Author Topic: Orlando--more than a yawn?  (Read 8555 times)

James_Gale

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2011, 01:53:14 PM »
The ELCA Secretary's report to the assembly shows (as of Dec. 31, 2010):

9,995 congregations; 4,274,855 baptized members.

Here's the link:

http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Office-of-the-Secretary/ELCA-Governance/Churchwide-Assembly/Actions/Pre-Assembly-Report.aspx

The numbers are kind of all over the place in the report. In Appendix B of the secretary's report it says that the ELCA has 10,397 congregations but if you add up the congregations in the distribution charts in Appendex C you get either 9897 or 9995. This is quite a big difference (somewhere between 400 and 500 congregations unaccounted for).  So far as the membership statistics, if the current membership is 4,274,855 then that would mean the ELCA lost over 263,000 members in one year. One other statistic that seems to have been glossed over is the decline in average attendance - a decline of 8.3% (103,958) over the last year. Some of us have been saying all along that the real danger to the ELCA would ultimately not be congregational votes but people voting with their feet. I guess I have to ask, the Loss of over a quarter of a million members and an over 103,00 decrease in average attendance for the sake of 50 or so clergy out of compliance with V&E  - was it worth it?


The whole debate most assuredly was not about "50 or so clergy out of compliance with V&E."  Nor was it about numbers of members and congregations gained and lost.  It was about principles.


The actions of the 2009 CWA were misguided, not because they led to a net loss of money, people, property, and congregations, but because they were contrary to Scripture and sacred tradition.

My question wasn't address to you James. It was directed at those delegates whose votes were swayed more by the histrionics at the mic and a fear of being thought to be intolerant, then it was by theological reflection and a plain reading of scripture.


In that context, I think that it is fair to point to numbers.   I know of some who ultimately supported the CWA actions, not because they agreed with them, but because they wanted to get past the discussions of sex and "back" to the way things had been.  My response to these people always has been that the CWA actions don't and won't lead "back" to the way things had been.  Instead, I've argued, the ELCA will lose people, congregations, and money, and in the process, will become ever more open to more extreme actions on questions of sexuality.  Thus, I've urged people to base their decisions on theology and reason, not on emotion.


Bottom line:  It sounds as if you and I are on the same page here.

Ken Kimball

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2011, 01:53:49 PM »
You're both right.  The actions of the 2009 CWA were wrong both in principle (Mr. Gale's well taken point) and pragmatically (Pr. Keener's point--also apt).  In the ELCA, the pragmatic argument is often framed as "mission"--in this case the results of an action supposedly taken (as argued by some) as a matter of "mission" has produced contrary results. 
Ken

James_Gale

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2011, 02:15:41 PM »
You're both right.  The actions of the 2009 CWA were wrong both in principle (Mr. Gale's well taken point) and pragmatically (Pr. Keener's point--also apt).  In the ELCA, the pragmatic argument is often framed as "mission"--in this case the results of an action supposedly taken (as argued by some) as a matter of "mission" has produced contrary results. 
Ken


My squeamishness (which we probably all share) with focusing on the numbers is that such a focus could be understood by some as an endorsement of the notion that whatever sells (measured by number of members, number of congregations, giving, etc.) is right.  But of course, the 2009 CWA actions would have been wrong even if they had led directly to tremendous growth.  And holding firm to orthodoxy is right even if it leads to painful losses.


Ultimately, the numbers are relevant, not in determining what is right, but only in rebutting a set of arguments made by some supporters of the 2009 CWA actions.  We need to be clear about this.  Otherwise, we will create confusion among some who may come to think that we are arguing that the shrinkage of the ELCA proves the rightness of our theological point.  And some will even see it as gloating.

Charles_Austin

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2011, 02:24:16 PM »
Pastor Kimball writes:
In the ELCA, the pragmatic argument is often framed as "mission"--in this case the results of an action supposedly taken (as argued by some) as a matter of "mission"
has produced contrary results. 

I comment:
How so? What "contrary results"?
And this is a serious question.

Ken Kimball

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #19 on: August 18, 2011, 03:05:20 PM »
You're both right.  The actions of the 2009 CWA were wrong both in principle (Mr. Gale's well taken point) and pragmatically (Pr. Keener's point--also apt).  In the ELCA, the pragmatic argument is often framed as "mission"--in this case the results of an action supposedly taken (as argued by some) as a matter of "mission" has produced contrary results. 
Ken


My squeamishness (which we probably all share) with focusing on the numbers is that such a focus could be understood by some as an endorsement of the notion that whatever sells (measured by number of members, number of congregations, giving, etc.) is right.  But of course, the 2009 CWA actions would have been wrong even if they had led directly to tremendous growth.  And holding firm to orthodoxy is right even if it leads to painful losses.


Ultimately, the numbers are relevant, not in determining what is right, but only in rebutting a set of arguments made by some supporters of the 2009 CWA actions.  We need to be clear about this.  Otherwise, we will create confusion among some who may come to think that we are arguing that the shrinkage of the ELCA proves the rightness of our theological point.  And some will even see it as gloating.
As always Jim, you nail the schwerpunkt; I absolutely agree with you that numbers--whether positive or negative--do not prove we were right in regard to the principles involved (i.e. fidelity to Scripture, the Confessions, and the Great Tradition).  Standing firm on orthodox principles certainly can result in losses.  And I recognize that many who supported the revisions of 2009ff did so on the basis of their own principles (justice as they understand it) and that we should resist the temptation to schadefreude.  Still there were those (and this is an answer to Pr. Austin's question) who did argue it was a matter of "mission," i.e. that the normalization of homosexual behavior and relationships within the ELCA would result in a numerical increase, from both the lgbtetc. community and from society at large (including young people) who rejected "intolerant" and "homophobic" churches.  I heard that from some at the 2009 CWA and in my former synod (NE Iowa), where my former bishop said that the 2009 revisions were an answer to a plea from those elsewhere in the ELCA who argued that such changes would aid and strengthen their local "mission."   Such was said at NE Iowa synod assemblies, 2009 and 2010, and during our former bishop's consultation with us this past January (even while he claimed to be "conservative on these issues").  I detect a whiff of this in the self-congratulatory language offered by the ELCA's PB and Secretary about the ELCA's inclusiveness and ability to tolerate differences linked with their goals for starting congregations--while down-playing the departure of congregations and members and "those who tried to tear the ELCA apart." 

The contrary results, Pr. Austin, are the departure of congregations and members and declining numbers of the ELCA--which, if the normalization of lgbt etc. behaviors and relationships within the ELCA truly represented the new wave of mission, should easily have been made up by the swarms of lgbt folks, family, and other cultured despisers of traditional Christianity pounding at the door to be let into such an enlightened church body.  Perhaps the lack of such positive results to this point can be blamed on those "intolerant" and "homophobic" elements still in the ELCA, i.e traditional pastors, congregations, and members who need to be converted to the new understanding or else shown the door. 

Ken

Norsk

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2011, 03:16:02 PM »
While of course I agree with the fundamental point about theological truth not being ultimately assessed by numbers of adherents, etc., I would gently ask whether in light of Isaiah 55:11 it is perhaps not completely irrelevant to look at such numerical measures.

James_Gale

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2011, 03:31:52 PM »
While of course I agree with the fundamental point about theological truth not being ultimately assessed by numbers of adherents, etc., I would gently ask whether in light of Isaiah 55:11 it is perhaps not completely irrelevant to look at such numerical measures.


Completely irrelevant?  No.  Of course not.


But I think that a focus on the numbers can lead us down a false path more easily than toward the truth.  That's all.  It's a matter of keeping all things in perspective. 

Rev. Kevin Scheuller

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #22 on: August 18, 2011, 11:12:58 PM »
Pastor Kimball writes:
In the ELCA, the pragmatic argument is often framed as "mission"--in this case the results of an action supposedly taken (as argued by some) as a matter of "mission"
has produced contrary results. 

I comment:
How so? What "contrary results"?
And this is a serious question.
The "contrary results" of the ELCA hemorrhaging membership since CWA 2009 is clearly contrary to the goal of "mission."  Plain on its face as far as I can see.  How come this puzzles you, Pastor Austin?

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2011, 12:41:49 AM »
While of course I agree with the fundamental point about theological truth not being ultimately assessed by numbers of adherents, etc., I would gently ask whether in light of Isaiah 55:11 it is perhaps not completely irrelevant to look at such numerical measures.


But can we be certain that God's purpose is higher numbers? In the parable of the sower, the seed that fell on the path fed the birds. Perhaps that wasn't the purpose of the sower who wanted much fruit from his seed, but feeding the birds is also a purpose of seeds.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

revklak

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2011, 08:31:53 AM »
While of course I agree with the fundamental point about theological truth not being ultimately assessed by numbers of adherents, etc., I would gently ask whether in light of Isaiah 55:11 it is perhaps not completely irrelevant to look at such numerical measures.


But can we be certain that God's purpose is higher numbers? In the parable of the sower, the seed that fell on the path fed the birds. Perhaps that wasn't the purpose of the sower who wanted much fruit from his seed, but feeding the birds is also a purpose of seeds.

Except of course for the, obviously to your point of view expoused here, tiny issue of the fact that Jesus explains that the bird represents Satan, who comes and snatches away the seed -- or are you just playing 'devil's advocate?'   8)   ???

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #25 on: August 19, 2011, 01:26:39 PM »
While of course I agree with the fundamental point about theological truth not being ultimately assessed by numbers of adherents, etc., I would gently ask whether in light of Isaiah 55:11 it is perhaps not completely irrelevant to look at such numerical measures.


But can we be certain that God's purpose is higher numbers? In the parable of the sower, the seed that fell on the path fed the birds. Perhaps that wasn't the purpose of the sower who wanted much fruit from his seed, but feeding the birds is also a purpose of seeds.

Except of course for the, obviously to your point of view expoused here, tiny issue of the fact that Jesus explains that the bird represents Satan, who comes and snatches away the seed -- or are you just playing 'devil's advocate?'   8)   ???


The explanation does not cover all the possible ways the parable can be understood.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

peter_speckhard

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #26 on: August 19, 2011, 01:27:37 PM »
While of course I agree with the fundamental point about theological truth not being ultimately assessed by numbers of adherents, etc., I would gently ask whether in light of Isaiah 55:11 it is perhaps not completely irrelevant to look at such numerical measures.


But can we be certain that God's purpose is higher numbers? In the parable of the sower, the seed that fell on the path fed the birds. Perhaps that wasn't the purpose of the sower who wanted much fruit from his seed, but feeding the birds is also a purpose of seeds.

Except of course for the, obviously to your point of view expoused here, tiny issue of the fact that Jesus explains that the bird represents Satan, who comes and snatches away the seed -- or are you just playing 'devil's advocate?'   8)   ???


The explanation does not cover all the possible ways the parable can be understood.
I finally see the issue with you Brian. You use "understood" when you mean "misunderstood."

Revbert

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #27 on: August 19, 2011, 01:39:24 PM »
While of course I agree with the fundamental point about theological truth not being ultimately assessed by numbers of adherents, etc., I would gently ask whether in light of Isaiah 55:11 it is perhaps not completely irrelevant to look at such numerical measures.


But can we be certain that God's purpose is higher numbers? In the parable of the sower, the seed that fell on the path fed the birds. Perhaps that wasn't the purpose of the sower who wanted much fruit from his seed, but feeding the birds is also a purpose of seeds.

Except of course for the, obviously to your point of view expoused here, tiny issue of the fact that Jesus explains that the bird represents Satan, who comes and snatches away the seed -- or are you just playing 'devil's advocate?'   8)   ???


The explanation does not cover all the possible ways the parable can be understood.
I finally see the issue with you Brian. You use "understood" when you mean "misunderstood."

Post of the week!

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #28 on: August 19, 2011, 02:14:48 PM »
I finally see the issue with you Brian. You use "understood" when you mean "misunderstood."


For sure, I purposely posted in such a way that you, and now Art, would misunderstand. I've succeeded!!
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

dschoelles

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Re: Orlando--more than a yawn?
« Reply #29 on: August 21, 2011, 12:52:42 AM »
Thanks Richard for all your reporting. Sitting through synod assemblies are torture enough. You must be one of those genetically gift to be able to pay attention and report on it.

I especially appreciated your comment:
"How will the assembly address the loss of hundreds of congregations and tens of thousands of individual members since 2009? Will it express any grief over those losses? Will they be mentioned at all? Or will it be, “Well, now we’re a leaner, meaner denomination—not downsized, but rightsized”?

The answer to that question will probably reveal a lot more about the “ecology of the ELCA” than a raft of task force recommendations, constitutional amendments, and social statements."

Obviously in Orlando (and in my synod), they are congratulating themselves on getting the right wingnuts off the bus / out of the church.  Now the tolerance of people who think the same can be embraced.

I don't think Hanson and Swartling should be too ecstatic. This train wreck is gonna take the next 10 yrs.  There are a lot of clergy just waiting for retirement. They are holding down the lid until they can get out.

BYW, when is the ELCA going to release the 2010 report ?