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ALPB => Your Turn => Topic started by: Eileen Smith on April 25, 2017, 09:28:56 AM

Title: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 25, 2017, 09:28:56 AM
With some hesitancy I start this thread - hesitancy as it may be a time still to raw for Pastor Gard to take part in this discussion.  Yet, it is a worthy (I believe) discussion and one which I hope will not take away from Pastor Gard's thread - one of lamentation and prayer. 

What do you do with congregations in the city where membership has dropped off?  Where people moved away.  Where the remnant left is elderly.  Where the area was once more middle-class or even affluent and now is in an area of poverty.   Close it?  Find a way to support it through the synod or diocese?  What is the responsibility to the people who remain in the church - perhaps more importantly, to the neighborhood?  This is not simply a Lutheran issue, the Catholic church has closed congregations and schools - and I'm certain affects all bodies of faith.

In many areas, but I'll pick the Bronx, there are many such congregations.  These congregations reside in what is considered a hopeless zone (a phrase not coined by me, but established by others).  The church is all that these people have to cling to and, indeed, some do.  But, others do not.  There are few examples of mentors for the younger people.  Crime (serious crime) is an everyday occurrence and the threat of prison really isn't a threat at all for most see this as their destiny - following family and friends before them.   What is common in these areas:  severe poverty.  Poverty that either leads to or exacerbates hopelessness.  Many of these (most?) don't have dreams of college and a future.  Their future is before them - parents, other family members, and friends in prison.  I've heard them speak of incarceration as a given.  Those with dreams often have them quashed as some follow the path of others into drugs and crime and some are the victims of those who lead a life of crime. 

So what does the church do?  Send food?  Send clothing?  Many do this.  I'd suggest it is not enough.  There has to be a presence.  A place where people can go - be fed (physically and spiritually).  I'm not certain that closing congregations is an idea that should be our first defense against what seems to be a dying congregation.  Too often we look at numbers, but not at existing ministry or needed ministry.  I've seen small, 'dying' congregations do far more ministry in relation to some of their larger counterparts.  We use the business model of closing what might be deemed as non-performing churches - but is money the key indicator of non-performing? 

Ideally, we find a way to fund them but we've seen with the Catholic church that this doesn't solve the problem.  Odd as this may sound to our Lutheran ears, I often wish there was a more centralized, authoritative office [of the bishop] and we could find a way to re-distribute income so that some of these congregations could continue.  But that's only the tip of the iceberg.   

May I ask those who have more experience in this to comment?  Pastor Gard's post is so heartbreaking that it seems a discussion on our responsibility to the inner city might be good at this point.

 


Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: jebutler on April 25, 2017, 10:25:11 AM
I spent 13 years in an urban congregation. It was disheartening. Across the street from the church was a crack house. Next door was park that had a lot of drug traffic as well. One morning, I came into the church to find some of our stained glass windows shot out and bullets on the floor of the sanctuary. Many of the families in the area lived in poverty. There was a huge family breakdown with a lot of 30-year-old grandmothers.

It's all nice to talk about remaining and ministering in the inner city, but where does the money come from? In our case, it was mostly from the older white population in the congregation that were dying out quicker than we could replace them (we had 15 funerals in one year). Overall, the congregation actually did a pretty good job of reaching out (the church was 1/3 of West Indian, with a smattering of African Americans and Hispanics among all the old white German stock). But the expense of the building upkeep, deaths, people moving away due to job loss--it all took its toll.

I wish I had an answer, Eileen. But after serving in a "hopeless zone" I never came up with one.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Staneck on April 25, 2017, 10:51:34 AM
I'm going to post now, ruminate some, and (hopefully) come back later. But I want to post now so I can follow up. My initial thoughts are we need a different approach to how we plant, revitalize, and sustain congregations in the city. In the past (who could blame us?) the congregations were started along racial/monocultural lines. It sadly seems that congregations which close in the city cannot escape that mindset that this church is "my" church (explicitly stated) and it is here for "my" people (implicitly assumed).

And no, this post does not intend to blame "Germans."

M. Staneck
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Likeness on April 25, 2017, 11:17:48 AM
In the 1960's and 1970's some Districts of  the LCMS were planting "mission" congregations
in suburbia.  Often there was a District subsidy for 5 or 10 years to get the parish established.

Today, in the 21st century, the LCMS Districts could adopt a similar strategy for the inner city.
Certain parishes could be earmarked for financial aid from the District so they can continue
to minister to their surrounding community in the inner city  We can not completely abandon
the inner city, but we need to ensure that we have a continued presence there with Word and
Sacrament ministry.     

One example is the Southern Illinois District helping to support a Lutheran elementary school
in East St. Louis, Illinois.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 25, 2017, 11:28:44 AM
I spent 13 years in an urban congregation. It was disheartening. Across the street from the church was a crack house. Next door was park that had a lot of drug traffic as well. One morning, I came into the church to find some of our stained glass windows shot out and bullets on the floor of the sanctuary. Many of the families in the area lived in poverty. There was a huge family breakdown with a lot of 30-year-old grandmothers.

It's all nice to talk about remaining and ministering in the inner city, but where does the money come from? In our case, it was mostly from the older white population in the congregation that were dying out quicker than we could replace them (we had 15 funerals in one year). Overall, the congregation actually did a pretty good job of reaching out (the church was 1/3 of West Indian, with a smattering of African Americans and Hispanics among all the old white German stock). But the expense of the building upkeep, deaths, people moving away due to job loss--it all took its toll.

I wish I had an answer, Eileen. But after serving in a "hopeless zone" I never came up with one.

Thank you for your very honest words.  Across the street from where I grew up is a Catholic church - at one time a thriving congregation in the Bronx with a sizable school.  Now drug deals go down in the back pews during Mass.  When living in Queens my car was broken into (window smashed, screwdriver in ignition, etc.) four times while I was in worship.  So, I sympathize with all you say.

I suppose moving to the suburbs (when most people my age are moving into an apartment) was a bit of an eye-opener.  I can think of two pastors serving suburban congregations who told me, before the move, that suburban congregations are 'different' than the city - not only in the obvious ways.  And I found that to be true.  I do love my congregation and this move, at a time when I have health issues, has been a blessing as I'm now a mile away from my sister and within a few miles of other family members.  But sometimes I become frustrated - and, I am embarrassed to admit, a bit angry.  An example:  There were times, in my NY congregation, that the pastor would come to a worship committee meeting and say we need purificator.  That may not sound like a big deal, but it meant finding the money - that was a big deal.  (A friend of mine is a pastor in the Bronx and when they need purificatory they go to the store and buy a box of napkins - a $15.00 purification simply isn't a reality for them.)  My first meeting in my suburban congregation - sure enough - someone said we need purificator.  Oh no - I thought my first task was to help find money.  Nope - without batting an eyelash we ordered them out of the memorial fund.  My congregation is very generous in its giving - certainly more than a tithe goes out to the synod and many other ministries.  Our pastor has mandated this comes first in the budget process.  And yet, when I look at all we have and how easy it is for us to just order something out of memorial funds, it frustrates me when we have a budget meeting and some speak as if the funding is going directly from their checking account - especially when I know that those things we so easily purchase is not even a consideration for many parishes, especially those in the inner-city.

A friend is a member of a congregation in Long Island (suburban community).  Maybe, on a good day, they have 20 people in worship.  They won't give up their building or substantial property as they may have to sell it to stay 'in business.'  They have money in the bank to pay a pastor for about 3 years (half time).  Then, I suppose, if anyone is left (the youngest member is around 70),they'll sell off another asset.  There are three ELCA congregations close by and one LCMS congregation.  While I don't think the first option should be to close down - if these folks merged and the money from the sale of property could go to fund inner city ministries - well, I'm not sure that's such a bad thing.  Bishop Bouman had put forth a plan wherein if a congregation closed a portion of the sale price went back into the conference.   What if throughout the church funds such as these could help an inner-city parish.   I'm sorry that it all comes down to dollars and cents but the reality is that a congregation needs a pastor and there are also bills to be paid. 

I suppose I've been storing these feelings up and Pastor Gard's post just brought it all out.  In all phases of life, be it in this world or in the church in the world it is so difficult to have so much when some have so little.  Congregations in the suburbs do much for inner-city parishes yet they can only do so much - they can't provide a constant presence. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Buckeye Deaconess on April 25, 2017, 11:29:51 AM
The church needs to see its cities as mission fields and deploy pastors and parishioners into its midst, in my humble opinion.  The LCMS has an initiative in this regard:  MissionField: USA (https://www.lcms.org/church-planting).  We have a department devoted to ministry in the city (https://www.lcms.org/urban-and-inner-city-mission), as well, offering resources for our urban congregations and schools.  I'm a little close to both ministries, so pardon the plug.  :)

I have recently completed my doctoral research on Fortune 500 corporations that partner with faith-based nonprofit organizations for the purpose of urban revitalization.  I was shocked by the results.  Large companies are a viable source of funds for a church's work in the city under the right circumstances.  Primarily, where the church is involved in mercy work such as jobs creation along with educational endeavors, resource-rich corporations have no problem stepping in to assist.  I chose to study LCMS nonprofits, and each of the three had an impressive track record which made it a no-brainer for these corporations to partner for the purpose of assisting the marginalized and underserved.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: John_Hannah on April 25, 2017, 11:58:56 AM
Thanks for starting this Eileen.  So from the Bronx (past 24 years), here's my take:

We do need money.  There's no way around that.  We American Lutherans are not structured to provide it fairly.  Our congregationalism discourages that.  Eileen is correct; Roman Catholic polity is much better even though there is not enough money to sustain all of its city parishes.

We need a special kind of pastor, one that I suspect we do not recruit for.  In my opinion a city pastor must be very self-disciplined but equally flexible to cope with all the things that go wrong.  He (she) cannot be effective if not totally comfortable with the Christian faith, based upon a the clear confessional standard.  At the same time a city parish has no use for an ideologue, whether political or theological, left or right winged.  Even if we had plenty of money, I am not sure we could find pastors suited for the vocation.  I only know of one who has successfully made an entire career in inner cities--John Cochrane, now retired at St. Augustine's House in Michigan.  There could be others; Dave Benke comes to mind, although his talents were diverted by his episcopal obligations.

Wherever we can find those with long term experience we need to ask them what it takes to effectively work in cities.  And then we need to listen and pay heed. 

Peace, JOHN
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Richard Johnson on April 25, 2017, 12:32:16 PM
My wife and I have been binge-watching "West Wing," and last night she said (and I have often felt) "things just haven't changed." Same world and national issues, same messy governmental attempts to deal with them, same sleazy politics.

Back in the 1930s, the American Lutheran, predecessor of Lutheran Forum, raised all these same issues. The writers believed the church (in this case LCMS) simply didn't give attention to ministry in the urban centers--didn't provide resources, didn't train pastors, etc. etc. It's not a new issue.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 25, 2017, 12:37:19 PM
Munster, Indiana is geographically small and abuts Cook County, Illinois, with Lansing (where Dr. Gard's student was shot last night) to our west and Hammond, IN to our north, and one small suburb removed from Gary/Griffith to the east. So we are in a sense a small island of relatively affluent suburbia wedged into a larger region afflicted by all the problems common to struggling urban areas.

The LCMS presence around us in both the Nothern Illinois District and the Indiana District (as well as English District and Slovak District up toward East Chicago) is struggling mightily, and some of those struggles are fairly recent. I've been here three years and in that time three of the LCMS schools in our South Suburban Athletic Conference (we're the only Indiana school in it) have closed their doors. At least one of those was operating at capacity, meaning 250+ kids in k-8, as recently as twenty years ago. Many of the others have so few students they struggle to field teams.

If it were a problem one could throw money at and solve, money could be found. But our LCMS culture is very family-oriented and has a hard time dealing with the breakdown of the nuclear family. And our region is very ethnic-oriented. The churches are Reformed but Dutch Reformed. The Catholic and Othordox churches are overtly identified as ethnic. And the black churches are known as such. People hear "Lutheran" and if they think anything at all they think "German." But if we give up catechism teaching on the family (which is too often dismissed as middle-class socio-political stuff rather than the theological truth that it is) and give up the name and trappings of "Lutheran" then it becomes difficult to come up with a raison d'etre at all; the big box entreprenurial churches are filling that market just fine.

When a neighborhood starts to go downhill, it isn't one factor, it is many. In our case, in the 1970's we had a beautiful old Gothic church in downtown Hammond, and a mission plant in the brand new bedroom community of Munster, and when the old building and school couldn't serve any more (crumbling, no parking, etc.) they decided to up and relocate the whole operation to Munster. Comparatively, therefore, we have thrived where other other congregations that stayed have struggled or failed. But one cannot know what might have been had we decided to insist on thriving downtown Hammond. There can be no doubt that at least part of the other LCMS parishes' struggles in the 80's and 90's have been caused by our thriving. Health is attractive to people. We invariably exacerbate the problems we flee, like young people leaving the rural areas to find work leaving those rural areas even less likely to attract employers in the future. But when fleeing means surviving you do what you can do.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 25, 2017, 02:03:34 PM
I don't know if any of you watch "Blue Bloods," with Tom Selleck as the NYPD Commissioner.  It's unabashedly Christian/Roman Catholic in its vibe; the family eats and prays and goes to Mass together.  They're usually on target with what's happening in New York City and its neighborhoods as well.  A couple of weeks ago the show featured an expedition into East New York, which is where my parish is located.  And the mantra, even in the show, was "well, this is East New York.  You have to expect it to be tough."  Which it was, in the show.  And to some extent, in life.  Death Wish IV was filmed a few blocks from our church - out of control gangs and druggies, corrupt cops, the whole nine yards.  Not a welcome brochure put out by the realtors.

Except that a lot of people were moving IN to East New York, even back then, and certainly today.  Because
a) it's more affordable
b) it's accessible by train, bus and car to the rest of the area
c) a nice park, and lots of low-slung one, two and three family housing in certain areas

The pillorying of urban work because it's got bad neighborhoods and bad people is not exactly fake news, but it's definitely not accurate, and in fact wouldn't we as Lutherans want to engage the worst areas so that the Gospel light might shine the brighter?

In terms of your comment about family ministry, Peter, that's exactly what I/we have been doing in Brooklyn for over forty years.  The breakdown of the nuclear family of dad, mom and the kids does not mean there are no parents and no kids.  Often but not always it means that dad is not around.  That just sets the deck for family ministry and catechesis of a different sort. 

In terms of finance, the best model is sufficiency of membership to provide tithes and offerings equal to the budget.  Failing that, there are ways to receive dividends from the facility, if the facility has space for other programs.  And of course, there could be a plus-budget Lutheran school - that's very hard in today's market, but can be done.  The difficulty with outside grants over time is that the congregants become dependent not on their own stewardship, but on the grant writer.  Maybe the best way to say it is that the congregation will own its plan and vision if it is paying for it to be accomplished.

In terms of leadership, #1 and #1a is the pastor.  In the hustle and flow of the urban scene, the pastor has to be both engaged and engaging in the midst of tremendous diversity.
#2 is the congregational leadership.  Recently I've noticed that the younger pastors are often saddled with leadership that's dedicated to a bygone era, and to the rules and approaches of that era.  Since the urban churches are normally more on the margin in terms of making a go of it, there's very little room for obstinacy in leadership. 

In terms of wider church involvement, the best would be consortia locally developed - in Brooklyn we are doing two nursing home outreach missions  with four or five of our congregations, and several of our congregations are very active in community organizing entities seeking not only mercy but justice; the second best is working with the district because of the local knowledge the district would have; finally, the district working with the national church (I'm referencing Kim's post) can be of great help as well.  I will say that in my life as a district leader, we were less successful when importing people to NYC, and more successful when raising up pastors from here (or who vicared here), or training leaders toward ordination/commissioning from within.  Since I'm from Milwaukee, I guess I can say that occasionally the transplanted non-native New Yorker can get the picture.  But it would be the same in anybody else's city. 

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 25, 2017, 04:07:53 PM
I don't know if any of you watch "Blue Bloods," with Tom Selleck as the NYPD Commissioner.  It's unabashedly Christian/Roman Catholic in its vibe; the family eats and prays and goes to Mass together.  They're usually on target with what's happening in New York City and its neighborhoods as well.  A couple of weeks ago the show featured an expedition into East New York, which is where my parish is located.  And the mantra, even in the show, was "well, this is East New York.  You have to expect it to be tough."  Which it was, in the show.  And to some extent, in life.  Death Wish IV was filmed a few blocks from our church - out of control gangs and druggies, corrupt cops, the whole nine yards.  Not a welcome brochure put out by the realtors.

Except that a lot of people were moving IN to East New York, even back then, and certainly today.  Because
a) it's more affordable
b) it's accessible by train, bus and car to the rest of the area
c) a nice park, and lots of low-slung one, two and three family housing in certain areas

The pillorying of urban work because it's got bad neighborhoods and bad people is not exactly fake news, but it's definitely not accurate, and in fact wouldn't we as Lutherans want to engage the worst areas so that the Gospel light might shine the brighter?

In terms of your comment about family ministry, Peter, that's exactly what I/we have been doing in Brooklyn for over forty years.  The breakdown of the nuclear family of dad, mom and the kids does not mean there are no parents and no kids.  Often but not always it means that dad is not around.  That just sets the deck for family ministry and catechesis of a different sort. 

In terms of finance, the best model is sufficiency of membership to provide tithes and offerings equal to the budget.  Failing that, there are ways to receive dividends from the facility, if the facility has space for other programs.  And of course, there could be a plus-budget Lutheran school - that's very hard in today's market, but can be done.  The difficulty with outside grants over time is that the congregants become dependent not on their own stewardship, but on the grant writer.  Maybe the best way to say it is that the congregation will own its plan and vision if it is paying for it to be accomplished.

In terms of leadership, #1 and #1a is the pastor.  In the hustle and flow of the urban scene, the pastor has to be both engaged and engaging in the midst of tremendous diversity.
#2 is the congregational leadership.  Recently I've noticed that the younger pastors are often saddled with leadership that's dedicated to a bygone era, and to the rules and approaches of that era.  Since the urban churches are normally more on the margin in terms of making a go of it, there's very little room for obstinacy in leadership. 

In terms of wider church involvement, the best would be consortia locally developed - in Brooklyn we are doing two nursing home outreach missions  with four or five of our congregations, and several of our congregations are very active in community organizing entities seeking not only mercy but justice; the second best is working with the district because of the local knowledge the district would have; finally, the district working with the national church (I'm referencing Kim's post) can be of great help as well.  I will say that in my life as a district leader, we were less successful when importing people to NYC, and more successful when raising up pastors from here (or who vicared here), or training leaders toward ordination/commissioning from within.  Since I'm from Milwaukee, I guess I can say that occasionally the transplanted non-native New Yorker can get the picture.  But it would be the same in anybody else's city. 

Dave Benke

In much of what is written herein, I agree.  But to one point, the pillorying of urban work and bad neighborhoods, I think there are two sides to that issue.  There is, indeed, what was shared earlier by JEButler.  A church with a crack house next door, etc.  That's a reality in many places.  In the Bronx neighborhoods that I speak of, specifically to the area known as the hopeless zone, there is not an influx of dollars and people coming in.  If there were, however, where would the people residing there at present go?  This is a very serious urban dilemma.  It is good that people are coming in to East New York.  I saw the PBS special and read several articles on this.  Had someone told me, say 20 years ago, that a headline would read:  "Bushwick and East New York are 2017's Hottest Neighborhoods," I would never have believed it.  But, the headline is out there and gentrification is happening all along the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens.  This comes with a cost - there are people in these neighborhoods who live in poverty and as gentrification occurs and neighborhoods begin to rise again, they are often displaced - homeless.  One of our pastors is married to a woman who was an attorney for these victims of gentrification.  She moved on to adoption law - it just burned her out.   

These are the people I think of when one talks of inner-city.  With very little or no family structure, there is no push on the kids to even go to school.  A priest in Brooklyn had a ministry to young people where they would come to the parish center.  There, he would serve a meal and these kids would learn to eat with a knife and fork.  They were from single-family households and a number of them lived with a mother who was a prostitute and/or drug user -- with little time for raising a child. He taught them the rudiments of family life that many of us learned, perhaps, subconsciously - simply by doing what our parents did.  The life young people see before them is often one of violence and incarceration.  And then, they suffer the indignity of losing what little one has as neighborhoods begin to grow and pick up.  There are areas in Harlem that were once a bed of poverty and now one can hardly afford.  Yet, the answer isn't to keep the area in poverty. 

In my initial post I wrote and crossed out issues we see in suburbia.  The drug problem in the suburbs is serious and does lead to crime.  Our town loses kids every year to drug overdose.  The other night a young man in our congregation stopped at a local McDonald's.  A man forced his way into this kid's car and had him drive for hours.  He took money from this young man (his ATM), he bought drugs, and he actually paid prostitutes and had relations in the car with this 19 year old driving.  This young man escaped at 3:30 a.m. by claiming he desperately needed a bathroom and threatened to go all over the car.  He rain into a 7/11 and had the manager call the police. But, as I started to share this story earlier, I realized it wasn't quite what I was getting at in this thread.  Our young member was returned to a very loving home and loving congregation.  Those that I think of - perhaps this man who kidnapped our member - don't have that structure. They're not afraid to commit crime and be picked up by the police - that's normal in their world.   I would suggest that these people who are hopeless are also faceless and that may be more the issue.  They are not faceless to God, but I believe the church needs to proclaim that message in a way that they will grasp and, ultimately, cling to the only true hope we have.    If our hope isn't Christ - aren't we all in the hopeless zone. 

I hope this makes sense - it's such an emotional issue!
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 25, 2017, 04:20:50 PM
Yet another thought...

I'd like to add something to what Pastor Hannah earlier stated (money and a pastor with an urban heart - paraphrasing):  a new definition of success.  What defines a successful congregation?  Self-supporting?  Number of members?  Other variables?

I don't really know Bishop Rimbo of MNYS as I left before he was elected.  Recently I read a sermon that he preached at a Chrism Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week.  It's a wonderful sermon and if you'd like to read it in its entirety, it's on mnys.org, click on the Bishop's Message icon on the right.   I appreciated much of his words, but especially the following:

"Another temptation that takes my spirit is what one of my spiritual directors described as attachment to the outcome. He said it this way: Attaching yourself to the outcome, any outcome, will kill you. This will surely snatch your spirit.
 
And it’s a hard one to avoid. Let’s be honest: when we in the church start putting our hopes in successful outcomes, our spirits are easily lured into that place where we think we are the actors rather than remembering that we are but the broken but blessed vessels with which God acts."
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Hummel on April 25, 2017, 04:48:49 PM
I am somewhat trepidations in writing this, but one change that has to occur is an end to what I experienced server I g in MNYS, and to a lesser degree in DEMD. Urban ministry is not "real" ministry. It is ministry, with challenges unique to the ecosystem. There are real challenges​ everywhere. When suburban and exurban parishes are not made to feel like judicatory ATMs so that real ministry can be done, then I think  collaborative work can be done.

Our urban parish, which was relocated to what is an industrial suburb of Philadelphia. We, having learned to be one, are now seeking how to reach out. Father walking the dog in his cassock helps.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 25, 2017, 05:02:09 PM
The problem about the lack of family structure is the flip side of tolerance on issues of sexual morality. We're so afraid of saying anything judgmental about the decisions that lead directly to disintegration and brokenness that we fail to apply even a healthy first use of the law.

We lament lack of access to contraception or too much access to guns as though we're the farmers and the inner city people are our livestock or plants in need of us to find them the right mix of feed or the proper balance of sun and shade to be healthy. We would never say that, but that is the attitude behind so much our approach. The single mom is always the victim, never the victimizer of her neighbors via her decision to have sex, (though the deadbeat dad is). Her neighbors must now live next to her "at risk" children. If the neighbors decide to leave, they are abandoning the cities. If they come back, they're engaged in oppressive gentrification. And if they object that she shouldn't be having sex, they're just Puritans or people stuck in the 1950's and need to mind their business and get their morality out of her bedroom. Every time we tolerate that attitude toward sexual morality we are consigning people to the misery and social ills caused by unstable home environments. It isn't what tools people have access to, like contraception or guns, but what moral code they have learned that determines how they seek to live.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dan Fienen on April 25, 2017, 05:03:54 PM

Inspired by this discussion, I looked up the current statistics for the church I grew up in and in whose school I received most of my elementary education.  The church was founded in 1841and was a early member of the LCMS.  It has always been a central city church in a mid-west city, urban, not suburban and remained in the city even as neighborhoods changed in the 60s ad 70s and many churches followed their members out of the central city.


This church has long ago closed its school.  It's weekly worship is about twice that of the church that I serve now on a part time basis.  It has a baptized membership of 242, down from the 1,200 to 900 it had when I attended back in the 50s and 60s, down from the over 1,300 baptized during its heyday in the  40s.


I have not been actively involved there in over 50 years, so I can't say what all the congregation tried to do to adapt to changing demographics and to reach out to the new neighborhood.  But whatever has been tried, the congregation has shrunk to where it's viability is questionable.


In the Lord of the Rings the Elves who still lived in Middle Earth were leaving and not coming back.  They by and large felt that their time was coming to an end.  Their struggle to continue they called their "long defeat."  Rightly or wrongly, because of bad planning or misplaced efforts or just happenstance, that is what life has looked like for many urban churches - a long defeat.  It takes dedication and stamina, a willingness to engage cross culturally, to risk much in a pastor to work in such a situation.  Not all pastors have those gifts, I don't.  But it will also take ideas.  A few, a very few pastors are geniuses who are able to look at seemingly hopeless situations and discern possibilities.  Those need to be cultivated and supported, and also not quashed by those who figure that the church of all ages needs to fit into the same round holes it always did and are suspicious of anything that do not fit.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 25, 2017, 05:15:10 PM
I am somewhat trepidations in writing this, but one change that has to occur is an end to what I experienced server I g in MNYS, and to a lesser degree in DEMD. Urban ministry is not "real" ministry. It is ministry, with challenges unique to the ecosystem. There are real challenges​ everywhere. When suburban and exurban parishes are not made to feel like judicatory ATMs so that real ministry can be done, then I think  collaborative work can be done.

Our urban parish, which was relocated to what is an industrial suburb of Philadelphia. We, having learned to be one, are now seeking how to reach out. Father walking the dog in his cassock helps.

May I ask, do you think the congregations in the inner-city see suburban/exurban parishes as judicatory ATMs or is it the message received from the judicatory itself; that is, the bishop's office/staff.  I ask as two thoughts came to mind as I read your post.  One is that the suburban/exurban parishes may have more resources, particularly in funds, than an inner-city parish.  Would it be possible to see giving a portion to continue the work of these ministries as something the congregation is called to do.  Another thought along these lines is the message. In what ways is a synod/bishop/assistant to bishop making a congregation/pastor feel like an ATM. I ask this truly out of curiosity.  But I also as as about a month ago my husband's RC parish had a type of pledge Sunday (not quite what I'm used to).  For two weeks the folks in the congregation were asked to re-consider and up their offerings.  The stewardship rationale given was not first fruits giving or the like, rather the expenses of the parish were listed and, thus, people were encouraged to up their contributions to meet these expenses.  My husband did and I strongly encouraged him to do so.  But quite honestly, the message from the parish wasn't one of giving a portion of what we've been given - it was very much like that ATM you mention.   I don't think we were in MNYS at the same time - were we?
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 25, 2017, 06:42:18 PM
The problem about the lack of family structure is the flip side of tolerance on issues of sexual morality. We're so afraid of saying anything judgmental about the decisions that lead directly to disintegration and brokenness that we fail to apply even a healthy first use of the law.

We lament lack of access to contraception or too much access to guns as though we're the farmers and the inner city people are our livestock or plants in need of us to find them the right mix of feed or the proper balance of sun and shade to be healthy. We would never say that, but that is the attitude behind so much our approach. The single mom is always the victim, never the victimizer of her neighbors via her decision to have sex, (though the deadbeat dad is). Her neighbors must now live next to her "at risk" children. If the neighbors decide to leave, they are abandoning the cities. If they come back, they're engaged in oppressive gentrification. And if they object that she shouldn't be having sex, they're just Puritans or people stuck in the 1950's and need to mind their business and get their morality out of her bedroom. Every time we tolerate that attitude toward sexual morality we are consigning people to the misery and social ills caused by unstable home environments. It isn't what tools people have access to, like contraception or guns, but what moral code they have learned that determines how they seek to live.

I'm not sure who the "we" is in your comments here, Peter.  Since this thread is about those who are doing the pastoral and church work in the inner city with single moms and people with compromised family situations, I'll just say that no preacher in any of the churches in the part of Brooklyn I'm in, including me, is avoiding the first use of the law.  And your depictions of the way people are neighbors represents no one on the blocks I frequent.  What the church does is to reach out to kids and parents as much as possible indiscriminately, treating the ones from the street and the ones from the more stable homes as children of God, sinners in need of redemption, and providing the undergirding, counseling and prayer for good decisions to be made, and giving opportunity for service and growth in various Christian environments after the worship service. 

Really this is the same as anywhere else. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Hummel on April 25, 2017, 06:42:45 PM
I was in from 1987 to 1997. The attitude was partly that of my brothers and sisters serving in the Big Apple, and partly (inadvertently) the Synod. Let's face it- compelling dramatic sermon & newsletter vignettes.

A celebration of the quotidian or mundane might come in handy upon occasion.

I also think Peter's comments about marriage & family are important. As someone in it up to my eyeballs 5 days a week, I see how the destruction of the family has wreaked havoc. And I wonder if denominations like the ELCA that have given up a lucid vision of the vocation of marriage and family can actually do anything sustainable. Not writing to hate, but to point out what I am seeing on the ground.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on April 25, 2017, 06:44:25 PM
I was in from 1987 to 1997. The attitude was partly that of my brothers and sisters serving in the Big Apple, and partly (inadvertently) the Synod. Let's face it- compelling dramatic sermon & newsletter vignettes.

A celebration of the quotidian or mundane might come in handy upon occasion.

I also think Peter's comments about marriage & family are important. As someone in it up to my eyeballs 5 days a week, I see how the destruction of the family has wreaked havoc. And I wonder if denominations like the ELCA that have given up a lucid vision of the vocation of marriage and family can actually do anything sustainable. Not writing to hate, but to point out what I am seeing on the ground.


We welcome broken families to receive the grace of God. They don't need to be told that they are broken.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 25, 2017, 06:49:55 PM
I don't know if any of you watch "Blue Bloods," with Tom Selleck as the NYPD Commissioner.  It's unabashedly Christian/Roman Catholic in its vibe; the family eats and prays and goes to Mass together.  They're usually on target with what's happening in New York City and its neighborhoods as well.  A couple of weeks ago the show featured an expedition into East New York, which is where my parish is located.  And the mantra, even in the show, was "well, this is East New York.  You have to expect it to be tough."  Which it was, in the show.  And to some extent, in life.  Death Wish IV was filmed a few blocks from our church - out of control gangs and druggies, corrupt cops, the whole nine yards.  Not a welcome brochure put out by the realtors.

Except that a lot of people were moving IN to East New York, even back then, and certainly today.  Because
a) it's more affordable
b) it's accessible by train, bus and car to the rest of the area
c) a nice park, and lots of low-slung one, two and three family housing in certain areas

The pillorying of urban work because it's got bad neighborhoods and bad people is not exactly fake news, but it's definitely not accurate, and in fact wouldn't we as Lutherans want to engage the worst areas so that the Gospel light might shine the brighter?

In terms of your comment about family ministry, Peter, that's exactly what I/we have been doing in Brooklyn for over forty years.  The breakdown of the nuclear family of dad, mom and the kids does not mean there are no parents and no kids.  Often but not always it means that dad is not around.  That just sets the deck for family ministry and catechesis of a different sort. 

In terms of finance, the best model is sufficiency of membership to provide tithes and offerings equal to the budget.  Failing that, there are ways to receive dividends from the facility, if the facility has space for other programs.  And of course, there could be a plus-budget Lutheran school - that's very hard in today's market, but can be done.  The difficulty with outside grants over time is that the congregants become dependent not on their own stewardship, but on the grant writer.  Maybe the best way to say it is that the congregation will own its plan and vision if it is paying for it to be accomplished.

In terms of leadership, #1 and #1a is the pastor.  In the hustle and flow of the urban scene, the pastor has to be both engaged and engaging in the midst of tremendous diversity.
#2 is the congregational leadership.  Recently I've noticed that the younger pastors are often saddled with leadership that's dedicated to a bygone era, and to the rules and approaches of that era.  Since the urban churches are normally more on the margin in terms of making a go of it, there's very little room for obstinacy in leadership. 

In terms of wider church involvement, the best would be consortia locally developed - in Brooklyn we are doing two nursing home outreach missions  with four or five of our congregations, and several of our congregations are very active in community organizing entities seeking not only mercy but justice; the second best is working with the district because of the local knowledge the district would have; finally, the district working with the national church (I'm referencing Kim's post) can be of great help as well.  I will say that in my life as a district leader, we were less successful when importing people to NYC, and more successful when raising up pastors from here (or who vicared here), or training leaders toward ordination/commissioning from within.  Since I'm from Milwaukee, I guess I can say that occasionally the transplanted non-native New Yorker can get the picture.  But it would be the same in anybody else's city. 

Dave Benke

In much of what is written herein, I agree.  But to one point, the pillorying of urban work and bad neighborhoods, I think there are two sides to that issue.  There is, indeed, what was shared earlier by JEButler.  A church with a crack house next door, etc.  That's a reality in many places.  In the Bronx neighborhoods that I speak of, specifically to the area known as the hopeless zone, there is not an influx of dollars and people coming in.  If there were, however, where would the people residing there at present go?  This is a very serious urban dilemma.  It is good that people are coming in to East New York.  I saw the PBS special and read several articles on this.  Had someone told me, say 20 years ago, that a headline would read:  "Bushwick and East New York are 2017's Hottest Neighborhoods," I would never have believed it.  But, the headline is out there and gentrification is happening all along the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens.  This comes with a cost - there are people in these neighborhoods who live in poverty and as gentrification occurs and neighborhoods begin to rise again, they are often displaced - homeless.  One of our pastors is married to a woman who was an attorney for these victims of gentrification.  She moved on to adoption law - it just burned her out.   

These are the people I think of when one talks of inner-city.  With very little or no family structure, there is no push on the kids to even go to school.  A priest in Brooklyn had a ministry to young people where they would come to the parish center.  There, he would serve a meal and these kids would learn to eat with a knife and fork.  They were from single-family households and a number of them lived with a mother who was a prostitute and/or drug user -- with little time for raising a child. He taught them the rudiments of family life that many of us learned, perhaps, subconsciously - simply by doing what our parents did.  The life young people see before them is often one of violence and incarceration.  And then, they suffer the indignity of losing what little one has as neighborhoods begin to grow and pick up.  There are areas in Harlem that were once a bed of poverty and now one can hardly afford.  Yet, the answer isn't to keep the area in poverty. 

In my initial post I wrote and crossed out issues we see in suburbia.  The drug problem in the suburbs is serious and does lead to crime.  Our town loses kids every year to drug overdose.  The other night a young man in our congregation stopped at a local McDonald's.  A man forced his way into this kid's car and had him drive for hours.  He took money from this young man (his ATM), he bought drugs, and he actually paid prostitutes and had relations in the car with this 19 year old driving.  This young man escaped at 3:30 a.m. by claiming he desperately needed a bathroom and threatened to go all over the car.  He rain into a 7/11 and had the manager call the police. But, as I started to share this story earlier, I realized it wasn't quite what I was getting at in this thread.  Our young member was returned to a very loving home and loving congregation.  Those that I think of - perhaps this man who kidnapped our member - don't have that structure. They're not afraid to commit crime and be picked up by the police - that's normal in their world.   I would suggest that these people who are hopeless are also faceless and that may be more the issue.  They are not faceless to God, but I believe the church needs to proclaim that message in a way that they will grasp and, ultimately, cling to the only true hope we have.    If our hope isn't Christ - aren't we all in the hopeless zone. 

I hope this makes sense - it's such an emotional issue!

Yes to this; very helpful.  We have done, and are planning to re-do, the evening meal with kids/families where basic table conversation and use of implements is taught.  The bigger item than learning to eat with a fork is learning how to talk around the table in a conversation about a topic.  I was amazed at how the kids in our Friday night group reacted to that, and I think it was because their opinions were respected as they brought them forward.

Anyway, I went through a decade and a half of the tougher times in East New York.  We had a large youth program, and yet a bunch of those kids,whom we hung with all the time, ended up crossing to the shady side of the street and were incarcerated; some were killed in the drug trade.  The palpable sense of loss and grief in the church community when that kind of thing happens never leaves, and the sense that engagement is not optional, that spiritual warfare is constant, and that we wrestle not only against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness all the way up the line is a given.  So it takes someone on the pastoral end and a great team on the lay end who are imbedded and disciplined and will not give up to walk with Jesus through the streets, yes.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: John_Hannah on April 25, 2017, 06:52:42 PM
I think that David Brooks speaks to our problem in today's New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/opinion/the-jane-addams-model.html?ref=opinion

Peace, JOHN
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Hummel on April 25, 2017, 06:56:30 PM
I was in from 1987 to 1997. The attitude was partly that of my brothers and sisters serving in the Big Apple, and partly (inadvertently) the Synod. Let's face it- compelling dramatic sermon & newsletter vignettes.

A celebration of the quotidian or mundane might come in handy upon occasion.

I also think Peter's comments about marriage & family are important. As someone in it up to my eyeballs 5 days a week, I see how the destruction of the family has wreaked havoc. And I wonder if denominations like the ELCA that have given up a lucid vision of the vocation of marriage and family can actually do anything sustainable. Not writing to hate, but to point out what I am seeing on the ground.
I

We welcome broken families to receive the grace of God. They don't need to be told that they are broken.

As some one dealing with the issues, yeah, actually they do.

What you foolishly neglect is that sometimes the most liberating thing is the diagnosis that there is in fact something wrong.

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on April 25, 2017, 06:57:09 PM
The problem about the lack of family structure is the flip side of tolerance on issues of sexual morality. We're so afraid of saying anything judgmental about the decisions that lead directly to disintegration and brokenness that we fail to apply even a healthy first use of the law.

We lament lack of access to contraception or too much access to guns as though we're the farmers and the inner city people are our livestock or plants in need of us to find them the right mix of feed or the proper balance of sun and shade to be healthy. We would never say that, but that is the attitude behind so much our approach. The single mom is always the victim, never the victimizer of her neighbors via her decision to have sex, (though the deadbeat dad is). Her neighbors must now live next to her "at risk" children. If the neighbors decide to leave, they are abandoning the cities. If they come back, they're engaged in oppressive gentrification. And if they object that she shouldn't be having sex, they're just Puritans or people stuck in the 1950's and need to mind their business and get their morality out of her bedroom. Every time we tolerate that attitude toward sexual morality we are consigning people to the misery and social ills caused by unstable home environments. It isn't what tools people have access to, like contraception or guns, but what moral code they have learned that determines how they seek to live.

Right on point, from my little corner of the world.  Just like Elvis, personal responsibility has left the building.  And the media, a reflection of our depraved culture, and government reinforce that personal responsibility is not something any longer much valued (other than to pay taxes); now big brother is expected to take care of all societal ills and we are to celebrate children conceived without marriage.  We have met the enemy and he is us (kudos to Pogo). 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 25, 2017, 07:22:12 PM
By "we" I simply meant our mainstream culture, including many churches. If I am wrong that "we" often blame violent crime on access to guns, blame unwanted pregnancies on lack of access to contraception, or otherwise treat the social ills of the inner city as though the people involved were mere objects being acted upon by larger forces rather than moral agents accountable for their own decisions, and if if I am wrong that "we" often tolerate an attitude (not hold it ourselves, but tolerate it) that says people's private sexual behavior is none of anyone else's business, then I am happy to be wrong and plead guilty of somehow having gotten the wrong impression of our society.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 25, 2017, 07:55:41 PM
By "we" I simply meant our mainstream culture, including many churches. If I am wrong that "we" often blame violent crime on access to guns, blame unwanted pregnancies on lack of access to contraception, or otherwise treat the social ills of the inner city as though the people involved were mere objects being acted upon by larger forces rather than moral agents accountable for their own decisions, and if if I am wrong that "we" often tolerate an attitude (not hold it ourselves, but tolerate it) that says people's private sexual behavior is none of anyone else's business, then I am happy to be wrong and plead guilty of somehow having gotten the wrong impression of our society.

OK - "we" the Church are not in favor of "we" the culture.  Got it.  I have kind of taken the pledge against KulturKampfing.  The pastoral approach in these many cases in the city is not mainly to wax moralistic, but to bring better teaching, better options, better hope.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 25, 2017, 08:15:56 PM
By "we" I simply meant our mainstream culture, including many churches. If I am wrong that "we" often blame violent crime on access to guns, blame unwanted pregnancies on lack of access to contraception, or otherwise treat the social ills of the inner city as though the people involved were mere objects being acted upon by larger forces rather than moral agents accountable for their own decisions, and if if I am wrong that "we" often tolerate an attitude (not hold it ourselves, but tolerate it) that says people's private sexual behavior is none of anyone else's business, then I am happy to be wrong and plead guilty of somehow having gotten the wrong impression of our society.

OK - "we" the Church are not in favor of "we" the culture.  Got it.  I have kind of taken the pledge against KulturKampfing.  The pastoral approach in these many cases in the city is not mainly to wax moralistic, but to bring better teaching, better options, better hope.

Dave Benke
If you think you can provide better teaching in terms of the first use of the law without waxing moralistic, which is another term for teaching the first use of the law, you are fighting fires with gasoline.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on April 25, 2017, 08:49:41 PM
I was in from 1987 to 1997. The attitude was partly that of my brothers and sisters serving in the Big Apple, and partly (inadvertently) the Synod. Let's face it- compelling dramatic sermon & newsletter vignettes.

A celebration of the quotidian or mundane might come in handy upon occasion.

I also think Peter's comments about marriage & family are important. As someone in it up to my eyeballs 5 days a week, I see how the destruction of the family has wreaked havoc. And I wonder if denominations like the ELCA that have given up a lucid vision of the vocation of marriage and family can actually do anything sustainable. Not writing to hate, but to point out what I am seeing on the ground.
I

We welcome broken families to receive the grace of God. They don't need to be told that they are broken.

As some one dealing with the issues, yeah, actually they do.

What you foolishly neglect is that sometimes the most liberating thing is the diagnosis that there is in fact something wrong.


I think people know when things are broken. People often know when their bodies are sick. They still often need the diagnosis of what is wrong, and what can be done about it.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Hummel on April 25, 2017, 09:10:13 PM
I was in from 1987 to 1997. The attitude was partly that of my brothers and sisters serving in the Big Apple, and partly (inadvertently) the Synod. Let's face it- compelling dramatic sermon & newsletter vignettes.

A celebration of the quotidian or mundane might come in handy upon occasion.

I also think Peter's comments about marriage & family are important. As someone in it up to my eyeballs 5 days a week, I see how the destruction of the family has wreaked havoc. And I wonder if denominations like the ELCA that have given up a lucid vision of the vocation of marriage and family can actually do anything sustainable. Not writing to hate, but to point out what I am seeing on the ground.
I

We welcome broken families to receive the grace of God. They don't need to be told that they are broken.

As some one dealing with the issues, yeah, actually they do.

What you foolishly neglect is that sometimes the most liberating thing is the diagnosis that there is in fact something wrong.


I think people know when things are broken. People often know when their bodies are sick. They still often need the diagnosis of what is wrong, and what can be done about it.

Some folks may actually know exactly what is wrong.

Another, larger group may know "something" is wrong but not what. And that leads to other issues.

And another group really does not know what the problem is at all. I spoke to a classroom full of boys, white, black, Hispanic and Asian.  And they could not wrap their heads around the vocation of husband. That a man would commit to one woman for life. They could not see loving a wife as Christ loved the Church. I spend a majority of my time conversing/communicating with mothers since fathers are thin on the ground. I deal with about twice your AWA a day in young men terribly damaged by the brave new world wrought by the minds that gave us 2009 and other wonders. Some of them come out of situations where some clown has slapped a bandage of cheap grace over a superating wound. Lots of fun cleaning up that mess!
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Staneck on April 26, 2017, 10:08:31 AM
I'm going to post now, ruminate some, and (hopefully) come back later. But I want to post now so I can follow up. My initial thoughts are we need a different approach to how we plant, revitalize, and sustain congregations in the city. In the past (who could blame us?) the congregations were started along racial/monocultural lines. It sadly seems that congregations which close in the city cannot escape that mindset that this church is "my" church (explicitly stated) and it is here for "my" people (implicitly assumed).

And no, this post does not intend to blame "Germans."

M. Staneck

Wanted to follow up here.

Agreed with what pretty much everyone has been saying about money. Regrettably, and incredibly unfortunately, money is the key. However, a church flush with cash and no leadership can also spell disaster. The leadership in place does not have to be ready to hit the ground running on day one of a new pastorate. But the leadership does need to be willing and able to actually be led by a pastor. This is not to say that the primary job of the pastor is to save the congregation, it isn't at all. But the pastor is at least looked at as a symbol of sustainability (right, wrong, indifferent). If congregations go to that place in their mind (new pastor=new members) then they need to be willing to go to that place in practice.

I think creativity and imagination are needed for reviving city ministries. And in some other cases I think death is needed. Since congregations are made up of people it's no surprise that they won't change until they are past crisis mode, until they have hit rock bottom. Many of our city ministries ignore the warning signs because in the early years of the growing crisis everyone and everything is still in place. A few deaths and a basement flood can change all that in an instant (in reality though the problems were always there). I have a few ideas from the local level, the district level, and the synod level. Bear with me as these are ideas that I am still working through.

Local: More on the creativity and imagination. Congregational leaders in crisis ministries need to expand their minds. This congregation is not "my church" and your specific clique of friends do not therefore make up "my people." That mentality is toxic for struggling to survive ministries. It sends a loud and clear message to any and call newcomers. Creativity and imagination can lead to collaboration (time, money, skill, etc) that can provide a way for a congregation to stop the bleeding (assuming there is debt or a deficit). I do not really see a causal relationship between collaboration and sustainability though. That is, the collaboration has to be a way for the congregation to get back on its feet, or to keep itself going "in the meantime." There has to be some larger plan (as far as finite minds can plan) to move towards sustainability. Simply collaborating resources does not translate to sustainability, though it is often a doorway to sustainability.

Local pastors also need to be willing and able to be creative and imaginative. NOT DOCTRINALLY. But relationally. This should go without saying but check out some other threads around here....

District: District Presidents and districts need to intentionally plan for the cities. I do not simply mean bringing in "dynamic pastors" (obstinate leaders can drive out and kill pastors). But districts need to act like city ministry matters, and not just because we can pay homage to their pasts or prop them up as ethnic trophies. In the case of struggling city ministries that have leadership which are willing and able to work in new situations the district needs to reward these congregations with the best pastors they can possibly get and with a decent share of their resources (not just money, but training and networking). For struggling congregations with obstinate leadership, district needs to play hardball. While it is important for the district (and synod) to have a foothold in a particular part of town it cannot come at the expense of pastors and resources that can be better spent elsewhere. Some congregations simply need to die. If the congregation is obstinate there is very little the district can actually do to help. Intervening in a congregation with obstinate leadership can be a giant waste of resources for district and synod (despite what the opportunity may look like to the naked eye). In their place districts can and should pump resources to planting preaching stations that, with a sustainable plan, can grow into Word & Sacrament ministries/congregations. Districts need to resist the urge to continue to placate such congregations that refuse to work with anyone but themselves. Letting a congregation go may come off as giving up in some sense but it will help in the long run.

Synod: More of this stuff the deaconess was talking about. On top of that synod also needs (and I'm speaking from no inside knowledge here so forgive me) to trust local districts and leaders on the ground. City ministry is not cookie cutter. For example, it is true that city ministries tend towards the liturgical, but they don't all need to be replicating DS 3 as if it were being done in just any other location. Another thing synod should be careful about is not primarily focusing on the city as a wild west of drugs and prostitution. We aren't sending people to the city to save the city, there is much good about the city (and the good are not just people who get out). The end of history is a city, so we should act like the city is something we are all moving towards instead of something we are trying to save people from.

M. Staneck
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 26, 2017, 10:44:18 AM
As one who once was a missionary-at-large called by the district and who now leads a church that has the wherewithal, in the form of a large endowment fund, to help struggling inner city congregations should we so choose, I can see the money issue from both sides of the standard disagreement.

When one is the recipient of money, one resents the idea that the money is purchasing results. I can't guarantee converts/new members/growth etc. All I can do is bring the Gospel and see what the Holy Spirit does with it. It is hard to fit the idea of results into the equation. But when one is sending money, it is hard not to fit results into the equation. Nobody in the "sending" congregation will get on board with sending good money after bad to keep a dying congregation alive for a little while unless there is some sense that the congregation isn't just waiting it out and looking for ways to pay the bills until the lights go out and the doors close.

This also brings up natural rivalries. Many congregations were founded back when they needed to be closer together. Now there is less need for so many congregations, but lots of people are pretty heavily (and understandably and in a sense rightfully) invested in wanting their congregation to be the one that survives. As the congregations mutually struggle, a natural sorting occurs, with people naturally preferring to attend and raise their children in a healthy congregation. That means the "big" church usually has a lot of people in it who were formerly members of the "dying" churches, and the remaining members of the dying churches know it. Certain tipping points (Can we still afford two pastors? What about a youth director? Is there more than one service? Is the pastor full time? Does it have an adult choir? What about a Sunday school?) can cause a fairly healthy congregation to rapidly tank. The big box churches are full of people who are tired of trying to make it work and seeming to fail bit by bit.

So a church like mine, founded in Hammond (where A Christmas Story was set, btw), a town which struggles with many urban problems but which has two LCMS churches still in it (one a daughter congregation of our congregation from back in the day) could, if we choose, from our position in Munster, step in and prevent those churches from closing their doors, at least for a while, with financial contributions. But does that make the most sense? What about the churches that have closed on the south side (also just around the corner from us) or which are closed in every sense but the legal and technical in Gary? We could mail them a check. But what would that do? From the perspective of the people who gave to the endowment fund, we want to send that money to something with a future. From the perspective of those who receive it, how can there be a future without money?

If we didn't have congregational polity a lot of these things wouild go more smoothly. Everybody could just be enraged at the bishop for closing this or that church and uniting with that one, but amid the anger the thing would happen. Not so for us. Congregational polity is a blessing and a curse, but it comes down on the curse side when it comes to unified efforts to minister in the inner cities. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Buckeye Deaconess on April 26, 2017, 12:04:55 PM

Synod: More of this stuff the deaconess was talking about. On top of that synod also needs (and I'm speaking from no inside knowledge here so forgive me) to trust local districts and leaders on the ground. City ministry is not cookie cutter. For example, it is true that city ministries tend towards the liturgical, but they don't all need to be replicating DS 3 as if it were being done in just any other location. Another thing synod should be careful about is not primarily focusing on the city as a wild west of drugs and prostitution. We aren't sending people to the city to save the city, there is much good about the city (and the good are not just people who get out). The end of history is a city, so we should act like the city is something we are all moving towards instead of something we are trying to save people from.

Synod leadership for Mission Field: USA works in conjunction with districts to carry out their work.  Also, I can state emphatically that the guy overseeing Synod's work in the city sees individual souls in need of healing and could care less about stereotypes of gangs, violence, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc.  I've been reading on social media some pretty scathing things out of the mouths of LCMS pastors and laity about single mothers, and it saddens me that we have to stereotype in seemingly hateful ways instead of looking deeper at the causes of single parenthood and the fractured family and respond with compassion to their plight.  It's all many know, and education is key to bringing stability back to the family.

As for moving towards the city, well, the church should be moving where the people are moving (pp. 4-16) (https://blogs.lcms.org/2017/journal-of-lutheran-mission-march-2017) . . . and it's to the city!  Plus, multiple people groups (http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=3028) are concentrated more and more within the city . . . what an opportunity to reach out with the love of Christ.

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 26, 2017, 12:40:39 PM

Synod: More of this stuff the deaconess was talking about. On top of that synod also needs (and I'm speaking from no inside knowledge here so forgive me) to trust local districts and leaders on the ground. City ministry is not cookie cutter. For example, it is true that city ministries tend towards the liturgical, but they don't all need to be replicating DS 3 as if it were being done in just any other location. Another thing synod should be careful about is not primarily focusing on the city as a wild west of drugs and prostitution. We aren't sending people to the city to save the city, there is much good about the city (and the good are not just people who get out). The end of history is a city, so we should act like the city is something we are all moving towards instead of something we are trying to save people from.

Synod leadership for Mission Field: USA works in conjunction with districts to carry out their work.  Also, I can state emphatically that the guy overseeing Synod's work in the city sees individual souls in need of healing and could care less about stereotypes of gangs, violence, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc.  I've been reading on social media some pretty scathing things out of the mouths of LCMS pastors and laity about single mothers, and it saddens me that we have to stereotype in seemingly hateful ways instead of looking deeper at the causes of single parenthood and the fractured family and respond with compassion to their plight.  It's all many know, and education is key to bringing stability back to the family.

As for moving towards the city, well, the church should be moving where the people are moving (pp. 4-16) (https://blogs.lcms.org/2017/journal-of-lutheran-mission-march-2017) . . . and it's to the city!  Plus, multiple people groups (http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=3028) are concentrated more and more within the city . . . what an opportunity to reach out with the love of Christ.

This is hopeful news indeed.  Long-time colleague and friend Carlos Hernandez, still out there with the "Gospel Seeds" program, has understood the value of community organizing as training that equips pastors and lay leaders for vibrant urban service, because it gets at not only the area of mercy, but also addresses systemic change necessary for long-term neighborhood and city health.

This comment strikes a chord: If we didn't have congregational polity a lot of these things wouild go more smoothly. Everybody could just be enraged at the bishop for closing this or that church and uniting with that one, but amid the anger the thing would happen. Not so for us. Congregational polity is a blessing and a curse, but it comes down on the curse side when it comes to unified efforts to minister in the inner cities.   

With a non-hierarchical structure, the power of the bishop/supervisor is primarily the power of persuasion.  When I was on top of my game, that was usually sufficient.  But not always.  And the result in urban church work is that many places just dwindle down to nothing because they can't decide to change and would rather be chaplained into hospice care.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Mark Brown on April 26, 2017, 12:44:41 PM
As one who once was a missionary-at-large called by the district and who now leads a church that has the wherewithal, in the form of a large endowment fund, to help struggling inner city congregations should we so choose, I can see the money issue from both sides of the standard disagreement.

When one is the recipient of money, one resents the idea that the money is purchasing results. I can't guarantee converts/new members/growth etc. All I can do is bring the Gospel and see what the Holy Spirit does with it. It is hard to fit the idea of results into the equation. But when one is sending money, it is hard not to fit results into the equation. Nobody in the "sending" congregation will get on board with sending good money after bad to keep a dying congregation alive for a little while unless there is some sense that the congregation isn't just waiting it out and looking for ways to pay the bills until the lights go out and the doors close.

This also brings up natural rivalries. Many congregations were founded back when they needed to be closer together. Now there is less need for so many congregations, but lots of people are pretty heavily (and understandably and in a sense rightfully) invested in wanting their congregation to be the one that survives. As the congregations mutually struggle, a natural sorting occurs, with people naturally preferring to attend and raise their children in a healthy congregation. That means the "big" church usually has a lot of people in it who were formerly members of the "dying" churches, and the remaining members of the dying churches know it. Certain tipping points (Can we still afford two pastors? What about a youth director? Is there more than one service? Is the pastor full time? Does it have an adult choir? What about a Sunday school?) can cause a fairly healthy congregation to rapidly tank. The big box churches are full of people who are tired of trying to make it work and seeming to fail bit by bit.

So a church like mine, founded in Hammond (where A Christmas Story was set, btw), a town which struggles with many urban problems but which has two LCMS churches still in it (one a daughter congregation of our congregation from back in the day) could, if we choose, from our position in Munster, step in and prevent those churches from closing their doors, at least for a while, with financial contributions. But does that make the most sense? What about the churches that have closed on the south side (also just around the corner from us) or which are closed in every sense but the legal and technical in Gary? We could mail them a check. But what would that do? From the perspective of the people who gave to the endowment fund, we want to send that money to something with a future. From the perspective of those who receive it, how can there be a future without money?

If we didn't have congregational polity a lot of these things wouild go more smoothly. Everybody could just be enraged at the bishop for closing this or that church and uniting with that one, but amid the anger the thing would happen. Not so for us. Congregational polity is a blessing and a curse, but it comes down on the curse side when it comes to unified efforts to minister in the inner cities.

I don't think this point about congregationalism can be stated enough.  We spent 5 years trying to build a city mission.  In three different iterations.  The seed money came from the large church because, well, that is who has the money and connections to get the money.  So the first two iterations were simply, what do you want to do large church?  When those failed rather obviously, there was almost enough for one more shot. And we had a bunch of knowledge.  We hired the right person.  We set about doing the right things.  We had a story.  And as I said in the beginning, the small churches in the suburbs would help, but it would take a story that wasn't just "we're keeping your lights on", because well, we have enough problems of our own with that sometimes.  And just as we were getting to where a sustainable funding would have to be (roughly 50% from the many small congregations and 50% from the one large), the one large decided they were tired of this particular ministry.  Keeping 15 congregations on the same page was tough.  It took a lot of communications work.  And the big dog still gets to call the shot.  In our case, we're tired of this, and indirectly of working with the rest of you.  In the lack of a strong central voice, or a kairos type event, it is tough.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 26, 2017, 01:04:07 PM

Synod: More of this stuff the deaconess was talking about. On top of that synod also needs (and I'm speaking from no inside knowledge here so forgive me) to trust local districts and leaders on the ground. City ministry is not cookie cutter. For example, it is true that city ministries tend towards the liturgical, but they don't all need to be replicating DS 3 as if it were being done in just any other location. Another thing synod should be careful about is not primarily focusing on the city as a wild west of drugs and prostitution. We aren't sending people to the city to save the city, there is much good about the city (and the good are not just people who get out). The end of history is a city, so we should act like the city is something we are all moving towards instead of something we are trying to save people from.

Synod leadership for Mission Field: USA works in conjunction with districts to carry out their work.  Also, I can state emphatically that the guy overseeing Synod's work in the city sees individual souls in need of healing and could care less about stereotypes of gangs, violence, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc.  I've been reading on social media some pretty scathing things out of the mouths of LCMS pastors and laity about single mothers, and it saddens me that we have to stereotype in seemingly hateful ways instead of looking deeper at the causes of single parenthood and the fractured family and respond with compassion to their plight.  It's all many know, and education is key to bringing stability back to the family.

As for moving towards the city, well, the church should be moving where the people are moving (pp. 4-16) (https://blogs.lcms.org/2017/journal-of-lutheran-mission-march-2017) . . . and it's to the city!  Plus, multiple people groups (http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=3028) are concentrated more and more within the city . . . what an opportunity to reach out with the love of Christ.
My guess is that all pastors work with single moms and children from all manner of family structure and degrees of stability. It goes without saying that all of them are treated as children of God without distinction. Compassion is not at issue here unless a pastor or congregation has a problem with compassion generally. What is at issue here is how overtly and confidently we teach, to one and all without distinction, that God's plan/design for the family is the traditional nuclear family. Doing so is not without risks. You have to be willing and able to engage people whose experience (or lack thereof) with the traditional family structure has been uniformly negative, and you have to be able to do it without implicitly condemning them for not coming from such an arrangement. That is hard but necessary. What is easy but not faithful to the catechism or orthodox Christianity generally is just to affirm people in their choices no matter choices regarding sex, marriage, and procreation they make.

Do young people learn, overtly, explicitly from their pastors and church leaders, and not simply through an implied good example, that having sex outside of wedlock is a sin and always an unacceptable choice for them as Christians? Do they see such behavior treated by their churches as just a serious thing as stealing or vandalizing or bullying? If not, they are being mistreated/neglected by their shepherds. Forgiveness is always central and the secong use is always the main use of the law, but our context calls also for a robust first use of the law regarding the 4th and 6th commandments. Pastors who would expect to be roundly condemned themselves for having sex outside of wedlock, yet who fail to teach youngsters to live according to that same expectation, are failing in their vocation. One doesn't set aside grace and mercy and forgiveness to do this. One simply must see value in the first use of the law.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Likeness on April 26, 2017, 02:05:32 PM
Jesus told us, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

As Christians we have been guilty of ethnic, economic, and social prejudice.
We can criticize people  because they are on food stamps and welfare and do
not have a job.  Yet our religious snobbery fails to understand their individual
circumstances.  Perhaps their job was eliminated  at the factory  or they have
severe health problems and are unable to work at the present time.

Bottom Line:  The Church is commanded to continue the mission of Jesus.
As we repent of our self-righteous pride, then we can reach out to those
who are alienated from God.   We can share the Good News of Jesus with
sinners who need to hear the Gospel message.


Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 26, 2017, 02:38:11 PM
As one who once was a missionary-at-large called by the district and who now leads a church that has the wherewithal, in the form of a large endowment fund, to help struggling inner city congregations should we so choose, I can see the money issue from both sides of the standard disagreement.

When one is the recipient of money, one resents the idea that the money is purchasing results. I can't guarantee converts/new members/growth etc. All I can do is bring the Gospel and see what the Holy Spirit does with it. It is hard to fit the idea of results into the equation. But when one is sending money, it is hard not to fit results into the equation. Nobody in the "sending" congregation will get on board with sending good money after bad to keep a dying congregation alive for a little while unless there is some sense that the congregation isn't just waiting it out and looking for ways to pay the bills until the lights go out and the doors close.

This also brings up natural rivalries. Many congregations were founded back when they needed to be closer together. Now there is less need for so many congregations, but lots of people are pretty heavily (and understandably and in a sense rightfully) invested in wanting their congregation to be the one that survives. As the congregations mutually struggle, a natural sorting occurs, with people naturally preferring to attend and raise their children in a healthy congregation. That means the "big" church usually has a lot of people in it who were formerly members of the "dying" churches, and the remaining members of the dying churches know it. Certain tipping points (Can we still afford two pastors? What about a youth director? Is there more than one service? Is the pastor full time? Does it have an adult choir? What about a Sunday school?) can cause a fairly healthy congregation to rapidly tank. The big box churches are full of people who are tired of trying to make it work and seeming to fail bit by bit.

So a church like mine, founded in Hammond (where A Christmas Story was set, btw), a town which struggles with many urban problems but which has two LCMS churches still in it (one a daughter congregation of our congregation from back in the day) could, if we choose, from our position in Munster, step in and prevent those churches from closing their doors, at least for a while, with financial contributions. But does that make the most sense? What about the churches that have closed on the south side (also just around the corner from us) or which are closed in every sense but the legal and technical in Gary? We could mail them a check. But what would that do? From the perspective of the people who gave to the endowment fund, we want to send that money to something with a future. From the perspective of those who receive it, how can there be a future without money?

If we didn't have congregational polity a lot of these things wouild go more smoothly. Everybody could just be enraged at the bishop for closing this or that church and uniting with that one, but amid the anger the thing would happen. Not so for us. Congregational polity is a blessing and a curse, but it comes down on the curse side when it comes to unified efforts to minister in the inner cities.

I don't think this point about congregationalism can be stated enough.  We spent 5 years trying to build a city mission.  In three different iterations.  The seed money came from the large church because, well, that is who has the money and connections to get the money.  So the first two iterations were simply, what do you want to do large church?  When those failed rather obviously, there was almost enough for one more shot. And we had a bunch of knowledge.  We hired the right person.  We set about doing the right things.  We had a story.  And as I said in the beginning, the small churches in the suburbs would help, but it would take a story that wasn't just "we're keeping your lights on", because well, we have enough problems of our own with that sometimes.  And just as we were getting to where a sustainable funding would have to be (roughly 50% from the many small congregations and 50% from the one large), the one large decided they were tired of this particular ministry.  Keeping 15 congregations on the same page was tough.  It took a lot of communications work.  And the big dog still gets to call the shot.  In our case, we're tired of this, and indirectly of working with the rest of you.  In the lack of a strong central voice, or a kairos type event, it is tough.

The golden rule in effect - the one with the gold rules.

The semi-eternal nature of subsidy is part of the equation.  Overcoming that is always on the screen.  The methodology of a five year period with diminishing amounts in years 3, 4 and 5 seems somehow logical but usually isn't. 

And one of my chief bugaboos was sending the missionary/planter/pastor in the city out to raise funds with a goodly chunk of his time.  I always found that to be counterproductive to the main thing, which was the mission itself.  Keep the guy and the team on the ground where they're doing the work.  Do not pull them away to become salespeople for themselves.  That's a prime irritant to me.  And yet, of course, that's the way the "business plan" has morphed at this end of the age.  I dislike it greatly at every level. 

When we started a Spanish language mission at St. Peter's way back in the day,
a) I had to learn some Spanish  a1) we had to pass it by the church assembly - VERY hard, but it finally went through
b) we started it on a shoestring and it was working ok
c) we got a national grant (!) from the Stamps for Mission program through a guy named Carlos Puig
d) we hired a staff person.  More people came
e) staff person left.
f) we got another grant, from the district
g) associate pastor brought in.  More people came
h) associate pastor left.
i) I took over and promised to preach in Spanish without notes in 6 months.  Made good on promise, with many, many blunders.
j) more people came.

So - internal to a congregation, we utilized outside grants but in bursts as needed, and had the budget and structure and facility to sustain the endeavor.  The best we did, I think, was around $20000 in offerings from the Spanish group.  Which was enough to balance off the whole thing financially.  The key at that time, was the phrase "more people came."  And the key to that was that the pastor (me) lived in the neighborhood and the parishioners were happy to receive the new families some of whom became congregational leaders.  That's a ten year time-frame.

Dave Benke

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 26, 2017, 02:52:49 PM
Jesus told us, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

As Christians we have been guilty of ethnic, economic, and social prejudice.
We can criticize people  because they are on food stamps and welfare and do
not have a job.  Yet our religious snobbery fails to understand their individual
circumstances.  Perhaps their job was eliminated  at the factory  or they have
severe health problems and are unable to work at the present time.

Bottom Line:  The Church is commanded to continue the mission of Jesus.
As we repent of our self-righteous pride, then we can reach out to those
who are alienated from God.   We can share the Good News of Jesus with
sinners who need to hear the Gospel message.
True. And no doctor is worse than the one who affirms the sickness instead of treating it with a view toward health in mind.

I may move in different circles online but I haven't heard any Lutheran pastors mocking single mothers or criticizing the unemployed. But even to have proper sympathy for the unemployed you have to understand that in general being employed is better than being unemployed. In other words, there is a reason we refer to it as the "problem" of unemployment. Pretty much everyone (maybe a rare exception here or there) gets that without being told. But if we came across people who didn't understand that unemployment is a problem and were content to simply plan their lives around welfare instead of work, they would need to be taught a better way.

Societally we are at that point, not with how people think about employment but with how they think about the nuclear family. People need to be taught that it is a better way because not everyone simply knows that anymore. The problem isn't even treated as a problem but as a fact of life. This applies across the board; it is in no way an inner-city thing. It is just that the devastation caused by the lack of traditional nuclear families can be papered over by affluence in other settings, so the hurt doesn't show up societally as much.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on April 26, 2017, 03:40:50 PM
Peter, what you say:
 But even to have proper sympathy for the unemployed you have to understand that in general being employed is better than being unemployed. In other words, there is a reason we refer to it as the "problem" of unemployment. Pretty much everyone (maybe a rare exception here or there) gets that without being told. But if we came across people who didn't understand that unemployment is a problem and were content to simply plan their lives around welfare instead of work, they would need to be taught a better way.

This may well be academically correct and even workable sometimes and helpful.  But the 95 year old who has cancer may not need to be taught that surgery and radiation will be helpful but allowed to die of cancer with dignity and whatever comfort medical help can allow.  The woman who kept a house that was absolutely filthy by almost every standard and asked me always when visiting to sit in the very furniture she had accidents on (Wangerin and I are classmates in more than story telling) could not be taught to be tidy and I had to learn to sit, wear wash and wear slacks and eat and drink whatever she placed before me most of time no matter how clean the glass or plate looked to my suburban eyes.  And the church willingly and lovingly provided for her medical and rental and food needs-- with joy.  And she loved the Lord and us. 

Understanding is a many splendored and splattered thing. 

We give without seeking reward or eliciting change even as our Lord did without know whether the world or any in it would love him or serve him, much less well and always. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Staneck on April 26, 2017, 04:05:46 PM

Synod leadership for Mission Field: USA works in conjunction with districts to carry out their work.  Also, I can state emphatically that the guy overseeing Synod's work in the city sees individual souls in need of healing and could care less about stereotypes of gangs, violence, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc.  I've been reading on social media some pretty scathing things out of the mouths of LCMS pastors and laity about single mothers, and it saddens me that we have to stereotype in seemingly hateful ways instead of looking deeper at the causes of single parenthood and the fractured family and respond with compassion to their plight.  It's all many know, and education is key to bringing stability back to the family.

As for moving towards the city, well, the church should be moving where the people are moving (pp. 4-16) (https://blogs.lcms.org/2017/journal-of-lutheran-mission-march-2017) . . . and it's to the city!  Plus, multiple people groups (http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=3028) are concentrated more and more within the city . . . what an opportunity to reach out with the love of Christ.

Thanks for this, Deaconess. Your husband is about some real good work. Prayers for that work ascend.

M. Staneck
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Likeness on April 26, 2017, 04:11:51 PM
Much of the recorded public ministry of Jesus Christ was to the marginalized in society.
Jesus reached out to those who were excluded or rejected by Jewish society and religious
leaders.  These people were given low status and often labeled "sinners".   These social
outcasts included tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, demon-possessed, Samaritans, widows,
beggars, and women.  Yet, Jesus encountered them and called them to repentance.

There is no doubt that many who live in the inner city are the "marginalized" people of the
21st century America.   However, Christ died on the cross for their sins and rose from the
grave to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Christ will be present in the inner city
when we come to them with a Word and Sacrament ministry.   As denominations make the
inner city a priority, we will be sharing the love of Christ with them.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on April 26, 2017, 05:43:11 PM
Peter, what you say:
 But even to have proper sympathy for the unemployed you have to understand that in general being employed is better than being unemployed. In other words, there is a reason we refer to it as the "problem" of unemployment. Pretty much everyone (maybe a rare exception here or there) gets that without being told. But if we came across people who didn't understand that unemployment is a problem and were content to simply plan their lives around welfare instead of work, they would need to be taught a better way.


Some years ago (so the amount may be higher today) I visited with an unemployed, single mother of one. She stated that she needed a job that paid at least $13.00/hour with benefits to give her child medical coverage - for her to see the job as being better than welfare. Does she need to be taught a better way - or do businesses? She was able to get a job that met those criteria.

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on April 26, 2017, 07:08:49 PM

Some years ago (so the amount may be higher today) I visited with an unemployed, single mother of one. She stated that she needed a job that paid at least $13.00/hour with benefits to give her child medical coverage - for her to see the job as being better than welfare. Does she need to be taught a better way - or do businesses? She was able to get a job that met those criteria.

Sociologists will say what she really needs for the welfare of her child is to be married to its father.  Which is, interestingly enough, what most people expect the church to teach, too.

Pax, Steven+
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 26, 2017, 07:24:05 PM

Synod leadership for Mission Field: USA works in conjunction with districts to carry out their work.  Also, I can state emphatically that the guy overseeing Synod's work in the city sees individual souls in need of healing and could care less about stereotypes of gangs, violence, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc.  I've been reading on social media some pretty scathing things out of the mouths of LCMS pastors and laity about single mothers, and it saddens me that we have to stereotype in seemingly hateful ways instead of looking deeper at the causes of single parenthood and the fractured family and respond with compassion to their plight.  It's all many know, and education is key to bringing stability back to the family.

As for moving towards the city, well, the church should be moving where the people are moving (pp. 4-16) (https://blogs.lcms.org/2017/journal-of-lutheran-mission-march-2017) . . . and it's to the city!  Plus, multiple people groups (http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=3028) are concentrated more and more within the city . . . what an opportunity to reach out with the love of Christ.

Thanks for this, Deaconess. Your husband is about some real good work. Prayers for that work ascend.

M. Staneck

This post and your post, Pastor Staneck, were filled with a lot of promise.  Thank you!

To move slightly away from this, I perceive - and I don't think it is intentional - a sense of looking at the single mother as contributing to the breakdown of the nuclear family.   What about fathers?
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Buckeye Deaconess on April 26, 2017, 08:04:43 PM
Much of the recorded public ministry of Jesus Christ was to the marginalized in society.
Jesus reached out to those who were excluded or rejected by Jewish society and religious
leaders.  These people were given low status and often labeled "sinners".   These social
outcasts included tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, demon-possessed, Samaritans, widows,
beggars, and women.  Yet, Jesus encountered them and called them to repentance.

There is no doubt that many who live in the inner city are the "marginalized" people of the
21st century America.   However, Christ died on the cross for their sins and rose from the
grave to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Christ will be present in the inner city
when we come to them with a Word and Sacrament ministry.   As denominations make the
inner city a priority, we will be sharing the love of Christ with them.

Thank you for this.  There should be much more of this kind of talk in our church body over and above putting down people who are making choices based on the only lifestyle they've ever known.  The church can show them a better way.  In no way do we dismiss un-Godly behavior . . . we find inroads to catechize individuals in ways that avoid self-righteous and sanctimonious behavior.  Nothing shuts down a conversation (and potential educational opportunity) more quickly than a judgmental and condescending attitude.  Jesus modeled a better way, one that we can emulate.  One can stand firm on the tenets of the faith, apply the Law and Gospel as needed, and still exhibit love towards one's neighbor.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Buckeye Deaconess on April 26, 2017, 08:12:51 PM
To move slightly away from this, I perceive - and I don't think it is intentional - a sense of looking at the single mother as contributing to the breakdown of the nuclear family.   What about fathers?

My comment was intentional towards single mothers because it's a sore spot with me at the moment.   ;D  I've seen some atrocious comments made publicly on social media (um, if you choose to use a profile picture of you wearing a collar, please represent your church better) lately about women living in poverty in "ghettos".  It's clear people who do so do not have a solid grasp of the plight of those living under these conditions.  Once you understand the condition, you can more effectively minister to them.  But I get it that for some it's easier to sit behind a computer screen and pass judgement rather than rolling up their sleeves and contributing to the solution.  Bless those of you who do so regularly.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 26, 2017, 08:41:20 PM
To move slightly away from this, I perceive - and I don't think it is intentional - a sense of looking at the single mother as contributing to the breakdown of the nuclear family.   What about fathers?

My comment was intentional towards single mothers because it's a sore spot with me at the moment.   ;D  I've seen some atrocious comments made publicly on social media (um, if you choose to use a profile picture of you wearing a collar, please represent your church better) lately about women living in poverty in "ghettos".  It's clear people who do so do not have a solid grasp of the plight of those living under these conditions.  Once you understand the condition, you can more effectively minister to them.  But I get it that for some it's easier to sit behind a computer screen and pass judgement rather than rolling up their sleeves and contributing to the solution.  Bless those of you who do so regularly.

Kim, I'm hoping that you are not directing this comment at me, given your last sentence and copying in my quote.  To be truthful, your comment above had absolutely nothing to do with my remark and I made a point of commending the work you shared with us.  I was speaking to several posts on this thread that seemed to suggest that the problem with single parenthood is a women's issue.  I recognize that you are completing your Ph.D., have much experience in everything from the military to the church, but some of us also have credentials and understand that what is happening in our culture today far transcends what we, in the church, can grasp.  We need trained theologians in our urban areas - I'd suggest that we also need training in social psychology to understand how the depth of the issues people who live in these areas not only face, but carry almost as an inheritance.  Longing for the nuclear family isn't an answer without considering the many variables that exist in our cities.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Buckeye Deaconess on April 26, 2017, 08:52:01 PM
Kim, I'm hoping that you are not directing this comment at me, given your last sentence and copying in my quote. 

Not at all.  You'll note my reference to a pastor's profile pic . . . I wasn't referencing this forum in the least.  I'm scratching my head at your decision to dress me down, but OK.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on April 26, 2017, 08:59:53 PM

Some years ago (so the amount may be higher today) I visited with an unemployed, single mother of one. She stated that she needed a job that paid at least $13.00/hour with benefits to give her child medical coverage - for her to see the job as being better than welfare. Does she need to be taught a better way - or do businesses? She was able to get a job that met those criteria.

Sociologists will say what she really needs for the welfare of her child is to be married to its father.  Which is, interestingly enough, what most people expect the church to teach, too.


Surprisingly, there are many people who just don't listen to what sociologists or the church says. What do we do with deadbeat and absent fathers?


This lady and child came into the church without a husband/father. We certainly weren't going to turn them away because they didn't meet our ideal family.


Also, sociologists tell us that a single parent home where there is love and trust is better for the child than those where mothers and fathers fight and mistrust each other.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Rob Morris on April 26, 2017, 09:13:40 PM
I'll throw a line in here. We all know it, but it's easy to forget it in the face of such a need.

In the end, it's not about us.

Actually, it's not about us in the beginning or the middle either.

The fate of the inner city (and the outer city and the exurbs and the suburbs and the rural areas) is in God's hands.

We are called to be faithful in those circumstances where God has placed us. If your calling (by intent or by geographical happenstance) is to a city where drugs and violence and suffering are blatant and obvious, you have my prayers. If your calling is to a suburb where drugs (like prescription painkillers) and violence (like domestic violence) and suffering (social, psychological, sexual) are less obvious, you have my prayers, too.

Church history shows us times that the cities have been essential to the story of the church (think: from the apostolic times to the fall of Rome). It also shows us times that rural areas have been essential to the  story of the church (think: from the fall of Rome until the rise of Charlemagne, at least in the Western world).

Christ builds his church, and the gates of neither Metropolis nor Smallville will prevail against it. May He grant us His truth, His hope, His peace, and His strength wherever He calls us to be. May we hear and heed His Spirit wherever it decides to blow.

I celebrate both the heart behind the question and the discussion surrounding it, but "The Church in the Inner-City - Can WE keep that presence?" isn't quite the right question. Keeping that presence was never really our responsibility. God's on it. He's got this.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 26, 2017, 09:29:55 PM
Peter, what you say:
 But even to have proper sympathy for the unemployed you have to understand that in general being employed is better than being unemployed. In other words, there is a reason we refer to it as the "problem" of unemployment. Pretty much everyone (maybe a rare exception here or there) gets that without being told. But if we came across people who didn't understand that unemployment is a problem and were content to simply plan their lives around welfare instead of work, they would need to be taught a better way.

This may well be academically correct and even workable sometimes and helpful.  But the 95 year old who has cancer may not need to be taught that surgery and radiation will be helpful but allowed to die of cancer with dignity and whatever comfort medical help can allow.  The woman who kept a house that was absolutely filthy by almost every standard and asked me always when visiting to sit in the very furniture she had accidents on (Wangerin and I are classmates in more than story telling) could not be taught to be tidy and I had to learn to sit, wear wash and wear slacks and eat and drink whatever she placed before me most of time no matter how clean the glass or plate looked to my suburban eyes.  And the church willingly and lovingly provided for her medical and rental and food needs-- with joy.  And she loved the Lord and us. 

Understanding is a many splendored and splattered thing. 

We give without seeking reward or eliciting change even as our Lord did without know whether the world or any in it would love him or serve him, much less well and always.
Harvey, like you, been there in that chair. Well, not that same one, but other chairs much like it. And enjoyed Wangerin's poignant stories, which resonate precisely because they aren't unusual.

 Nobody thinks the person who can't help himself needs to be berated, and nobody thinks we should preach some sort of middle class sense of propriety and cleanliness as God's law. But the fact that you compare the issue of sexual morality to the accidents of the medically incontinent or the standards of those who fail to meet "our" standards of cleanliness shows the problem I'm talking about. They aren't comparable issues. Scruples of cleanliness have nothing to do with sin or morality. Nor do medical conditions. To look at the promiscuous teen as someone who is simply living a distasteful (to "us") lifestyle is to think of the commandments as societal constructs. And to look at him or her like an incontinent person who has accidents is implicitly to look down on him or her as one who is not a moral agent. Yes, people are not problems to solve, but we are called to preach and teach law and Gospel to them. putting up with messes is one thing. Refusing to potty train is another.

We expect pastors to be examples to the flock, which presupposes the ability of the flock to benefit from a good example. And we don't tolerate a pastor who has sex out of wedlock.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 26, 2017, 10:18:30 PM
Much of the recorded public ministry of Jesus Christ was to the marginalized in society.
Jesus reached out to those who were excluded or rejected by Jewish society and religious
leaders.  These people were given low status and often labeled "sinners".   These social
outcasts included tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, demon-possessed, Samaritans, widows,
beggars, and women.  Yet, Jesus encountered them and called them to repentance.

There is no doubt that many who live in the inner city are the "marginalized" people of the
21st century America.   However, Christ died on the cross for their sins and rose from the
grave to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Christ will be present in the inner city
when we come to them with a Word and Sacrament ministry.   As denominations make the
inner city a priority, we will be sharing the love of Christ with them.

Thank you for this.  There should be much more of this kind of talk in our church body over and above putting down people who are making choices based on the only lifestyle they've ever known.  The church can show them a better way.  In no way do we dismiss un-Godly behavior . . . we find inroads to catechize individuals in ways that avoid self-righteous and sanctimonious behavior.  Nothing shuts down a conversation (and potential educational opportunity) more quickly than a judgmental and condescending attitude.  Jesus modeled a better way, one that we can emulate.  One can stand firm on the tenets of the faith, apply the Law and Gospel as needed, and still exhibit love towards one's neighbor.

Yes to this post.  After over forty years in the city, I have no space for sanctimony in working through with people the amazingly difficult paths they have to walk.  I often wonder whether I would even bother getting out of bed in the morning facing what some of my folks face on a daily basis.  And yet they continue beneath the cross, carrying their own with Jesus alongside them and ahead of them, having taken their burdens to that cross on their behalf.  And the Church, its pastors and leaders, are called to enter the specific world faced by those in the congregation and on the streets.  Nothing less will do.

I completely agree that the Church can, should and must teach from the strength that our Law/Gospel approach encourages.  But judgmentalism is not part of our DNA.  Love is.  Tough and real love, but always and endlessly love.   Much of the DV is afflicted physically on young women, at a rate five and more times than that afflicted on men.  But I've received any number of middle-aged women who are on their own as well, having had a belly full of misbehavior and misconduct directed at them from their wayward guy.  They rejoice in the Lord always.  In the Lord.  And they are amazing models of Christian behavior in our midst. 

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Richard Johnson on April 26, 2017, 10:33:37 PM
And we don't tolerate a pastor who has sex out of wedlock.

One would like to think so. Unfortunately, not always the case.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 26, 2017, 11:19:28 PM
Much of the recorded public ministry of Jesus Christ was to the marginalized in society.
Jesus reached out to those who were excluded or rejected by Jewish society and religious
leaders.  These people were given low status and often labeled "sinners".   These social
outcasts included tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, demon-possessed, Samaritans, widows,
beggars, and women.  Yet, Jesus encountered them and called them to repentance.

There is no doubt that many who live in the inner city are the "marginalized" people of the
21st century America.   However, Christ died on the cross for their sins and rose from the
grave to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Christ will be present in the inner city
when we come to them with a Word and Sacrament ministry.   As denominations make the
inner city a priority, we will be sharing the love of Christ with them.

Thank you for this.  There should be much more of this kind of talk in our church body over and above putting down people who are making choices based on the only lifestyle they've ever known.  The church can show them a better way.  In no way do we dismiss un-Godly behavior . . . we find inroads to catechize individuals in ways that avoid self-righteous and sanctimonious behavior.  Nothing shuts down a conversation (and potential educational opportunity) more quickly than a judgmental and condescending attitude.  Jesus modeled a better way, one that we can emulate.  One can stand firm on the tenets of the faith, apply the Law and Gospel as needed, and still exhibit love towards one's neighbor.

Yes to this post.  After over forty years in the city, I have no space for sanctimony in working through with people the amazingly difficult paths they have to walk.  I often wonder whether I would even bother getting out of bed in the morning facing what some of my folks face on a daily basis.  And yet they continue beneath the cross, carrying their own with Jesus alongside them and ahead of them, having taken their burdens to that cross on their behalf.  And the Church, its pastors and leaders, are called to enter the specific world faced by those in the congregation and on the streets.  Nothing less will do.

I completely agree that the Church can, should and must teach from the strength that our Law/Gospel approach encourages.  But judgmentalism is not part of our DNA.  Love is.  Tough and real love, but always and endlessly love.   Much of the DV is afflicted physically on young women, at a rate five and more times than that afflicted on men.  But I've received any number of middle-aged women who are on their own as well, having had a belly full of misbehavior and misconduct directed at them from their wayward guy.  They rejoice in the Lord always.  In the Lord.  And they are amazing models of Christian behavior in our midst. 

Dave Benke
Teaching the first use of the law is love. Not doing so is indulgence masquerading as love. if the members of our churches are engaging in sex outside of wedlock and not being called to repent of that, their pastors are failing them. Of course it is always love, grace, and forgiveness at the heart of things. The promiscuous person is no different from the shoplifter or vandal. We condemn their actions not only in order to bring them to repentance and forgiveness but also because we want them to have something better.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Buckeye Deaconess on April 27, 2017, 12:34:54 AM

Teaching the first use of the law is love. Not doing so is indulgence masquerading as love. if the members of our churches are engaging in sex outside of wedlock and not being called to repent of that, their pastors are failing them.

I don't see anyone asserting otherwise.  Of course sin needs to be called out for what it is.  There seems to be a common misconception in certain LCMS social media realms of late that pregnancy centers are encouraging single motherhood, that the church doesn't care for these kids in single-parent homes past infancy, that people like me who are calling for compassionate, Biblically-based outreach to women and kids in these situations rather than offering a blanket condemnation of them means we don't believe the Law should be applied.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Of course it should be.  But publicly mocking the plight of families struggling to survive in situations that most of us in our quaint, well-educated Lutheran circles couldn't even begin to fathom isn't the answer.  That shuts down dialogue before it can even begin.  Calling these children "bastards" who should be pulled from their ghetto culture and placed in "safe and healthy" environments . . . well, that was just one pastor's musings on a public page.  My reading of Scripture shows Jesus meeting women, especially, where they were at, not diminishing the seriousness of their sins, but out of love, demonstrating a better path forward.  It's my opinion that this is a better way forward for the church.  In my experience, it's the way that works.  Self-righteous condemnation doesn't work.  Loving catechesis does.  The demise of the family unit from what we as Christians uphold is often passed from one generation to the next, and it takes education to change these attitudes.  But we have to be present in these communities to have these opportunities to educate.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Weedon on April 27, 2017, 08:11:12 AM
As a frequent poster on this board likes to remind us, we could learn a lot from living in John 4 and pondering the way our Lord deals with the woman at the well. A lot.

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on April 27, 2017, 08:20:50 AM
Will, your reminding us of the woman at the well causes me to thINK (interesting fonting, term and definition I just invented; to explore one's mind in writing:

how does the well women compare/contrast with the viperous Pharisees?

would it be interesting to compile two lists with descriptions of Jesus actions toward each list.  One being those he was very harsh and condemning toward and those whose sin caused a more loving and merciful response...  and to look at possible differences, whys and hows....

takers?

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on April 27, 2017, 08:24:25 AM
my guess is... if you exclude generic things like sheep and goat talk...
the list of those whom Jesus approaches/responds/proclaims with "softness" will be larger than those with whom he deals using more "coarse" conversation...  I know there are Law and Gospel teamed up occasions too....
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 27, 2017, 08:36:41 AM
Kim, I'm hoping that you are not directing this comment at me, given your last sentence and copying in my quote. 

Not at all.  You'll note my reference to a pastor's profile pic . . . I wasn't referencing this forum in the least.  I'm scratching my head at your decision to dress me down, but OK.

Thank you for explaining, Kim.  As my post was used in the quote, I thought, perhaps, the middle part of your post was in response.   Sorry for misunderstanding.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 27, 2017, 08:57:02 AM
I'll throw a line in here. We all know it, but it's easy to forget it in the face of such a need.

In the end, it's not about us.

Actually, it's not about us in the beginning or the middle either.

The fate of the inner city (and the outer city and the exurbs and the suburbs and the rural areas) is in God's hands.

We are called to be faithful in those circumstances where God has placed us. If your calling (by intent or by geographical happenstance) is to a city where drugs and violence and suffering are blatant and obvious, you have my prayers. If your calling is to a suburb where drugs (like prescription painkillers) and violence (like domestic violence) and suffering (social, psychological, sexual) are less obvious, you have my prayers, too.

Church history shows us times that the cities have been essential to the story of the church (think: from the apostolic times to the fall of Rome). It also shows us times that rural areas have been essential to the  story of the church (think: from the fall of Rome until the rise of Charlemagne, at least in the Western world).

Christ builds his church, and the gates of neither Metropolis nor Smallville will prevail against it. May He grant us His truth, His hope, His peace, and His strength wherever He calls us to be. May we hear and heed His Spirit wherever it decides to blow.

I celebrate both the heart behind the question and the discussion surrounding it, but "The Church in the Inner-City - Can WE keep that presence?" isn't quite the right question. Keeping that presence was never really our responsibility. God's on it. He's got this.

I do agree that while we all know this, it always needs to be said, we always need to be reminded.  I have a sense that this comment will bring anguish to some and a smile to at least two posters, but as I read your post (and I think you inferred this) I am reminded of the ELCA's, "God's Work - Our Hands."  It's really not such a bad line. 

When I started this thread I have to admit I wasn't thinking of specific behaviors.  But lest we place the behaviors that have come up, specifically and most recently sexual promiscuity, let us not place this squarely on the inner city.  It's all over.   Certainly drugs are prevalent from the poorest area of a city to the wealthiest suburb.  It's how all of this plays out.  It is, I'll say again, that sense of not only helplessness, but lack of hope, that one finds in inner cities.  I'm not even sure some of these other conversations that go to changing behavior can even happen before some of these people have something to cling to - hope - the hope that only our Savior can give. 

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on April 27, 2017, 09:16:41 AM
I'll throw a line in here. We all know it, but it's easy to forget it in the face of such a need.

In the end, it's not about us.

Actually, it's not about us in the beginning or the middle either.

The fate of the inner city (and the outer city and the exurbs and the suburbs and the rural areas) is in God's hands.

We are called to be faithful in those circumstances where God has placed us. If your calling (by intent or by geographical happenstance) is to a city where drugs and violence and suffering are blatant and obvious, you have my prayers. If your calling is to a suburb where drugs (like prescription painkillers) and violence (like domestic violence) and suffering (social, psychological, sexual) are less obvious, you have my prayers, too.

Church history shows us times that the cities have been essential to the story of the church (think: from the apostolic times to the fall of Rome). It also shows us times that rural areas have been essential to the  story of the church (think: from the fall of Rome until the rise of Charlemagne, at least in the Western world).

Christ builds his church, and the gates of neither Metropolis nor Smallville will prevail against it. May He grant us His truth, His hope, His peace, and His strength wherever He calls us to be. May we hear and heed His Spirit wherever it decides to blow.

I celebrate both the heart behind the question and the discussion surrounding it, but "The Church in the Inner-City - Can WE keep that presence?" isn't quite the right question. Keeping that presence was never really our responsibility. God's on it. He's got this.

I do agree that while we all know this, it always needs to be said, we always need to be reminded.  I have a sense that this comment will bring anguish to some and a smile to at least two posters, but as I read your post (and I think you inferred this) I am reminded of the ELCA's, "God's Work - Our Hands."  It's really not such a bad line. 

When I started this thread I have to admit I wasn't thinking of specific behaviors.  But lest we place the behaviors that have come up, specifically and most recently sexual promiscuity, let us not place this squarely on the inner city.  It's all over.   Certainly drugs are prevalent from the poorest area of a city to the wealthiest suburb.  It's how all of this plays out.  It is, I'll say again, that sense of not only helplessness, but lack of hope, that one finds in inner cities.  I'm not even sure some of these other conversations that go to changing behavior can even happen before some of these people have something to cling to - hope - the hope that only our Savior can give.

I am reminded of the movie, American Beauty, that my Pastor frequently refers to (he has served in the inner cities, the affluent suburbs, and a rural area).  The more affluent parts of town just have the money to cover up the sin, the abhorrent and deviant behaviors, the inner sickness.  Scratch the surface and the corruption, the stench, and the self-righteousness is evident everywhere.  All need to hear the Word proclaimed and cling to the hope only our Savior can give.

 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Charles Austin on April 27, 2017, 10:41:38 AM
And abuse of prescription drugs, especially the opiods, is a "suburban" epidemic. If you don't know or haven't seen that, you are not paying attention.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: RevG on April 27, 2017, 10:48:31 AM
I'll throw a line in here. We all know it, but it's easy to forget it in the face of such a need.

In the end, it's not about us.

Actually, it's not about us in the beginning or the middle either.

The fate of the inner city (and the outer city and the exurbs and the suburbs and the rural areas) is in God's hands.

We are called to be faithful in those circumstances where God has placed us. If your calling (by intent or by geographical happenstance) is to a city where drugs and violence and suffering are blatant and obvious, you have my prayers. If your calling is to a suburb where drugs (like prescription painkillers) and violence (like domestic violence) and suffering (social, psychological, sexual) are less obvious, you have my prayers, too.

Church history shows us times that the cities have been essential to the story of the church (think: from the apostolic times to the fall of Rome). It also shows us times that rural areas have been essential to the  story of the church (think: from the fall of Rome until the rise of Charlemagne, at least in the Western world).

Christ builds his church, and the gates of neither Metropolis nor Smallville will prevail against it. May He grant us His truth, His hope, His peace, and His strength wherever He calls us to be. May we hear and heed His Spirit wherever it decides to blow.

I celebrate both the heart behind the question and the discussion surrounding it, but "The Church in the Inner-City - Can WE keep that presence?" isn't quite the right question. Keeping that presence was never really our responsibility. God's on it. He's got this.

I do agree that while we all know this, it always needs to be said, we always need to be reminded.  I have a sense that this comment will bring anguish to some and a smile to at least two posters, but as I read your post (and I think you inferred this) I am reminded of the ELCA's, "God's Work - Our Hands."  It's really not such a bad line. 

When I started this thread I have to admit I wasn't thinking of specific behaviors.  But lest we place the behaviors that have come up, specifically and most recently sexual promiscuity, let us not place this squarely on the inner city.  It's all over.   Certainly drugs are prevalent from the poorest area of a city to the wealthiest suburb.  It's how all of this plays out.  It is, I'll say again, that sense of not only helplessness, but lack of hope, that one finds in inner cities.  I'm not even sure some of these other conversations that go to changing behavior can even happen before some of these people have something to cling to - hope - the hope that only our Savior can give.

I am reminded of the movie, American Beauty, that my Pastor frequently refers to (he has served in the inner cities, the affluent suburbs, and a rural area).  The more affluent parts of town just have the money to cover up the sin, the abhorrent and deviant behaviors, the inner sickness.  Scratch the surface and the corruption, the stench, and the self-righteousness is evident everywhere.  All need to hear the Word proclaimed and cling to the hope only our Savior can give.

Yes, sin is everywhere but it is different.  We're talking different in the sense of systemic and institutional. I currently reside in an affluent suburb but I grew up 5 miles away in Yonkers and there is a world of difference.  I grew up in a good working-class neighborhood and the values and expectations are enormously different.  For example, I was having a conversation with a parent in the community about how his daughter's boyfriend was shocked to find out that he didn't get in to Dartmouth.  This was expected and it was spoken of as if it was normal.  Whereas, I don't even think the guys I hung out with applied to any IVY League school let alone anything on par with that. I sure as heck didn't. In fact, most of them are union workers now.  So if there is such a gap between rich and working class, it's going to be even greater with those who are poorer and it's going to be darker.  So, yeah, sin is everywhere but if given a choice most people would want to live in a good and safe neighborhood rather than a ghetto, even if the people are self-righteous.

Adding one more thing: my point is that these type of backgrounds will influence how one sees the world. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 27, 2017, 10:54:53 AM
A major emphasis in inner city work must be education, including creating educational opportunity, assessing the educational system, and offering educational options like tutoring and homework assistance as integral ministries of the congregation.  It used to be that we simply operated schools.  What has happened in this part of the world is that the charter school movement has taken up most of the space in the private educational world, with the parochial schools closing on a regular basis.  No use crying about it, it's happened, is happening, and will continue to happen. 

The Roman Catholic system is greatly reduced, and offers tuition-based schools that are academies of excellence where they can.  The Lutheran system is also greatly reduced.  Some soldier on, but the economics are stark. 

The churches, however, can and should persist in educational endeavor.  While we focus Christian catechesis as we should, and as most of us in the city do, there is also a primary need to be involved with families in the education of their children.  We spend a lot of our time and energy on children/youth educational outreach - it's in the Lutheran DNA.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 27, 2017, 10:57:22 AM

Teaching the first use of the law is love. Not doing so is indulgence masquerading as love. if the members of our churches are engaging in sex outside of wedlock and not being called to repent of that, their pastors are failing them.

I don't see anyone asserting otherwise.  Of course sin needs to be called out for what it is.  There seems to be a common misconception in certain LCMS social media realms of late that pregnancy centers are encouraging single motherhood, that the church doesn't care for these kids in single-parent homes past infancy, that people like me who are calling for compassionate, Biblically-based outreach to women and kids in these situations rather than offering a blanket condemnation of them means we don't believe the Law should be applied.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Of course it should be.  But publicly mocking the plight of families struggling to survive in situations that most of us in our quaint, well-educated Lutheran circles couldn't even begin to fathom isn't the answer.  That shuts down dialogue before it can even begin.  Calling these children "bastards" who should be pulled from their ghetto culture and placed in "safe and healthy" environments . . . well, that was just one pastor's musings on a public page.  My reading of Scripture shows Jesus meeting women, especially, where they were at, not diminishing the seriousness of their sins, but out of love, demonstrating a better path forward.  It's my opinion that this is a better way forward for the church.  In my experience, it's the way that works.  Self-righteous condemnation doesn't work.  Loving catechesis does.  The demise of the family unit from what we as Christians uphold is often passed from one generation to the next, and it takes education to change these attitudes.  But we have to be present in these communities to have these opportunities to educate.
Who is offering blanket condemnation? Who "can't fathom" conditions outside a "quaint" circle? My concerns as I've expressed them is that we must not begin to think of the nuclear family as a quaint, traditional, middle-class thing and single-parent families as simply another structure that is in place in other cultures and settings, as though the design of the family were cultural and not divine. It can lead us to treat promiscuity not as utterly destructuve and wicked, but as simply a bad lifestyle choice, like spending all of one's money on tattoos or watching tv 20 hour a day. A man who beats his wife may be troubled in a lot of ways and may have been raised not to know any better and may be in need of tremendous love and compassion from God and the church, but his behavior is absolutely unacceptable. It is not failing to see him as a child of God to tell him in no uncertain terms that he can't do that.

Because the destruction caused by promiscuity is far more devastating but not nearly as direct as, say, vandalism, there can be a tendency not to treat promiscuity as destructive and devastating. That tendency, where it exists, is a big problem and a failure of church leadership. Even if we stick to a pure first use of the law, we who teach the commandments are responsible to make sure people know it and, if possible, see the devastation caused by breaking these commandments.

Importantly, when I'm talking about teaching against promiscuity or sexual immorality I'm not talking about going up to the struggling single mom and saying, "You know what you did is wicked, right?" I'm talking about teaching the catechism to fifth or sixth graders and making it absolutely clear that just as they may not murder or steal, they also may not have sex with anyone at all to whom they are not married. That is God's rule for them, and breaking it is every bit as terrible for them, for other people, and for society as murdering or stealing. The young need to be raised to think of sex outside of wedlock as a great temptation but also a great evil. We typically have no trouble teaching against stealing, even to thieves. But for some reason we hesitate to teach against sexual immorality wherever the surrounding family structure or cultural norms don't back us up, or we immediately accuse anyone who brings it up of being judgmental, lacking compassion, failing to pastorally apply God's Word, or of being unable to comprehend the complexities of life outside the white picket fence in the real nitty-gritty, or whatever. All I'm saying is that if a person has sex outside of marriage and was never taught as a youngster that such behavior is every bit as contrary to God's law and every bit as destructive as shooting someone, then that person's pastors and teachers failed him or her. Luther was disgusted by the conditions of the parishes where the catechism had fallen into disuse. And that is the condition of parishes where the young are not taught the truth about the 6th commandment.

 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 27, 2017, 11:03:20 AM
Certainly agree with Pastor Austin on the opioid epidemic.  Single-parent households and pregnancy outside of marriage also is as much a part of suburbia as it is in the inner city.  But, again, there isn't that sense of hopelessness.  Sadly, with drugs, when a child (that is, underage) is found with drugs and the parents are brought in, their first question is, "Will this be public?  How will it affect their college applications?"  But that's not always the response.  Many parents spend money - often going into their retirement - to get their kids into treatment.  They don't always bury the sins of the suburbs, but advocate, making their issues public.  All this to say that they often have connections, resources, and - yes Dr. B. - education. 

All of these pieces, most especially the educational component, cannot equal the gift of a Christian community - the church. The young man I wrote of upstream who was kidnapped and kept captive for hours returned to a loving, supportive home - albeit a single parent, his father is still very much involved in his life.  He also came home to a loving, caring congregation.  At first, he was embarrassed that his mother shared his story with the congregation - but, as she told him, that's where we get our support.  Thanks be to God for pastors such as Pastor Staneck and Pastor Benke who lead and care for those communities.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Michael Slusser on April 27, 2017, 11:17:49 AM
The Roman Catholic system is greatly reduced, and offers tuition-based schools that are academies of excellence where they can.  The Lutheran system is also greatly reduced.  Some soldier on, but the economics are stark. 
In the past decade or two, the Cristo Rey model of secondary school, started by Jesuits but now greatly expanded, has found ways to deal with tuition issues through work internships. We have one in St. Paul, but they are also in New York and Newark--32 schools in all.
https://www.cristoreynetwork.org/about (https://www.cristoreynetwork.org/about)
http://www.educationdive.com/news/sweas-cristo-rey-model-successful-but-not-for-everyone/410780/ (http://www.educationdive.com/news/sweas-cristo-rey-model-successful-but-not-for-everyone/410780/)

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dan Fienen on April 27, 2017, 11:23:04 AM
We should remember the roots of Sunday School.  They were started in England in the early 18th century to provide working children with a rudimentary education in reading, writing, arithmetic and Bible.  As child labor declined and universal education became common, the non-religious portion of the Sunday School also declined.  Especially in urban areas the idea of the church assisting in educating students in more ways than maintaining expensive school is perhaps again a need.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 27, 2017, 11:42:12 AM

Teaching the first use of the law is love. Not doing so is indulgence masquerading as love. if the members of our churches are engaging in sex outside of wedlock and not being called to repent of that, their pastors are failing them.

I don't see anyone asserting otherwise.  Of course sin needs to be called out for what it is.  There seems to be a common misconception in certain LCMS social media realms of late that pregnancy centers are encouraging single motherhood, that the church doesn't care for these kids in single-parent homes past infancy, that people like me who are calling for compassionate, Biblically-based outreach to women and kids in these situations rather than offering a blanket condemnation of them means we don't believe the Law should be applied.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Of course it should be.  But publicly mocking the plight of families struggling to survive in situations that most of us in our quaint, well-educated Lutheran circles couldn't even begin to fathom isn't the answer.  That shuts down dialogue before it can even begin.  Calling these children "bastards" who should be pulled from their ghetto culture and placed in "safe and healthy" environments . . . well, that was just one pastor's musings on a public page.  My reading of Scripture shows Jesus meeting women, especially, where they were at, not diminishing the seriousness of their sins, but out of love, demonstrating a better path forward.  It's my opinion that this is a better way forward for the church.  In my experience, it's the way that works.  Self-righteous condemnation doesn't work.  Loving catechesis does.  The demise of the family unit from what we as Christians uphold is often passed from one generation to the next, and it takes education to change these attitudes.  But we have to be present in these communities to have these opportunities to educate.
Who is offering blanket condemnation? Who "can't fathom" conditions outside a "quaint" circle? My concerns as I've expressed them is that we must not begin to think of the nuclear family as a quaint, traditional, middle-class thing and single-parent families as simply another structure that is in place in other cultures and settings, as though the design of the family were cultural and not divine. It can lead us to treat promiscuity not as utterly destructuve and wicked, but as simply a bad lifestyle choice, like spending all of one's money on tattoos or watching tv 20 hour a day. A man who beats his wife may be troubled in a lot of ways and may have been raised not to know any better and may be in need of tremendous love and compassion from God and the church, but his behavior is absolutely unacceptable. It is not failing to see him as a child of God to tell him in no uncertain terms that he can't do that.

Because the destruction caused by promiscuity is far more devastating but not nearly as direct as, say, vandalism, there can be a tendency not to treat promiscuity as destructive and devastating. That tendency, where it exists, is a big problem and a failure of church leadership. Even if we stick to a pure first use of the law, we who teach the commandments are responsible to make sure people know it and, if possible, see the devastation caused by breaking these commandments.

Importantly, when I'm talking about teaching against promiscuity or sexual immorality I'm not talking about going up to the struggling single mom and saying, "You know what you did is wicked, right?" I'm talking about teaching the catechism to fifth or sixth graders and making it absolutely clear that just as they may not murder or steal, they also may not have sex with anyone at all to whom they are not married. That is God's rule for them, and breaking it is every bit as terrible for them, for other people, and for society as murdering or stealing. The young need to be raised to think of sex outside of wedlock as a great temptation but also a great evil. We typically have no trouble teaching against stealing, even to thieves. But for some reason we hesitate to teach against sexual immorality wherever the surrounding family structure or cultural norms don't back us up, or we immediately accuse anyone who brings it up of being judgmental, lacking compassion, failing to pastorally apply God's Word, or of being unable to comprehend the complexities of life outside the white picket fence in the real nitty-gritty, or whatever. All I'm saying is that if a person has sex outside of marriage and was never taught as a youngster that such behavior is every bit as contrary to God's law and every bit as destructive as shooting someone, then that person's pastors and teachers failed him or her. Luther was disgusted by the conditions of the parishes where the catechism had fallen into disuse. And that is the condition of parishes where the young are not taught the truth about the 6th commandment.

a) if you've been keeping up here, Kim is not talking about you, or Eileen, or anyone else here.  Yet you wax defensive.

b) every time you wax eloquent on the nuclear family you end up with this refrain about the Lutheran Christian child who's not being taught about the six commandment and sex outside of marriage.  In the context of the thread, "the church in the inner city", it comes across as you indicating that the reason there are inner city single moms is that Lutheran pastors have not been teaching the sixth commandment in catechism class.  This is totally bogus.
c) I'm sure the Roman Catholic catechesis, or the Presbyterian or Methodist on the sixth commandment is the same.  So
d) lots of kids are not in catechism class. 
e) some kids who went to catechism class still have sex outside of marriage.

Point d might be listed as a failure of mission effort by Christians in the city.  And truly, we have been a diminishing resource, which is what the thread was set up to address.
Point e has to do with life its own self.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Richard Johnson on April 27, 2017, 12:31:03 PM
I think a big part of the problem is that the church (read: pastors and catechists) is no more comfortable talking about sex than parents (or most anyone else). In the now completed (and in the editing process) ALPB history, there's a chapter about the church and sex, including a quotation from a 1965 tract "The Christian View of Sex." Some excerpts:

"The subject of sex is often considered too hot to handle. It makes us all feel a little uneasy and, therefore, most people are unable to speak about it. . . . [Sex is a good gift of God, and yet] the devil and sin have touched sex and, therefore, it may become unclean. . . . If a person eats like a pig by leaning all over the table and slopping his foods he may hurt the appetites of people around him. Likewise sex must be held in honor and used according to God’s rules of decency, lest the misuse of it offend God, cheapen our fellowman, and vulgarizes something that is good. . . . The proper context for sex is marriage . . . We are to enter married life as virgins and in married life to remain faithful and loyal. . . . We must set our brakes according to God’s laws and ask Him for help to do so and for forgiveness when we don’t.”

Daring stuff in 1965, but I'm not sure many pastors have progressed much beyond it. I think one of the best resources in this area is the series of tracts on sexuality the ALPB produced twenty years ago--probably not available any more, unfortunately, and they were never a big seller (maybe more because by that time the "tract" medium was pretty much past its sell-by date). A quote from one of them:

"Purity of heart, chastity of mind and body: these are expressions you may not have heard very much. Yet these quiet and heroic virtues are embodied in hidden saints all around you. It will not be hard for you to find excuses for abandoning the Christian struggle for purity. But by the strength of the Holy Spirit in you, renewed every day by God’s forgiveness, you may find the happiness hidden in a Christian’s free obedience to God."
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 27, 2017, 01:14:29 PM

Teaching the first use of the law is love. Not doing so is indulgence masquerading as love. if the members of our churches are engaging in sex outside of wedlock and not being called to repent of that, their pastors are failing them.

I don't see anyone asserting otherwise.  Of course sin needs to be called out for what it is.  There seems to be a common misconception in certain LCMS social media realms of late that pregnancy centers are encouraging single motherhood, that the church doesn't care for these kids in single-parent homes past infancy, that people like me who are calling for compassionate, Biblically-based outreach to women and kids in these situations rather than offering a blanket condemnation of them means we don't believe the Law should be applied.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Of course it should be.  But publicly mocking the plight of families struggling to survive in situations that most of us in our quaint, well-educated Lutheran circles couldn't even begin to fathom isn't the answer.  That shuts down dialogue before it can even begin.  Calling these children "bastards" who should be pulled from their ghetto culture and placed in "safe and healthy" environments . . . well, that was just one pastor's musings on a public page.  My reading of Scripture shows Jesus meeting women, especially, where they were at, not diminishing the seriousness of their sins, but out of love, demonstrating a better path forward.  It's my opinion that this is a better way forward for the church.  In my experience, it's the way that works.  Self-righteous condemnation doesn't work.  Loving catechesis does.  The demise of the family unit from what we as Christians uphold is often passed from one generation to the next, and it takes education to change these attitudes.  But we have to be present in these communities to have these opportunities to educate.
Who is offering blanket condemnation? Who "can't fathom" conditions outside a "quaint" circle? My concerns as I've expressed them is that we must not begin to think of the nuclear family as a quaint, traditional, middle-class thing and single-parent families as simply another structure that is in place in other cultures and settings, as though the design of the family were cultural and not divine. It can lead us to treat promiscuity not as utterly destructuve and wicked, but as simply a bad lifestyle choice, like spending all of one's money on tattoos or watching tv 20 hour a day. A man who beats his wife may be troubled in a lot of ways and may have been raised not to know any better and may be in need of tremendous love and compassion from God and the church, but his behavior is absolutely unacceptable. It is not failing to see him as a child of God to tell him in no uncertain terms that he can't do that.

Because the destruction caused by promiscuity is far more devastating but not nearly as direct as, say, vandalism, there can be a tendency not to treat promiscuity as destructive and devastating. That tendency, where it exists, is a big problem and a failure of church leadership. Even if we stick to a pure first use of the law, we who teach the commandments are responsible to make sure people know it and, if possible, see the devastation caused by breaking these commandments.

Importantly, when I'm talking about teaching against promiscuity or sexual immorality I'm not talking about going up to the struggling single mom and saying, "You know what you did is wicked, right?" I'm talking about teaching the catechism to fifth or sixth graders and making it absolutely clear that just as they may not murder or steal, they also may not have sex with anyone at all to whom they are not married. That is God's rule for them, and breaking it is every bit as terrible for them, for other people, and for society as murdering or stealing. The young need to be raised to think of sex outside of wedlock as a great temptation but also a great evil. We typically have no trouble teaching against stealing, even to thieves. But for some reason we hesitate to teach against sexual immorality wherever the surrounding family structure or cultural norms don't back us up, or we immediately accuse anyone who brings it up of being judgmental, lacking compassion, failing to pastorally apply God's Word, or of being unable to comprehend the complexities of life outside the white picket fence in the real nitty-gritty, or whatever. All I'm saying is that if a person has sex outside of marriage and was never taught as a youngster that such behavior is every bit as contrary to God's law and every bit as destructive as shooting someone, then that person's pastors and teachers failed him or her. Luther was disgusted by the conditions of the parishes where the catechism had fallen into disuse. And that is the condition of parishes where the young are not taught the truth about the 6th commandment.

a) if you've been keeping up here, Kim is not talking about you, or Eileen, or anyone else here.  Yet you wax defensive.

b) every time you wax eloquent on the nuclear family you end up with this refrain about the Lutheran Christian child who's not being taught about the six commandment and sex outside of marriage.  In the context of the thread, "the church in the inner city", it comes across as you indicating that the reason there are inner city single moms is that Lutheran pastors have not been teaching the sixth commandment in catechism class.  This is totally bogus.
c) I'm sure the Roman Catholic catechesis, or the Presbyterian or Methodist on the sixth commandment is the same.  So
d) lots of kids are not in catechism class. 
e) some kids who went to catechism class still have sex outside of marriage.

Point d might be listed as a failure of mission effort by Christians in the city.  And truly, we have been a diminishing resource, which is what the thread was set up to address.
Point e has to do with life its own self.

Dave Benke
Your response to me upstream was "I have kind of taken the pledge against KulturKampfing.  The pastoral approach in these many cases in the city is not mainly to wax moralistic, but to bring better teaching, better options, better hope." That tells me several things:

1) You think teaching the first use of the law in connection with the issue of the brokenness of the family as it relates to larger social ills, especially in the inner city, as "kulturkampfing."
2) You're against such an approach in your city context.
3) Your pastoral approach (meaning as a pastor toward those to whom you minister) is not to focus on the connection between sexual immorality and larger social ills because to do so would be to "wax moralistic."
4) You bring "better teaching," which is somehow the same teaching against sexual immorality, only better.
5) You're possibly learning karate and have had the verb "to wax" on your mind a lot lately.

At any rate, given your consistently negative reaction to any suggestion of teaching the first use of the law concerning sexual morality as I've been describing it, I don't think it was a bad inference on my part to assume you don't do much of that. I'd be very interested to know how, specifically, in your context, people are taught that it is sinful (2nd use), destructive (1st use), and unChristian or contrary to God's will for us (3rd use if you go in for kind of thing, otherwise more 1st and 2nd use) to have sex out of wedlock.
 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 27, 2017, 01:51:24 PM

Teaching the first use of the law is love. Not doing so is indulgence masquerading as love. if the members of our churches are engaging in sex outside of wedlock and not being called to repent of that, their pastors are failing them.

I don't see anyone asserting otherwise.  Of course sin needs to be called out for what it is.  There seems to be a common misconception in certain LCMS social media realms of late that pregnancy centers are encouraging single motherhood, that the church doesn't care for these kids in single-parent homes past infancy, that people like me who are calling for compassionate, Biblically-based outreach to women and kids in these situations rather than offering a blanket condemnation of them means we don't believe the Law should be applied.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Of course it should be.  But publicly mocking the plight of families struggling to survive in situations that most of us in our quaint, well-educated Lutheran circles couldn't even begin to fathom isn't the answer.  That shuts down dialogue before it can even begin.  Calling these children "bastards" who should be pulled from their ghetto culture and placed in "safe and healthy" environments . . . well, that was just one pastor's musings on a public page.  My reading of Scripture shows Jesus meeting women, especially, where they were at, not diminishing the seriousness of their sins, but out of love, demonstrating a better path forward.  It's my opinion that this is a better way forward for the church.  In my experience, it's the way that works.  Self-righteous condemnation doesn't work.  Loving catechesis does.  The demise of the family unit from what we as Christians uphold is often passed from one generation to the next, and it takes education to change these attitudes.  But we have to be present in these communities to have these opportunities to educate.
Who is offering blanket condemnation? Who "can't fathom" conditions outside a "quaint" circle? My concerns as I've expressed them is that we must not begin to think of the nuclear family as a quaint, traditional, middle-class thing and single-parent families as simply another structure that is in place in other cultures and settings, as though the design of the family were cultural and not divine. It can lead us to treat promiscuity not as utterly destructuve and wicked, but as simply a bad lifestyle choice, like spending all of one's money on tattoos or watching tv 20 hour a day. A man who beats his wife may be troubled in a lot of ways and may have been raised not to know any better and may be in need of tremendous love and compassion from God and the church, but his behavior is absolutely unacceptable. It is not failing to see him as a child of God to tell him in no uncertain terms that he can't do that.

Because the destruction caused by promiscuity is far more devastating but not nearly as direct as, say, vandalism, there can be a tendency not to treat promiscuity as destructive and devastating. That tendency, where it exists, is a big problem and a failure of church leadership. Even if we stick to a pure first use of the law, we who teach the commandments are responsible to make sure people know it and, if possible, see the devastation caused by breaking these commandments.

Importantly, when I'm talking about teaching against promiscuity or sexual immorality I'm not talking about going up to the struggling single mom and saying, "You know what you did is wicked, right?" I'm talking about teaching the catechism to fifth or sixth graders and making it absolutely clear that just as they may not murder or steal, they also may not have sex with anyone at all to whom they are not married. That is God's rule for them, and breaking it is every bit as terrible for them, for other people, and for society as murdering or stealing. The young need to be raised to think of sex outside of wedlock as a great temptation but also a great evil. We typically have no trouble teaching against stealing, even to thieves. But for some reason we hesitate to teach against sexual immorality wherever the surrounding family structure or cultural norms don't back us up, or we immediately accuse anyone who brings it up of being judgmental, lacking compassion, failing to pastorally apply God's Word, or of being unable to comprehend the complexities of life outside the white picket fence in the real nitty-gritty, or whatever. All I'm saying is that if a person has sex outside of marriage and was never taught as a youngster that such behavior is every bit as contrary to God's law and every bit as destructive as shooting someone, then that person's pastors and teachers failed him or her. Luther was disgusted by the conditions of the parishes where the catechism had fallen into disuse. And that is the condition of parishes where the young are not taught the truth about the 6th commandment.

a) if you've been keeping up here, Kim is not talking about you, or Eileen, or anyone else here.  Yet you wax defensive.

b) every time you wax eloquent on the nuclear family you end up with this refrain about the Lutheran Christian child who's not being taught about the six commandment and sex outside of marriage.  In the context of the thread, "the church in the inner city", it comes across as you indicating that the reason there are inner city single moms is that Lutheran pastors have not been teaching the sixth commandment in catechism class.  This is totally bogus.
c) I'm sure the Roman Catholic catechesis, or the Presbyterian or Methodist on the sixth commandment is the same.  So
d) lots of kids are not in catechism class. 
e) some kids who went to catechism class still have sex outside of marriage.

Point d might be listed as a failure of mission effort by Christians in the city.  And truly, we have been a diminishing resource, which is what the thread was set up to address.
Point e has to do with life its own self.

Dave Benke
Your response to me upstream was "I have kind of taken the pledge against KulturKampfing.  The pastoral approach in these many cases in the city is not mainly to wax moralistic, but to bring better teaching, better options, better hope." That tells me several things:

1) You think teaching the first use of the law in connection with the issue of the brokenness of the family as it relates to larger social ills, especially in the inner city, as "kulturkampfing."
2) You're against such an approach in your city context.
3) Your pastoral approach (meaning as a pastor toward those to whom you minister) is not to focus on the connection between sexual immorality and larger social ills because to do so would be to "wax moralistic."
4) You bring "better teaching," which is somehow the same teaching against sexual immorality, only better.
5) You're possibly learning karate and have had the verb "to wax" on your mind a lot lately.

At any rate, given your consistently negative reaction to any suggestion of teaching the first use of the law concerning sexual morality as I've been describing it, I don't think it was a bad inference on my part to assume you don't do much of that. I'd be very interested to know how, specifically, in your context, people are taught that it is sinful (2nd use), destructive (1st use), and unChristian or contrary to God's will for us (3rd use if you go in for kind of thing, otherwise more 1st and 2nd use) to have sex out of wedlock.

a) Catechism class
b) Sunday School
c) Bible Class
Method - Catechism and Bible, conversation, examination, more conversation

I remember being in Togo years ago on what was then called the Barnabas Project.  One of the missionaries we met there said, "For whatever reason, the only commandment that seems to get any attention in the US by pastors is the 6th commandment.  We try to teach all ten here because people have trouble with all ten." 
That's kind of what we do at my place. 

The thread is about the church in the inner city.  The church in the inner city is concerned with family life in the way all churches are.  Through the years, for instance, we have worked with a ton of foster children coming out of very rough family situations, many of whom were eventually adopted by their foster parents.  One of them will be in church Sunday with her husband for the baptism of their second child.  The whole extended crew of family/adopted family will be with them.  The issue for me as an oldster is that I remember baptizing the little foster child 20 years ago, and then giving her her first communion and then confirming her, and then being with her through her teen years in the youth group.  Lots and lots of memories, now going forward. 

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 27, 2017, 02:39:29 PM
On the question of why the 6th commandment gets so much more play, I don't think it does in terms of what is taught. It does in terms of what gets discussed, though, because unlike most commandments, the 6th gets a lot of pushback.

Tell people they can't take things that don't belong to them and they'll say, "No kidding," even if they are kleptomaniacs. So you explain the 7th commandment, go through some scenarios that make clear it falls under the wider rubric of "love your neighbor as yourself" as regards possessions, and you move onto the 8th commandment in relatively short order. But tell people that they can't have sex with anyone other than their husband or wife according to God's definition of marriage and you get a lot of raised hands, objections, and discussion, which takes a while. Then you get someone complaining that you focus too much on the 6th commandment. The answer is simply that the teacher/preacher doesn't focus on it, the hearers do. If there were no gay lobby redefining marriage, no pop culture celebrating promiscuity at every turn, and no preponderance of marriageless families, there would be no need to spend so much time on the 6th commandment.

I'm reminded of the political cartoon put out by blacklivesmatter to explain their opposition to alllivesmatter. It shows the firefighters spraying down all the houses on the street equally instead of training all their hoses on the one house that is actually on fire. Yes, all the commandments matter. In our context, the 6th is the one that has to be particularly driven home. It is the one that is incessantly and overtly contradicted practically everywhere else our people go. Hearing people lament the churches focusing on sexual morality issues is like listening to the klansmen grouse that all the pastor talks about is the evil of racism, and surely there are other topics in the Bible the pastor could focus on. The frustration is expressed as, "How odd that the church pays more attention to this topic than that one," but the reality behind it is, "This topic sticks in my craw, so I wish they would just move on to some less bothersome topic."
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on April 27, 2017, 03:53:48 PM
Do you think though, Peter, that if folks understood the first commandment better they might have less trouble understanding the implications of the sixth's (and others of course) but then maybe someone else has said this better.  Maybe we are not presenting the Triune God and his mighty acts of judgment and mercy well enough in the first place.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 27, 2017, 04:10:54 PM
So another way to assist the church to remain in the inner city is to figure out how to be a vibrant/vital presence in the community while paying for the light bills as the congregation morphs through its various transitions.

What are ways to do that?
a) if there's a hall, rent it out for occasions.  Add say $10000.  Helps the church to be visible, but has the downside of something bad happening at an event, or stuff getting stolen or broken
b) work with public officials for grants to do stuff you want to do anyway that put you in the community that gets paid for by the grant.  VBS, Homework assistance, music lessons, anything like that works and can assist both the budget and the community presence.  Add another $10000, although half of that is spent on programs (the rest on paying the light bill)
c) host community meetings/political and public meetings - no money at the time but helps in getting the grant money, and puts a lot of people from the neighborhood in your building.
d) rummage/tag sales.  Add $5000 but a lot of work and a lot of storage issues.  Still - very helpful in bringing folks toward your church
e) sponsor a block party.  Usually no money, but sometimes special grants for this.  Big winner with the neighborhood, except for grouchy people, of which there are always a few.
f) partner with the city in terms of child care - rent for the building, plus a lot of families, even though religion can't be taught during the regular school day.  Add $30000 or more.
h) do servant events in your own neighborhood - street cleaning, meals, etc., where the connections are made with local businesses.  Donations - @$1000.  They're very happy to have someone assisting keeping the neighborhood clean.
i) community group usage of facility - NA/AA, block associations, etc.  Not much money, maybe $500 per year, but a lot of opened doors.
There are of course many more.

Use your own volunteers and/or staff the school with members so that the natural connections are made to the church through ongoing relationships.  Pastoral presence a necessity.  So these additional measures can bring in a sufficient amount of cash to offset the losses in the transitional budget, while at the same time moving people toward the church, and eventually becoming members.

Things not to do:  a) Charge fees for the sacraments - baptismal and communion instruction.  To me, a big no-no; hard to teach salvation as means of grace gift when charging fees for the privilege.
b) Rent to another church, by and large.  There are exceptions (the Copts in the Bronx), but rather, start another ministry of your own. 

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Staneck on April 27, 2017, 05:31:50 PM
Pr. Speckhard, I think the objection is you seem to be suggesting (and forgive me if I am reading this incorrectly) that the answer to brokenness in the congregation is to remind the single mother how messed up her situation is (something she *probably* does not need to be reminded about).

That's at least how your responses to Pastor B and the deaconess are coming off to me.

M. Staneck
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 27, 2017, 06:56:40 PM
Pr. Speckhard, I think the objection is you seem to be suggesting (and forgive me if I am reading this incorrectly) that the answer to brokenness in the congregation is to remind the single mother how messed up her situation is (something she *probably* does not need to be reminded about).

That's at least how your responses to Pastor B and the deaconess are coming off to me.

M. Staneck
That is almost the exact opposite of what I said, though. Importantly, when I'm talking about teaching against promiscuity or sexual immorality I'm not talking about going up to the struggling single mom and saying, "You know what you did is wicked, right?" I'm talking about teaching the catechism to fifth or sixth graders and making it absolutely clear that just as they may not murder or steal, they also may not have sex with anyone at all to whom they are not married. That is God's rule for them, and breaking it is every bit as terrible for them, for other people, and for society as murdering or stealing. The young need to be raised to think of sex outside of wedlock as a great temptation but also a great evil. We typically have no trouble teaching against stealing, even to thieves. But for some reason we hesitate to teach against sexual immorality wherever the surrounding family structure or cultural norms don't back us up, or we immediately accuse anyone who brings it up of being judgmental, lacking compassion, failing to pastorally apply God's Word, or of being unable to comprehend the complexities of life outside the white picket fence in the real nitty-gritty, or whatever.

The difficulty, of course, is that when one is teaching young children whose families have not involved marriage and often feature an absentee father, one has to simultaneously teach them to honor their parents while teaching them that their parents' behavior that brought them into being was immoral. Tricky. A lot of Joseph and his brothers and, "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good," and "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." It is hard to teach behavior is wrong to children among whom that behavior is considered normal by the parents they quite rightly regard as the most important people in the world. But it is also an opportunity to apply real as opposed to theoretical law and Gospel.

I do this as a pastor, or at least try to, but my sense in talking to other pastors is that some of them don't, at least not in any way that makes the kids wrestle with the issue strongly enough to shake their unspoken assumptions about marriage and family and potentionally help free them from the generational cycle of fatherlessness. Generally, the key is to inform the parents, especially the unmarried parents, that this is what you plan to teach their children, this is why it is important, and if the kids come home with questions, this is how the parents can help reinforce the lesson even from a position of not having lived it themselves. You don't want to teach it behind the parents' backs. It is much easier simply to tell the kids that some people have a mom and a dad, some people just have a mom, some are raised by a grandma or a whatever, and it is all good so long we all love and support each other. That is a recipe for another generation of people raised fatherless by some extended relative wondering how come life is so hard. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 27, 2017, 07:32:23 PM
Pr. Speckhard, I think the objection is you seem to be suggesting (and forgive me if I am reading this incorrectly) that the answer to brokenness in the congregation is to remind the single mother how messed up her situation is (something she *probably* does not need to be reminded about).

That's at least how your responses to Pastor B and the deaconess are coming off to me.

M. Staneck
That is almost the exact opposite of what I said, though. Importantly, when I'm talking about teaching against promiscuity or sexual immorality I'm not talking about going up to the struggling single mom and saying, "You know what you did is wicked, right?" I'm talking about teaching the catechism to fifth or sixth graders and making it absolutely clear that just as they may not murder or steal, they also may not have sex with anyone at all to whom they are not married. That is God's rule for them, and breaking it is every bit as terrible for them, for other people, and for society as murdering or stealing. The young need to be raised to think of sex outside of wedlock as a great temptation but also a great evil. We typically have no trouble teaching against stealing, even to thieves. But for some reason we hesitate to teach against sexual immorality wherever the surrounding family structure or cultural norms don't back us up, or we immediately accuse anyone who brings it up of being judgmental, lacking compassion, failing to pastorally apply God's Word, or of being unable to comprehend the complexities of life outside the white picket fence in the real nitty-gritty, or whatever.

The difficulty, of course, is that when one is teaching young children whose families have not involved marriage and often feature and absentee father, one has to simultaneously teach them to honor their parents while teaching them that their parents' behavior that brought them into being was immoral. Tricky. A lot of Joseph and his brothers and, "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good," and "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." It is hard to teach behavior is wrong to children among whom that behavior is considered normal by the parents they quite rightly regard as the most important people in the world. But it is also an opportunity to apply real as opposed to theoretical law and Gospel.

I do this as a pastor, or at least try to, but my sense in talking to other pastors is that some of them don't, at least not in any way that makes the kids wrestle with the issue strongly enough to shake their unspoken assumptions about marriage and family and potentionally help free them from the generational cycle of fatherlessness. Generally, the key is to inform the parents, especially the unmarried parents, that this is what you plan to teach their children, this is why it is important, and if the kids come home with questions, this is how the parents can help reinforce the lesson even from a position of not having lived it themselves. You don't want to teach it behind the parents' backs. It is much easier simply to tell the kids that some people have a mom and a dad, some people just have a mom, some are raised by a grandma or a whatever, and it is all good so long we all love and support each other. That is a recipe for another generation of people raised fatherless by some extended relative wondering how come life is so hard.

a) In life the first thing I do is to assess the situation between mom and the father of the child(ren) (and, it may be added, there are times when the one with the child is the dad, and the mom is off on her own); whenever possible, the conversation turns to the relationship and the possibility of - guess what? - marriage.  And sometimes that becomes - guess what? - the next step.
b) The complexity of the life situations have many loose ends, and sometimes after say two decades of living together and four children, and me (the pastor) nudging along the way, guess what - they get married.
c) Something I have refused to do, which some of my Missouri Synod colleagues have told me that they do, is to publicly shame those living together with some form of front-of-church admission of guilt.  One colleague told me he was doing this with any and all couples who came to be married at the church prior to the ceremony.  When I asked how that was working, he indicated he had not yet done any of those weddings, and that he had in fact done no weddings. Sort of the nuclear version of the law-based approach - place the A around the neck and parade them around the altar.

d) You've had 11 posts on this thread, The Church in the Inner City, solely on the topic of the 6th commandment.  The missionary in Africa is speaking to you.  Find other commandments.  Find other commandments.  You've apparently watched too many episodes of Sex and the City and come to the conclusion that sex is what the City is all about.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 27, 2017, 08:10:38 PM
Pr. Speckhard, I think the objection is you seem to be suggesting (and forgive me if I am reading this incorrectly) that the answer to brokenness in the congregation is to remind the single mother how messed up her situation is (something she *probably* does not need to be reminded about).

That's at least how your responses to Pastor B and the deaconess are coming off to me.

M. Staneck
That is almost the exact opposite of what I said, though. Importantly, when I'm talking about teaching against promiscuity or sexual immorality I'm not talking about going up to the struggling single mom and saying, "You know what you did is wicked, right?" I'm talking about teaching the catechism to fifth or sixth graders and making it absolutely clear that just as they may not murder or steal, they also may not have sex with anyone at all to whom they are not married. That is God's rule for them, and breaking it is every bit as terrible for them, for other people, and for society as murdering or stealing. The young need to be raised to think of sex outside of wedlock as a great temptation but also a great evil. We typically have no trouble teaching against stealing, even to thieves. But for some reason we hesitate to teach against sexual immorality wherever the surrounding family structure or cultural norms don't back us up, or we immediately accuse anyone who brings it up of being judgmental, lacking compassion, failing to pastorally apply God's Word, or of being unable to comprehend the complexities of life outside the white picket fence in the real nitty-gritty, or whatever.

The difficulty, of course, is that when one is teaching young children whose families have not involved marriage and often feature and absentee father, one has to simultaneously teach them to honor their parents while teaching them that their parents' behavior that brought them into being was immoral. Tricky. A lot of Joseph and his brothers and, "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good," and "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." It is hard to teach behavior is wrong to children among whom that behavior is considered normal by the parents they quite rightly regard as the most important people in the world. But it is also an opportunity to apply real as opposed to theoretical law and Gospel.

I do this as a pastor, or at least try to, but my sense in talking to other pastors is that some of them don't, at least not in any way that makes the kids wrestle with the issue strongly enough to shake their unspoken assumptions about marriage and family and potentionally help free them from the generational cycle of fatherlessness. Generally, the key is to inform the parents, especially the unmarried parents, that this is what you plan to teach their children, this is why it is important, and if the kids come home with questions, this is how the parents can help reinforce the lesson even from a position of not having lived it themselves. You don't want to teach it behind the parents' backs. It is much easier simply to tell the kids that some people have a mom and a dad, some people just have a mom, some are raised by a grandma or a whatever, and it is all good so long we all love and support each other. That is a recipe for another generation of people raised fatherless by some extended relative wondering how come life is so hard.

a) In life the first thing I do is to assess the situation between mom and the father of the child(ren) (and, it may be added, there are times when the one with the child is the dad, and the mom is off on her own); whenever possible, the conversation turns to the relationship and the possibility of - guess what? - marriage.  And sometimes that becomes - guess what? - the next step.
b) The complexity of the life situations have many loose ends, and sometimes after say two decades of living together and four children, and me (the pastor) nudging along the way, guess what - they get married.
c) Something I have refused to do, which some of my Missouri Synod colleagues have told me that they do, is to publicly shame those living together with some form of front-of-church admission of guilt.  One colleague told me he was doing this with any and all couples who came to be married at the church prior to the ceremony.  When I asked how that was working, he indicated he had not yet done any of those weddings, and that he had in fact done no weddings. Sort of the nuclear version of the law-based approach - place the A around the neck and parade them around the altar.

d) You've had 11 posts on this thread, The Church in the Inner City, solely on the topic of the 6th commandment.  The missionary in Africa is speaking to you.  Find other commandments.  Find other commandments.  You've apparently watched too many episodes of Sex and the City and come to the conclusion that sex is what the City is all about.

Dave Benke
Except that my first post (#9) had nothing to do with the 6th, my next post did, and the several that followed were all responses to objections on that topic from you and a few others. You simply can't stand mention of the topic, apparently. I then posted again (#29) about dynamics having nothing to do with the 6th, which you later quoted approvingly. Since then, once again, I've simply been responding to objections about the 6th and then, per the dynamic I talked about at the end of post #71, facing accusations that the 6th is all I want to talk about. In fact, you get so uncomfortable with the mere mention of the 6th that you can't let any such reference go unchallenged.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 27, 2017, 08:57:55 PM
Pr. Speckhard, I think the objection is you seem to be suggesting (and forgive me if I am reading this incorrectly) that the answer to brokenness in the congregation is to remind the single mother how messed up her situation is (something she *probably* does not need to be reminded about).

That's at least how your responses to Pastor B and the deaconess are coming off to me.

M. Staneck
That is almost the exact opposite of what I said, though. Importantly, when I'm talking about teaching against promiscuity or sexual immorality I'm not talking about going up to the struggling single mom and saying, "You know what you did is wicked, right?" I'm talking about teaching the catechism to fifth or sixth graders and making it absolutely clear that just as they may not murder or steal, they also may not have sex with anyone at all to whom they are not married. That is God's rule for them, and breaking it is every bit as terrible for them, for other people, and for society as murdering or stealing. The young need to be raised to think of sex outside of wedlock as a great temptation but also a great evil. We typically have no trouble teaching against stealing, even to thieves. But for some reason we hesitate to teach against sexual immorality wherever the surrounding family structure or cultural norms don't back us up, or we immediately accuse anyone who brings it up of being judgmental, lacking compassion, failing to pastorally apply God's Word, or of being unable to comprehend the complexities of life outside the white picket fence in the real nitty-gritty, or whatever.

The difficulty, of course, is that when one is teaching young children whose families have not involved marriage and often feature and absentee father, one has to simultaneously teach them to honor their parents while teaching them that their parents' behavior that brought them into being was immoral. Tricky. A lot of Joseph and his brothers and, "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good," and "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." It is hard to teach behavior is wrong to children among whom that behavior is considered normal by the parents they quite rightly regard as the most important people in the world. But it is also an opportunity to apply real as opposed to theoretical law and Gospel.

I do this as a pastor, or at least try to, but my sense in talking to other pastors is that some of them don't, at least not in any way that makes the kids wrestle with the issue strongly enough to shake their unspoken assumptions about marriage and family and potentionally help free them from the generational cycle of fatherlessness. Generally, the key is to inform the parents, especially the unmarried parents, that this is what you plan to teach their children, this is why it is important, and if the kids come home with questions, this is how the parents can help reinforce the lesson even from a position of not having lived it themselves. You don't want to teach it behind the parents' backs. It is much easier simply to tell the kids that some people have a mom and a dad, some people just have a mom, some are raised by a grandma or a whatever, and it is all good so long we all love and support each other. That is a recipe for another generation of people raised fatherless by some extended relative wondering how come life is so hard.

a) In life the first thing I do is to assess the situation between mom and the father of the child(ren) (and, it may be added, there are times when the one with the child is the dad, and the mom is off on her own); whenever possible, the conversation turns to the relationship and the possibility of - guess what? - marriage.  And sometimes that becomes - guess what? - the next step.
b) The complexity of the life situations have many loose ends, and sometimes after say two decades of living together and four children, and me (the pastor) nudging along the way, guess what - they get married.
c) Something I have refused to do, which some of my Missouri Synod colleagues have told me that they do, is to publicly shame those living together with some form of front-of-church admission of guilt.  One colleague told me he was doing this with any and all couples who came to be married at the church prior to the ceremony.  When I asked how that was working, he indicated he had not yet done any of those weddings, and that he had in fact done no weddings. Sort of the nuclear version of the law-based approach - place the A around the neck and parade them around the altar.

d) You've had 11 posts on this thread, The Church in the Inner City, solely on the topic of the 6th commandment.  The missionary in Africa is speaking to you.  Find other commandments.  Find other commandments.  You've apparently watched too many episodes of Sex and the City and come to the conclusion that sex is what the City is all about.

Dave Benke
Except that my first post (#9) had nothing to do with the 6th, my next post did, and the several that followed were all responses to objections on that topic from you and a few others. You simply can't stand mention of the topic, apparently. I then posted again (#29) about dynamics having nothing to do with the 6th, which you later quoted approvingly. Since then, once again, I've simply been responding to objections about the 6th and then, per the dynamic I talked about at the end of post #71, facing accusations that the 6th is all I want to talk about. In fact, you get so uncomfortable with the mere mention of the 6th that you can't let any such reference go unchallenged.

Hmmm.

Well, I kept answering your posts with teaching and practice that I and the people I'm with are tackling that's on the same trail as what you're articulating regarding the 6th commandment, and I have kept attempting to bring some of the other items that might be pertinent to a topic entitled The Church In the Inner City.

So - you're entitled to your opinion.  Live long and prosper.  But find some other commandments.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 27, 2017, 09:31:35 PM
One of the reasons these discussions sometimes don't seem to go anywhere is that too often people engage with a stereotype they have in their head of what "those kinds of pastors" think, which causes us to interact with a perceived attitude rather than real statements.

I'll admit to being chief of sinners in that respect, at least sometimes. When I hear people patiently explaining how their urban context is just too complex for people like me to understand, or, as though comparing hand sizes in a presidential debate, engaging in nitty-grittier-than-thou comparisons of whose pastoral experience would most make the people's hair stand on end if they knew about it at the Ladies' Aid Potluck in Lake Wobegone, or saying that something I do pastorally all the time just can't be done pastorally and anyone who tries is just a bull in a china shop, well, I stop reading what they actually write and start pushing back at an amalgam in my head of tiresome windbags who talk like that. This causes me sometimes to respond not to what was really written but to what I heard the amalgam in my head saying between the lines.

And it goes both ways. Very often people respond not to what I've written but to a stereotype or amalgam they have in their head of things "people like him" say. In the case of the last few posts here, Matt Staneck, who typically offers insightful commentary, confessed to having heard me say the opposite of what I said, and my guess is that other people whom he assumes think like me have said what he heard me saying. Dave Benke thinks I've watched too many tv shows (sorry, never seen even one episode of Sex in the City) and somehow links what I'm talking about to the public shaming of adulterers and the Scarlet Letter, apparently because he thinks I sound a lot like other people who have recommended such an approach even though I don't recommend it and never even hinted that I did. I think they're done the same thing I described above-- stopped actually interacting with the content of my posts and pushed back at the amalgam I represent.

This whole topic was started in response to a post on another thread by Dr. Gard about a senseless shooting and how it relates to the churches abandoning the cities. I could easily walk from my house to where that shooting occurred, so the topic hit home to me. I've offered several comments on various aspects of the wider issues, and looking back at what I've written, I stand by it all. If it seems the 6th commandment predominates too much, consider that my comments about congregational polity or the dynamics of large church/small church funding merely merit "yes to this," or some such, while my comments on the 6th launch arguments, defensive posturing, and pushback. The raw nerve is not with me.     
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Charles Austin on April 28, 2017, 04:15:15 AM
Don't take this the wrong way, but I strongly advise Peter to sit through a few episodes of "Sex And The City." I never cared for the show, but not to experience it means we miss a chance to see what has had an impact on the people around us.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on April 28, 2017, 06:35:18 AM
One of the reasons these discussions sometimes don't seem to go anywhere is that too often people engage with a stereotype they have in their head of what "those kinds of pastors" think, which causes us to interact with a perceived attitude rather than real statements.

I'll admit to being chief of sinners in that respect, at least sometimes. When I hear people patiently explaining how their urban context is just too complex for people like me to understand, or, as though comparing hand sizes in a presidential debate, engaging in nitty-grittier-than-thou comparisons of whose pastoral experience would most make the people's hair stand on end if they knew about it at the Ladies' Aid Potluck in Lake Wobegone, or saying that something I do pastorally all the time just can't be done pastorally and anyone who tries is just a bull in a china shop, well, I stop reading what they actually write and start pushing back at an amalgam in my head of tiresome windbags who talk like that. This causes me sometimes to respond not to what was really written but to what I heard the amalgam in my head saying between the lines.

And it goes both ways. Very often people respond not to what I've written but to a stereotype or amalgam they have in their head of things "people like him" say. In the case of the last few posts here, Matt Staneck, who typically offers insightful commentary, confessed to having heard me say the opposite of what I said, and my guess is that other people whom he assumes think like me have said what he heard me saying. Dave Benke thinks I've watched too many tv shows (sorry, never seen even one episode of Sex in the City) and somehow links what I'm talking about to the public shaming of adulterers and the Scarlet Letter, apparently because he thinks I sound a lot like other people who have recommended such an approach even though I don't recommend it and never even hinted that I did. I think they're done the same thing I described above-- stopped actually interacting with the content of my posts and pushed back at the amalgam I represent.

This whole topic was started in response to a post on another thread by Dr. Gard about a senseless shooting and how it relates to the churches abandoning the cities. I could easily walk from my house to where that shooting occurred, so the topic hit home to me. I've offered several comments on various aspects of the wider issues, and looking back at what I've written, I stand by it all. If it seems the 6th commandment predominates too much, consider that my comments about congregational polity or the dynamics of large church/small church funding merely merit "yes to this," or some such, while my comments on the 6th launch arguments, defensive posturing, and pushback. The raw nerve is not with me.   

Pr. Speckhard, it seems you are not alone in understanding the fundamental importance of the 6th - God is with you.  I searched the CEB at BibleGateway for the term "sex" - 145 occurrences, and the term "adultery" - 46 occurrences, and the term "forgive" - 147 occurrences.  It seems that God also takes sexual morality quite seriously, on the same level as forgiving.   Thanks be to God for those who believe in the authority of Scripture.



Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Buckeye Deaconess on April 28, 2017, 07:45:18 AM
Pr. Speckhard, it seems you are not alone in understanding the fundamental importance of the 6th - God is with you.  I searched the CEB at BibleGateway for the term "sex" - 145 occurrences, and the term "adultery" - 46 occurrences, and the term "forgive" - 147 occurrences.  It seems that God also takes sexual morality quite seriously, on the same level as forgiving.   Thanks be to God for those who believe in the authority of Scripture.

Speaking of the 6th, I can't help but wonder about a trend I've seen recently (sadly over the Lent and Holy week periods) of pastors spending seemingly hours on the internet pontificating about the evils of everyone else's public sin, especially as it relates to the 6th as is seen pretty frequently in urban environments.  Let's not forget about the secret sin (http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/january/how-pastors-struggle-porn-phenomenon-josh-mcdowell-barna.html) some of these men are quite likely guilty of if statistics are to be considered.

Nobody is saying that the 6th commandment should be ignored or not conveyed in its fullest (and even harshest) terms.  But picking out this one very public sin as I've seen done rather frequently lately in such a self-righteous and condemning way runs counter to what Jesus modeled for us when he encountered sinful women.  And back to something Eileen mentioned earlier, what of the men since it takes two?  Where is the blanket condemnation for their behavior?  Perhaps it's there.  I've only seen it applied to the mothers in these situations.

Some in the LCMS are touting what I would consider to be some novel ideas about women's roles in the church, and this attitude towards single mothers seems to fit in with the narrative.  I've lost count of how many women have expressed concern to me over this way of thinking that seems to be emerging.  The church was not instructed to retreat from the world like an Amish cult, but it is to be in it, witnessing to those who haven't found their way or have lost their way.  Their eternal lives depend on it.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 28, 2017, 08:23:56 AM
Pr. Speckhard, it seems you are not alone in understanding the fundamental importance of the 6th - God is with you.  I searched the CEB at BibleGateway for the term "sex" - 145 occurrences, and the term "adultery" - 46 occurrences, and the term "forgive" - 147 occurrences.  It seems that God also takes sexual morality quite seriously, on the same level as forgiving.   Thanks be to God for those who believe in the authority of Scripture.

Speaking of the 6th, I can't help but wonder about a trend I've seen recently (sadly over the Lent and Holy week periods) of pastors spending seemingly hours on the internet pontificating about the evils of everyone else's public sin, especially as it relates to the 6th as is seen pretty frequently in urban environments.  Let's not forget about the secret sin (http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/january/how-pastors-struggle-porn-phenomenon-josh-mcdowell-barna.html) some of these men are quite likely guilty of if statistics are to be considered.

Nobody is saying that the 6th commandment should be ignored or not conveyed in its fullest (and even harshest) terms.  But picking out this one very public sin as I've seen done rather frequently lately in such a self-righteous and condemning way runs counter to what Jesus modeled for us when he encountered sinful women.  And back to something Eileen mentioned earlier, what of the men since it takes two?  Where is the blanket condemnation for their behavior?  Perhaps it's there.  I've only seen it applied to the mothers in these situations.

Some in the LCMS are touting what I would consider to be some novel ideas about women's roles in the church, and this attitude towards single mothers seems to fit in with the narrative.  I've lost count of how many women have expressed concern to me over this way of thinking that seems to be emerging.  The church was not instructed to retreat from the world like an Amish cult, but it is to be in it, witnessing to those who haven't found their way or have lost their way.  Their eternal lives depend on it.

Absolutely on target, Deaconess. 

One of our goals is to model programs in other local congregations that have a heightened ministry to boys and men, inculcating the kind of responsibility that would lead to less domestic violence, less relationships based on macho supremacy and physical posturing, more sense of family and appropriate behaviors.  A tough challenge, but worth the time and effort.

Secondly, one of the most productive Amish/Mennonite urban ministries is located down the block from our church in Brooklyn.  The group must be on the "moderate" fringe of the Mennonite tradition, because they have actively participated in the community in ministries of mercy, education and justice.  We take our kids (and adults) to participate in an urban vegetable garden in the park, and the leader of that effort through the parks department is a Mennonite woman.  So hey, if the Mennonites can engage, why can't the Lutherans?

By the way, one target zone for churches in the city is to do stuff in the parks, which is where the world around you is hanging out.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 28, 2017, 09:13:57 AM
One of the reasons these discussions sometimes don't seem to go anywhere is that too often people engage with a stereotype they have in their head of what "those kinds of pastors" think, which causes us to interact with a perceived attitude rather than real statements.

I'll admit to being chief of sinners in that respect, at least sometimes. When I hear people patiently explaining how their urban context is just too complex for people like me to understand, or, as though comparing hand sizes in a presidential debate, engaging in nitty-grittier-than-thou comparisons of whose pastoral experience would most make the people's hair stand on end if they knew about it at the Ladies' Aid Potluck in Lake Wobegone, or saying that something I do pastorally all the time just can't be done pastorally and anyone who tries is just a bull in a china shop, well, I stop reading what they actually write and start pushing back at an amalgam in my head of tiresome windbags who talk like that. This causes me sometimes to respond not to what was really written but to what I heard the amalgam in my head saying between the lines.

And it goes both ways. Very often people respond not to what I've written but to a stereotype or amalgam they have in their head of things "people like him" say. In the case of the last few posts here, Matt Staneck, who typically offers insightful commentary, confessed to having heard me say the opposite of what I said, and my guess is that other people whom he assumes think like me have said what he heard me saying. Dave Benke thinks I've watched too many tv shows (sorry, never seen even one episode of Sex in the City) and somehow links what I'm talking about to the public shaming of adulterers and the Scarlet Letter, apparently because he thinks I sound a lot like other people who have recommended such an approach even though I don't recommend it and never even hinted that I did. I think they're done the same thing I described above-- stopped actually interacting with the content of my posts and pushed back at the amalgam I represent.

This whole topic was started in response to a post on another thread by Dr. Gard about a senseless shooting and how it relates to the churches abandoning the cities. I could easily walk from my house to where that shooting occurred, so the topic hit home to me. I've offered several comments on various aspects of the wider issues, and looking back at what I've written, I stand by it all. If it seems the 6th commandment predominates too much, consider that my comments about congregational polity or the dynamics of large church/small church funding merely merit "yes to this," or some such, while my comments on the 6th launch arguments, defensive posturing, and pushback. The raw nerve is not with me.   

Pr. Speckhard, it seems you are not alone in understanding the fundamental importance of the 6th - God is with you.  I searched the CEB at BibleGateway for the term "sex" - 145 occurrences, and the term "adultery" - 46 occurrences, and the term "forgive" - 147 occurrences.  It seems that God also takes sexual morality quite seriously, on the same level as forgiving.   Thanks be to God for those who believe in the authority of Scripture.

I'm not certain counting the number of times  word is used in the Bible always signifies its importance.  I remember the argument that homosexuality is only referenced six times so - it's ok? 

I would suggest that if we are to focus on any one Commandment it should be the First Commandment.  If we humans could only get that one down i think the others might fall into place. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on April 28, 2017, 11:12:16 AM
One of the reasons these discussions sometimes don't seem to go anywhere is that too often people engage with a stereotype they have in their head of what "those kinds of pastors" think, which causes us to interact with a perceived attitude rather than real statements.

I'll admit to being chief of sinners in that respect, at least sometimes. When I hear people patiently explaining how their urban context is just too complex for people like me to understand, or, as though comparing hand sizes in a presidential debate, engaging in nitty-grittier-than-thou comparisons of whose pastoral experience would most make the people's hair stand on end if they knew about it at the Ladies' Aid Potluck in Lake Wobegone, or saying that something I do pastorally all the time just can't be done pastorally and anyone who tries is just a bull in a china shop, well, I stop reading what they actually write and start pushing back at an amalgam in my head of tiresome windbags who talk like that. This causes me sometimes to respond not to what was really written but to what I heard the amalgam in my head saying between the lines.

And it goes both ways. Very often people respond not to what I've written but to a stereotype or amalgam they have in their head of things "people like him" say. In the case of the last few posts here, Matt Staneck, who typically offers insightful commentary, confessed to having heard me say the opposite of what I said, and my guess is that other people whom he assumes think like me have said what he heard me saying. Dave Benke thinks I've watched too many tv shows (sorry, never seen even one episode of Sex in the City) and somehow links what I'm talking about to the public shaming of adulterers and the Scarlet Letter, apparently because he thinks I sound a lot like other people who have recommended such an approach even though I don't recommend it and never even hinted that I did. I think they're done the same thing I described above-- stopped actually interacting with the content of my posts and pushed back at the amalgam I represent.

This whole topic was started in response to a post on another thread by Dr. Gard about a senseless shooting and how it relates to the churches abandoning the cities. I could easily walk from my house to where that shooting occurred, so the topic hit home to me. I've offered several comments on various aspects of the wider issues, and looking back at what I've written, I stand by it all. If it seems the 6th commandment predominates too much, consider that my comments about congregational polity or the dynamics of large church/small church funding merely merit "yes to this," or some such, while my comments on the 6th launch arguments, defensive posturing, and pushback. The raw nerve is not with me.   

Pr. Speckhard, it seems you are not alone in understanding the fundamental importance of the 6th - God is with you.  I searched the CEB at BibleGateway for the term "sex" - 145 occurrences, and the term "adultery" - 46 occurrences, and the term "forgive" - 147 occurrences.  It seems that God also takes sexual morality quite seriously, on the same level as forgiving.   Thanks be to God for those who believe in the authority of Scripture.

I'm not certain counting the number of times  word is used in the Bible always signifies its importance.  I remember the argument that homosexuality is only referenced six times so - it's ok? 

I would suggest that if we are to focus on any one Commandment it should be the First Commandment.  If we humans could only get that one down i think the others might fall into place.

You are probably correct.  Jesus is mentioned only 1058 times and God only 4154 (ESV).

I thought if you broke any of the Commandments, you also broke the first one.  Another interesting teaching is that Satan attacks beginning at the last Commandment (coveting) and works you up through the rest in order.  Makes sense.  Start with the easy stuff and by the time you get to the 6th - no big deal - <snark begins> what is sexual immorality anyway (only 33 occurrences) - just something written by old long dead men that has no importance today - 1Cor6:9 and 1Tim1:10 and Rev22:15 are so very passe.  If it feels good, do it, go for it as often as you can find another warm body regardless of their sex, what's the harm, after all, I am my own god and worship pleasure? <snark ends>.  By the time you get to the 4th (and 3rd, 2nd and 1st) we are to the topic of this thread.  Please note I am not singling out women, or men, this applies to both sexes.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 28, 2017, 11:25:30 AM
Regarding the issue of violence, a community/church collaboration that we've participated in two times is called "Cash for Guns" or "Gun Buyback."  Here's a link to one happening soon on Staten Island near one of our LCMS congregations that specializes in African Immigrant Mission:  https://mail.aol.com/webmail-std/en-us/suite.

I was thinking about this for places like Ferguson, MO or Kinloch, or Milwaukee/Chicago, where the gun violence is high. (Maybe already exists, so this is just a way to highlight it) The program is run by the DA, and carried out through his policing team; it's controversial because
a) you're paid for turning in something that's illegal anyway
b) there's no crime that can be attached to the person with the gun, only to the gun (nobody believes that, so the weapons are brought in by friends, moms and grandmothers)

The church benefits are many - I had lots of counseling opportunity when this happened at my place, for one.  Secondly, the church provides the hospitality, and all of a sudden the people bringing the weapons in are conversing while having a donut - people ended up coming to church through this event. Third, the children and youth in the church have an object lesson about weapons - turn them in.

The buyback program exists at the precincts, but only gives $100 per gun; when in the community/at the church, it's doubled.

Why is this done now?  Easy answer - Mother's Day.  Everybody needs a little extra money for mother's day.

Dave Benke

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Staneck on April 28, 2017, 12:30:32 PM
One of the reasons these discussions sometimes don't seem to go anywhere is that too often people engage with a stereotype they have in their head of what "those kinds of pastors" think, which causes us to interact with a perceived attitude rather than real statements.

I'll admit to being chief of sinners in that respect, at least sometimes. When I hear people patiently explaining how their urban context is just too complex for people like me to understand, or, as though comparing hand sizes in a presidential debate, engaging in nitty-grittier-than-thou comparisons of whose pastoral experience would most make the people's hair stand on end if they knew about it at the Ladies' Aid Potluck in Lake Wobegone, or saying that something I do pastorally all the time just can't be done pastorally and anyone who tries is just a bull in a china shop, well, I stop reading what they actually write and start pushing back at an amalgam in my head of tiresome windbags who talk like that. This causes me sometimes to respond not to what was really written but to what I heard the amalgam in my head saying between the lines.

And it goes both ways. Very often people respond not to what I've written but to a stereotype or amalgam they have in their head of things "people like him" say. In the case of the last few posts here, Matt Staneck, who typically offers insightful commentary, confessed to having heard me say the opposite of what I said, and my guess is that other people whom he assumes think like me have said what he heard me saying. Dave Benke thinks I've watched too many tv shows (sorry, never seen even one episode of Sex in the City) and somehow links what I'm talking about to the public shaming of adulterers and the Scarlet Letter, apparently because he thinks I sound a lot like other people who have recommended such an approach even though I don't recommend it and never even hinted that I did. I think they're done the same thing I described above-- stopped actually interacting with the content of my posts and pushed back at the amalgam I represent.

This whole topic was started in response to a post on another thread by Dr. Gard about a senseless shooting and how it relates to the churches abandoning the cities. I could easily walk from my house to where that shooting occurred, so the topic hit home to me. I've offered several comments on various aspects of the wider issues, and looking back at what I've written, I stand by it all. If it seems the 6th commandment predominates too much, consider that my comments about congregational polity or the dynamics of large church/small church funding merely merit "yes to this," or some such, while my comments on the 6th launch arguments, defensive posturing, and pushback. The raw nerve is not with me.   

Like I said, Pr. Speckhard, please forgive me for misreading. There were a lot of (longis) posts to digest, but since I decided to engage I should have been sure of what I was hearing you say.

M. Staneck
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Hummel on April 28, 2017, 12:31:01 PM
Given the discussion, I thought this piece from Crisis was interesting:
http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/sexual-revolution-nothing-church
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Jonathan Priest on April 28, 2017, 01:15:56 PM
I have not read the comments in this thread. I am only responding to the initial title question.

The following links to a 17 minute youtube video interview biography and memoir (with a written version in the commments) by Rev. John Heinemeier, a former LCMS pastor, now ELCA, who has served in poor urban ministry for nearly his entire career. He and I have had several talks over the years regarding this question, since he was my predecessor at my former urban congregation and is a friend with whom I have visited over the years both in NYC and in Oxford, North Carolina. For those in the Atlantic District or NY Metro District this video will be a trip down memory lane. He and I do not agree on scriptural or confessional principles, but I have found his practice of ministry to be exemplary (and I must add: overwhelming in terms of workload!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqkE3ZuFymo

I do not think this question is suitably answered in the framework of this forum with its tendency to branch into areas far removed from the initial post. However, the above resources give insight into how one can remain in urban ministry with the poor for ones entire tenure and administer baptisms, the Lord's Supper, and love one's neighbor with JOY.

Rev. Jonathan P. Priest
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Michael Slusser on April 28, 2017, 01:40:00 PM
I have not read the comments in this thread. I am only responding to the initial title question.

The following links to a 17 minute youtube video interview biography and memoir (with a written version in the commments) by Rev. John Heinemeier, a former LCMS pastor, now ELCA, who has served in poor urban ministry for nearly his entire career. He and I have had several talks over the years regarding this question, since he was my predecessor at my former urban congregation and is a friend with whom I have visited over the years both in NYC and in Oxford, North Carolina. For those in the Atlantic District or NY Metro District this video will be a trip down memory lane. He and I do not agree on scriptural or confessional principles, but I have found his practice of ministry to be exemplary (and I must add: overwhelming in terms of workload!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqkE3ZuFymo

I do not think this question is suitably answered in the framework of this forum with its tendency to branch into areas far removed from the initial post. However, the above resources give insight into how one can remain in urban ministry with the poor for ones entire tenure and administer baptisms, the Lord's Supper, and love one's neighbor with JOY.

Rev. Jonathan P. Priest
That's a very fine video that makes me reflect. I'm going to tell a colleague about it here in Saint Paul. Thanks!

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Eileen Smith on April 28, 2017, 01:43:27 PM
I have not read the comments in this thread. I am only responding to the initial title question.

The following links to a 17 minute youtube video interview biography and memoir (with a written version in the commments) by Rev. John Heinemeier, a former LCMS pastor, now ELCA, who has served in poor urban ministry for nearly his entire career. He and I have had several talks over the years regarding this question, since he was my predecessor at my former urban congregation and is a friend with whom I have visited over the years both in NYC and in Oxford, North Carolina. For those in the Atlantic District or NY Metro District this video will be a trip down memory lane. He and I do not agree on scriptural or confessional principles, but I have found his practice of ministry to be exemplary (and I must add: overwhelming in terms of workload!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqkE3ZuFymo

I do not think this question is suitably answered in the framework of this forum with its tendency to branch into areas far removed from the initial post. However, the above resources give insight into how one can remain in urban ministry with the poor for ones entire tenure and administer baptisms, the Lord's Supper, and love one's neighbor with JOY.

Rev. Jonathan P. Priest

Thank you!  Being reminded of Pastor John Heinemeier leads to another book suggestion:  Upon This Rock - The Miracles of a Black Church, Samuel G. Freedman on the ministry of Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 28, 2017, 01:59:00 PM
I have not read the comments in this thread. I am only responding to the initial title question.

The following links to a 17 minute youtube video interview biography and memoir (with a written version in the commments) by Rev. John Heinemeier, a former LCMS pastor, now ELCA, who has served in poor urban ministry for nearly his entire career. He and I have had several talks over the years regarding this question, since he was my predecessor at my former urban congregation and is a friend with whom I have visited over the years both in NYC and in Oxford, North Carolina. For those in the Atlantic District or NY Metro District this video will be a trip down memory lane. He and I do not agree on scriptural or confessional principles, but I have found his practice of ministry to be exemplary (and I must add: overwhelming in terms of workload!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqkE3ZuFymo

I do not think this question is suitably answered in the framework of this forum with its tendency to branch into areas far removed from the initial post. However, the above resources give insight into how one can remain in urban ministry with the poor for ones entire tenure and administer baptisms, the Lord's Supper, and love one's neighbor with JOY.

Rev. Jonathan P. Priest

Thank you!  Being reminded of Pastor John Heinemeier leads to another book suggestion:  Upon This Rock - The Miracles of a Black Church, Samuel G. Freedman on the ministry of Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood.

There you go, Eileen - two all time all-stars, Heinemeier and Youngblood.  John was like an older brother/mentor to me, and Johnny Ray a colleague and co-leader at East Brooklyn Churches when we did the Nehemiah Plan.  John Heinemeier had just left the LCMS in those months, which put me up to bat as the person to articulate to the Missouri Synod why they should plant a one million dollar interest free loan in East Brooklyn.  And they did!

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: John_Hannah on April 28, 2017, 02:30:29 PM
I have not read the comments in this thread. I am only responding to the initial title question.

The following links to a 17 minute youtube video interview biography and memoir (with a written version in the commments) by Rev. John Heinemeier, a former LCMS pastor, now ELCA, who has served in poor urban ministry for nearly his entire career. He and I have had several talks over the years regarding this question, since he was my predecessor at my former urban congregation and is a friend with whom I have visited over the years both in NYC and in Oxford, North Carolina. For those in the Atlantic District or NY Metro District this video will be a trip down memory lane. He and I do not agree on scriptural or confessional principles, but I have found his practice of ministry to be exemplary (and I must add: overwhelming in terms of workload!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqkE3ZuFymo

I do not think this question is suitably answered in the framework of this forum with its tendency to branch into areas far removed from the initial post. However, the above resources give insight into how one can remain in urban ministry with the poor for ones entire tenure and administer baptisms, the Lord's Supper, and love one's neighbor with JOY.

Rev. Jonathan P. Priest

INDEED, JONATHAN!  I don't know why I forgot John Heinemeier when I mentioned the very few who have devoted an entire career to the inner city.  John is a friend and most certainly an exemplary Lutheran pastor who served the city very well.  John and I overlapped assignments for a year here in the Bronx.  When he left for Boston he gave up most of his library.  I got his oil portrait of Arthur Carl Piepkorn executed by Caemerer.  It's right here in front of me in my study.

Peace, JOHN
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Padre Emeritus on April 29, 2017, 12:22:59 AM
I'm not sure if I will contribute anything to this discussion but I would like to offer a word of hope based on the small n=2 final 20 years of my 28 years of service as a worker/priest Deacon and Pastor serving urban congregations.

My encouragement is that both are still open and providing Word and Sacrament to the city of their location.  The first is in the barrio of Tucson, in a very rough neighborhood...gun shots were exchanged outside my office my first day on campus.  Lots of tears, sweat, a Peace March with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Tucson to protest the drugs and gun violence, an in-house remodel of the sanctuary....fast forward to the placement of a bilingual Candidate who did a marvelous job for 6 years after I left.  The church is now being served by 2 retired Pastors: one for the Anglo congregation and another a former missionary to Guatemala serving the Hispanic congregation. Both are vital.  This is 13 years after my departure, thanks be to God.

The second the mother LCMS Church in Phoenix.  The novel solution was to merge the congregation into the then-tenant Lutheran High School.  The school agreed to provide the Pastor, who would also teach theology and be the Campus Pastor.  The school got title to the land and was able to build a much needed 18 classroom 2 story building on a part of the property that was previously setback from the street customary in 1950's Phoenix that was home to bermuda grass and palm trees.  A young Pastor, serving as Youth Pastor in his first call, was Called to serve as Pastor/Teacher?Campus Pastor.  A year later the congregation is trying the seemingly required "Contemporary Service", populated mainly by 70 year olds, and the now much more relaxed Divine Service I left them with.

I pray both of these inner-city congregations will be sustainable for many years to come.....
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 29, 2017, 08:08:17 AM
A year later the congregation is trying the seemingly required "Contemporary Service", populated mainly by 70 year olds, and the now much more relaxed Divine Service I left them with.


Those are two great images.  Of course, those 70 year olds are contemporaries of mine; I would imagine the songs are mostly to doo wop beat:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fty3Nzc-oiY.  I do think music and singing are a very important aspect of inner urban mission and ministry.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Donald_Kirchner on April 29, 2017, 09:12:19 AM
Gun buybacks... Aren't they the events that allow the organizers to feel virtuous about themselves?

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/12/gun-buybacks-popular-but-ineffective/1829165/

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169439243/newtown-prompts-gun-buybacks-but-do-they-work

“They’re just feel-good things that don’t do much real good.”

https://www.thetrace.org/2015/07/gun-buyback-study-effectivness/

Offer donuts,  and the moms and grandmothers might stop in and chat anyway.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 29, 2017, 01:26:41 PM
Gun buybacks... Aren't they the events that allow the organizers to feel virtuous about themselves?

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/12/gun-buybacks-popular-but-ineffective/1829165/

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169439243/newtown-prompts-gun-buybacks-but-do-they-work

“They’re just feel-good things that don’t do much real good.”

https://www.thetrace.org/2015/07/gun-buyback-study-effectivness/

Offer donuts,  and the moms and grandmothers might stop in and chat anyway.

You have a point there, Don.  The group that dislikes them the most is the police.  They're "organized" not by the congregation or agency but by either the Police Department brass or the District Attorney's office.  So in terms of feeling good, what happens is that the crime control agencies declare victory when - in the case of our church - a couple hundred weapons are taken off the streets, including assault rifles, but mostly "Saturday night specials," 25 caliber guns.

For us as a church, the times we held these were
a) the weekend after a police officer was killed in the line of duty about three blocks from the church
b) the weekend after Newtown.

These coinciding events were of course not planned, but were highlighted extensively by the media at the instigation of the crime fighting authorities.

The bottom line is every little bit helps. 

From a pastoral perspective, I heard several confession/absolution sessions in my office during these. 

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on April 29, 2017, 01:59:39 PM
Gun buybacks... Aren't they the events that allow the organizers to feel virtuous about themselves?

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/12/gun-buybacks-popular-but-ineffective/1829165/

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169439243/newtown-prompts-gun-buybacks-but-do-they-work

“They’re just feel-good things that don’t do much real good.”

https://www.thetrace.org/2015/07/gun-buyback-study-effectivness/

Offer donuts,  and the moms and grandmothers might stop in and chat anyway.

You have a point there, Don.  The group that dislikes them the most is the police.  They're "organized" not by the congregation or agency but by either the Police Department brass or the District Attorney's office.  So in terms of feeling good, what happens is that the crime control agencies declare victory when - in the case of our church - a couple hundred weapons are taken off the streets, including assault rifles, but mostly "Saturday night specials," 25 caliber guns.

For us as a church, the times we held these were
a) the weekend after a police officer was killed in the line of duty about three blocks from the church
b) the weekend after Newtown.

These coinciding events were of course not planned, but were highlighted extensively by the media at the instigation of the crime fighting authorities.

The bottom line is every little bit helps. 

From a pastoral perspective, I heard several confession/absolution sessions in my office during these. 

Dave Benke
An additional, though not measurable, potential con is how the idea of a gun bayback reinforces the attitude I mentioned upstream that treats the inner cities sort of like farmers treat crops, with the relative health of the harvest relating strictly to external conditions that the farmer must optimize.

Guns in America are ubiquitous. Suburbs, medium sized and small towns, rural areas-- they all have lots and lots of guns. But gun buybacks generally happen in crime infested areas, not gun infested areas, which are everywhere. This potentially perpetuates the idea that the residents of the inner cities are not victims primarily of crime and gang violence but victims of the larger societal forces that allow guns. In other words, gun buyback may or may not have much an impact, but they definitely play into a very problematic narrative. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on April 29, 2017, 02:18:40 PM
Gun buybacks... Aren't they the events that allow the organizers to feel virtuous about themselves?

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/12/gun-buybacks-popular-but-ineffective/1829165/

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169439243/newtown-prompts-gun-buybacks-but-do-they-work

“They’re just feel-good things that don’t do much real good.”

https://www.thetrace.org/2015/07/gun-buyback-study-effectivness/

Offer donuts,  and the moms and grandmothers might stop in and chat anyway.

You have a point there, Don.  The group that dislikes them the most is the police.  They're "organized" not by the congregation or agency but by either the Police Department brass or the District Attorney's office.  So in terms of feeling good, what happens is that the crime control agencies declare victory when - in the case of our church - a couple hundred weapons are taken off the streets, including assault rifles, but mostly "Saturday night specials," 25 caliber guns.

For us as a church, the times we held these were
a) the weekend after a police officer was killed in the line of duty about three blocks from the church
b) the weekend after Newtown.

These coinciding events were of course not planned, but were highlighted extensively by the media at the instigation of the crime fighting authorities.

The bottom line is every little bit helps. 

From a pastoral perspective, I heard several confession/absolution sessions in my office during these. 

Dave Benke

Every death or injury, regardless of weapon used to harm another (e.g. rifle, shotgun, knife, ball bat, revolver, fork, automobile, pistol, brick, rock, baseball, fist, etc.) is a tragedy.  Given the facts, however, it appears that gun control actually causes more harm than good.  But it can make some feel good to call for it.

http://americangunfacts.com/

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Donald_Kirchner on April 29, 2017, 02:28:06 PM
The bottom line is every little bit helps. 

That's the point. This little bit apparently does not help and perhaps harms, diverting funding and efforts that can better be used for something else that addresses the underlying problem, not blaming an inanimate object.

From a pastoral perspective, I heard several confession/absolution sessions in my office during these.


Were these the moms and grandmothers that stopped in? I've heard several confession/absolution sessions in my office during coffee hour as well as after phone calls from strangers.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on April 29, 2017, 05:02:12 PM
The bottom line is every little bit helps. 

That's the point. This little bit apparently does not help and perhaps harms, diverting funding and efforts that can better be used for something else that addresses the underlying problem, not blaming an inanimate object.

From a pastoral perspective, I heard several confession/absolution sessions in my office during these.


Were these the moms and grandmothers that stopped in? I've heard several confession/absolution sessions in my office during coffee hour as well as after phone calls from strangers.

a) I know we have very strict gun control laws in NY, and in conjunction with tremendous community policing (acknowledged, after a very bad start, by Jeff Sessions), our crime rates rank us almost at the very bottom in the US on the whole.  There are of course tougher neighborhoods.  A recent episode of "Blue Bloods" had a portion dedicated to East New York, where the community name was always accompanied by a raised eyebrow or an "oh, East New York" because of the reputation.  That being said,

we have just this week worked with our community church partners to identify three specific locations around the church for immediate intervention by NYPD, and at the meeting the CO of the 75th Precinct indicated his dedication to that.  We host a once-monthly meeting of the 75th Precinct Council, which is community residents hearing directly from the police on issues of importance.   I can state from direct conversation with police officials at the higher levels in NY that they are completely in favor of strict gun control and penalties for those who have and move guns illegally.  So - a church is in its community to call upon its dedicated police force to address crime, including the control of guns and drugs on the streets.

In this thread, I'm kind of in a weird place.  I was in East New York when it was the scourge of the City and even the country, when a twelve people were killed with handguns one calendar year on Norwood Avenue between Etna and Fulton.  I lived on Norwood Avenue between Etna and Fulton then.  And even then, the overwhelming majority of the folks on my block and in my parish were families attempting to bring their kids up and take care of themselves without any inclination to crime.  So I resented the hyper-labeling, even though the objective facts were that we were a higher than high crime neighborhood.  Today, it's a lot calmer.  A lot.  And we're being prepped and waxed and buffed for gentrification. 

But in terms of gun control, from my perspective in conjunction with quality policing and community involvement, it works.

b) My experience with the gun buybacks was that when they are announced, people call in to the church to figure out whether it's on the up and up.  And when I'm speaking to them, a given number want to come over and open up about what they've been up to.  And the door is open to them.  It's as simple as the conscience at work.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Matt Hummel on May 01, 2017, 05:52:23 AM
Another piece of the puzzle. This is obviously a problem no matter where you are in the US, but it figures into the urban discussion: https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children

The article analyzes a 40 year international study. It like links to the original paper for those keen on source documents.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 01, 2017, 08:08:09 AM
Another piece of the puzzle. This is obviously a problem no matter where you are in the US, but it figures into the urban discussion: https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children

The article analyzes a 40 year international study. It like links to the original paper for those keen on source documents.

I agree with this article, both in terms of the stability of the families and the likelihood of abortion in the cohabiting households.  I've seen it up close and personal for basically most of that 40 year period.  I don't believe in the shaming option, which only serves to drive the kids/couple away from the Church - I don't find that "tough love," but hostility to the couple.  At the same time, the matter must be addressed and led toward marriage.  What's behind it, in my opinion, is a generation of bad relationship-divorce-based family life - the younger generation almost runs and hides from marriage as the worst possible option, even though desiring a strong and durable male/female relationship; it's a catch-22.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on May 01, 2017, 12:15:58 PM
Another piece of the puzzle. This is obviously a problem no matter where you are in the US, but it figures into the urban discussion: https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children (https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children)

The article analyzes a 40 year international study. It like links to the original paper for those keen on source documents.


I see flaws in this study. One is, they don't take into account how many partners the people have had. I read at least one another study where cohabitaters who only had each other as sexual partners had relationships as stable or more so than married couples. As we might expect, couples who had numerous sexual partners had less stable relationships whether cohabitating or married.


As statisticians always remind us, correlation does not equal causation.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on May 01, 2017, 02:13:51 PM
Another piece of the puzzle. This is obviously a problem no matter where you are in the US, but it figures into the urban discussion: https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children (https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children)

The article analyzes a 40 year international study. It like links to the original paper for those keen on source documents.


I see flaws in this study. One is, they don't take into account how many partners the people have had. I read at least one another study where cohabitaters who only had each other as sexual partners had relationships as stable or more so than married couples. As we might expect, couples who had numerous sexual partners had less stable relationships whether cohabitating or married.


As statisticians always remind us, correlation does not equal causation.

And, some will say almost ANYTHING to rationalize their heterodox denominations/traditions are just fine and dandy.   :'(
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 01, 2017, 02:28:46 PM
Another piece of the puzzle. This is obviously a problem no matter where you are in the US, but it figures into the urban discussion: https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children (https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children)

The article analyzes a 40 year international study. It like links to the original paper for those keen on source documents.


I see flaws in this study. One is, they don't take into account how many partners the people have had. I read at least one another study where cohabitaters who only had each other as sexual partners had relationships as stable or more so than married couples. As we might expect, couples who had numerous sexual partners had less stable relationships whether cohabitating or married.


As statisticians always remind us, correlation does not equal causation.

And, some will say almost ANYTHING to rationalize their heterodox denominations/traditions are just fine and dandy.   :'(

From decades of experience, I have to agree with Brian here, gan ainm.

Those in what used to be "common law" arrangements (remember when it was called "common law marriage?"), which are monogamous and durable, are "cohabiting" in the eyes of the Church (and not always the state, if they have common law rubrics on the books), but
a) are often in very stable relationships
b) got into the habit of not being married "even though"
c) can, with churchly persuasion, make the change to married status
d) are about family and not about personal gratification
e) are what to you?  To me, they're married.  We say "in the eyes of God".  But even in the ecclesial sense, are they not married?  Is the promise made in the church the sign of marriage?  How do you feel about this?

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on May 01, 2017, 02:35:44 PM
Another piece of the puzzle. This is obviously a problem no matter where you are in the US, but it figures into the urban discussion: https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children (https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children)

The article analyzes a 40 year international study. It like links to the original paper for those keen on source documents.


I see flaws in this study. One is, they don't take into account how many partners the people have had. I read at least one another study where cohabitaters who only had each other as sexual partners had relationships as stable or more so than married couples. As we might expect, couples who had numerous sexual partners had less stable relationships whether cohabitating or married.


As statisticians always remind us, correlation does not equal causation.

And, some will say almost ANYTHING to rationalize their heterodox denominations/traditions are just fine and dandy.   :'(

From decades of experience, I have to agree with Brian here, gan ainm.

Those in what used to be "common law" arrangements (remember when it was called "common law marriage?"), which are monogamous and durable, are "cohabiting" in the eyes of the Church (and not always the state, if they have common law rubrics on the books), but
a) are often in very stable relationships
b) got into the habit of not being married "even though"
c) can, with churchly persuasion, make the change to married status
d) are about family and not about personal gratification
e) are what to you?  To me, they're married.  We say "in the eyes of God".  But even in the ecclesial sense, are they not married?  Is the promise made in the church the sign of marriage?  How do you feel about this?

Dave Benke
 

What specifically are you asking me?  And even more specifically, why does it matter what I feel to God, or for that matter to you?  Not being snarky on this, serious questions.





Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 01, 2017, 02:49:52 PM
Another piece of the puzzle. This is obviously a problem no matter where you are in the US, but it figures into the urban discussion: https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children (https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children)

The article analyzes a 40 year international study. It like links to the original paper for those keen on source documents.


I see flaws in this study. One is, they don't take into account how many partners the people have had. I read at least one another study where cohabitaters who only had each other as sexual partners had relationships as stable or more so than married couples. As we might expect, couples who had numerous sexual partners had less stable relationships whether cohabitating or married.


As statisticians always remind us, correlation does not equal causation.

And, some will say almost ANYTHING to rationalize their heterodox denominations/traditions are just fine and dandy.   :'(

From decades of experience, I have to agree with Brian here, gan ainm.

Those in what used to be "common law" arrangements (remember when it was called "common law marriage?"), which are monogamous and durable, are "cohabiting" in the eyes of the Church (and not always the state, if they have common law rubrics on the books), but
a) are often in very stable relationships
b) got into the habit of not being married "even though"
c) can, with churchly persuasion, make the change to married status
d) are about family and not about personal gratification
e) are what to you?  To me, they're married.  We say "in the eyes of God".  But even in the ecclesial sense, are they not married?  Is the promise made in the church the sign of marriage?  How do you feel about this?

Dave Benke
 

What specifically are you asking me?  And even more specifically, why does it matter what I feel to God, or for that matter to you?  Not being snarky on this, serious questions.

Are people who are monogamous and cohabiting in fact married?

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Harvey_Mozolak on May 01, 2017, 03:10:05 PM
can I add... if you say they are married, are they nevertheless sinning in some way until they get legally in the civic sense and/or in church married?  Could separate the and/or options too.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on May 01, 2017, 03:31:35 PM
Another piece of the puzzle. This is obviously a problem no matter where you are in the US, but it figures into the urban discussion: https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children (https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/is-cohabitation-good-for-children)

The article analyzes a 40 year international study. It like links to the original paper for those keen on source documents.


I see flaws in this study. One is, they don't take into account how many partners the people have had. I read at least one another study where cohabitaters who only had each other as sexual partners had relationships as stable or more so than married couples. As we might expect, couples who had numerous sexual partners had less stable relationships whether cohabitating or married.


As statisticians always remind us, correlation does not equal causation.

And, some will say almost ANYTHING to rationalize their heterodox denominations/traditions are just fine and dandy.   :'(

From decades of experience, I have to agree with Brian here, gan ainm.

Those in what used to be "common law" arrangements (remember when it was called "common law marriage?"), which are monogamous and durable, are "cohabiting" in the eyes of the Church (and not always the state, if they have common law rubrics on the books), but
a) are often in very stable relationships
b) got into the habit of not being married "even though"
c) can, with churchly persuasion, make the change to married status
d) are about family and not about personal gratification
e) are what to you?  To me, they're married.  We say "in the eyes of God".  But even in the ecclesial sense, are they not married?  Is the promise made in the church the sign of marriage?  How do you feel about this?

Dave Benke
 

What specifically are you asking me?  And even more specifically, why does it matter what I feel to God, or for that matter to you?  Not being snarky on this, serious questions.

Are people who are monogamous and cohabiting in fact married?

Dave Benke

You answered the first of the three questions I asked you.  Here is the first of my comments.  More coming when you answer all of my questions. 

Your denomination/tradition has this to say on the matter, do you agree or disagree?

... gan ainm

What About . . .

Living Together Without Marriage

by Dr. A. L. Barry President The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Reprinted with permission

Increasingly, men and women choose to live as husband and wife without being married. pamphlet will answer some questions asked about living together.

What is marriage?

We learn from the Word of God that marriage is the life-long, exclusive union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife. Marriage is a part of God’s creation. Thus, we read in God’s Word, the Bible: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen.2:24; cf. Matt. 19:5–6; Eph. 5:31).

Elsewhere we read, “Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). And, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb. 13:4). Marriage is such a precious blessing that God inspired the Apostle Paul to describe marriage as a picture of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church (Eph. 5:22–33).

Why is it wrong for a couple to live together without marriage?

Simply stated, a couple that lives together as man and wife without being married is sinning. God’s Word is clear: “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. ...Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Eph. 4:17-19). Our Lord Jesus Christ once helped a woman living with a man who was not her husband to recognize that what she was doing was wrong (John 4:16–18).

Lutheran Christians believe that the sixth commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” means, “We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do; and husband and wife love and honor each other” (Luther’s Small Catechism [CPH: 1986], p. 10).

All of this is another way of stating the obvious: Men and women are not to live together as husband and wife, unless they actually are husband and wife. This is as true for 80-year-olds as it is for 18-year-olds.

Why does the church care about what two consenting adults do?

The church cares because God cares. The Lord’s Word is very clear in its condemnation of sexual activity outside of marriage. Consider these passages:

“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers. . . will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Eph. 5:3).

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery. . . . I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19–21).

Why is living together such a serious problem?

Because God’s Word clearly shows that it is sinful for couples to live together without marriage, people who persist in behavior that God rejects and condemns as sin are choosing a course that may lead to eternal punishment. God’s Word is clear: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (Heb. 10:26).

And again, we read: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. . . . The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thess. 4:3-7).

Isn’t the church being ‘judgmental’?

The church is declaring the truth of God’s Word. On behalf of Christ and His people, pastors have the responsibility to speak clearly to couples living together and to proclaim the Word of God to them, both Law and Gospel. It is never easy for a pastor, or a congregation, to deal with couples who are living together without marriage. It is important for both pastors and congregations to deal with these situations pastorally and faithfully, in a caring manner. Couples, and their parents, are tempted to say, “So what? Everyone else is doing it; and besides, we live in changing times.” In proclaiming the truth of God’s Word about these situations, the church is being faithful, not judgmental.

Shouldn’t a couple find out if they are compatible?

Secular research has demonstrated that living together without marriage results in a relationship that it less stable and less fulfilling than marriage. Furthermore, couples who live together have a much higher risk of divorce when they finally do marry. Living together is a bad idea, even from a purely human perspective.

One study notes, “Those who cohabitate before marriage have substantially higher divorce rates than those who do not; the recorded differentials range from 50 percent to 100 percent higher” (“The Relationship Between Cohabitation and Divorce”[1992], Demography, 29:357–374). Studies conducted at Yale and Columbia Universities found that “the dissolution rate for women who cohabit premaritally with their future spouse is, on average, nearly 80 percent higher than the rates of those who do not” (“Commitment and the Modern Union,” American Sociological Review, [1988], 53:127–138).

How does the church deal with these situations?

The church, and the church’s pastors, will inform couples living together without marriage that what they are doing is sinful. These conversations will take place in a loving manner; but in faithfulness to the Word of God, such conversations need to take place. These situations cannot be ignored or over-looked. It may be necessary to place unmarried couples living together under church discipline in order to help them realize the seriousness of the situation.

This response may offend people. They may become angry at the church, or the church’s pastor. Sometimes an entire family is upset when a situation they have ignored is finally dealt with.

2 The Word of God has a way of cutting through all issues and exposing our sinfulness. That is the work of the Law of God, which shows us our sin.

Offending people is certainly not the church’s goal, nor is it the church’s desire only to have people recognize their sin. The church wants people to see their sin, so that they may see their Savior. The proclamation of the Gospel is the church’s highest priority. The church proclaims the Law of God so that people are able to hear and believe the good news that “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The church wants people to hear and believe the Gospel, for only the Gospel has the power to change lives and behavior for the better.

How can a couple living together resolve the situation?

A couple living together without marriage needs to take concrete steps to end the situation. They may choose to separate, with no plans for marriage. They may choose to separate until they are married—hopefully soon.

It is important that they make a commitment to marriage counseling before their wedding, and perhaps also after their wedding. Some couples may choose to be married by an officer of the court. This is a completely valid marriage in the view of the church. Couples choosing this option are encouraged to have their marriage publicly recognized by the church as well. No matter what the decision, they will want to seek their pastor’s counsel.

What is the ultimate solution to this problem?

There are many solutions we can identify. Christian families need to understand what is right and wrong. Early on, parents need to speak with their children about God’s expectations in regard to marriage.

Pastors and congregations will want to work patiently and lovingly with couples caught up in this sin. Concerned Christian congregations need to pray that the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts and lives of those involved in this lifestyle in order to break down their resistance to God’s Word. Christian congregations must not ignore the problem, but must deal with it faithfully. Congregations need to speak about this matter.

Couples that recognize their sin need to hear God’s comforting word of promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If they choose to be married, they should do so with joyful confidence in God’s forgiveness and His blessing on their marriage.

Scripture taken from the The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1973, 1978, 1984, by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

© 1998 The Office of the President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1333 South Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63122.

Printed copies of this tract may be purchased from Concordia Publishing House, 1-800-325-3040, www.cph.org. Ask for item number 10-1721.

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on May 01, 2017, 03:53:38 PM

What About . . .

Living Together Without Marriage

by Dr. A. L. Barry President The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Reprinted with permission

Increasingly, men and women choose to live as husband and wife without being married. pamphlet will answer some questions asked about living together.

What is marriage?

We learn from the Word of God that marriage is the life-long, exclusive union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife. Marriage is a part of God’s creation. Thus, we read in God’s Word, the Bible: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen.2:24; cf. Matt. 19:5–6; Eph. 5:31).

Elsewhere we read, “Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). And, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb. 13:4). Marriage is such a precious blessing that God inspired the Apostle Paul to describe marriage as a picture of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church (Eph. 5:22–33).



Absolutely nothing in those scripture verses about getting a state license. In Jesus' day, when a couple, with parental permission, decided to live together, they were considered married. There was no church service. There was no license. There was a wedding banquet - like at Cana, but that was much more like our wedding receptions than a wedding service. A similar thing occurred when Jacob was going to "marry" Rachel. There was a lot of drinking at the party, and when he and Leah entered the tent together to consummate their relationship, they were married - even though she wasn't the woman he thought he was marrying.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 01, 2017, 04:16:58 PM

What About . . .

Living Together Without Marriage

by Dr. A. L. Barry President The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Reprinted with permission

Increasingly, men and women choose to live as husband and wife without being married. pamphlet will answer some questions asked about living together.

What is marriage?

We learn from the Word of God that marriage is the life-long, exclusive union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife. Marriage is a part of God’s creation. Thus, we read in God’s Word, the Bible: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen.2:24; cf. Matt. 19:5–6; Eph. 5:31).

Elsewhere we read, “Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). And, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb. 13:4). Marriage is such a precious blessing that God inspired the Apostle Paul to describe marriage as a picture of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church (Eph. 5:22–33).



Absolutely nothing in those scripture verses about getting a state license. In Jesus' day, when a couple, with parental permission, decided to live together, they were considered married. There was no church service. There was no license. There was a wedding banquet - like at Cana, but that was much more like our wedding receptions than a wedding service. A similar thing occurred when Jacob was going to "marry" Rachel. There was a lot of drinking at the party, and when he and Leah entered the tent together to consummate their relationship, they were married - even though she wasn't the woman he thought he was marrying.

I agree with Brian here.  The Barry "What About" series are not matters of denominational doctrine, gan ainm. 

(I must confess that calling someone "gan ainm" as a title gives me a chuckle, because
a) I have no idea what it means, if anything
b) it reminds me of our Sunday worship prayer time, when I receive names I can't pronounce, mess them up and hear about it after church)

What I think is the tradition is found somewhat in our hymnals, to wit:

"Lawfully wedded wife" in the English versions
"Legitama esposa/o" in Spanish Culto Cristiano.

So the problem through the centuries was that the non-legitimate, ie illegitimate children of those illegitimate unions, also called "bastards," had a hard time getting baptized.  But we in the Lutheran tradition do not have marriage as a sacrament.  So even though we call marriage a "holy estate" in our liturgies, does that include being married by a priest?  Or did Luther in effect de-legitimatize the automatic responsibility of the Church to preside over a marriage?  Did the state not kind of "side" with the Protestants by declaring certain relationships "common law marriage?"  And what did "common" mean in that sentence - as opposed to "sacred?"  As opposed to "uncommon?" 

My denomination accepted the Barry "What Abouts" for use and guidance but not as doctrinal statements of the denomination.  They were never "vetted" at that level.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 01, 2017, 04:18:37 PM
Do "common law" spouses introduce each other in public as their husband or wife? If not, why not?
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Likeness on May 01, 2017, 04:52:37 PM
The "What About"  pamphlets were not written by President Alvin Barry.
They were "ghost written" by his staff and issued under his name.
The Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation provided the funds to produce
and distribute them. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: John_Hannah on May 01, 2017, 05:03:14 PM

Your denomination/tradition has this to say on the matter, do you agree or disagree?

... gan ainm


GAN AINM

Maybe you don't this.  Your logo has a upper case alpha but a lower case omega in our common usage of the Greek alphabet.   ;D

Peace, JOHN
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on May 01, 2017, 05:50:14 PM

Your denomination/tradition has this to say on the matter, do you agree or disagree?

... gan ainm


GAN AINM

Maybe you don't this.  Your logo has a upper case alpha but a lower case omega in our common usage of the Greek alphabet.   ;D

Peace, JOHN

Pr. Hannah, I changed it - JUST FOR YOU.  8)

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Charles Austin on May 01, 2017, 10:47:19 PM
My Gaelic is weak, but I don't think it's correct to refer to a "few thousand years" of Christian tradition. We haven't been around a "few thousand" years, have we?
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 01, 2017, 10:50:26 PM
The "What About"  pamphlets were not written by President Alvin Barry.
They were "ghost written" by his staff and issued under his name.
The Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation provided the funds to produce
and distribute them.

How do you know this?

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: gan ainm on May 02, 2017, 06:43:31 AM
It appears from several of the comments made in this thread, marriage is viewed as a social construct only and subject to civil law only.  Would those who hold this view please comment on your view of natural law and its applicability to marriage and/or cohabitation? 

From the Christian Cyclopedia: [Church fathers, some of whom were deeply influenced by Roman law, shared the concept of natural law but identified it with the primitive natural revelation of God in man's heart, the innate knowledge of right and wrong, and regarded it as evidence of the truth of Ro 2:14–15.  The Reformation generally accepted the patristic view of natural law. Luther and Melanchthon followed Augustine of Hippo in regarding the decalog as the directly revealed codification of natural law.]

Secondly, are the followers of the pre-incarnate Christ who have been around for thousands of years (followers of YHWH) Christians even though they were unaware of the incarnate Christ? 

From the Athanasian Creed:[ “… We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.]

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: pearson on May 02, 2017, 11:16:29 AM

It appears from several of the comments made in this thread, marriage is viewed as a social construct only and subject to civil law only.  Would those who hold this view please comment on your view of natural law and its applicability to marriage and/or cohabitation?


The natural law tradition in theology, ethics and jurisprudence is an unwieldy amalgam from many different historical and textual sources.  There are a lot of blind spots and anomalies in that tradition.  I would be interested in hearing you, gan ainm, comment on your own view of natural law.

With regard to marriage, it is certainly possible to observe a natural phenomenon of procreation taking place within the context of shared parental-child responsibilities.  In that sense, the organic bonding between parents, and between parents and child, can be considered "natural."  But it is certainly possible to observe as well the social phenomenon of ordered rituals and customs that mark off the distinctive relationship of "marriage," rituals and customs that vary widely across history and cultures.  So if "marriage" is defined as the primitive bonding engendered by the possibility of procreation, then "marriage" could come under the rubric of the "natural," and perhaps of "natural law."  But if "marriage' is defined as one among many items on the smorgasbord of social practices, then it takes some hard work to fit that under the category of the "natural."  (And note that none of this entails any involvement of a "divine order" of marriage, even as natural law itself does not require any divine source, or any theological justification). 


From the Christian Cyclopedia: [Church fathers, some of whom were deeply influenced by Roman law, shared the concept of natural law but identified it with the primitive natural revelation of God in man's heart, the innate knowledge of right and wrong, and regarded it as evidence of the truth of Ro 2:14–15.  The Reformation generally accepted the patristic view of natural law. Luther and Melanchthon followed Augustine of Hippo in regarding the decalog as the directly revealed codification of natural law.]


Like encyclopedias in general, this passage from the Christian Cyclopedia is a swift and oversimplified summary of the topic.  Not all the church fathers endorsed natural law, and some even opposed the idea (Tertullian, for instance).  So there was no discernible "patristic view of natural law."  Luther's, and Melanchthon's, approach to natural law were very different.  Luther took a much more pragmatic position on natural law.  You can read his comments in the Commentary on Galatians, or in his Admonition to Peace during the Peasant's Rebellion, or in several of his letters, including a letter written to Joseph Levin Metzsch in December, 1526 on the question of bigamy, and his subsequent reluctant approval ("this we do not condemn") of Philip of Hesse's bigamy in a letter written with Melanchthon in 1539.

So natural law is a very congested subject among Lutherans.  All undue modesty aside, I wrote a small essay on Luther's treatment of natural law for a CPH publication several years ago (Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal.  You could look it up if you want more information on this subject.

Tom Pearson   
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 02, 2017, 11:34:02 AM
A key to understanding legal marriage certificates is that they recognize marriages, they do not create them. They are like birth certificates in that regard. So a person can be married without a license just like they can exist without a birth certificate. This is the main reason the state cannot redefine marriage.

The issue is whether there is any good, ethical reason to refuse to have one's birth or marriage recognized by the state. Someone who kept the birth of their baby secret from the state to save the bay's life is be justified in not getting a birth certificate. Someone who does so to avoid a census tax or some such might not be so justified.

So why would anyone claim to be married but not go ahead and get married? In some cases among retirees it is a matter of retirement benefits. The honesty of that approach is questionable, as are the laws that punish marriage. In some cases it is a matter of welfare benefits. Same issue. And sometimes people claim a marriage that isn't real, for immigration or military benefits. Also a dishonest thing. Any time the real marriages don't align with the official marriages there is mischief afoot.

But there are weighty reasons in addition to any legal/financial matters to be public about our marriages. If I am single, I want to be looking for a wife. But I do not want to be looking among the married women for a wife. So I need to know who is taken and who is available. And my relationship cannot be "publicly-accountable" (to use one of the criteria extant in ELCA publications) if it not made public. And it isn't "committed" or "lifelong" (two more such criteria) if I'm not committed to it.

My marriage also establishes new relationships for other people. My mother gains a daughter-in-law. It is only fair to her that the "in-law" part actually be "in-law." Why keep everyone in a state of need to be tentative? It is pure self-absorption to be "married" but refuse to be married with a certificate; unless you are in a really strange circumstance, your reasons for not wanting the certificate are either dishonest, uncharitable, or simply evidence that you aren't really committed, that is isn't a lifelong thing, and that you don't want it to be publicly accountable.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dan Fienen on May 02, 2017, 11:41:45 AM

As I tell/remind couples coming to be married, the essential component of the marriage service is the commitment to perpetual fidelity.  Whether that takes place in a religious or civil ceremony, formally registered with the state or not is of lesser significant than the commitment.  In theory, a couple could make that commitment to each other and to God without any other witnesses.  However it is not so easy.


What of a couple who have a stable, long term monogamous relationship but they did not bother to go through the ceremony and the paperwork?  Seems to me that is basically the same as a marriage.  However there are other considerations to be considered.


Is it a commitment or just a habit?  No matter how long standing the relationship, if it is on the basis of "we'll do this so long as it pleases us and if it ceases to please, I'm outa here," that is not a marriage.


Do they wish to interact with the society around them as married with all the legal benefits and responsibilities thereto appertaining?  If so, then society demands that certain formalities be observed.  If they want the legal benefits of marriage they need to register their relationship in the proper way to claim the benefits.  If they want the private benefits of marriage without any of the legal responsibilities, then we are approaching fraud.  That would like the couple who divorce each December 30 and remarry the next January 2 so as to be able to file taxes as unmarried.  Or the couple who wish to receive pension and governmental benefits as singles while being "married."


When entering into such an informal "marriage" why not observe the legal niceties and make it a legally binding arrangement?  Weddings need not be expensive.  Lack of legal commitment does not relieve the couple from the need for a personal commitment to each other.  The possibility of fraud against a partner is real, and even more possible without the legal force of a marriage.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 02, 2017, 12:14:28 PM
Thanks, Pearson. 

In terms of public acknowledgment of commitment, the Facebook mode for that is "In a Relationship."

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: pearson on May 02, 2017, 12:19:59 PM

In terms of public acknowledgment of commitment, the Facebook mode for that is "In a Relationship."


I'll be sure to tell my wife.  She'll be impressed.

Tom Pearson
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Charles Austin on May 02, 2017, 12:41:17 PM
Do we need validation from the state for a "committed relationship"? If I am not married, but engaged or otherwise "taken" and a woman gets flirty, it is not hard for me to let her know my situation. If I'm single and "looking," the woman I might approach can do the same; she need not pull out a marriage license.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 02, 2017, 01:31:41 PM
Do we need validation from the state for a "committed relationship"? If I am not married, but engaged or otherwise "taken" and a woman gets flirty, it is not hard for me to let her know my situation. If I'm single and "looking," the woman I might approach can do the same; she need not pull out a marriage license.
Have you not read that in the beginning the Creator made them male and said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?" So they are no longer two, but one.

It isn't a matter of needing validation. Nor is it matter of the state defining marriage. It is simply a question of whether the state should interact with fact or fiction. We often hear people say the church needs to get out of the marriage business, but really the argument is better directed at the state. If there is little correlation in society between who is really married and who has a marriage license, and if the state is fine with that, then why not simply have the state stop recognizing the marriage relationship altogether? The state doesn't license friendships. Why license marriages?

The same applies to birth cerificates. If there is no correlation between the certificates and real babies, let's stop having certificates.

Unless, of course, live births and real marriages are simply part of what it means to be a human community and the state is there to govern the human community. Then it makes sense for the state to keep track of who is born and who is married and who dies. And it is therefore uncharitable in the extreme to refuse to be so kept track of, to be married but refuse to let the state know it, or to have children but refuse to let the state know it, or to know someone has died but refuse to let the state know it. And similarly dishonest to get a license for a sham marriage for the sake of inheritance rights or immigration rights or whatever, or to take tax deductions for non-existent children, or whatever other scams maybe involve fake births, marriages, and deaths.   

Everyone knows that death certificates don't kill anyone or even validate the death. Birth certificates don't give birth or even validate anyone's existence. But if the state is to do its job, it needs to keep track of such things. The reason marriage certificates have come to be seen as a "Meh, I'll file that paperwork if I feel like it" thing is that we have become so purely individualistic in our thinking that we no longer see the two becoming one as a fact of human life like birth and death. We deal purely with individuals, who indeed are born and die. We see marriage as little more than a voluntary living arrangement that need not concern the state. We see sex and procreation as separate issues from marriage. We therefore don't care whether marriages among us are recognized by the state any more than we care if our dolls have birth certificates or our imaginary friends get death certificates when we outgrow them. It isn't that we don't expect the state to interact with reality, it is that we see the individual person as the only reality that the state can or should interact with.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Charles Austin on May 02, 2017, 03:22:46 PM
 You lost me again, Peter. I'm speaking of the reality of human interaction, and you speak of a state bureaucracy.  But we can  let that pass as we do not understand each other.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 02, 2017, 03:54:44 PM
You lost me again, Peter. I'm speaking of the reality of human interaction, and you speak of a state bureaucracy.  But we can  let that pass as we do not understand each other.
My point isn't really that hard to grasp. State issued marriage certificates ought to serve the same basic purpose as state issued birth certificates and death certificates. If there is any reason to have such certificates at all, that is, if there is any reason for the state to recognize the people it governs, then there is good cause to make sure that the certificates the state goes by correlate to real births, deaths, and marriages and that real births, death and marriages get certified by the state. If not, then the certificates are largely a officious fiction.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: MaddogLutheran on May 02, 2017, 04:23:32 PM
You lost me again, Peter. I'm speaking of the reality of human interaction, and you speak of a state bureaucracy.  But we can  let that pass as we do not understand each other.
My point isn't really that hard to grasp. State issued marriage certificates ought to serve the same basic purpose as state issued birth certificates and death certificates. If there is any reason to have such certificates at all, that is, if there is any reason for the state to recognize the people it governs, then there is good cause to make sure that the certificates the state goes by correlate to real births, deaths, and marriages and that real births, death and marriages get certified by the state. If not, then the certificates are largely a officious fiction.
This is the concept that Justice Kennedy and his fellow travelers failed to grasp--the entire point of such documentation by the state was for the good order of passing property and responsibility between biologically related family members.

It was not so that the state could recognize and celebrate the "feels" between 2 people...as anyone who has been married a long time can attest to.   ;)
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on May 02, 2017, 06:11:33 PM
You lost me again, Peter. I'm speaking of the reality of human interaction, and you speak of a state bureaucracy.  But we can  let that pass as we do not understand each other.
My point isn't really that hard to grasp. State issued marriage certificates ought to serve the same basic purpose as state issued birth certificates and death certificates.

In every US state I have resided, it is the county that registers marriage.  (I have not lived in Louisiana, which has parishes.)  As it is the county that records births, deaths, property ownership, liens, wills, etc.  (There is a similar principle with notices of DBAs, partnerships, etc. being published in a local "newspaper of record.")  The county doesn't create any of these; it records them, so that should there be a (property) dispute at a later date, the courts have objective evidence to examine.

Pax, Steven+
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Charles Austin on May 02, 2017, 06:15:35 PM
Peter writes:
My point isn't really that hard to grasp. State issued marriage certificates ought to serve the same basic purpose as state issued birth certificates and death certificates. If there is any reason to have such certificates at all, that is, if there is any reason for the state to recognize the people it governs, then there is good cause to make sure that the certificates the state goes by correlate to real births, deaths, and marriages and that real births, death and marriages get certified by the state. If not, then the certificates are largely a officious fiction.

 I comment:
 But a true human relationship, whether friends, dating, engaged or married, needs no certificate to make it real.  And the only reason we want it to be recognized by the state is that the state has specified certain things that apply to married couples, for instance healthcare decisions.
I do not see why the church cares whether the state "validates" our marriage rite, or why we should  need a paper from the state before we Officiate at a marriage. .
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on May 02, 2017, 07:29:07 PM
You lost me again, Peter. I'm speaking of the reality of human interaction, and you speak of a state bureaucracy.  But we can  let that pass as we do not understand each other.
My point isn't really that hard to grasp. State issued marriage certificates ought to serve the same basic purpose as state issued birth certificates and death certificates.

In every US state I have resided, it is the county that registers marriage.  (I have not lived in Louisiana, which has parishes.)  As it is the county that records births, deaths, property ownership, liens, wills, etc.  (There is a similar principle with notices of DBAs, partnerships, etc. being published in a local "newspaper of record.")  The county doesn't create any of these; it records them, so that should there be a (property) dispute at a later date, the courts have objective evidence to examine.


That is also true with copyright laws. In order to protect the rights to one's "property," e.g., a song; it has to be registered with the copyright office. (Just by creating it, it is copyrighted. For example, because we have written our sermons, they are copyrighted. We have the right to say who can copy and distribute copies of our sermons.) However, should I believe that someone has made illegal copies of my sermons or songs, and especially if they have profited from them, I couldn't sue unless I had registered the copies with the copyright office with the date I composed them. As you indicate, proper paperwork is often necessary for legal reasons.


A couple can consider themselves married, but should they want to do things allowed by law to married couples, e.g., to file a joint tax return, or access to medical records, they need the proper paperwork. When I became the personal representative of an estate (by virtue of being the pastor of the congregation); I couldn't gain access to the lady's accounts without the proper paperwork (a death certificate).
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 12, 2017, 05:01:41 PM
Continuing to ponder this topic brought forward by Eileen.  I recently have popped to the fact that there are five less Lutheran churches around me than there used to be.  Three in eastern Brooklyn and two in western Queens, all within 2 miles of St. Peter's, have been closed in the last several years.  All of them were ELCA congregations, and all but one were small to tiny in worshiping number.  So against the contemporary odds, we're contemplating an outreach designed to target people who would know what a Lutheran is, or be one, who are in these neighborhoods representing a healthy half million people, and are in need of a place of worship to call home. 

That's a bit new for us - we've been way more open-ended in outreach and ministry.  But to me there's an obvious gap.  Yes, some people have cars and journey awhile on Sundays.  But as a congregation imbedded in East New York and Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, it's a re-focus to neighborhoods where bus and train can easily get someone to our place (which is very accessible to public transportation) in 15 minutes or so. 

Part of Keeping the Presence in the Inner City is to find ways to expand horizons and not get locked into the "club" mentality that infects so many smaller congregations and congregations that used to be far bigger but have lost the edge and now hang on for dear life. 

As Bishop, I was involved in the closing of urban congregations, and their schools which were out of gas, out of funds, out of hope.  Now as a parish pastor (only), I and mine are very interested in not becoming one of those.  It's a matter for continued prayer and discernment. 

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Likeness on May 12, 2017, 05:17:44 PM
A healthy parish will always be involved in outreach.  It does not matter whether it
is rural, suburban, urban, or inner-city.  Outreach involves serving the surrounding
community whether it is a food pantry, Red Cross blood drive or a Pre-School.  The
people in the community will have their own image of your parish.

Ultimately, a healthy parish will have a meaningful Sunday worship where people
gather around Word and Sacrament.  Preaching that proclaims Christ as the Way,
the Truth, and the Life.  Teaching that is Bible-based and Christ-centered.  A weekly
Eucharist to feed God's baptized people with spiritual nourishment.

Finally, a healthy parish will have a pastor who has a passion for his present call
where God has placed him.  Too many pastors are looking for the next step up
the church ladder or have already retired at their current call without telling anyone.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Steven W Bohler on May 12, 2017, 08:59:39 PM
A healthy parish will always be involved in outreach.  It does not matter whether it
is rural, suburban, urban, or inner-city.  Outreach involves serving the surrounding
community whether it is a food pantry, Red Cross blood drive or a Pre-School.  The
people in the community will have their own image of your parish.

Ultimately, a healthy parish will have a meaningful Sunday worship where people
gather around Word and Sacrament.  Preaching that proclaims Christ as the Way,
the Truth, and the Life.  Teaching that is Bible-based and Christ-centered.  A weekly
Eucharist to feed God's baptized people with spiritual nourishment.

Finally, a healthy parish will have a pastor who has a passion for his present call
where God has placed him.  Too many pastors are looking for the next step up
the church ladder or have already retired at their current call without telling anyone.

So, you are pronouncing all those congregations that do not have weekly communion as unhealthy?  While I agree that weekly communion is preferable, I do not know if I would go that far. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Charles Austin on May 12, 2017, 09:31:06 PM
 How about this, Pastor Bohler? Those parishes would be healthier if they had weekly communion.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Donald_Kirchner on May 13, 2017, 11:54:41 AM
How about this, Pastor Bohler? Those parishes would be healthier if they had weekly communion.

Not necessarily.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on May 13, 2017, 11:56:42 AM
How about this, Pastor Bohler? Those parishes would be healthier if they had weekly communion.

Not necessarily.


Only if they had turned the Lord's Supper into "our own meal" as the folks in Corinth did.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Donald_Kirchner on May 13, 2017, 12:03:59 PM
How about this, Pastor Bohler? Those parishes would be healthier if they had weekly communion.

Not necessarily.

Only if they had turned the Lord's Supper into "our own meal" as the folks in Corinth did.

That would be one example.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 13, 2017, 12:21:26 PM
The more substantial question is the identity of urban/inner city churches as Lutheran in practice.  From my perspective over four decades, as the incoming membership has not had a Lutheran or liturgical or sacramental background, it is necessary to deal with spiritual formation through the practice of the weekly Eucharist, where the community is forgiven, restored, linked and sent.  So weekly Holy Communion, in fact the whole second half of the liturgy, The Order of the Sacrament,  is one of the marks of a healthy Lutheran Church in the Inner City.  It's a vital time for our members from not only the many countries of origin, but the many religious practices of origin. 

The two poles are certain ELCA congregations with an "everyone come on up" approach, and certain Missouri Synod practitioners who have all kinds of strictures on admission to the altar connected to a rigid format which discourage the community's understanding of being forgiven, restored, linked and sent.  In the one case, "community" is dealt a blow, because the understanding of faith community is so inclusive that it becomes meaningless.  In the other case, the sense is of presupposed exclusion.  There are, I think, in urban and multi-cultural settings, ways to set the bar for "close/d" communion that hold to Lutheran principles.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dan Fienen on May 13, 2017, 12:57:34 PM

At what point does our practice if not our words say, "What God teaches is unimportant, believe whatever you want, you are still welcome as one of the family no matter what you believe or not believe."  If the Lord's Supper is in part the meal for the community, welcoming anyone who happens by to be part of the communing community just as they are with no further expectations in belief or behavior, makes the whole concept of community meaningless.  Pr. Benke is completely correct that some in the LCMS carry the concept of restricting who is "family" too far.  But the other extreme is also seen.


There have been complaints at times that Whites are disrespectful of Native American religious customs when they play dress up in Indian costume and play at ritual and ritual dances.  That was a part of the complaint at the University of Illinois with Chief Illiniwek dressed in Sioux regalia and doing ritual dances.  What of those who are not a part of our faith community, even loosely construed, wanting to play at participating in one of the core Christian rites, the Eucharist?
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 13, 2017, 01:49:05 PM

At what point does our practice if not our words say, "What God teaches is unimportant, believe whatever you want, you are still welcome as one of the family no matter what you believe or not believe."  If the Lord's Supper is in part the meal for the community, welcoming anyone who happens by to be part of the communing community just as they are with no further expectations in belief or behavior, makes the whole concept of community meaningless.  Pr. Benke is completely correct that some in the LCMS carry the concept of restricting who is "family" too far.  But the other extreme is also seen.


There have been complaints at times that Whites are disrespectful of Native American religious customs when they play dress up in Indian costume and play at ritual and ritual dances.  That was a part of the complaint at the University of Illinois with Chief Illiniwek dressed in Sioux regalia and doing ritual dances.  What of those who are not a part of our faith community, even loosely construed, wanting to play at participating in one of the core Christian rites, the Eucharist?

Particularly without the primary core rite, Baptism.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: peter_speckhard on May 13, 2017, 02:31:42 PM
Whether we compare it to a family, a village, or whatever, one of the marks of genuine community is shared, communally recognized authority. That is, we go to the same place/people to settle our disagreements. When Matthew 18 says, "take it to the church," what church do you take it to? That's where you ought to commune.

That's why recognizing the teaching authority over you of the church where you commune is so important; it is a mark of community. If you publicly identify yourself with a confession of faith that differs from that of the church where you are worshipping, you are not fully a part of their community and ought not commune. Thus, I am not a Catholic or Orthodox even though I have much in common with both, so I rejoice in what we have in common without communing at those altars.
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Likeness on May 13, 2017, 02:52:53 PM
What ultimately unites the local Lutheran parish is that all the members come together in
fellowship to share Jesus Christ in His Word and Sacrament.   The fellowship of the communicants
with one another is constituted by the body and blood of Christ they receive in the Sacrament.
Our participation in the Sacrament of the Altar is for baptized Lutherans who have faith in these
words, "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins."
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 13, 2017, 04:56:13 PM
Whether we compare it to a family, a village, or whatever, one of the marks of genuine community is shared, communally recognized authority. That is, we go to the same place/people to settle our disagreements. When Matthew 18 says, "take it to the church," what church do you take it to? That's where you ought to commune.

That's why recognizing the teaching authority over you of the church where you commune is so important; it is a mark of community. If you publicly identify yourself with a confession of faith that differs from that of the church where you are worshipping, you are not fully a part of their community and ought not commune. Thus, I am not a Catholic or Orthodox even though I have much in common with both, so I rejoice in what we have in common without communing at those altars.

I don't think there's much difficulty in the city with Roman Catholics at Lutheran churches.  Those who worship with us, some very regularly, simply receive a blessing as they come forward.  I will say that the difference in our setting is that we ARE both Eucharistic communions.  The many Roman Catholics heading toward Pentecostal or Non-Denominational churches in urban areas and not having even an option for the Eucharist seem to choose a more personally involved or performance-based worship over the Eucharist.  Many of these many are non-white and younger.  That's not good.  And of course it's not good when it happens, as it does frequently, with Lutherans heading to those same locales. 

Which is why our time in common as we pray, consecrate, sing, share the Pax Domini and come for the Meal/Blessing, is so central.

Dave Benke
 

Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 14, 2017, 10:08:17 PM
One of the signs of encouragement for continued presence in the city is to honor and remember family members on Mother's Day and Father's Day.  Our congregation focuses a lot on food and festivity after church, so on Mother's Day the guys serve the food and the women take the seats of honor, and lots of second helpings.  We use the lessons for the day, but add a lot of time for honoring, remembering and bringing songs and words of testimony.  I think this is an excellent way to make that focus on family ministry a real part of the community celebration.  We had seven great-great grandmothers in the house today, and the mom with the most children this year has fourteen, with forty-three grandchildren.  A family that IS a village.  Anyway, I lift that up as an aspect of urban ministry that crosses cultures and racial backgrounds, and brings people an opportunity to share during and after church.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 16, 2017, 03:58:43 PM
From Paul Raabe at the St. Louis Seminary:  http://concordiatheology.org/2017/05/a-geographical-mismatch/

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on May 16, 2017, 05:11:29 PM
From Paul Raabe at the St. Louis Seminary:  http://concordiatheology.org/2017/05/a-geographical-mismatch/

Dave Benke

Speaking as a native California Lutheran, that could easily have been written in May 1947. 

In fact, many letters of this sort were being written from California (and other Far West and West Coast, mostly recently transplanted) Lutherans to St. Louis (and Minneapolis, and New York, and Rock Island, and Columbus, and Philadelphia, etc.) in 1947, and for several years after that.

Pax, Steven+
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Dave Benke on May 16, 2017, 06:35:58 PM
From Paul Raabe at the St. Louis Seminary:  http://concordiatheology.org/2017/05/a-geographical-mismatch/

Dave Benke

Speaking as a native California Lutheran, that could easily have been written in May 1947. 

In fact, many letters of this sort were being written from California (and other Far West and West Coast, mostly recently transplanted) Lutherans to St. Louis (and Minneapolis, and New York, and Rock Island, and Columbus, and Philadelphia, etc.) in 1947, and for several years after that.

Pax, Steven+

Hah!  Good catch, Steven.  70 years of bondage to the Midwest.   The coasts have been difficult for Lutherans for a long, long time. 

Dave Benke
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Steven W Bohler on May 16, 2017, 07:07:33 PM
Yet there are many already existing Lutherans and their congregations in the Midwest that also are without pastors.  Our district (Minnesota North) requested 8 pastors, I believe.  We got two.  One of those two is going to a dual parish served by a man who is pushing 90!  The other will be going to an area 1-2 hours from the nearest Walmart or McDonalds; not something many are too excited to do.  But there are a couple hundred souls at each of those parishes.

It is a hard question: where do we spend our limited resources (money and men)?  Yes, we need to think of the big cities on the coasts, but the souls of Lutherans in the remote areas of ND and MN and KS need pastors too. 
Title: Re: The Church in the Inner-City - Can We Keep that Presence?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on May 16, 2017, 08:17:02 PM
From Paul Raabe at the St. Louis Seminary:  http://concordiatheology.org/2017/05/a-geographical-mismatch/ (http://concordiatheology.org/2017/05/a-geographical-mismatch/)

Dave Benke

Speaking as a native California Lutheran, that could easily have been written in May 1947. 

In fact, many letters of this sort were being written from California (and other Far West and West Coast, mostly recently transplanted) Lutherans to St. Louis (and Minneapolis, and New York, and Rock Island, and Columbus, and Philadelphia, etc.) in 1947, and for several years after that.

Pax, Steven+

Hah!  Good catch, Steven.  70 years of bondage to the Midwest.   The coasts have been difficult for Lutherans for a long, long time. 


It was said often when I was at Concordia, Portland, "We're a long ways from St. Louis."