find him in the fumbling of their own devotional life or in the humble services of local parishes where pastors and organists make mistakes?

Quote
My point was that for everyone who comes to church because of the gimmick, there are many people who are now less likely to come to church because of that same gimmick.

Quote
That's why we don't treat it with gimmickry or used-car-salesmanship.

Quote
By the same token their parking lot is full every Sunday. As my mother-in-law often says, "At least it brings people in." "So would topless ushers handing out five-dollar bills," I always reply.

Quote
Did you ever notice that the Apostles never resorted to gimmickry in sharing the Gospel?  Why do you think that is?

Quote
Lutherans do not need to imitate the Baptists in order to spread the Good News; we make downright BAD imitation baptists! 

I will admit that the bit about radio waves being "the work of the devil" was an example/illustration of the kind of "won't-hold-water" arguments put forth to support the proposition that if some other denomination has used any medium to convey an errant message, that means that the medium is the problem, not the message.

2. We Lutherans cannot do more than one thing at a time. Walking and chewing gum simultaneously is a tough enough challenge. If we do anything to spread the Good News other than one-on-one conversations, then the handful of Lutherans who do engage in one-on-one evangelism will immediately stop, and the Lutherans who never started in the first place will continue to never start. It is a total impossibility that when a Lutheran finds out that his synod is using the mass media to bring more people into God's house that he'll be inspired to get behind the synod's leadership and start evangelising on his own.

Quote
Instead of berating folks for being somewhat dismissive of mass-market evangelism (and, might I add, rightfully so, since it takes responsibility away from the people),

Quote
I see no mention of the primary realization that evangelism is a task of the whole people of God that cannot be handed off to a committee or group.

Again, i admit that much of my frustration comes from the dearth of responses to the principle that the use of our God-given imaginations and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in crafting good, theologically sound evangelism programs that exploit the potentials of the mass media is something that should be in addition to old-fashioned, one-on-one evangelism, not instead of.

I apologize that I didn't take the time to more thoroughly search through old posts for more quotes.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 10, 2008, 05:21:05 PM
In truth, Lutherans have a distinguished career in radio and television ministries: The Lutheran Hour, Davey and Goliath (and the wonderful D&G specials), This is the Life (wasn't that the name of the LC-MS tv drama?), Lutheran Vespers, award-winning commercials, Christmas and Easter specials over the decades, and lots more. The goal isn't always "evangelism."

No argument there. We are blessed with a great many ministries to carry out which can be augmented through the use of technology. Our healing ministries benefit from modern medical science. No one condemns the use of CAT scans or stethoscopes to aid in healing in Lutheran hospitals, even though the Apostles conducted their healing ministries without benefit of such technologies.

No one condemns the use of food freezers or microwave ovens in our ministries to feed the hungry. No one condemns the use of power saws and factory sawed lumber to build houses for the homeless. No one condemns the use of electric lights to illuminate our churches.

The mass media have been put to excellent use by the Lutheran synods to engage in many forms of ministry.

I believe that the mass media can also be put to excellent use for evangelism. Clearly, there are others in here who believe that to be impossible.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: grabau14 on August 10, 2008, 05:22:48 PM
Lutheran Lay Leader,

Please check out www.piratechristianradio.com  (along with www.issuesetc.org) 

Also, the sainted President Barry bought a full page ad in the USA Today after the so-called JDDJ proclaiming that there are still some Lutherans who believe in Justification by grace through faith.  He was attacked by his own church body for proclaiming the truth.

But I also join my brothers here in confusion over your questions and comments.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Weedon on August 10, 2008, 06:03:33 PM
LL,

I think you DID demonstrate that you didn't hear what I said.  I'm not sure the conversation is useful to either of us.  I am NOT opposed to evangelism committees; I never said I was.  I said I am opposed to the people of God imagining that the responsibility for witnessing can be given away to a committee so that it is no longer theirs.  It can't.  God won't let the committee have all the joy that he intends also for His people.  Is that clear?

As to using other means than personal contact, I'm all for anything that does not smack of gimmickry that would bring disrepute upon the Gospel.  Talk Radio for the Thinking Christian is one such - Issues Etc. (as Fr. Uttenreither recommended) has brought many a person into the fold of the Christian Church and specifically the Lutheran Church and does so without any admission tickets.  It does so by simply focusing always and only on Christ and Him crucified and what that means for living in this fallen world toward the joys of the Age that is to come.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 10, 2008, 08:25:52 PM
LL,

I have no problem with radio ads, post cards, or other ways to invite others into a life within the Body of Christ.  Let me clear: trying new things is not what I am oppossed to.  One can try to make the church more public in order to draw others into the church.  The issue for me is that such techniques must coincide with the personal invitation/relationship side of mission.  If people think, "We put up a billboard our church should be growing" then there is something terribly wrong.  When the church has an overall attitude of "We have something good here in this church and we work in many ways to share that good news with others" that is what is more likely to bring about missional "success".

Of course, one should also remember that all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes people who buy into "The top ten evangelism strategies that bring people in" seem, IMHO, to have lost faith in the one who brings all good things: the One God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Keith Falk on August 10, 2008, 08:45:47 PM
If one is determined to find what is wrong in the other's argument, it will be there; I think both "sides" have done that once or twice (pick which issue as to who is on what side).

LL,
However, to claim that any one here, pastor or lay leader, feels that ONLY one-on-one evangelism is proper is uncharitable and inaccurate.  I think everyone is in agreement that some mass market work is appropriate.  Most would agree that mass market work should be supplementary, not primary.  So it seems as though the disagreement is about nuance and degrees to which one should be emphasized over the other.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 10, 2008, 10:09:26 PM
Of course, one should also remember that all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes people who buy into "The top ten evangelism strategies that bring people in" seem, IMHO, to have lost faith in the one who brings all good things: the One God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I suppose what bothers me are that there are so many "Sometimes people who ... have lost faith" responses, and precious few "By all means, if you feel moved by the Holy Spirit to try new ways to bring people to God's house where the one who brings all good things has His servants in place ready to do His work -- go for it!" There seems to be a preponderance of "This method is the best" which carries the implied but unspoken "so don't even bother with the second best".

I mean, shouldn't one also remember that the Holy Spirit works through us? Doesn't pointing out that since all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit imply that we might as well all just sit back and let the Holy Spirit do all the work? If, as has been suggested, mass market evangelism takes responsibility away from the people, doesn't encouraging everyone to just "let God do it" take even more responsibility away from the people?

There seems to be an increasing disconnect between how the clergy see things and the way that things are. I read someone in here dismiss the idea that we need to keep the church "relevant", as if doing so would be a bad thing. Preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments is "being relevant". And if we're content to let the Lutheran community wither away to little shadow of its former self, then maybe we need to rethink whether there should even be a Lutheran denomination.

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on August 10, 2008, 10:22:01 PM
Preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments is "being relevant".

I hope everyone can agree on that, at least! 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: GoCubs on August 10, 2008, 10:26:28 PM
Of course, one should also remember that all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes people who buy into "The top ten evangelism strategies that bring people in" seem, IMHO, to have lost faith in the one who brings all good things: the One God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I suppose what bothers me are that there are so many "Sometimes people who ... have lost faith" responses, and precious few "By all means, if you feel moved by the Holy Spirit to try new ways to bring people to God's house where the one who brings all good things has His servants in place ready to do His work -- go for it!" There seems to be a preponderance of "This method is the best" which carries the implied but unspoken "so don't even bother with the second best".

I mean, shouldn't one also remember that the Holy Spirit works through us? Doesn't pointing out that since all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit imply that we might as well all just sit back and let the Holy Spirit do all the work? If, as has been suggested, mass market evangelism takes responsibility away from the people, doesn't encouraging everyone to just "let God do it" take even more responsibility away from the people?

There seems to be an increasing disconnect between how the clergy see things and the way that things are. I read someone in here dismiss the idea that we need to keep the church "relevant", as if doing so would be a bad thing. Preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments is "being relevant". And if we're content to let the Lutheran community wither away to little shadow of its former self, then maybe we need to rethink whether there should even be a Lutheran denomination.

Sounds to me like you are convinced that mass market campaigns are a great idea and that everyone here should say, "Amen."  Not everyone here agrees with all the methods you described.  But this is the nature of the Church, not all people will agree.  Ulitmately: go do what the Spirit calls you to do, and God bless your efforts. :)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 10, 2008, 10:38:49 PM
Sounds to me like you are convinced that mass market campaigns are a great idea and that everyone here should say, "Amen."  Not everyone here agrees with all the methods you described.  But this is the nature of the Church, not all people will agree.  Ulitmately: go do what the Spirit calls you to do, and God bless your efforts. :)

No, I'm convinced that mass market campaigns, have the potential to accomplish a great deal if they are done properly. It's easy to do mass media campaigns badly. It's hard to do them well. For such a campaign to work, it would take a high level of support. A half-hearted effort, with little careful thought, will merely confirm what many in here have said -- they don't work.

What I believe the Spirit has called me to do is to put forth this idea in public forums so that others might see it and be convinced, and ultimately those in Chicago (or St. Louis) who make the decisions about such things will pick up on it.

As for what I feel called to do personally, I'm working towards doing that. But that call has nothing to do with media advertising.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Dave_Poedel on August 11, 2008, 12:49:34 AM
Of course, one should also remember that all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes people who buy into "The top ten evangelism strategies that bring people in" seem, IMHO, to have lost faith in the one who brings all good things: the One God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I suppose what bothers me are that there are so many "Sometimes people who ... have lost faith" responses, and precious few "By all means, if you feel moved by the Holy Spirit to try new ways to bring people to God's house where the one who brings all good things has His servants in place ready to do His work -- go for it!" There seems to be a preponderance of "This method is the best" which carries the implied but unspoken "so don't even bother with the second best".

I mean, shouldn't one also remember that the Holy Spirit works through us? Doesn't pointing out that since all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit imply that we might as well all just sit back and let the Holy Spirit do all the work? If, as has been suggested, mass market evangelism takes responsibility away from the people, doesn't encouraging everyone to just "let God do it" take even more responsibility away from the people?

There seems to be an increasing disconnect between how the clergy see things and the way that things are. I read someone in here dismiss the idea that we need to keep the church "relevant", as if doing so would be a bad thing. Preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments is "being relevant". And if we're content to let the Lutheran community wither away to little shadow of its former self, then maybe we need to rethink whether there should even be a Lutheran denomination.



George:

I believe you are experiencing that great characteristic of Lutherans called the "theological paradox" here. We love to hold two things in tension without trying to resolve the tension.  In this case we have mass marketing vs the integrity of the Gospel.  When we try to resolve the tension, someone says NO...the Gospel is compromised if we send out postcards informing our neighbors of our service times and formats.  Someone else says: You Luddite, whatever works is fine as long as it gets folks to think about us or God or Vishnu or anything spiritual.  See what a mess that makes?  So...we Lutherans just hold them in tension hoping that the Pastors will go back to their keyboards and post inane exegetical stuff and layfolk will go back to making casseroles.

My advice:  leave the tension intact and go about trying to find ways that share the Good News of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Arguing in a format like this seldom produces either light or heat....we just end up writing past each other.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on August 11, 2008, 01:01:08 PM
Of course, one should also remember that all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes people who buy into "The top ten evangelism strategies that bring people in" seem, IMHO, to have lost faith in the one who brings all good things: the One God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I suppose what bothers me are that there are so many "Sometimes people who ... have lost faith" responses, and precious few "By all means, if you feel moved by the Holy Spirit to try new ways to bring people to God's house where the one who brings all good things has His servants in place ready to do His work -- go for it!" There seems to be a preponderance of "This method is the best" which carries the implied but unspoken "so don't even bother with the second best".

I mean, shouldn't one also remember that the Holy Spirit works through us? Doesn't pointing out that since all growth of the church comes from the Holy Spirit imply that we might as well all just sit back and let the Holy Spirit do all the work? If, as has been suggested, mass market evangelism takes responsibility away from the people, doesn't encouraging everyone to just "let God do it" take even more responsibility away from the people?

There seems to be an increasing disconnect between how the clergy see things and the way that things are. I read someone in here dismiss the idea that we need to keep the church "relevant", as if doing so would be a bad thing. Preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments is "being relevant". And if we're content to let the Lutheran community wither away to little shadow of its former self, then maybe we need to rethink whether there should even be a Lutheran denomination.



George:

I believe you are experiencing that great characteristic of Lutherans called the "theological paradox" here. We love to hold two things in tension without trying to resolve the tension.  In this case we have mass marketing vs the integrity of the Gospel.  When we try to resolve the tension, someone says NO...the Gospel is compromised if we send out postcards informing our neighbors of our service times and formats.  Someone else says: You Luddite, whatever works is fine as long as it gets folks to think about us or God or Vishnu or anything spiritual.  See what a mess that makes?  So...we Lutherans just hold them in tension hoping that the Pastors will go back to their keyboards and post inane exegetical stuff and layfolk will go back to making casseroles.

My advice:  leave the tension intact and go about trying to find ways that share the Good News of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Arguing in a format like this seldom produces either light or heat....we just end up writing past each other.


I agree with that advice, and encourage a re-look at Philippians 4:8&9. 
Most people "stop" at the end of verse 8, "...think about these things".  Kinda leave the tension intact!
I advocate that verse 9 is a "must include": "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you", and I perceive in what you are saying:

Do!!!       Action, rightly founded, is the new competence.

Pax.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 11, 2008, 08:49:10 PM
What I believe the Spirit has called me to do is to put forth this idea in public forums so that others might see it and be convinced, and ultimately those in Chicago (or St. Louis) who make the decisions about such things will pick up on it.

You should contact St. Louis and run it by them.  Have you come up with a name for the process yet?  It should be catchy.  And hot.  So that it could spread like a fire fanned into flame... Hmmm...  Anyone have any ideas for naming this new-fangled, hither-to-unknown proposal?

 ;)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: R Lewer on August 11, 2008, 09:08:07 PM
LLL,
 Actually, we have done all the things you have suggested. We have done even more, including co-ordinated campaigns through the L.L.L. with ads, pamphlets, congregational involvement and the LCMS has done a campaign of 30 second spots on the major cable channels.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: peter_speckhard on August 11, 2008, 11:29:59 PM
I apologize if I have not made myself clear. My arguments throughout have not in any way been directed against mass media or coordinated, large scale efforts to make people aware of our church body or local services, or what-have you. What I argue against is the idea that if something can be shown to "work" in some instances, that it is therefore justified. Often the negative ramifications cannot be nearly as easily quantified. I do not consider post cards, radio ads, tv ads, or any way of spreading information to be necessarily good or bad. But I do think gimmicky things are more negative than positive, and I have given my definition of gimmicky upstream. That's what I have been talking about all along. If the subject was merely use of mass media, I'm all for it.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on August 11, 2008, 11:33:27 PM
What I believe the Spirit has called me to do is to put forth this idea in public forums so that others might see it and be convinced, and ultimately those in Chicago (or St. Louis) who make the decisions about such things will pick up on it.

You should contact St. Louis and run it by them.  Have you come up with a name for the process yet?  It should be catchy.  And hot.  So that it could spread like a fire fanned into flame... Hmmm...  Anyone have any ideas for naming this new-fangled, hither-to-unknown proposal?

 ;)

Well, even the Apostle Paul had to go back and run a few ideas past those guys in Jerusalem  ;)
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on August 21, 2008, 02:12:21 PM
So you invited the neighbor to worship.  But even a "simple" liturgy can be confusing and off-putting to those unfamiliar.  We also must realize that only the most venturesome will, on their own, pass through those massive, forbidding oaken doors.  You could as well have a moat around it.  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Scott5 on August 21, 2008, 02:20:03 PM
You could as well have a moat around it.

Oooo.  Sounds like fun.  If we could add crocodiles and maybe a hippo name Augustine (get it, get it -- I croc myself up), then it would be really cool.

Yeah, I know.  I better stick to my day job.  :(
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 21, 2008, 03:50:17 PM
Scott writes:
If we could add crocodiles and maybe a hippo name Augustine (get it, get it -- I croc myself up), then it would be really cool.

I say:
My day is complete.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Brian Hughes on August 21, 2008, 04:04:33 PM
I apologize if I have not made myself clear. My arguments throughout have not in any way been directed against mass media or coordinated, large scale efforts to make people aware of our church body or local services, or what-have you. What I argue against is the idea that if something can be shown to "work" in some instances, that it is therefore justified. 

 Everyone here should read the book, unChristian before deciding to expend resources on mass media.  If their data is correct, I think it fair to suggest a large, coordinated mass media effort would work strongly against actually bringing anyone to church who is under the age of 28.  Indeed, it would probably insure there's no way they'd ever visit a local congregation branded by the adds.

 BTW, does anyone know if the UCC "we're more tolerant than thou" campaign got them anything?  From what I remember reading, their national attendance dropped further after those adds appeared.

Brian

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: DCharlton on August 21, 2008, 05:06:45 PM
I apologize if I have not made myself clear. My arguments throughout have not in any way been directed against mass media or coordinated, large scale efforts to make people aware of our church body or local services, or what-have you. What I argue against is the idea that if something can be shown to "work" in some instances, that it is therefore justified. 

 Everyone here should read the book, unChristian before deciding to expend resources on mass media.  If their data is correct, I think it fair to suggest a large, coordinated mass media effort would work strongly against actually bringing anyone to church who is under the age of 28.  Indeed, it would probably insure there's no way they'd ever visit a local congregation branded by the adds.

 BTW, does anyone know if the UCC "we're more tolerant than thou" campaign got them anything?  From what I remember reading, their national attendance dropped further after those adds appeared.

Brian



I'm not surprised.  When I was a ELCA mission developer in south Florida in the late 90's, most of the other mission developers, whose marketing techiniques were much more cutting edge than mine, had abandoned mass mailings.  They had stopped working. 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: racin_jason on August 21, 2008, 05:28:58 PM
An ELCA church in my area of atlanta did a pre-easter mass postcard mailing to every address in its zip code.  The cost: around $7,000.  The result: 2 visiting families who said they came to worship as a result of the mailing. In my wish-list-world, that's half a van to bring people to worship in.

The non-denominational churches in my burb regularly send out the expensive glossy color postcards. The mailing must be working for somebody.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 21, 2008, 05:48:54 PM
When I worked for a leading mail-order company in the 1980's, we tested a wide range of direct mail pieces. What we found confirmed what the high-priced consultants had already told us. It's not the medium you use to deliver a message that matters so much as what message you deliver.

I posted much of this in another thread, so that saves me having to re-type it.

There problem with relying only on "friends inviting friends". Like it or not, there is still a tendency within America for people to make friends mostly with people with whom they share common cultural backgrounds and values. I'm sure the participants in this forum can list dozens of anecdotes about how many people have a diverse portfolio of friends. That's how exclusive country clubs remain exclusive. When membership is be invitation only, the membership can be counted on to recruit mostly new members who would fit right in because they're so similar to the people inviting them.

Anyone who is honest about reality has to have observed that despite the fact that people might have a more diverse collection of friends than was common a few decades ago, for the most part, when Lutherans invite their friends to their church, they're mostly inviting more people of European ancestry. And before anyone assumes I'm thinking the worst, I'm also taking into account the modern aspect of American culture that says "respect other peoples' religious beliefs, and don't push your own beliefs on them". Too many Lutherans (and Methodists and Presbyterians and Catholics and members of all the other denominations) think that it would be "offensive" to invite someone who probably as a result of their racial or cultural background is already a Baptist or Catholic or something else. So, if your goal is to keep out the riff-raff, keeping your congregation "by invitation only" will surely do that.

In today's world of "political correctness" gone amok, expecting people to be proactive about inviting anyone, let alone people of diverse backgrounds, to a Lutheran church is expecting something that just isn't going to happen in large enough measure to prevent the ELCA (and LC-MS and WELS and even the tiny little synods on Pastor Zip's website) from shrinking to near nothingness.

I guess when Jesus told the parable of the sower, and about the Word of God being seed to be scattered around and even though some would fall on rocky ground, or among the weeds, or whatever, some would fall on fertile soil He was just kidding. What He really meant was that the Word of God was like a seed that should only be carefully placed in a nice little pot filled with the perfect blend of dirt and fertilizer.

As for experiences with other attempts at using mass media advertising, I don't doubt that someone wrote a book about how it's wrong to use mass media to "sow the seed" that is God's Word. Name any premise and you'll find that someone wrote a book in favor of it, and someone else wrote a book against it.

Or take something like the recent United Methodist ads, that were so generic that they could have been about a secular health spa. They didn't attract many new Methodists. So that's presented as "proof" that no ad will work.

I presented this idea as a rough draft of a TV ad that I think might work. To the best of my knowledge, no denomination of the Christian Church has ever tried anything as bold yet simple as this:

A spokesman is sitting on the steps in front of a church, talking to the camera. He'd say something along the lines of "There are some people who claim we shouldn't talk about religion in public. I'm not one of them. There's some Good News you need to hear. God loves you. He doesn't want to judge or condemn you. He wants to love you and forgive you. Afraid of going to hell? You don't have to be. God wants to save you. It's not about you accepting Jesus, it's about Jesus accepting you. And guess what? He does accept you. You don't get to heaven because you are good, you get there because God is good. Want to find out more? (Camera pulls back to reveal the church's sign, which identifies it as a Lutheran church) Come and see this Sunday. We're the Lutherans, and you're welcome to visit us any Sunday morning."

Or, same spokesman, same setting.

"Jesus told us that what we do for the least of all, we do for Him. Providing food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, care for the sick -- God told us to do that, and so we do. It's a little embarrassing to brag about helping others, so we've been pretty quiet about all the help our churches provide for those in need. But sometimes you have to endure a little embarrassment for the greater good. So here goes. Our congregations have been one of the leading providers of aid and assistance to those who need it, but we could accomplish even more of God's work if there were more of us. We need you to join us. Come and see what we're all about, and join us in helping others. We're the Lutherans. You're welcome to visit us any Sunday morning."

I'll sit back now, and let everyone tell me how something like that is just a "gimmick", and that using a method similar to that would do more harm than good.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Kevin C. on August 21, 2008, 06:10:39 PM
We sent out a postcard about our VBS this summer and got 20 kids from the area that do not come to our church.  I was amazed at the response. 

On a sad note, I was out of town this week (got in late last night), and this may have been mentioned on another thread, (haven't read them all yet), but

our Synodical Bishop, John Schreiber passed away suddenly this past Saturday.  The funeral was today.  I had met him a few times and he was a very energetic, kind, humorous, and caring person.  Please pray for our synod, SE Michigan.  Thank you. Kevin
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: R Lewer on August 21, 2008, 06:12:46 PM
Great ads.

The LCMS  did something like that with ads on several of the chief cable channels including, I believe, CNN.  I think this was when Barry was president.

The LLL also did a complete package in selected markets with TV ads, broshures, and congregational identification and follow-up.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 21, 2008, 09:01:06 PM
George Erdner's proposed ads are great.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: TravisW on August 25, 2008, 03:06:12 PM
I greatly prefer the first ad to the second, personally.  While institutionalized charity is a fine thing, promoting it does little to improve the membership numbers or involvement in an organization that is based around a particular philosophy or ideology.  Just ask most North American Freemasons.   
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on August 26, 2008, 08:04:44 AM
I greatly prefer the first ad to the second, personally.  While institutionalized charity is a fine thing, promoting it does little to improve the membership numbers or involvement in an organization that is based around a particular philosophy or ideology.  Just ask most North American Freemasons.   

If I were responsible for running a series of ads (and a good campaign does require a series of ads), the first rough draft I submitted would be suitable for opening the campaign. The second one would only be effective as a follow-up ad after more ads like the first one had run often, and maybe not even then. On the other hand, the second ad would be most helpful in presenting the entire campaign to a synod for approval. One can be certain that someone would object using the argument that "it's not about building up our numbers for the sake of our numbers". When that objection is raised, then show that second ad.

Because the truth is, building up our membership numbers for the sake of bigger numbers is wrong. But building up our numbers so that more people hear the Good News, and more people are available to spread the Good News, and more people are available to help provide ministry to those in need are all good, strong, and positive reasons why building up our numbers is a good thing.

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: jmiller on September 02, 2008, 12:51:11 PM
From the ELCA News Service
Two Ohio congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) -- one urban, one suburban -- will celebrate a "mission partners" covenant Sept. 6-7.  The covenant commits Redeemer Lutheran Church, Toledo, and Zoar Lutheran Church, Perrysburg, to several activities "for the purpose of mutual support as we proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in our own communities."
     "The two parishes are developing a reciprocal relationship linking an inner city parish (Redeemer) and a suburban parish (Zoar) for both to become strong centers of mission and stand in the city for good," said the congregations' news release.  "These two parishes will harness the gifts of both and mutually build up the Body of Christ in both neighborhoods."
     Redeemer Lutheran Church is growing beyond the ability of its members to support its building and programs, said Redeemer's pastor, the Rev. Lori A. Strang.  "We do have all we need to do the work of mission, outreach and ministry, but it's not always in the same place.  That is why mission partnership is so vital."


Talk about newspeak...  Redeemer Lutheran Church is growing ,  Redeemer's worship attendance has plummeted 66 percent since 1990 to an average attendance of 37.  The only thing Redeemer is growing is older and smaller.  Yet we hold up sinking more money into this congregation as a model for the future?  This is some of the best doublethink I've ever heard.  This "in the city for good," somebody please tell me what is good about it?  Do we assume that unless there are ELCA congregations in our inner cities, the people will not hear the Good News?  IMO, there are more effective ways to use our time and money and this is part of what is making the ELCA smaller and older.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Charles_Austin on September 02, 2008, 09:37:43 PM
And just why are you opposed to a suburban congregation helping an inner city congregation rebuild itself and it's ministry in a particular place?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on September 03, 2008, 01:46:04 AM
And just why are you opposed to a suburban congregation helping an inner city congregation rebuild itself and it's ministry in a particular place?

Perhaps because there are 36 other Lutheran congregations within a five mile radius of the congregation that's withering down to only 37 worshippers. That "particular place" is well served with Lutheran congregations.

I do not know the details of this particular situation, but I did see one first hand in Pittsburgh that was similar. A suburban congregation in a growing neighborhood developed a partnership with a failing inner city congregation. The suburban congregation was in an area with lots of families with children, and ran an outstanding day care program. The inner city congregation was in an area where almost the only people living nearby were elderly. The inner city area could have used more ministry programs for the elderly. Eventually, the suburban congregation withdrew their support for the inner city congregation, because the inner city congregation didn't have enough ministry programs for children.

In my service as a Lay Worship Leader, I was sent to a great many inner city congregations that were too small to afford pastors, and too stubborn to merge with other nearby congregations in similar straits. There were too many people who wouldn't even consider merging with congregations who came from different predecessor synods. And, far too many of these small congregations had membership that was almost all "commuters". The majority of their members were people who had moved to other neighborhoods, but would drive past five or six perfectly good ELCA congregations to go back to their "home" church. Since new membership was by invitation only, and the members only had friends and acquaintances at their new neighborhoods instead of in the neighborhoods where their churches were located, these churches couldn't even pretend to say that they were serving the needs of their communities.

If the situation mentioned in Toledo is anywhere near similar to the situations I've seen first hand in a very similar rust belt city, it's not an example of good stewardship.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: revklak on September 03, 2008, 07:53:14 AM
And just why are you opposed to a suburban congregation helping an inner city congregation rebuild itself and it's ministry in a particular place?

Perhaps because there are 36 other Lutheran congregations within a five mile radius of the congregation that's withering down to only 37 worshippers. That "particular place" is well served with Lutheran congregations.

I do not know the details of this particular situation, but I did see one first hand in Pittsburgh that was similar. A suburban congregation in a growing neighborhood developed a partnership with a failing inner city congregation. The suburban congregation was in an area with lots of families with children, and ran an outstanding day care program. The inner city congregation was in an area where almost the only people living nearby were elderly. The inner city area could have used more ministry programs for the elderly. Eventually, the suburban congregation withdrew their support for the inner city congregation, because the inner city congregation didn't have enough ministry programs for children.

In my service as a Lay Worship Leader, I was sent to a great many inner city congregations that were too small to afford pastors, and too stubborn to merge with other nearby congregations in similar straits. There were too many people who wouldn't even consider merging with congregations who came from different predecessor synods. And, far too many of these small congregations had membership that was almost all "commuters". The majority of their members were people who had moved to other neighborhoods, but would drive past five or six perfectly good ELCA congregations to go back to their "home" church. Since new membership was by invitation only, and the members only had friends and acquaintances at their new neighborhoods instead of in the neighborhoods where their churches were located, these churches couldn't even pretend to say that they were serving the needs of their communities.

If the situation mentioned in Toledo is anywhere near similar to the situations I've seen first hand in a very similar rust belt city, it's not an example of good stewardship.

All good points, and I do not quibble with you -- if it is a case of one congregation isolating itself, not serving the neighborhood, etc, etc, etc.   However, there are othre possiblities. 

The last congregation I served "up north" (Illinois) was in such a rust belt-esque city.  When I arrived, they had been dwindling in membership and attendance for over 40 years.  We considered it a big Sunday when we had over 60 folks worshipping with us.  Same background -- most had moved out of the "neighborhood" and drove past a half dozen other ELCA congregations, plus across a drawbridge over a canal that was still very actvely in use, effectively cutting off the church from where most people lived.  However, also by the time I had arrived, they had already begun to perceive and actively seek ways to address the needs in their community.  They reached out to those around them, even the transients, elderly, etc.  Not many more people joined, or even attended, but there was some connection with the people.  Financially, though, they were unable to maintain a full-time pastor and support a ministry.  Closing seemed to be the only opiton.  However, we saw the need to stay "in the city for good."  We were the only mainline protestant denomination still downtown -- all the rest had pulled out.  And no, if we left there was still a RC congregation and numerous evangelical outposts so the people would not have lost the opportunity to hear the gospel and be served.  But this congregation felt strongly, and I encouraged it, that there was a reason they were still there after 125 years of radically changing neighborhoods. 

Before I left, when they lost the ability to support a full-time pastor, we worked together to find a healthy solution to maintaining MINISTRY to the area.  The congregation already had long ties to the hispanic ELCA congregation "up the street" (and across the 'wall' that held up the train tracks seperating downtown from the other neighborhoods on the east side as the canal did on the west side).  These two congregations have come together.  Santa Cruz had effective ministry and connections and roots in the community, but lost their ability to have a place to worship and a base of operations for said ministry, and First had the facilities in a prime "downtown" location, and folks with the passion to see ministry to the neighborhood grow.  Had either congregation been left to their own, First would be gone now and Santa Cruz barely breathing.  But TOGETHER they have become a thrinving ministry.*  Members of BOTH congregations are activiely involved in strong ministry in the neighborhood from the one location.  Hopefully soon their will merge -- First's leadership has been very interested in since before I left, desiring, not to absorb Santa Cruz, but folding THEMSELVES into Santa Cruz as the congregtion that most clearly reflects the population of the neighborhood. 

Arutomatically assuming that there is NO involvement is just as judgmental as assuming all convicted murderers STILL have  unrepentant hearts and are a danger to the community, especially having no place in the Church.  (Watch out for the 8th commandment!)  Automatically assuming any downtown congregtaion that has dwindled should just close up shop hardens the heart against any such thought that out of a stump can come new growth.  Unfortunately, our annual "reports" only have spaces for the number of attendees, members, etc, but NOWHERE has a place to account for accurate reporting of how many people are concretely, physically, spiritually, etc, SERVED by the congregation on a weekly basis.  IF that kind of ministry is happening, then WHY NOT find ways to support it from the "outside."?

*{First and Santa Cruz, in Joliet, Illinois, were recently a cover story in Lutheran Partners -- around May or so.  If you missed it, check it out again for the first time!}
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: jmiller on September 03, 2008, 10:16:36 AM
IF that kind of ministry is happening, then WHY NOT find ways to support it from the "outside."?

All things being equal, if we had plenty of time and money, and things were going great in the ELCA, I'd say "sure, why not."  But things are not going great.  Our congregations, by and large, are getting smaller and older.  Our membership is declining.  Several city congregations near me are only open because they are spending down their endowment, and that is shameful.  Social ministry to the needy in the cities, sure (we do lots of it), but spending truckloads each year to keep open often huge nearly-empty old buildings....  not so much.  Our success at revitalizing inner city congregations is mixed at best (see Amazing Grace, Balt MD).  The ELCA needs plenty of strong and vibrant congregations to support the work of the larger church.  My guess is that the 80/20 rule applies (or close).  Our number of mission starts is small.   It may be more important for large suburban congregations to help plant and support new congregations in other suburban areas, where ELCA congregations are likely to grow and one day also support the larger church (see Evangelical, Frederick MD).  Maybe the folks at Zoar are already doing this? If so, great!
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Thomas Byers on September 08, 2008, 05:26:26 PM
Strategic mergers are often hampered by emotional attachment to beloved buildings--the window in memory of grandfather etc.  tb
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on September 08, 2008, 09:45:28 PM
Strategic mergers are often hampered by emotional attachment to beloved buildings--the window in memory of grandfather etc.  tb

There appears to be several different options when dealing with large numbers of shrinking congregations on the verge of disappearance. The ELCA can:

1. Do "something" to bring in more members, preferably something guided by the Holy Spirit.
2. Do "nothing" to bring in more members, except for using techniques better suited to 19th century lifestyles.
3. Use "tough love" and force congregations who cannot afford to hire ordained clergy to merge or die.
4. Use trained semi-volunteer lay people to fill empty pulpits because there aren't enough ordained clergy to fill all the pulpits, especially the ones who can't afford ordained clergy.
5. Deny Holy Communion to the stubborn people who won't either get more members for the dwindling congregations or else merge with others.
6. Drop the educational standards for ordination, and count on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in picking the right candidates, and to help the newly ordained.
7. Keep the standards for ordination where they are and "license" lay people to serve as pastors, empowering them to preside over communion.
8. Make decisions in Chicago on the issues that apply across the entire synod, and risk rebellion and the loss of congregations.
9. Expand the policies of decentralization and independence of the Bishops within their synods until the ELCA re-fragments back into a loose association of regional synods like we were 100 years ago.
10. Give up, sit back, and talk about the good old days as the ELCA becomes irrelevant.

The leadership of the ELCA needs to do some of those things. And if they do some of them, then they won't have to do the others. If they make the right choices, then not only can the ELCA turn around it's slide into irrelevance, it might even inspire other mainline denominations to do likewise and mainline Protestantism will remain an important voice providing Christian witness to the world. Otherwise, the only Christians left will be the ones who believe in salvation through works.

Ask yourselves, if you were the Devil and wanted to destroy Christianity, what could be more effective than to counter accurate theology of grace with attractive but inaccurate theology of works.
 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Darrell Wacker on September 10, 2008, 07:27:08 PM
IF that kind of ministry is happening, then WHY NOT find ways to support it from the "outside."?

All things being equal, if we had plenty of time and money, and things were going great in the ELCA, I'd say "sure, why not."  But things are not going great.  Our congregations, by and large, are getting smaller and older.  Our membership is declining.  Several city congregations near me are only open because they are spending down their endowment, and that is shameful.  Social ministry to the needy in the cities, sure (we do lots of it), but spending truckloads each year to keep open often huge nearly-empty old buildings....  not so much.  Our success at revitalizing inner city congregations is mixed at best (see Amazing Grace, Balt MD).  The ELCA needs plenty of strong and vibrant congregations to support the work of the larger church.  My guess is that the 80/20 rule applies (or close).  Our number of mission starts is small.   It may be more important for large suburban congregations to help plant and support new congregations in other suburban areas, where ELCA congregations are likely to grow and one day also support the larger church (see Evangelical, Frederick MD).  Maybe the folks at Zoar are already doing this? If so, great!

I hear alot about churches with endowments, and in this post you refer to "spending down an endowment, which is shameful."
Can someone justify to a simple layman why a church needs to have an endowment?  What purpose does it serve?  And why would spending it to stay open be "shameful?"  If the church closes, where would the endowment go then-to the ELCA or the Synod?  I've never understood why churches would put money in endowment, nor do I understand the rationale my own congregation does it.  Help me understand.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Richard Johnson on September 10, 2008, 07:51:25 PM
IF that kind of ministry is happening, then WHY NOT find ways to support it from the "outside."?

All things being equal, if we had plenty of time and money, and things were going great in the ELCA, I'd say "sure, why not."  But things are not going great.  Our congregations, by and large, are getting smaller and older.  Our membership is declining.  Several city congregations near me are only open because they are spending down their endowment, and that is shameful.  Social ministry to the needy in the cities, sure (we do lots of it), but spending truckloads each year to keep open often huge nearly-empty old buildings....  not so much.  Our success at revitalizing inner city congregations is mixed at best (see Amazing Grace, Balt MD).  The ELCA needs plenty of strong and vibrant congregations to support the work of the larger church.  My guess is that the 80/20 rule applies (or close).  Our number of mission starts is small.   It may be more important for large suburban congregations to help plant and support new congregations in other suburban areas, where ELCA congregations are likely to grow and one day also support the larger church (see Evangelical, Frederick MD).  Maybe the folks at Zoar are already doing this? If so, great!

I hear alot about churches with endowments, and in this post you refer to "spending down an endowment, which is shameful."
Can someone justify to a simple layman why a church needs to have an endowment?  What purpose does it serve?  And why would spending it to stay open be "shameful?"  If the church closes, where would the endowment go then-to the ELCA or the Synod?  I've never understood why churches would put money in endowment, nor do I understand the rationale my own congregation does it.  Help me understand.

My congregation has an endowment, the income of which is entirely dedicated to missions. The endowment is funded by people who want to ensure the mission outreach of the congregation in perpetuity--in other words, they don't want their money, or this particular money, going to pay for utility bills. Much of the money in the endowment comes from bequests, and I suppose the reasoning by those who leave the money to the endowment is that they can thereby ensure that something of their own resources will be doing the mission of the church in perpetuity.

I'm personally not a real big fan of this concept, but I think it appeals to a lot of people.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Darrell Wacker on September 10, 2008, 08:04:44 PM
IF that kind of ministry is happening, then WHY NOT find ways to support it from the "outside."?

All things being equal, if we had plenty of time and money, and things were going great in the ELCA, I'd say "sure, why not."  But things are not going great.  Our congregations, by and large, are getting smaller and older.  Our membership is declining.  Several city congregations near me are only open because they are spending down their endowment, and that is shameful.  Social ministry to the needy in the cities, sure (we do lots of it), but spending truckloads each year to keep open often huge nearly-empty old buildings....  not so much.  Our success at revitalizing inner city congregations is mixed at best (see Amazing Grace, Balt MD).  The ELCA needs plenty of strong and vibrant congregations to support the work of the larger church.  My guess is that the 80/20 rule applies (or close).  Our number of mission starts is small.   It may be more important for large suburban congregations to help plant and support new congregations in other suburban areas, where ELCA congregations are likely to grow and one day also support the larger church (see Evangelical, Frederick MD).  Maybe the folks at Zoar are already doing this? If so, great!

I hear alot about churches with endowments, and in this post you refer to "spending down an endowment, which is shameful."
Can someone justify to a simple layman why a church needs to have an endowment?  What purpose does it serve?  And why would spending it to stay open be "shameful?"  If the church closes, where would the endowment go then-to the ELCA or the Synod?  I've never understood why churches would put money in endowment, nor do I understand the rationale my own congregation does it.  Help me understand.

My congregation has an endowment, the income of which is entirely dedicated to missions. The endowment is funded by people who want to ensure the mission outreach of the congregation in perpetuity--in other words, they don't want their money, or this particular money, going to pay for utility bills. Much of the money in the endowment comes from bequests, and I suppose the reasoning by those who leave the money to the endowment is that they can thereby ensure that something of their own resources will be doing the mission of the church in perpetuity.

I'm personally not a real big fan of this concept, but I think it appeals to a lot of people.

Well, dedicating it for missions is certainly better than putting it in endowment to meet operating expenses at some future date.  That is problematic for me.  It seems to me that it robs people in the future of the gift of being good stewards of God's gifts.  Maybe not entirely, but to a certain extent. 

I have never been a big fan of folks being able to designate gifts for a certain pet project or mission.  Again, it's a stewardship issue.  is it really first fruits giving if there are conditions attached?  I am in the leadership in our congregation, and we wrestle with this question constantly.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on September 10, 2008, 09:55:33 PM
I have never been a big fan of folks being able to designate gifts for a certain pet project or mission.  Again, it's a stewardship issue.  is it really first fruits giving if there are conditions attached?  I am in the leadership in our congregation, and we wrestle with this question constantly.

The thing is, there are lots and lots of charities out there. If someone is writing their will, and wants what they leave behind to (1) do some specific good thing that means something to the person writing the will and (2) support a congregation that they felt a part of during their lives, then earmarked bequests are going to happen. Maybe wanting to fund the church's day care center strikes you as nothing more than some old fool's "pet" project, but to the person writing the will, that ministry could have extreme significance.

If I was in a position to leave behind a legacy (which has about no chance of ever happening), my personal "pet" project would be a scholarship fund for students to attend seminary.

The thing is, if a congregation refuses to allow earmarked bequests, there are plenty of other charities out there willing or even eager to accept earmarked gifts. So, which problem would you prefer? Having to spend large sums of money for someone's "pet" ministry (which would free up the regular funds that might have gone to that ministry, or having to deal with not enough resources to go around because when that well-to-do member of your congregation passed on, she left her legacy to the Salvation Army.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Darrell Wacker on September 10, 2008, 10:10:58 PM
I have never been a big fan of folks being able to designate gifts for a certain pet project or mission.  Again, it's a stewardship issue.  is it really first fruits giving if there are conditions attached?  I am in the leadership in our congregation, and we wrestle with this question constantly.

The thing is, there are lots and lots of charities out there. If someone is writing their will, and wants what they leave behind to (1) do some specific good thing that means something to the person writing the will and (2) support a congregation that they felt a part of during their lives, then earmarked bequests are going to happen. Maybe wanting to fund the church's day care center strikes you as nothing more than some old fool's "pet" project, but to the person writing the will, that ministry could have extreme significance.

If I was in a position to leave behind a legacy (which has about no chance of ever happening), my personal "pet" project would be a scholarship fund for students to attend seminary.

The thing is, if a congregation refuses to allow earmarked bequests, there are plenty of other charities out there willing or even eager to accept earmarked gifts. So, which problem would you prefer? Having to spend large sums of money for someone's "pet" ministry (which would free up the regular funds that might have gone to that ministry, or having to deal with not enough resources to go around because when that well-to-do member of your congregation passed on, she left her legacy to the Salvation Army.

Then I would say that well-to-do member had a warped view of Biblical stewardship.  Putting strings on the dollars is a way of exercising control.  I understand the practical aspects of people wanting to do it, but my point is that it is not in alignment with Biblical stewardship.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: jeric on September 10, 2008, 10:19:40 PM
What is "Biblical stewardship" if it is not "taking control" of your assets?  Shall they be buried?  Shall they be given to someone else who is expected to take control of them?  Sorry, I don't get this argument

John Ericksen
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on September 10, 2008, 10:24:52 PM
Then I would say that well-to-do member had a warped view of Biblical stewardship.  Putting strings on the dollars is a way of exercising control.  I understand the practical aspects of people wanting to do it, but my point is that it is not in alignment with Biblical stewardship.

I confess that for matters like this, I need to look stuff up as I don't have everything memorized. But I'm sure that there are no prohibitions in the Bible from spending one's own money on doing specific good works of one's own choice. I mean, one's tithe goes to the treasury for the leadership of the congregation to spend as guided by God. But I'm not aware of any prohibition in the Bible from choosing what good works one wants to see accomplished with the other 90%.

By the theory that Biblical stewardship prohibits earmarks, when the Good Samaritan gave the inn keeper money to care for the robbery victim, he was demonstrated a warped view of stewardship. The Good Samaritan should have given the money to the priest or rabbi, and let them decide who to spend it on.

Where in the Bible is the prohibition for earmarking the other 90% of one's money located?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Darrell Wacker on September 10, 2008, 10:29:00 PM
Then I would say that well-to-do member had a warped view of Biblical stewardship.  Putting strings on the dollars is a way of exercising control.  I understand the practical aspects of people wanting to do it, but my point is that it is not in alignment with Biblical stewardship.

I confess that for matters like this, I need to look stuff up as I don't have everything memorized. But I'm sure that there are no prohibitions in the Bible from spending one's own money on doing specific good works of one's own choice. I mean, one's tithe goes to the treasury for the leadership of the congregation to spend as guided by God. But I'm not aware of any prohibition in the Bible from choosing what good works one wants to see accomplished with the other 90%.

By the theory that Biblical stewardship prohibits earmarks, when the Good Samaritan gave the inn keeper money to care for the robbery victim, he was demonstrated a warped view of stewardship. The Good Samaritan should have given the money to the priest or rabbi, and let them decide who to spend it on.

Where in the Bible is the prohibition for earmarking the other 90% of one's money located?


I would not state that there is a prohibition at all-specifically I was referring to the 10% set aside for the congregation.  Many people feel that even with that 10%, they have the right to "earmark" that.  Other giving above that, I have no problem with designating.  However, if someone feels they need to earmark that 10%, I have a problem with that.  If Biblical stewarship is the free and joyous response one has as a result of their salvation, I'm not sure how free and joyous it is if there are strings attached.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on September 11, 2008, 07:48:43 AM
I would not state that there is a prohibition at all-specifically I was referring to the 10% set aside for the congregation.  Many people feel that even with that 10%, they have the right to "earmark" that.  Other giving above that, I have no problem with designating.  However, if someone feels they need to earmark that 10%, I have a problem with that.  If Biblical stewarship is the free and joyous response one has as a result of their salvation, I'm not sure how free and joyous it is if there are strings attached.

Sorry. When you referred to "gifts" I assumed you meant "gifts", as in "donations over and above tithes".

Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on September 11, 2008, 06:45:11 PM
I would not state that there is a prohibition at all-specifically I was referring to the 10% set aside for the congregation.  Many people feel that even with that 10%, they have the right to "earmark" that.  Other giving above that, I have no problem with designating.  However, if someone feels they need to earmark that 10%, I have a problem with that.  If Biblical stewarship is the free and joyous response one has as a result of their salvation, I'm not sure how free and joyous it is if there are strings attached.

Sorry. When you referred to "gifts" I assumed you meant "gifts", as in "donations over and above tithes".


Doesn't go to the theme of "free and joyous vs. strings attached", which is an important subject, however, practical application:
Too many congregations accept "designated gifts" that are "extra-budget" (outside of the budget) and do not account for them or authorize expenditure through By-Laws (or general accounting practices) idendified methods.  Good stewardship dictates full accountability. 

On the current drift, I am concerned about giving to congregations of "pass-through" funds by a member, often to avoid perceived potential for "mis-direction" by the congregation.
It is a form of "money laundering" that bothers me, and (again) is often not correctly accounted for by the congregations.  Some use this to justify their "tithe" while getting credit via their local congregation.  It is troubling to me.
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Lutheran_Lay_Leader on September 11, 2008, 10:50:54 PM
Doesn't go to the theme of "free and joyous vs. strings attached", which is an important subject, however, practical application:
Too many congregations accept "designated gifts" that are "extra-budget" (outside of the budget) and do not account for them or authorize expenditure through By-Laws (or general accounting practices) idendified methods.  Good stewardship dictates full accountability. 

What is the difference between someone stipulating in their will that a sum of money from their estate should go to the church for the church to use to replace the broken down organ and stipulating in their will that their executor should purchase a new organ and give the organ to the church? How is setting up a fund in one's will to accomplish some specific good work "attaching strings?" What would be the difference between someone donating funds to the church to purchase new paraments for the altar and someone buying new paraments and donating them?

 
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on September 11, 2008, 11:29:12 PM
Doesn't go to the theme of "free and joyous vs. strings attached", which is an important subject, however, practical application:
Too many congregations accept "designated gifts" that are "extra-budget" (outside of the budget) and do not account for them or authorize expenditure through By-Laws (or general accounting practices) idendified methods.  Good stewardship dictates full accountability. 

What is the difference between someone stipulating in their will that a sum of money from their estate should go to the church for the church to use to replace the broken down organ and stipulating in their will that their executor should purchase a new organ and give the organ to the church? How is setting up a fund in one's will to accomplish some specific good work "attaching strings?" What would be the difference between someone donating funds to the church to purchase new paraments for the altar and someone buying new paraments and donating them? 

I don't have a problem with either example, assuming that the church needs those items and that they are a proper and worthy priority, fitting in with basic needs, such as adequate compensation for the pastor and other paid staff, paying bills to all vendors in a timely manner, providing proper support to Synod, missions, and local help to those in need.
I visited a congregation about 17 years ago that had a grand new organ donated by a living member, but the roof and windows leaked like sieves, the pre-school froze in winter, the unpaid workers were a tad upset, and the concertina wire separating the place from the neighborhood was a tad rusty (sarcasm, but true).  But the organ was really great.  Someone may have benefitted from a little stewardship help.

My point was to encourage proper process and accounting, and a concern to avoid the "pass-through" system that may make a budget (and the giver) look good but potentially skew a budget, absolutely nothing more.  Trying to be constructive.  Does this help explain my comment?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Team Hesse on September 12, 2008, 01:14:10 AM
I am concerned about giving to congregations of "pass-through" funds by a member, often to avoid perceived potential for "mis-direction" by the congregation.
It is a form of "money laundering" that bothers me, and (again) is often not correctly accounted for by the congregations.  Some use this to justify their "tithe" while getting credit via their local congregation.  It is troubling to me.

Depending on what you are referring to here, exactly, it could even be illegal for a giver to do this and still take a charitable tax deduction.  I am treasurer of our congregation so I did some reading when I took on the task.

For instance, if you have a scholarship fund for college or high school kids --  people can donate specifically to the scholarship fund, but they have no say in who gets the money -- it has to be a congregational decision in order for the donation to be tax deductible to the giver.  If there are no congregational funds for scholarships this year, but someone wants to donate $1000 to go to  Sally so she can get a matching scholarship from her Lutheran college (many do this if it's a congregational scholarship), the giver can't direct it that way and call it a church donation.  They can only give to the general scholarship fund and hope the scholarship committee who awards scholarships doesn't have to split it between too many kids ...

Same thing with other non-tax exempt causes; we had a couple of families at our church who took it upon themselves to rent a room for a local homeless man in town last winter.  If they had given the money to me as church treasurer and had me write the rent checks from the church, that sort of passthrough would not be allowed unless the congregation or a committee of the congregation charged with dispensing benevolence monies made that decision independent of the request of the givers (in which case they could specify the homeless fund in their giving).

The difference between buying paraments and giving those to the church v.s. giving money to the church in order to buy paraments is that the former is not tax-deductible and the latter is, because buying paraments in that case would be a congregational decision (supposedly) -- even if directed to do so, the church doesn't HAVE TO use that money for what is specified, but we all know there would be some 'splainin' to so if they accepted the money and didn't.  If you don't need or want new paraments , don't accept the donation that is specified for them.  In the case of a gift from a will that is specified, I would hope, unless the congregation is actively raising money for something specific at the time of the death, that the lawyer who drew up the will would advise against being so specific because in some cases it leaves the congregation in the uncomfortable position of having to refuse the gift because they can't or don't want to use it for what it was specified for.

Debbie Hesse
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: hillwilliam on September 12, 2008, 09:18:04 AM
Nice explanation Debbie. It is obvious that the giver has some real consequences to deal with if s/he doesn't designate the donation properly. But what about congregations or synods. Are there any consequences for accepting money for Social Services (homeless, hospice, hunger, ombudsman, counseling, etc.) and using it for other purposes? I have seen what appears to me to be alternative uses of funds at the synod level. That is not even designated money, it is budgeted. That money came out of the tithe we pay to the synod. Funny, I don't remember the Apostles using the money donated to help the poor for other reasons. So what is apostolic about these seemingly arbitrary spending decisions by the Congregational and Synod Councils?
Title: Re: Death of mainline protestantism
Post by: Layman Randy on September 12, 2008, 10:48:16 AM
I am concerned about giving to congregations of "pass-through" funds by a member, often to avoid perceived potential for "mis-direction" by the congregation.
It is a form of "money laundering" that bothers me, and (again) is often not correctly accounted for by the congregations.  Some use this to justify their "tithe" while getting credit via their local congregation.  It is troubling to me.

Depending on what you are referring to here, exactly, it could even be illegal for a giver to do this and still take a charitable tax deduction.  I am treasurer of our congregation so I did some reading when I took on the task.

For instance, if you have a scholarship fund for college or high school kids --  people can donate specifically to the scholarship fund, but they have no say in who gets the money -- it has to be a congregational decision in order for the donation to be tax deductible to the giver.  If there are no congregational funds for scholarships this year, but someone wants to donate $1000 to go to  Sally so she can get a matching scholarship from her Lutheran college (many do this if it's a congregational scholarship), the giver can't direct it that way and call it a church donation.  They can only give to the general scholarship fund and hope the scholarship committee who awards scholarships doesn't have to split it between too many kids ...

Same thing with other non-tax exempt causes; we had a couple of families at our church who took it upon themselves to rent a room for a local homeless man in town last winter.  If they had given the money to me as church treasurer and had me write the rent checks from the church, that sort of passthrough would not be allowed unless the congregation or a committee of the congregation charged with dispensing benevolence monies made that decision independent of the request of the givers (in which case they could specify the homeless fund in their giving).

The difference between buying paraments and giving those to the church v.s. giving money to the church in order to buy paraments is that the former is not tax-deductible and the latter is, because buying paraments in that case would be a congregational decision (supposedly) -- even if directed to do so, the church doesn't HAVE TO use that money for what is specified, but we all know there would be some 'splainin' to so if they accepted the money and didn't.  If you don't need or want new paraments , don't accept the donation that is specified for them.  In the case of a gift from a will that is specified, I would hope, unless the congregation is actively raising money for something specific at the time of the death, that the lawyer who drew up the will would advise against being so specific because in some cases it leaves the congregation in the uncomfortable position of having to refuse the gift because they can't or don't want to use it for what it was specified for.

Debbie Hesse
Thanks for the great follow-up.  Although legal action against the church itself is seldom seen in these instances, the moral results of financial calumny have often wrecked havoc on congregations, mainstream or otherwise, resulting in internicine warfare and loss of focus on the Gospel.