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Started by Brad Everett, July 18, 2011, 07:52:28 PM

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Brad Everett

I can't report on what happened once the final business session concluded on Saturday afternoon. My wife and I skipped the banquet to have supper with her parents. Plus being an introvert by nature, by Saturday evening I had enough of crowds and needed some space. I have no clue how the festivities went—although it seemed too ironic for me to be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ELCIC after spending three days debating and passing motions that threaten its future.
I also can't say how the closing worship service went. I understand via facebook that there were some pastors not at convention who used Bp. Johnson's sermon and someone who heard her preach it at the service thought it was even better live (but that bar wasn't set too high to begin with).
Given the events of the previous days there was no way I could attend the service—too much emotion and grief. We providentially ended up at small Orthodox church, St. Vincent of Lerins, that was on our way out of town. The liturgy was wonderful, the choir amazing, the sermon powerful and the congregation warm and welcoming. To top it off we ran into a classmate from our Bible school days in Saskatoon. After service as we explained who we were, why we were there and the events of the last days, they were true bothers and sisters in Christ, sharing concern and promising prayers for us and the ELCIC.
Now we're home and what next. My lovely wife will be preparing her delegate's report for the congregation over the course of the week. I'll be figuring out what to say and how to approach my congregation. One of the benefits of a five-hour drive home across wide-open prairie with a tired wife is there plenty of time to think and pray.
It occurs to me that the main issue of this week wasn't sexuality but how a denomination approaches Scripture, the Confessions and tradition i.e. how it discerns and follows God. In less than 24 hours a handful of people (even though a majority of the convention) decided to blaze a new trail apart from what the Church catholic/universal has taught, believed and practiced for centuries with little more rationale than "we think this is a good idea and believe it to be 'loving'". I know what a clueless, mindless, selfish, egotistical twit I can be when left to my own devices and even with the best of intentions. The longer I am in ministry (12 years) the more I appreciate the gifts given me as a pastor of Scripture, the Confessions and tradition. I do and say enough goofy things as is, I can't imagine where I, and my congregation would be if I was making this up on my own. I don't want to leave the path God has laid out for me, bounded and guided by the gifts mentioned above. It may be tough to trod and hard to understand at times, but God is God and I'm not (always a good thing to remember and be reminded of).
I and others like me, have been accused of being "fearful and afraid" of this new direction. HECK YES!!! I'm scared and fearful and I thank God for that. Properly understood, fear keeps us from doing dangerous and life-threatening things. I don't want to blaze a new trail away from the path God has given, any more than I wanted to swerve my car off the highway yesterday and cut across the prairie to try and save time or see/do something new. I'm being encouraged by ELCIC leadership to "trust God and move forward". But it's precisely because I do trust God that I am willing to submit (as imperfectly as I do) to the teaching and leading He has already provided and centuries have proven.
The changes around the issues of sexuality made this weekend, while important, are symptomatic of graver dangers. I fear that perhaps, in my own and others' zeal to preserve the ELCIC's teaching on matters of sexuality and family, we lost sight of this bigger picture—that it wasn't just about sex, but the faith once delivered to the saints. When my wife and I became Lutheran in 1996, the only ones who thought the changes wrought this weekend were a possibility were dismissed as extremist and alarmist—yet here we are 15 years later. If the ELCIC can take such a radical shift in such a short time under so flimsy of pretenses (and keep in mind there were those who favored the changes who thought the Social Statement and motions weak), where interpretations and teachings held for centuries and treated as "givens" can be set aside so easily, I'm afraid to think of what might be next. How much can a denomination change, remodel and jettison before it no longer confesses the living and risen Christ, but a christ of its own creation? I don't want to walk away from the path God has already graciously given—for my sake, the sake of my wife and five kids and the sake of the congregation I am called to serve.
How exactly that will all play out I don't know—but God does. I trust and pray He grants the patience, faith and courage we will need in the days ahead.


Thanks, Brad, for this coverage and analysis.

I drove home from the ELCIC convention with a song from Godspel going through my head - from Psalm 137.

"On the willows there, we hung up our lyres. 
For our captives there required of us songs,
and our tormentors mirth,
saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion." 
oh, how can we sing, sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?"

When the Bishop asked us to sing hymns as we waited for things to unfold, that's how I felt.  Lament.  Deep, heart-rending groaning, at my captors requiring songs.

Peace +Peter Lurvey

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