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Messages - MRoot

FWIW - There was lack of clarity about just what the seminary faculty resource people were supposed to do (I was the Southern Seminary faculty member at the Assembly).  On the one hand, we were labeled resource persons.  I took that to mean that we should function as resources and not engage in the plenary debate unless we were called upon or had specific information to provide out of our expertise.  I spoke in a hearing on the sexuality statement (against the bound conscience argument), but otherwise did not speak.  On the other hand, we were simply told we had voice, but not vote.  In my report yesterday to the Southern faculty, I said that the role of these resource persons needs to be made clear. 
Michael Root
Thank you, Richard, for your reporting.  It is an invaluable service. 

Michael Root
For whatever its worth, here is what I have been sending to former students, etc., who have been writing me.  It is deliberately low-key.

Michael Root


Some people have written or called asking for some advice on the present situation in the ELCA.  For whatever it is worth, some thoughts, sent to others who may also have some interest:
1. The decisions in Minneapolis represent deep and fundamental errors.  Exactly how to describe them (false doctrine, etc.) needs to be thought through, but the problem is evident and should not be denied or evaded.  We are in a crisis situation.
2. I believe we should sit quietly for a few days and let emotions settle.  Unreflective anger doesn't help in these matters.  Prayer is important.
3. It will not help to make statements that we later need to back away from; it will only convince others that the storm will blow over and we will return to business as usual.  Difficult words may need to be said, but they need to be said with a clear mind and commitment to the consequences.
4. We know very little at this point about the policies that will govern respect for conscience on these matters.  I would assume that they have been thought about at Higgins Road and will come before the ELCA Church Council when it meets in November.  Some decisions about how to react to the present situation cannot be made until we know what these policies will be.
We are in for a long struggle; a few days of reflection are a good idea.  I may be starting a blog to discuss the ELCA crisis, but will not set it up until the end of the week, following my own advice.

Michael Root
An odd point about the debate on the sexuality social statement so far is that the actual text of the Social Statement seems almost irrelevant.  There is very little discussion of what the statement acutally says.  To a significant degree, I think this is a function of the statement, which abstracts from the issue at hand by refusing to make an argument one way or the other on homosexuality.  The debate is thus set adrift and ends up focussing on the effect of the statement, a permission for same-sex blessings and the ordination of persons so blessed, which the statement endorses, not on the basis of an argument about homosexuality, but on the basis of an argument about bound consciences and what is required for unity.  The assembly senses, rightly enough, that an argument on homosexuality s needed and the two sides are constructing their arguments on the floor.

Michael Root
Your Turn / Re: Minneapolis
August 06, 2009, 08:52:20 AM
I'm only an occasional contributor here, but I will be at the Assembly.  In some sort of punishment for my sins during my time as dean, I will be the resource person from Southern Seminary.

Michael Root
Actually, this isn't quite correct.  At Southern, all students "preparing for ministry," (i.e., in the MDiv program and in MAR tracks oriented to ministry rather than further academic study) are expected to abide by the disciplinary standards of the ELCA.  This expectation is stated quite clearly at orientation.  Trinity, while I was there (1998-2003), had a similar policy.  Neither Southern nor Trinity would accept into the MDiv program ELCA students who were not endorsed by their candidacy committee.  On this point, I know there is variation among the ELCA seminaries.

Michael Root (Dean at Southern until June 30)
Quote from: DCharlton on March 06, 2009, 10:03:51 PM
  I also know there was famous argument between Bouman and David Yeago at a Call to Faithfulness Conference on this issue, but I never seen a transcript of it, so I don't know what was said.

David Charlton
Yeago's piece, "Bouman on the Law : Amica Responsio," was published in Lutheran Forum, vol 29, issue 3 (1995).  Walt Bouman's piece was in the previous issue.
Michael Root
When all else fails, see what the text actually says. 
The actions of the LWF  in 1975, declaring apartheid a matter of 'confessional integrity,' and in 1984, suspending to the two Southern African German churches, do not, I believe, bear out Jim Childs reading.  In both cases (unfortunately, I cannot find copies on the web to link to), the statements take a double line.  On the one hand, churches cannot be segregated in their internal life, especially at the altar.  On the other hand, the system of apartheid is so 'perverted and oppressive' that a church must reject it.  Both an ecclesial and an ethical reasoning is given. 
The 1975 statement concludes: "Political and social systems may become so perverted and oppressive that it is consistent with the confession to reject them and to work for changes.  We especially appeal to our white member churches in Southern Africa to recognize that the situation in Southern Africa constitutes a status confessionis.  This means that, on the basis of faith and in order to manifest the unity of the church, churches would publicly and unequivocally reject the existing apartheid system."
The 1984 actions calls on the churches "to publicly and unequivocally reject the system of apartheid (separate development) and to end the division of the church on racial grounds."  Because the churches had not done this, their LWF membership was suspended.  (The suspension was lifted in the early 1990s.)
These texts are not perfectly clear ('consistent with' is awfully weak in the 1975 statement), but I don't think one can avoid the conclusion that they imply that an ethical difference (i.e., a difference over law) is a grounds for something like breaking fellowship. 
Michael Root
Your Turn / Re: TEC unraveling officially begins
March 03, 2009, 04:38:39 PM
Quote from: Skywalker on March 03, 2009, 11:12:51 AM
[We may have a recent parallel. Has anyone heard the same: I was told by an ELCA pastor that one of his parishoners is a student at that final step and called him up for advice on the essay question: "To whom do you give utmost authority, the denomination or God?" He said, "God, of course." The student put that answer down and was told that it was wrong.

The ELCA approval essay (the final step) is at:
I can't imagine what is being referred to.  I can remember no questions from recent years that would make sense of this story.

Michael Root
Quote from: Charles_Austin on February 25, 2009, 08:34:43 AM
Dr. Root raises an interesting question, and I ask:
Is the "meaning" of that imagery rooted (hee hee!) in the heterosexuality of the image; or is it found in the relational aspect of the image?

I put this as a question because I am not ready to bet the family farm on this particular line of argument, but I do think that the gendered nature of these images in both OT and NT is significant.  I don't think we can abstract from its gendered character and make it merely an example of relationality.  Both OT (Ex 33:11) and NT (John 15:15; James 2:23) will on occasion use the non-sexual image of friendship to describe the relation of God to the saints, but this is far less common than spousal imagery, which simply saturates the Bible.  I think spousal imagery uses the relation of the same-but-different as an analogy to the relation to his people of the God who enters into covenant and, even more, the God who becomes incarnate.  Karl Barth (Church Dogmatics, III/2, pp. 285ff; III/4, pp. 116ff) develops the importance of this same-but-different at length and I have always found his discussion impressive (esp. on why Gen 1:27 links the image of God with creating humanity male and female).  As Erma Wolf notes above, there are dangers with these images; one can transfer the superiority of God to humanity to the relation of male to female in highly problematic ways (as can be seen in Barth's writings).  But I don't see why that danger cannot be avoided. 
Michael Root
Quote from: Charles_Austin on February 25, 2009, 08:34:43 AM
Dr. Root raises an interesting question, and I ask:
Is the "meaning" of that imagery rooted (hee hee!) in the heterosexuality of the image; or is it found in the relational aspect of the image?
It will be this afternoon before I can add my 2 cents to the substantive answers (I much like those of Scott, Brian, and Erma so far), but I don't want to lose track of an important aspect of IowaKatie's comment: the drift away from biblical language.  One reason the Social Statement seems so thin is that, in prescinding from the language of heterosexuality, it must avoid most of the concrete discussion of sexuality in the Bible.  This drift is present in many aspects of ELCA life.

Michael Root
Quote from: iowakatie1981 on February 25, 2009, 01:19:08 AM

If "marriage" no longer need involve both a "bride" and a "groom," how do we reevaluate the language and, thus, the theology behind the language that uses "traditional" marriage imagery? 

You raise an important point.  The issue is not simply the Bible's consistently negative remarks on homosexuality.  From Gen 1:27, where humanity is created in the image of God as male and female, through Rev. 21, where the New Jerusalem is prepared as a bride for a groom, both Old and New Testaments repeatedly use heterosexual language, with its interplay of the same and the different, to depict various aspects of the relation of God and his people.  What is the significance of that fact?

Michael Root
Your Turn / Re: Please Indulge Me...
February 23, 2009, 09:09:16 PM
Quote from: Harvey_Mozolak on February 23, 2009, 04:41:37 PM
I ask serously...
why in this present divide, why isn't The Book working?

Harvey Mozolak

You raise a basic question, one that keeps me awake at night.  For me, the problem comes to a focus in I Corinthians 11:19:  "there must be factions [haereseis] among you in order that those who are genuine [dokimoi] among you may be recognized."  The power of the Word does not exclude "factions," parties, strong divisions of opinion.
This doesn't solve the problem; in light of Paul's criticism of "divisions" (schismata: 1:10: 11:18) in the Corinthian church and his sharp break with Peter at Antioch, it simply sharpens it.
Michael Root
Quote from: Michael Slusser on February 22, 2009, 03:05:10 PM
[This seems to me a slight exaggeration. ll. 596-670 indicate the arguments put forth on various sides, and presumably the Hultgren/Taylor article in n. 25 get into scriptural nitty-gritty. It is true that none of the indicated positions is actually argued in this statement.

Michael (hi! good to hear from you)
The positions are described, you are correct; but the arguments are not rehearsed.  The reader is not helped to make up his or her mind.  Your reference to the earlier material (the Hultgren/Taylor essays, e.g.) does raise an interpretive question: should these texts be read as free-standing texts or as part of a package that includes the earlier material?  They make almost no reference to the earlier material and seem to intend to be taken strictly on their own terms.  Perhaps there is a wish not to confuse the proposals being made this time from the proposals made in 2005.
Michael Root
Quote from: jpetty on February 22, 2009, 01:42:45 PM
This is an astute observation.  I read all 31 pages of the statement and, aside from pro forma condemnations of sex trafficing and pornography, the statement studiously avoids mentioning any contentious issue.

Robert Benne's comment on the earlier draft - - argues, I think rightly, that this abstraction from anything concrete serves a certain purpose.  By remaining so abstract, sexuality becomes a box into which all sorts of relations can fit and not focussed on something like marriage.  Note that the term 'wife' appears only three times, 'husband' twice, and 'spouse' once in over 30 pages.
Michael Root 
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