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Messages - Russ Saltzman

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Your Turn / Shopping With the Poor - On The Square at First Things
« on: June 07, 2012, 09:55:36 AM »
The average Walmart shopper earns less than $50,000 a year and typically does not have or does not use a credit or debit card. A customer going in Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, or a Dollar General - again, an average - earns less than $12,000 annually.

I generally shop a rung or two even further down the retail ladder. But for me it is a choice, an affectation, and a capitalist pig at Forbes helped me remember a couple things about many of the people choose I shop with.

Your Turn / Remembering
« on: May 24, 2012, 12:20:42 PM »
May was the month Richard Neuhaus was born. I take note of it and at First Things "On the Square" today repeat some of what I've said before about the man.

Your Turn / The dead leave things
« on: May 10, 2012, 11:02:08 AM »
I post these things here hoping to simply boost my hit statistics at First Things web site. Nonetheless, I'm always astonished that some actually seem to enjoy this stuff. But should you care not in the least, hit it anyway. I am lagging behind George Weigle - and nearly everyone else too, that's not the point.

Your Turn / Against Aging at First Things web site
« on: April 12, 2012, 09:21:31 AM »
Martin E. Marty, theologian, scholar, historian, Lutheran pastor, has said the first rule about aging is "No whining."

Personally, I think he's missing an opportunity.

Pr. Kimball is right about the experience of those in Gothenburg, NE where Pr. Cottingham will be installed this Sunday. The business that led to the split at American Lutheran was the result of the leadership (and lack of pastoral leadership) at American refusing to even discuss ELCA issues.

A 20-year-old men's bible study became the catalyst. The more rebuff they experienced, the more keenly they pressed for discussion. The group, perhaps 15 guys, were each formally admonished verbally and by letter and were voted by the council as "troublemakers"; the council acted to "officially" disband the bible study group. Other actions were undertaken I cannot at the moment recall. I also know the American council discussed obtaining a restraining order against everyone who transferred to what is now Trinity Lutheran - this in a community of 3,500 with strong interrelated family ties. Ultimately last May the group successfully generated a petition at American to bring ELCA affiliation to a vote, anticipating it would fail, as it did.

That was one Sunday. By the next Sunday (the last one in May) they held their first worship service with me as pastor - a six hour drive from Kansas City, by the way. They had 130 at worship and it has grown since. The major thing I noticed was, they began attracting numerous inactive Lutherans, some taking a forty mile drive to get there. There have been baptisms since, a very busy youth organization, first communions, and a wedding coming up in June. 

The folks at Trinity have not spent a moment looking back nor have they wasted any time trashing American Lutheran, though I cannot say everyone at American has exhibited the same spirit.

Anyway, the six months I served there - before resigning to care for my father (who died March 1) - were some of the best moments in ministry I've experienced. If I have a place in their congregational history, I'll likely be known as the short guy who introduced them to Cottingham.

Gothenburg will be part of our five-state NALC mission district, organizing June 2 here in Kansas City.


Your Turn / Blood, Slaughter, Art
« on: March 29, 2012, 09:53:34 AM »
Some have asked me to post my First Things meanderings when they appear.

(I should point out in the interests of self-disclosure that all the requests have been private and none have been made for public attribution. Oh, sigh.)

This piece has performance art, Lawrence, Kansas, blood and slaughter, and chickens. A perfect combination I thinnk for the last Thursday in March.

Your Turn / On the Square at First Things web site
« on: March 15, 2012, 10:11:33 AM »
A friend suggests this might be a fair meditation for the Sunday of the Resurrection. Friends of course have been known to mislead us.

Your Turn / I get asked, but not often enough
« on: December 02, 2011, 10:06:30 AM »
I get asked time to time (but not frequently enough to make me think great numbers of people actually care) what I'm dong. In any case, some recent writing published at places uninterested readers may ignore:

Sermons at the Christian Leadership Conference of the University of Mary, Bismark, SD. (The best thing about writing homilies online for a place in Bismark is I don't actually ever have to go to Bismark.) There are several good writers contributing to the site, which begs the question of how I got there, but that's beside the point. But for preaching development based on the Common Lectionary there is good material to explore.

And I do a regular feature every couple of Thursdays for On the Square at the web site of First Things magazine.

More personally, Wife and I are now the care-givers for my 91-year-old father, widowed last April and in end-stage renal failure. Say a prayer for Harry; I want his death comfortable and untroubled.

Your Turn / Re: Strange Email Forwarded from ALPB Forum/Saltzman
« on: August 24, 2011, 05:23:35 PM »
Pastor Saltzman, for those of us who didn't get the spam but subscribed to the Forum Letter during your days as editor, this thread is something of a disappointment. 

To remedy that, could you give us a taste of nostalgia and compose a strange email and forward it to us? 

Preferably containing the following terms: Lutheran, ELCA, Churchwide, Richard Johnson, and Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.

Many Thanks for all that you've written, including the stuff that wasn't strange.

The Lutheran who became my successor at Forum Letter, Richard Johnson, is not a Kansan by birth and has likely never even seen the state except when flying over it on the way to Churchwide offices in Chicago, or down to the ELCA assembly to enjoy lush Orlando accommodations. Naturally, then, and lamentably he would be absolutely clueless on the origins and thrilling notes of the great sporting cry of the University of Kansas cheer, Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.

I do not necessarily regard this as a deficiency in his editorship. For the record.

And while I'll never again be so blessed as to edit Forum Letter, I do have another rag foolish enough to publish my stuff, the First Things magazine "On the Square" feature at the web site And of those I take deepest pride in

I am but poorly paid but the more hits I get, the more respect my editor there gives me. So, if you have any residual affection for my work with Forum Letter, hit me. (Paul McCain does so regularly.)

Your Turn / Re: A Question about the NALC and LCMC
« on: August 11, 2011, 09:06:53 PM »

I have been toying with the notion that inspiration of scripture and the inerrant quality it may possess are lodged in the wrong places. We have ascribed inspiration to the authors and inerrancy to the contents they produced. The focus is wrong.

It is wrong because, there was the Church before there were New Testament scriptures. The worship of God - Father, Son, Holy Spirit - and the liturgical orthodoxy of Word and Eucharist was celebrated long before there were any Christian scriptures in place, discounting the Hebrew Scriptures used to prove the messiahship of Jesus.

And when early Christian writings were produced, there was great competition over which books would be ultimately included and regarded as authoritative. As late as c. 325 AD Revelation was yet a disputed book, the Letter to the Hebrews was late in gaining comjplete acceptance, the Shepherd of Hermas almost became scripture, and the Letter of Clement was pretty hot stuff for quite a little while. And that takes no account of the silly gospels: Peter, Judas, and the like that found advocates.

To sum it up, I hope, neatly:

Guided by inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
the Church through time came to inerrantly chose the exact scriptures that
1) represented a true memory of the ministry and sacrifice of Christ,
2) that confirmed the early consensus of Church teaching about that ministry and sacrifice, and
3) that is yet able to encourage the believer and evangelize the unbeliever.

Rather than lodge inspiration and inerrancy in books that do contain proven errors, for instance, in geography, those very elements of inspiration and inerrant selection should be relocated to the agency of the Church herself.

One of the difficulties in chronicling the Pastors that depart is that Pastors may leave the roster for a variety of reasons, some of which may never be fully known...  I have known Pastors (please note, I am recognizing the "other side" of this debate here) who have left the ELCA roster in the years preceding 2009, specifically because the ELCA was not moving "fast enough" on the subject of ordaining (non-celibate) gays and lesbians.  I have known pastors who have left the ELCA roster out of displeasure that the ELCA was "too liberal" on a variety of issues.  I have known pastors who have left because they find themselves no longer Lutheran and leave out of respect for that...

The other problem is that, at least as far as the NALC is concerned, there was no apparatus for individual clergy to be recieved apart from congregations.  I understand that issue is being addressed, but it is one thing for a congregation to depart...with or without clergy... but what do you do if you are an individual Pastor who seeks to be "on the roster" of another denomination that may have difficulty recieving unattatched clergy.  And if you are going to be "rostered" (as an individual clergy person) on the LCMC roster, you don't necessarily have to disclose that fact to the ELCA unless and until you make the decision to recieve a call at a LCMC congregation...  (Though I would agree that ethics and principle demands that clergy be honest in such matters.)

Anyway, I think that measuring departing clergy is a whole 'nother animal...

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

I have departed the ELCA for the NALC, formally, and continue to serve my ELCA congregation - though that may become the subject of some discussion with the Central States Synod bishop April 5.

My journey into the NALC  here:

Your Turn / Re: Christian Ethics re: TSA procedures
« on: December 09, 2010, 12:18:47 PM »
We flew to Boston Thanksgiving. I had myself all worked up, but it turned out to be just a bit more of the usual TSA nonsense.

Leaving Kansas City we watched a little old lady with a four-pronged cane get herself patted down by a very respectful TAS female agent. Respectfulness, though, doesn't excuse stupidity.

I forgot to take my belt off. No matter, according to the agent I questioned afterward, 1) either there isn't enough metal in the buckle to register or 2) the machine is set for a higher sensitivity. Alerts register differently from machine to machine, in any case. Also, my daughter's beyond-the-three-ounce-limit tube of toothpaste made it through, no problem.

Flying back leaving through Logan, alas, the toothpaste didn't make it home with us. I offered to open it up and lick it but the agent didn't think that would suffice.

I think security is important, but it lags in real-time and always seems to be in response to attempted intrusions from Europe; a shoe-bomb from Amsterdam and underpants from France. Let's frisk the Europeans. Sounds more effective.

An unrelated reflection from Boston and vicinity:

No worse, I'd guess, than the Our Father in Klingon, used as I recall in an LCMS service in the mid-1990's (reported in a defunct issue of Forum Letter), and possibly better than a Clown Mass, and certainly far less scary for small children than a service I attended with a half-dozen stuffed doves attached by string to long sticks made to swoop over worshipers during the processional. I didn't think they'd ever get that shrieking four-year-old quiet.

Your Turn / Re: ELCA Fiscal Crisis continues into 2010
« on: November 02, 2010, 09:56:28 AM »
The November 2010 issue of The Reporter (the declared "official newspaper of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod," thereby distinguishing itself from the other "unofficial" newspaper) reports a small decline in synod membership (25,000 is small?) and a "slight reversal" of the 2008 decline in financial giving.

In short, despite the economy, LCMS giving increased. These are 2009 figures.

This suggests - to me at any rate - the ELCA financial decline that fast-tracked beginning post-August 2009 is related less to the economy and more to the theological dispute resulting from the ELCA actions taken related to sexuality.

Meanwhile, the editor of the ELCA's official magazine (The Lutheran, if you need reminding, November issue) is conceding a 300-congregation loss (from 10,300) by end of year, 2010. I do not think that will be the final figure nor the final year of losses from the congregational roster.

I am not gloating over ELCA losses. Many spent energy and treasure bringing the ELCA into existence and I can only look on all this with sorrow.

But it is a judgment, I think.

When I originally posted this inquiry way back in lo! 2007 I was a board member of Lutherans for Life. I was asked to join more or less because I was an ELCA pastor and there was interest in expanding the LFL membership to include more ELCA Lutherans. I think the numbers of then-current ELCA members I reported was way, way off, and I cannot say why. It is perhaps because, my impression, LFL doesn't keep track of Lutheran affiliations among the members very well. Or maybe I just got hold of the wrong statistical set.

I am no longer a board member. I wisely resigned a year into it . . . because I was a lousy board member. LFL deserved someone with a longer attention span, fewer family obligations at home, and a lively interest in being made to discuss things in a committee. On those grounds, I was uniquely unqualified.

However, the people I met through LFL were, first of all, pro-life, and second, Lutheran, and so far as I could tell, only incidentally Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. No one I ever met thought of LFL as a uniquely LCMS outfit. Nor do their hiring practices necessarily reflect that.

In 2009 I was one of the workshop leaders at the LFL national convention in St. Louis. The featured speaker for the evening was a Roman Catholic, and I shared a dinner table with four different kinds of Lutherans, by my count, including one of the LFL staffers, an ELCA lay woman. Several ELCA people attended my workshop.

I didn't meet any nuts, crazy people, or other assortments of unlikable sorts.

Bottom line for me, there is no other Lutheran organization for pro-life Lutherans.

I think - an opinion, but I hope a not uninformed opinion - the low number of ELCA members in Lutherans for Life reflects an ELCA denominational culture that ignores abortion and dismisses pro-life efforts as socially divisive. An ELCA member who tried to create an LFL congregational chapter would be unwelcome in most ELCA congregations. I doubt very much that any ELCA congregation would carry LFL pro-life inserts - or pro-life inserts of any sort - in Sunday's bulletin. But I do know of at least two that have carried Planned Parenthood materials.

The ELCA statement on abortion - which I once described as "theological road kill" - and the practice of the ELCA health plan in treating elective abortion as a reimbursable medical expense precludes the possibility of most ELCA pastors from doing anything publicly in the congregation to support, endorse, or encourage LFL membership. It prevents them from offering any public encouragement for any opposition to abortion.

(An aside, I am no longer a member of the health plan; I quit in the early 1990s when the ELCA church council forced the Board of Pensions into the business of paying for elective abortions. My private health insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas City, will not pay for an elective abortion.)

My in-laws in South Carolina are the Roman Catholic diocesan representatives to Forty Days for Life. It is a heavily ecumenical outfit. There are no ELCA congregations participating, nor any ELCA Lutherans individually that I am aware of.

In 2002 at the Central States Synod assembly a number of us produced a resolution forming a task force to gather resource materials for women who might be seeking an alternative to abortion. We were attacked, viciously I think, from the floor by an array of people who each more or less suggested that even providing such material was a denial of a woman's right to choose. (The resolution passed, narrowly.)

Gregory Davidson suggests above that LCMS folks themselves start talking to ELCA people. That's not bad, but I am doubtful. I would like to hear of any one Lutherans for Life representative being allowed to introduce LFL to an ELCA council meeting.

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