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Your Turn / 200 pages is enough
« on: August 21, 2013, 04:38:54 PM »
WIth my last two posts I have just reach a milestone. All my posts here on ALPB since 2005 now total more than 200 pages worth of writing. That is a medium length of the standard A/F or IVP book.

It all adds up. Maybe for the good even. But it adds up and it is enough . . . 

God bless you. I like you all. I ain't angry at any of you, I promise - at least not any more.

But, I think I will go now . . . .

Your Turn / Wittenberg cut faculty by 20%
« on: April 18, 2013, 09:23:39 AM »
Here is a newspaper article from my local newspaper here in Clark county Ohio.

We here on ALPB have kept one another informed about the state of Lutheran education in the US. THis is merely another one of those threads. Like Luther and probably much of higher education in America, Wittenberg is having financial problems brought on by declining enrollment and so on. You may read and pray at your leisure and convenience. Keep it calm after that.

Your Turn / LWF says NO to Lutheran Rite in RCC
« on: January 22, 2013, 10:26:39 AM »
Here is an article I found:

It is self explanatory.

Here a bit of comment from John Michael Talbot, monk, musician and Evangelist from whose facebook page I gots the article:

It is unfortunate that when a wealthy person offers to build another person a house on their property with freedom to retain their unique familial identity, the poor person bristles. Rome keeps facing this with various mainline non Catholic churches and groups through the establishment of "rites" with their own liturgical charism and apostolic leadership in patriarchs and bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome. (Due to the history of the east and the west, the spirit of how the Bishop of Rome operates with Eastern rites is different than how he does in the Latin Rite, and would also with these churches and groups.) We just keep on reaching out, even in the face of rejection. But we do not give up. It is the nature of ecumenical ministry.

The idea is that as we all discover the gifts we can give one another, all mainline historical communities could have their own rite with their own charism of worship, and apostolic leadership as patriarchs and bishops. Rome is the only apostolic see that has the authority to pull this off. The alternative is to simply continue in the fractured state of the churches we see today.

I think it is bold, and the answer for re-establsihement of structural unity in the body of Christ. The bones have never been broken but they are dislocated. BUT, they can be healed in Christ! Pope Benedict XVI says that they only way this will happen is when we all get on our knees before Jesu together, and let Him heal us through mutual humility, confession of our sins, and mutual forgiveness.

ALPB Books, Tracts, and Web Resources / Dear ALPB: It's 2013
« on: January 17, 2013, 04:05:40 PM »
Hi ya'll,

I just had a marvelous gathering with the pastors of the Association of Confessing Lutheran of Ohio. We are planning to discuss Lutheran Dogma and Catechesis this year using, among other things, Jensen's Lutheran Slogans book that ALPB published.

As part of the gathering one lament was heard in plenary session: THis is 2013. Why are there no digital format books. Kindle has been around and reliable for what almost 10 years? Can we now . . . .please? Can we haz bookz in Kindl?

Your Turn / Maybe God wants division among us - maybe not so much
« on: January 12, 2013, 05:39:45 PM »

I promised Pr. Crandall that I start this thread. Here is a background conversation we had on ELCA requires nothing .

...if there is a possibility that God might want division. Maybe God does. Maybe God don't. It takes more then "John or Peter don't like it" as  a basis for an answer. And suppose we can't say, then we need to be honest about that as well. But there are implications to the answer. One of those implications is to admit that we don't know if God wants a unified church and quit insisting on it. Scary . . .

I'd like to hear more about this.  I've never even considered the possibility that God wants division... 

I can see on the one hand, where God would not want us being united with those who oppose his Word, but I can also see where he wishes that those who cause the division by opposing his Word would stop and be one with Him and His.

About 20 pages ago the assertion was made that theology is basically a mental game. In ELCA that is sometimes used to say: "Well, it does not matter we all love Jesus, and that is enough, never mind what you do with it."

I used that question in response to John who is committed to unity somehow but wants to talk about "things held in common" and in the process of the debate seemed to join the "theology is a mental game" line.  He also states that God's work is still, somehow,  being done through the hands of us sinners (GOd's work; our hands - is and ELCA slogan BTW)  David and I made mention how that thinking functions in ELCA and why we are suspicious.

Further, the thread deals with an article that criticizes people who left ECLA. It is about division.

To answer the question one has to do one of several things: One has to use sacred sources in which case one does theology way beyond "we love Jesus." Or one has to make a case that God has nothing to do with it and merely a human decision which also needs theology to be done because one has to explain why God is not involved.  For that matter, one has to answer the question whether one even has the answer without violating Theology of Glory territory.

So the question asked that many necessary theological alleys be traveled including the alleys labeled: 'Theology is good for something after all." and "maybe the departures from ELCA were necessary losses." The latter is after all what the article is about.
If the question itself intrigues you I would be happy to explore it. I have ideas but no answers. But maybe we need to do it on another thread. Be happy to start it . just say the word.

I would greatly appreciate you for starting a new thread.

More thoughts in the next post

Your Turn / Synods and the ELCA
« on: November 12, 2012, 09:16:12 AM »
THis is as good or bad a place to post this, though I thought about posting it in the LiftELCA thread, never mind though, here it is:

According to ARDA these are the stats for the ELCA until 2008. I took the liberty to add the change column.

Yr      pastors     cong.       members   change
1987   17,052   11,133   5,288,230   
1988   16,083   11,120   5,251,534   -36,696
1989   17,246   11,067   5,238,798   -12,736
1990   17,402   11,087   5,240,739   1,941
1991   17,426   11,074   5,245,177   4,438
1992   17,416   11,055   5,234,568   -10,609
1993   17,455   11,023   5,212,785   -21,783
1994   17,322   10,973   5,199,048   -13,737
1995   17,425   10,955   5,190,489   -8,559
1996   17,402   10,936   5,180,910   -9,579
1997   17,510   10,889   5,185,055   4,145
1998   17,589   10,862   5,178,225   -6,830
1999   17,611   10,851   5,149,668   -28,557
2000   17,651   10,816   5,125,919   -23,749
2001   17,693   10,766   5,099,877   -26,042
2002   17,706   10,721   5,038,006   -61,871
2003   17,666   10,657   4,984,925   -53,081
2004   17,725   10,585   4,930,429   -54,496
2005   17,665   10,549   4,850,776   -79,653
2006   17,655   10,470   4,774,203   -76,573
2007   17,619   10,448   4,709,956   -64,247
2008   17,660   10,396   4,633,887   -76,069

Based on 5 million membership the average synod has 76,000 members. That means that between 2002 and 2008 we lost almost a synod worth of people per year.

I have no interest in revisiting the sundry reasons and gripes that are associated with membership loss in our church. It is what it is and it is multi faceted. What I am however thinking is that the idea to rework the synod system, i.e. how many, where and how, really needs to be asked now. There  is rumored to be a process afoot that will redraw lines and make fewer synods - maybe we will end up with more synods instead only constitutionally reorganized radically different from today, who knows, bureaucracies are famous for producing the opposite of what they were intended to achieve.

So how should we be synod, where, and how many synods do you think we should have?

Your Turn / Hermeneutics gone horribly wrong at a Stop sign
« on: October 02, 2012, 09:30:01 PM »
From John Michael Talbot's Facebook page:

Hermeneutics for Moderns

Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you apply exegesis to the stop sign.

A postmodernist deconstructs the sign (i.e., he knocks it over with his car), thus ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.
Similarly, a Marxist sees a stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeoisie use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers on the east-west road.
A serious and educated Catholic believes that he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community and their tradition. Observing that the interpretive community doesn't take it too seriously, he doesn't feel obligated to take it too seriously either.
An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or Presbyterian or whatever) doesn't bother to read the sign but he'll stop if the car in front of him does.
A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and then waits for it to tell him to go.
A preacher might look up "STOP" in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean either:

something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing;or a location where a train or bus lets off passengers.

The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.
An Orthodox Jew does one of two things:

Take another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the halachah, or
Stop at the stop sign, say "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop," wait 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceed.

Incidentally, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage: R[abbi] Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long. R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding. R. Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. R. ben Isaac says: Because of the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says: "Be still, and know that I am God."

R.Hezekiel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites,the Holy One, blessed be He, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and overtake his daughter; but Jephthah did not stop at the stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out. For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus he was judged for his transgression at the stop sign.

R. Gamaliel says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out: "Stop, father!" In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same time. Thus it is written: "Out of the mouth of babes." R. ben Jacob says: Where did the stop sign come from? Out of the sky, for it is written: "Forever, O Lord, your word is fixed in the heavens." R. ben Nathan says: When were stop signs created? On the fourth day, for it is written: "let them serve as signs." But R. Yehoshua says: ... (continues for three more pages...)

A Haredi [ultra-Orthodox "black hat" Jew] does the same thing as an Orthodox Jew, except that he waits 10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces his brake lights with 1000 watt searchlights and connects his horn so that it is activated whenever he touches the brake pedal.
A Breslover Hasidic Jew sees the sign and makes hisboddidus (a form of spontaneous personal prayer) saying: "Robono Shel Olam [Master of the Universe] -- here I am, traveling on the road in Your service, and I'm about to face who knows what danger at this intersection in my life. So please watch over me and help me to get through this stop sign safely." Then, "looking neither to left nor right" as Rebbe Nachman advises, he joyfully accepts the challenge, remains focused on his goal -- even if the car rolls backward for a moment -- then he hits the gas pedal and forges bravely forward, overcoming all obstacles which the yetzer hara [evil inclination] might put in his path.
A Lubovitcher Hasidic Jew stops at the sign and reads it very carefully in the light of the Rebbe's teachings. (In former times he would have used his cell phone to call Brooklyn and speak to the Rebbe personally for advice, but this is no longer possible, may the Rebbe rest in peace.) Next, he gets out of the car and sets up a roadside mitzvah mobile [outreach booth], taking this opportunity to ask other Jewish drivers who stop at the sign whether or not they have put on tefillin today [male ritual] or whether they light Shabbos candles [female ritual]. Having now settled there, he steadfastly refuses to give up a single inch of the land he occupies until Moschiach [the Jewish Messiah] comes.
A Reform Jew sees the stop sign, and coasts up to it while contemplating the question "Do I personally feel commanded to stop?" During this internal process he edges into the intersection and is hit from behind by a car driven by a secular Jew who ignored the sign completely.
A Conservative Jew reacts by calling his rabbi and asking him whether stopping at this sign is required by unanimous ruling of the Commission on Jewish Law or if there is a minority position. While waiting for the rabbi's answer he is ticketed by a policeman for obstructing traffic.
A Reconstructionist Jew, seeing the stop sign, might say: First, this sign is part of our evolving civilization and therefore I must honor it and stop. On the other hand, since its origins are in the past, I must assert that "the past has a vote and not a veto," and therefore I must study the issue carefully and decide if the argument "to stop" is spiritually, intellectually and culturally compelling enough to convince me to stop. If yes, I will vote with the past. If not, I will veto it. Finally, is there any way that I can re-value or transvalue the stop sign's message for our own time?
The Renewal-Movement-Jew meditates on whether the STOP sign applies in all kabbalistic Four Worlds [Body-Emotion- Mind-Spirit] or only in some of them, and if so which ones? Must he stop feeling? thinking? being? driving? Since he has stopped to breathe and meditate on this question, he is quite safe while he does so, barukh HaShem. [Praise G-d.]
A scholar from the Jesus seminar concludes that the passage "STOP" undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself, but belongs entirely to stage III of the Gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.
A NT scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark Street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a completely hypothetical street called "Q". There is an excellent 300 page discussion of speculations on the origin of these stop signs and the differences between the stop signs on Matthew and Luke street in the scholar's commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunate omission in the commentary, however: the author apparently forgot to explain what the text means.
An OT scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage "STOP". For example, "ST" contains no enclosed areas and 5 line endings, whereas "OP" contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the authorfor the second part is different from the author for the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the "O" and the "P".
Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back. (Unfortunately, he neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection as though the stop sign were not there.
Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends the text, changing "T" to "H". "SHOP" is much easier to understand in context than "STOP" because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because "SHOP" is so similar to "STOP" on the sign several streets back that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area.
A feminist scholar notes that all commentary refers to "he" and concludes she is thus exempt, so she runs the sign and is killed.
A radical feminist, observing what happened to the first feminist, concludes this is a misogynist plot to get all feminists killed by inciting them to run stop signs. So she gets out of the car and stages a protest against the inherent sexism in all traffic signs.
An observant Orthodox Jewish woman concludes that she is not allowed to observe the mitzvah [commandment] of stopping because she is niddah [menstruant]. This is a dilemma, because the stop sign is located on the way to the mikvah [ritual purification pool]. She refers the dilemma to all the Rabbinical scholars, who shrug.
A feminist Jewish woman sees this as a sign from the Shekhinah [feminine aspect of G-d) that translates roughly "enough already...."

Your Turn / Researchers confirm: Hell Matters!
« on: August 12, 2012, 07:18:31 AM »

Yes, friends, we now have proof: People who believe in the existence of Hell are more likely to be law abiding than people who merely believe in heaven and God's graciousness. The implications of this are obviously . . . well . . . oh, make up our own mind.

Anyway, what was God thinking giving the church the power to storm the gates of Hell? Does God not care about civil obedience? The nerve!

Well, anyway, read it lighthearted, read it with pompous indignation, read it as merely a weird Sunday morning reading find, which I consider it, but argue. Yes, argue! Let there be digital jousting and posturing! It is, after all, what makes this medium so great to read. Unless you believe in Hell, of course. Then you probably will choose to abstain in civil deference. So if you are not posting, we know what you are . . .  :)

Do not ask me why but I am reading Gulley's THe Evolution of Faith: How God is creating a Better Christianity. The title of the thread is probably indicative of what I find wrong with the book. Gulley spends a couple of pages and a charming anecdote to say: We should not make our own experiences of God normative on others. Then he proceeds to make his Universalist/ Unitarian - Quaker ( I gather the Quakers are trying to ask him to leave and become a U/U) experience the one and only lens through which all Christianity must be judged and through which all Christianity is found wanting. Of course, "love," is the whetstone by which all judgement is sharpened and known but the content of that "love" is self evident or in the heart of the believer. There, the heart, God already lives and if that is so then we just sort of know. No struggle. In a way, that is very Quaker of him but among Lutherans more needs to attend the judgement.

As one might expect in light of that, original sin - ridiculous. Jesus? The one who realized and understood better then anyone that God was in his heart and was willing to be guided by that the most in history.

I'll stop there. This is Spongg with charming stories but Spongg no less. Yes, my ELCA friends, it is being read among our colleagues. Yes, there are those who think it is cool and the coming thing. So: maybe we can make an attempt to forge a Lutheran rebuttal.

Or, we could just argue about . . .well . . . the usual stuff . . . suit yourself.

Your Turn / Dear Lutheran Forum: Enough Already
« on: June 15, 2012, 10:58:54 AM »
I just looked at my calendar and realized that it is March 11th, 2011. It really does not fell like March at all. It is warm in Ohio and the trees are out in full bloom and the radishes are ready for plucking . . .  Oh . . .  Yea . . . I forgot to tear those little dumb things off every morning. Even if I did I only come to this office once a week so  nothing is ever really all that up to date.

Let's see: Yes, My computer knows it is June 15th, 2012 time to pay your estimated taxes. It is also now 3 summers ago that the ELCA votetated about the Hummus Sexuality thing. Much water has run over the banks of the Mad River and flooded old man Gerlauch's bottom land since then. We are now three (3) years past the shocking day in August that drove ever so many of us out and made ever so many re evaluate our commitments and our involvement in our congregations, conferences, synods, and National church. That work has been done and an equilibrium, temporary as it might be, has now been reached.

By now, "dissenting  in place" has become just plain living faithfully day to day. We did that before, we do it now, we do it tomorrow. The hostile are still hostile, THe uninvolved are still uninvolved, the reactionary are still reacionarying, the church men and women are still cowboy/ cowgirl - ing it up. The publications from Chicago are still in the language of institutional koan like they always have been. New social statements are being written and linguists are beginning to theorize that ELCA has finally crossed the threshold of having created its own language - take that Rome! Latin? Ha! We have  . . . ELCA . . . we get back to you on that name for our new language - But we have a church language now too! We told you we would. It's been in development since the 80's, so there is nothing new here.

All that is to say, in a roundabout way: We are still publishing pathological reports on HSG&T in 2012? This helps how? No matter how badly you tend your calendar it is june 15th, 2012. It is time to either move on or to have processed the matter in place and have gotten back to doing the labor of love that is ordained ministry.

It is for love of what I do that I read Forum. I read it because I need inspiration for what I do. I hope to read  good essays on pastoral ministry. Good discussion of the confessions on the meat, not the salad or side dishes, but the meat of the confession of the Lutherans and the Faith of all the saints in light. I read because I will rise on 60 plus mornings knowing that I will preach that day. I read to formulate in ever new ways why the church does things the way she does and not some other way. I read because I . . . I am hungry to read good writers explain the Gospel in ways that even touches little old jaded me.

I am not out there to reform the church according to my latest insight about the texts they preached on in Wittenberg in December or tinker with its lectionary; I am not out there trying to connect Luther and Schleiermacher; I am not out there to tinker with the church's seasons; I do not run a church renewal think tank and I have to have answers when I rise to speak, not a long list of pathology; I cannot afford to grind axes even if those axes were the the subject of a recently defended PhD. thesis; I live parish life not academia and I do not aspire to the latter.

Much commends Lutheran Forum and certainly much commends Forum Letter.     


In particular, and more needs to be said but this is on my mind the most this morning: Maybe "Dissenting In Place" can morph into something more useful now?  I am ELCA and I say it as Peter Kruse, JSPS*: Is this column really still worthy of a place? Many have moved on and for the sake of their souls I hope they do not go back to their departure from ELCA all the time to pull off some more scab. If you are sitting in LCMC and you are still grinding axes with ELCA then you desperately need to see a Spiritual Director. Please. So for ELCA and NALC and LCMC,and ELCM, and AFLC, and MIC, KEY . . . . it would be space and paper better used for good PRACTICAL rumination of pastoral faithfulness and life in good days and in ill. I stress practical because I am finding myself reading what once was a very practical journal and I feel at the end that I was served a high class meal that was all salad and side dishes.

*Just Some Poor Schmuck

Your Turn / Post - post modernism AKA digimodernism
« on: May 08, 2012, 08:42:22 AM »
OK: This article is 6 years old but the author has a book that just had the sad fate of having drifted past my eyes.

Here is the article

It is written by  aBrit so some cultural references are "off." But it is a good read.

A question to ponder: If this man is write, what does that do to theology of even liturgy?

Anyway, a good read.

Keep it real . . .

Your Turn / A Strange Japanese Rune
« on: April 11, 2012, 07:54:35 AM »
I found this bit from a British news source. It concerns suicide in Japan. The story is that suicidal Japanese choose to enter a forest at the foot of Fuji to end their lives. A video of about 20 minutes is with the story. It follows the forest tender for the area who has found 100s of bodies and patrols the woods as both the finder of the lost and the last hope for those who have not yet done the deed but are in the forest for just that reason.

THe video is chilling but somehow the forest ranger strikes me as a remarkable human being. Peaceful, wise, and in spite of what he does and sees, in spite of reading the suicide notes left for him to find, he seems to find a point in life. It may not have been the point of life I find, but I admire this guy.

Anyways, it is a piece on human meaning in a certain way. In all its surreal nature I found hope in it Easter Monday when I happened to come across it. I remember Easter Monday, a holiday in Germany, as the day that families would visit graves to clean them and remember those they had left there. I used to seek out the graves of those whom I had buried through the previous year on Easter Monday to pray. I lost that habit since the graves where I now dwell are spread across a fairly large swath of Ohio geography but maybe I should recover the practice.

The link:

Your Turn / A Statement on Criminal Justice
« on: April 04, 2012, 11:56:51 AM »
It seems to have become a habit in the ELCA to send out new statements of whatever kind just in time for Holy Week. This year is no exception. The new Criminal Justice statement just had the misfortune to end up in my mailbox.

I know. It's Holy Week. But there is likely something to be said anyhow on eve quick perusal.


Say it.

Or wait until Monday.

Your Turn / Germany elects former East German Pastor as President
« on: March 19, 2012, 10:04:46 AM »
After months of embarrassment concerning their president, who had been involved n shady dealings, Germans elected a new president yesterday. The office is not totally ceremonial but then again - it carries "head of State" not "head of Government" type status.

Anyway, the man elected is Joachim Gauck. President Gauck is from Rostock where he was a pastor during the Russion period. He seems to have been one of the voices that brought on the peaceful rebellion that liberated East Germany. His acceptance speech notes his heritage drawn from the experience of 56 years of oppression and eventual victory of freedom. He spoke of cherishing freedom and always taking responsibility for freedom. In a twist of timing and fate, he was elected on the anniversary of the first free election in East Germany after the fall of the Soviet backed junta. In his own words, he voted that day vowing never to neglect the responsibility of voting ever in his life from that time forward. Yet, he said, this in public office owe it to our land to consider carefully both those who would stand in the center and those who have stepped to the margins so that there would be  Germany that both could come to call "our country."

Gauck has no party affiliation. That is in itself very remarkable. He is elected with votes from all active parties. Other noteworthy things are: Margot Kaessman, former chair of the Evang. Church of Germany was asked to be a candidate. I am note sure if she was on ballot or fell off in the voting (only the assembly votes in this election, not the populous). Not only is Gauck a former pastor, but Merkel, the Kanzler - prime minister - is the daughter of an East German pastor. Die Welt noted that protestants are suddenly more prominent in government than at any time previously. That is probably an indication that population as shifted center. Bavaria, a RC bastion, is now balanced by a largely protestant former East Germany.

Anyway: Some sites to go to. Spiegel has an English language site here:

This one is his acceptance speech. It is in German. But is is a rally good speech. I wish our presidents would speak with such depth and sincerity.

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