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Messages - Wayne Kofink

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Your Turn / Re: Stole without an Alb?
« on: October 29, 2019, 02:42:25 PM »
My observation is that the practice is spreading although the reasoning behind it doesn’t seem clear. It seems to be: “I don’t wear an alb because it a holdover of obsolete clothing that separates me from the people in the congregation who wear normal clothes. I wear a stole to show I’m ordained and not like everybody else in the congregation.” I don’t think anyone will be able to stuff this genie back in the bottle.

I don’t like stoles for choirs or confirmands because it is a symbol of ordination. I am all right with ordained deacons wearing deacons stoles, but not with synod deacons (who are not ordained or rostered) wearing them. I am afraid that genie isn’t going back into the bottle either.

I suppose it’s only time until a “with-it”pastor instructs other clergy that euro-centric, hierarchical albs are not permitted at his/her/hir installation service. I think I’ll stay home. Or maybe I’ll wear a cassock and surplice.

Your Turn / Re: Episcopal consecration
« on: October 02, 2019, 09:23:43 AM »
I heard a story about an Episcopal priest whose use of incense was met by a spate of coughing from some parishioners. He suspected it wasn’t an allergic reaction, but “hate coughing,” people expressing their displeasure at incense being used. One Sunday he entered the sanctuary with a smoking thurible, and the coughing began. He turned on the congregation and declared, “Knock it off. It’s dry ice.”   :)

Your Turn / Re: Simon Wiesenthal Center and the ELCA
« on: August 17, 2019, 09:34:46 AM »
The whole issue of the U.S., Israel, the Palestinians and the role of churches is complex. It’s probably wise to at least question if the ELCA has sufficient skill to make statements about it. However, I notice that the memorials the ELCA adopted are not directed to Israel but to how U.S. funds are appropriated. The work of Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem has long been a concern of Lutherans here and in Europe. Even Elliott Abrams, a conservative with Jewish roots, thinks cutting the U.S. funding to the hospital was a mistake. I don’t think the ELCA was taking a radical or unwarranted position in calling for restoration of funding. It’s certainly not an anti-Israel or anti-Jewish action.

Pastor Fienen, we have already taken numerous actions. We reach out to minors who cross the border and help them get what they need so that they will not be exploited or otherwise harmed. Through LIRS we are working with lawmakers for better laws. Our social service agencies - and yours - are helping immigrants put down roots here.
Your assessment calling it all words is incorrect.

Different groups and individuals within the ELCA have done a number of things that have been helpful. But what does this resolution commit the members of the ELCA to do?

I'm not Pr. Austin, but I think I can answer. Essentially the resolution doesn't commit ELCA members to do anything. It does ask the ELCA Church Council to "provide guidance for the three expressions of this church about what it means to be a sanctuary church body and provide a report to the 2022 Churchwide Assembly." Bp. Eaton and the Synod Bishops are trying to make sense out of an ill-contrived resolution. It's all necessitated, in my opinion, by the CWA trying to use the amendment process to write a resolution rather than referring it back to a committee that might have produced a resolution that  accomplished something positive. Maybe the amendment was purposely ambiguous. I don't know. The problems were compounded by the news release that bragged about the ELCA being the first church body to to declare itself a sanctuary church body without giving an explanation of what that might mean. That left a vacuum that the some of the news media filled for the ELCA. The ELCA leadership is trying to do catch up now. It's too bad because it takes the energy out of doing things that actually help people.

I'm inclined to think that when multiple bishops and pastors have to write "pastoral letters" to explain actions of the churchwide assembly, the actions of the churchwide assembly may have not been well thought out.

Absolutely spot on observation. It's what happens when an assembly tries to use the amendment process to write a declaration. You wonder what was in the coffee that they could adopt a statement that the ELCA is a "sanctuary church body" and then instruct the Church Council to tell us three years from now what that means.

Your Turn / Re: Labeling People and What Words Really Mean
« on: August 10, 2019, 04:28:03 PM »
The idea of systemic racism rests on the assumption of group identity, which is to say that any individual has solidarity with those of his or her race, class, sex, etc. Therefore every individual can, as a matter of justice, be treated as a representative of the group(s) whose characteristics her or she shares. It is indeed in harmony with Marx, but a dubious assumption at best.

I've found class to be a more comprehensive and accurate systemic indicator.  Are class distinctions and delineations important by grouping and divisive of common human endeavor much less the common endeavor of the Church?  Bernie says that's a big deal.  So, in his way, does the President.  What does James say?  Or Paul?  Or even Luther?

Dave Benke

You raise an important point. The ELCA is very conscious of gender and race in its attempts to be inclusive in its various governing bodies, but never considers class. I keep asking various people at synodical and churchwide levels how many people on their committee or council are living below the poverty line. No one knows because they don't even consider the possibility of such persons serving in leadership roles except perhaps at a congregational level. What would be the chance of someone who didn't graduate from high school being elected to a churchwide office?  Slim to none. Are there any people who work three minimum wage jobs on church vocations committees? Of course not, but they are in our congregations. We talk about poverty as something out there in society to be cured, but rarely consider how it touches on the internal workings of the church. Is the problem that we don't want to label anyone as "poor" because that somehow implies a judgement in a way that "person of color" does not. Or maybe if we don't label something, the problem itself disappears.

2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly / Re: Friday afternoon
« on: August 09, 2019, 03:07:08 PM »
Maria DeJesus is 104.

2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly / Re: Thursday afternoon
« on: August 09, 2019, 09:24:01 AM »

The resolution below was on the agenda this afternoon but consideration was preempted by time and the orders of the day. Reference and Counsel seemingly deflated it with their substitute motion recommendation. It will be interesting to hear the assembly’s response—or if it gets kicked to the Church Council as unfinished business when the assembly ends.


Motion C: Resolution on Reaffirmation of ELCA Social Statement on Abortion
Submitted by: Mr. Jon E. Hale, Southern Ohio Synod, 6F

WHEREAS, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a Social Statement in 1991 in which the ELCA “...opposes ending intrauterine life when a fetus is developed enough to live outside a uterus with the aid of reasonable and necessary technology. If a pregnancy needs to be interrupted after this point, every reasonable and necessary effort should be made to support this life, unless there are lethal fetal abnormalities indicating that the prospective newborn will die very soon.”; and

WHEREAS, this 1991 Social Statement was reaffirmed in its entirety by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 1999 Churchwide Assembly; and

WHEREAS, there has been no formal reaffirmation of either the original 1991 Social Statement on Abortion or the 1999 reaffirmation for the past 20 years by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and

WHEREAS, at least seven states currently have no prohibition against late-term abortion, and several states are currently considering or have adopted dropping all laws prohibiting late-term abortion for any reason, up to and including during the birthing process itself; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reaffirms the church’s commitment to and support of the 1991 Social Statement on Abortion, especially that of Section IV.B entitled “Ending a Pregnancy” as it applies to “This church opposes ending intrauterine life when a fetus is developed enough to live outside the uterus with the aid of reasonable and necessary technology. If a pregnancy needs to be interrupted after this point, every reasonable and necessary effort should be made to support this life...” and Section V.C entitled “The Regulation of Abortion,” as it applies to “... this church supports legislation that prohibits abortions that are performed after the fetus is determined to be viable, except when the mother’s life is threatened...”, and as reaffirmed by the 1999 Churchwide Assembly;

To commend the Social Statement on Abortion which was adopted by the 1991 Churchwide Assembly and reaffirmed by the 1999 Churchwide Assembly, as a resource to our pastors and members dealing with this issue;

To continue to oppose legislation that permits abortions that are performed after the fetus is determined to be viable outside the uterus; and
To oppose legislation that permits willful neglect of otherwise viable babies during delivery or post-delivery.

Recommendation of the Reference and Counsel Committee
We recommend a substitute motion to the assembly:

BE IT RESOLVED to lift up to members, congregations and ministers the value of reviewing our social statements as a resource for deepening and broadening moral deliberation in personal and public life. (The social statements and messages are found at: )
To commend the Social Statement on Abortion for reading or rereading as the debate and discussion in public intensifies. (It was adopted by the 1991 Churchwide Assembly and reaffirmed by the 1999 Churchwide Assembly as a resource to members, congregations and ministers.)

A motion to reaffirm something is out of order under Robert's Rules of Order because it leaves ambiguous the status of the original resolution if the motion to reaffirm is lost. The substitution by Reference and Counsel is a way around that problem.

It's worth looking at how the poll question was asked. "When making important decisions, how often have you consulted a clergy member or religious leader?" What do people think are important decisions? I have often had church members talk to me about vocational choices, educational issues, and end of life decisions, but rarely about buying a house or car or about moving to a new location. Aren't many of the questions posed to clergy about seeking understanding rather than making a decision about something?

Your Turn / Re: Looming Shortage of Pastors - Worse Than We Realized?
« on: July 02, 2019, 10:58:40 AM »

My best friend these days is my former parish worker who was widowed long before I knew her. We have a comfortable friendship. Just last Sunday I told her that the hardest thing for me right now is the sense that nobody really needs me anymore. My interim is over, my step kids are grown and quite independent, etc. I do think this feeling is born of grief, and will eventually dissolve into some new purpose. I am relearning how to lean into God’s unfailing strength and guidance. Right now, though, I feel like I am in free fall. This thread has been helpful, because I do not feel quite so isolated in some of my feelings.

Saying that I feel unneeded felt almost blasphemous. God will show me the needs.


Donna, trust the Lord who brought you this far. I retired four years ago. I was weary of the abuse I received from a small number of people. I was tired of cleaning floors and fixing plumbing when no one would do it. I hung on as long as I did because I was afraid to live without the vocation that had given me an identity for 39 years. I have been amazed in retirement how often people from local congregations to the bishop call on me to exercise my vocation still. To my surprise I preach frequently, I've even done Easter and Christmas services and funerals. I've know you for a long time, and I'm sure God isn't finished with you yet.

Your Turn / Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« on: March 06, 2019, 05:14:26 PM »
and so perhaps the obvious question is why did it start among Lutherans that almost uniformly did not have the practice 70 years ago?  The advent of the children's object lesson and audio visuals in school and teaching?  Is it that simple or is wanting to get in where Roman Catholics had the advantage on the street one day a year?  But really, why?

In the 1960s Fortress Press published a liturgy for Imposition of Ashes along with liturgies for the Easter Vigil. Once there was something official, the practice started spreading in the LCA. Then came the LBW and Imposition of Ashes was in the Minister's Desk Edition. The United Methodists also published liturgies in "From Ashes to Fire" but I don't think the practice caught on with them the same way it did among US Lutherans.

Your Turn / Re: Institutions
« on: September 03, 2018, 12:04:21 PM »
To the thread topic, two reviews of four books are lumped together in this weekend's Times Book Review under the heading "Who Do We Think We Are?"  Here's one of them:

In terms of institutions, there's a long segment on the coddling of kids today that's called "safetyism."  The notion is that kids today are stunted and kept/believe themselves to be fragile, because in most parts of the US they're kept from unsupervised activities, all the way through college.  Therefore, they're less likely to accept anything new or different, or debate/dialog about differences, because they're not used to the rougher/tumbler give and take of what oldsters thought of as a normal childhood and adolescence.  The article isn't about the physical nature of rough and tumble, but of the coddling of the mind.  This goes then to the way people head to various identity politics strategies, to stay within their various zones of comfort. 

Interestingly, a cure for this is seen as liberal arts education, wherein a great variety of thoughts and concepts, produces a wisdom steeped in liberalism.  As one who received arguably the best liberal arts education offered inside the Missouri Synod, from Prep School through Seminary with the Senior College at the pinnacle of that voyage into the liberal arts, I have thought that institutionally it was wise to vent the truths of the faith through the lenses of philosophy, history, the social sciences and the like.  And I have always been thankful for the education I received, from Lutheran grade school through post-seminary grad school, not in the least because it opened my mind as well as sharpening it for discourse. 

That was, of course, a "system" that encouraged critical analysis from within an accepted faith tradition which, although also critiqued, was in the end the norm for life and mental/spiritual formation.  I'm not sure why I would trust a liberal arts education un-moored from any faith tradition to bring wisdom these days. 

Anyway, it was an interesting article.

Dave Benke 

This brings some clarity to some reasons for the substantial decline in the number of Liberal Arts majors and degrees, and the decline of liberal arts colleges that goes with it, in the United States.  The move to "STEM" majors isn't just for job preparation, but because of the un-mooring of many liberal arts programs from not only faith but any other traditions.

And the result is the very thing the articles seek to investigate, which is the movement toward "identity" politics with the assumption of human fragility - so the learning becomes how to huddle at the edges.  I found the learning in my long-ago era in Lutheran liberal arts was to encourage engagement intellectually, morally, spiritually from the actual security of the identity that exists - baptized child of God.

In a sense, then, the Benedictine option to me is retrograde - a retreat rather than an engagement as institutions take a tumble.  I would stake out a spot as an engager even though and even through the falling of those institutions.  We're not called to engage in order to save institutions, but for the sake of Christ who sent the baptized out with the simple imperative "Go into all the world."

Dave Benke

I agree that The Benedict Option is a retreat rather than an engagement, but Ron Dreher does raise a warning flag about the disappearance of liberal arts in education. There appears to be a pulling back from intellectual engagement. One of my former colleagues in a department of philosophy had to defend his refusal to include “trigger warnings” in his syllabi. Somehow the employment of the Socratic method is deemed to be oppressive by some students.

Your Turn / Re: LSTC: ELCA's "last predominantly residential seminary"
« on: August 12, 2018, 08:44:43 AM »
Perhaps I am biased because I came through the kind of formation that President Nieman describes, but the idea of a liturgical, theological, academic Lutheran pastoral community as the place to prepare for ordained Word and Sacrament or consecrated Word and Service ministry is, in my opinion, the way to go.
There may be other ways, but ...
Maywood, 1963-1967.
-Daily chapel, led by faculty, students, visiting scholars, bishops, church leaders, modeling and teaching us good liturgical practice, how to lead worship, and the value of frequent worship and liturgical spirituality.
-Rigorous academic/theological classes each day, cowering under the Greek and NT classes of the late Arthur Voobus and David Granskou, being bombarded by the systematics of Carl Braaten, led through confessional and Lutheran history by Robert Fischer, and taught preaching by H. Grady Davis, then author of one of the premier books of the time on homiletics. I remember Horace Hummel on the Old Testament and history of Israel, and Walter Kukkonen on Lutheran theology, and others.
-Daily community life - ping pong, weekly trips to the pub, coffee in the refrectory, noon meals, study groups and bull sessions. Some married students live in Katherine Luther Hall (known as "Our Lady of Close Quarters"), we who were off campus lived nearby. The sisterhood of the working wives. White Sox games at Comisky Park, built on the site of the original Chicago Lutheran seminary.
An expanding fellowship - The internship class returned each year, and the "middler" class was sent off to internship. If we could, we all hung around for graduation each year. Students from Concordia, St. Louis, were usually with us for Summer School classes, adding the flavor of 1960s LCMS.
This was the foundation, the "ABCs" - We would indeed learn more (and sometimes different theology) in the years after seminary, but I shudder to think what might have happened if we did not have those three years as our formation.
Of course, back then we were all LCA, with rather similar backgrounds in church life. Only one of us was over 30. We knew (or thought we knew) who we were and what we were doing and where we were going. At our 50th reunion last year, all of us present (about 20, from the Chicago and Rock Island sites of LSTC, ) admitted we were wrong about much of what we thought we knew, but...
The residential, community aspect of our formation, two years on campus, a year on internship, and another year on campus was literally a life-changing experience. I'm not saying it is the only way to prepare for ordained or consecrated ministry, and it may not be practical for everyone to do it that way today. Admittedly, I am an old guy frequently looking back and not often looking forward, but it sure seemed like a good way.

I was at LSTC 1972-76 and my experience was much like yours. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I think Bonhoeffer was on to something important in Life Together about community in the formation of pastors. Maybe I'm an old fogey or just caught in nostalgia, but I don't think the move to non-residential education of pastors is healthy in the long run. Maybe it is necessary for practical reasons (cost, age of second career students, etc.), but something important is being lost in the transition.   

Your Turn / Re: Selecting Church Council Members
« on: August 08, 2018, 10:53:08 AM »

I also see the point about specifying terms as three years or until a successor is elected.  But as we are in the LCMC and don't have a synod or a bishop, I'm not sure what circumstances would trigger a postponement of the vote.  Regardless, I think it would be a wise change to our constitution.

Finally I wanted to add that our council votes are required to be by written ballot and that we do follow Roberts Rules of Order.


I can give an amusing example where votes had to be postponed. The pastor and most of the officers of the congregation as well as several dozen members took a tour of  Germany. The dates covered the specified time for the annual meeting at which elections would be taken. The decision made was to call the meeting for the constitutionally required date, adjourn it until a date three weeks later, and then have the meeting and election. Odd things happen.

Your Turn / Re: Selecting Church Council Members
« on: August 05, 2018, 04:03:32 PM »
I know someone spoke of the fact that it is ill advised to have present or retiring members of the Board or Officers act as nominees because it could be create self-perpetuating situations.  I agree but have lived under such constitution and by-law orders....  are there not some positive things envisioned though under the rule that at least some of the nominating committee or retiring or ongoing elected officers?  What might those be, besides keeping ongoing things on track?

Harvey, I think it can work well to have some council members on the nominating committee. They understand the requirements of the position which is helpful. I think it works best if council members are not a majority of the nominating committee and if the council members are chosen from those whose terms are expiring and are not eligible for re-election. I had the unfortunate situation of twice having a council member on the nominating committee who bullied the other members by threatening, "If you nominate so-and-so to the council, I'm quitting the council." The committee, not wishing to offend this council member, did not nominate so-and-so.

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