Author Topic: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation  (Read 96124 times)

Dan Fienen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #150 on: December 30, 2011, 12:21:40 AM »

If they are retired, they are not "former ELCA pastors," that is, they may still be on the roster as retired (unless they have formally resigned the ELCA ministerium.) You probably shouldn't talk about this too much, lest your congregation get in trouble for accepting members of the ELCA at its altar rail.

If they are members of LCMS congregations, they are subject to being removed from the ELCA roster.  Historically, ELCA bishops tended to (using a popular phrase from other contexts) "err on the side of grace" and do nothing about it.  Since 2009, however, our bishops have been much stronger about enforcing the constitutional provision that those on ELCA rosters be members of ELCA congregations, and have been removing retired pastors (and, I presume, AIMs, etc.) from the rosters.

As an aside that may actually relate to this topic, anyone else find it, uh, funny that since "grace" was adopted as the official policy of the ELCA (regarding the same-sex activity of its rostered leaders) its practice has been dramatically curtailed...

spt+
And yet when an LCMS retired pastor was threatened with discipline for becoming a part of the communing, worshipping  community of an ELCA church the howls of outrage from some quarters here were notable.
 
Dan
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Charles_Austin

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #151 on: December 30, 2011, 09:05:54 AM »
Do you people think retired pastors are no longer "pastors in the ELCA"? Are you that dense?
Retired pastors are on the roster in exactly the same way and with the same obligations (save for those connected with a specific call) as pastors in a called ministry.
Did those pastors so happily communing now at the LCMS church leave the ELCA roster or not? If they did not, they are still pastors in the ELCA.
As for the "outrage" cited by Pastor Fienen: I am not "outraged" that the LCMS took action against the pastor communing in the ELCA congregation. You did what your laws say you should do. I find the laws outrageous, not the specific action.
As for Mr.Erdne's rebuff by his synod discussion forum: try again, make a better case. See what happens. Don't give up so easily. Can't you take the heat of having an unpopular opinion? Is this not part of the responsibility (and glory) of witnessing to what you believe?
 
 

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #152 on: December 30, 2011, 09:47:41 AM »
Do you people think retired pastors are no longer "pastors in the ELCA"? Are you that dense?

Uhh, Charles, I heard Bishop Hansen state that a pastor without a call is a layman in the Lutheran understanding. There is no ontological change. Is Mark Hansen dense?

Lou (density matters)

Charles_Austin

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #153 on: December 30, 2011, 09:59:09 AM »
If he said that, Presiding Bishop Hanson was wrong. I have been without a call, and still a pastor in the ELCA. Retired pastors are without calls, and we are still on the clergy roster, able to function fully as pastors.  It has nothing to do with ontology. It has to do with rostering.

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #154 on: December 30, 2011, 10:10:40 AM »
If he said that, Presiding Bishop Hanson was wrong. I have been without a call, and still a pastor in the ELCA. Retired pastors are without calls, and we are still on the clergy roster, able to function fully as pastors.  It has nothing to do with ontology. It has to do with rostering.

Whatever you say, Charles. Bishop Hanson is wrong.

Lou

Dadoo

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #155 on: December 30, 2011, 10:36:27 AM »
The problem with the big tent is that not all the acts can share the ring. The lion act and the miniature ponies don't belong in the same space, neither will the high wire act want to share the ring while the firewater is spouting it off below.

That is an ELCA problem and will be for a while to come. We want to be diverse. The problem is that diversity turns into  division in one simple action: assertion of one's position. If the liberal and the conservative merely live next to one another, there really is no problem. We have done that and are doing that in many things as is the LCMS. It becomes division and hostility when someone asserts that their view is "the right one." The implication being that the other side needs to convert.

As soon as either side asserts that diversity is nice but that their side is "right" diversity ends and division starts and all kinds of political bullying and other unsavory tactics will be pulled out. Once that starts, and it started in ELCA over 10 years ago, it is a goat rodeo to try to restore diversity think because the fighting mechanisms and habits of the factions will not just go away. 2009 was an attempt to create a framework to make a move to diversity happen. I am not so sure it can be done by such simple fiat. You cannot legislate humility and you cannot sign a cease fire agreement on behalf of a parties you do not represent.

BTW: You have to accept diversity as a value for any of this in the first place. No problem there.

So part of the bargain is to agree that no position can be held to be the right position, all positions are, if not equally likely, at least potentially right - a sort of assumed equality among positions?  I may like my position better than yours, but I can't say that what I believe is right if that would make your position wrong?  It seems to me that among other things it calls on everyone to hold their position kind of lightly and not actually argue for it for that would imply one position is right and the other one wrong.

How post-modern.

That still does not deal with the implied bias affirmed by some in the ELCA that while the traditionalist position will be tolerated, it will not be supported, while the revisionist position is supported, or at least informs the actual policy and workings of the ELCA.

Dan

Dan,

Two things: Yes, it is post modern in a way but if you think about it, families do this all the time. My brothers and I are "diverse" in our political views. At the same time we get along quite well. What happens when one of us just cannot resist talking politics? Angry faces and swollen voices. What holds us together? Well, we are brothers. COuld it happen that we get in so deep a fight with one another that we would permanently take a vacation from one another? It is possible I would suppose - other families have done so. We know that some subjects will be divisive and we stray there only with much care.

I would think that we continue to work under the assumption that the ELCA is a very cohesive family with deep roots in this faith we call Lutheran and have cherished through the generations. It is an assumption that the generation that worked out the merger worked under and it is the assumption that allowed them to leave even important things unresolved in the trust that, since we will do it like we always have, we can afford to wait a spell before we make a definite decision. Being from three different ways of being church, I think that was a big mistake since the closeness we assumed was not as abundant as we dreamed.

 As I look at my own congregation and the congregation that surround me, it occurs to me  that generational adherence and deep roots in Lutheranism, ELCA, ALC, LCA, are in the minority. Many of my colleagues and I are in congregations that have dipped into the pool of unchurched, loose Catholics, Methodist, etc. Life time members, Lutheran or congregational, are a minority where I travel.

This challenges the base assumption that we are just a happy family that will live through thick and thin and stick together in spite of our difference. We are not an organic whole. People can "check out," and do. They have done it before after all and all was well with them. Add to this this point: To some extent, memories of better places, Lutheran (ALC, LCA) and otherwise, make the idea of departing palatable even to Lutherans. 'The world will not end. It is just a corporate affiliation. We changed it once before. Why not now." And again the idea of this organic whole that the LIFT process held up is challenged. We are not this one happy family. A deep value and a grand dream, the a dream of a united Lutherandom on American shores, is being challenged.

Which brings me to the second point: People do not like it when their base assumptions are challenged and people do not like it when some reject the base assumption hard enough to walk away. Right now it is conservatives who are walking off so they are the ones that are raising the ire of those who want to think that we are just a one happy family. As conservatives walk off, their friends who chose to stay will be viewed with suspicion. That is what I think brings in the bias against conservatives you are trying to understand.

The question is well asked: What holds any denomination together? Maybe you can answer it for the LCMS, Dan. But, don't come to me with "subscription to the confessions." That makes you Lutheran. What makes you LCMS to the point that you will never walk away? What glues any of us into our denominations, in the corporate entity sense of the word? "Because we got <fill in the blank> right?" That can change, can't it? "Because it is here where I found out about God and God's amazing Grace?" Thankfulness? That has limits and we all know it. Congregations go through turmoil when pastor Bludwizc leaves after 30 years of ministry because "He was the guy who first taught me about God's amazing Grace and maybe now it is time to go on." Subtitle: I was only sticking around to thank Pastor but now . . .

I know this is a touchy subject to raise: What keeps you <fill in alphabet sup combination of your choice>? But, does it not go to the heart of the issue in Eau Claire or many places in ELCA where churches and individuals have been leaving in the last two years and where bishops and others are trying to find reasons for people to stay? All while we are still in division I might add.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2011, 10:47:08 AM by Dadoo »
Peter Kruse

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Dadoo

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #156 on: December 30, 2011, 10:44:12 AM »
If he said that, Presiding Bishop Hanson was wrong. I have been without a call, and still a pastor in the ELCA. Retired pastors are without calls, and we are still on the clergy roster, able to function fully as pastors.  It has nothing to do with ontology. It has to do with rostering.

Retired pastors are a subcategory of the ELCA roster of ordained ministers. You stay on the roster as long as you maintain membership in an ELCA congregation. I am not sure if any bishop checks all that closely where the retired guys have gone, and few have made use of the clause so as to demand that a retired man in a departing ELCA congregation change membership or face expulsion, though one such case is known to me. I would believe it is known to Pr. Tibbetts as well as he is a common friend. That is what his reference to retired pastors not on ELCA congregational rolls was referring to.
Peter Kruse

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Charles_Austin

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #157 on: December 30, 2011, 11:05:45 AM »
Yes,  Lou, if Presiding Bishop Hanson said a person without a call is not on the ELCA clergy roster, he was wrong. If that is what he meant when he said a person without a call is not a pastor, he was wrong.
Retired pastors are not a "sub-category," they are a different category. As a retired pastor, I have served full-time and part-time interims. I preach and preside regularly, take part in our local and synodical events and do what I am asked to do to help local pastor in their ministries. Nothing "sub" about that.

Erma S. Wolf

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #158 on: December 30, 2011, 11:10:28 AM »
    Just to say that this matter has affected rostered persons even before the 2009 decisions, and at times regardless of their support (or lack of) for the 2009 CWA decisions.  I know a person rostered as an AIM who really hated having to transfer congregations when the one she was a member of voted to leave the ELCA.  But she would lose her place on the roster if she didn't do so. 

    What troubles me with retired pastors and AiMs is that they may have greater difficulty, due to mobility issues, in finding another ELCA congregation to join.  I would hope in those situations some grace might be applied, as indeed the guidelines allow for. 

Erma S. Wolf

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #159 on: December 30, 2011, 11:19:46 AM »

I know this is a touchy subject to raise: What keeps you <fill in alphabet sup combination of your choice>? But, does it not go to the heart of the issue in Eau Claire or many places in ELCA where churches and individuals have been leaving in the last two years and where bishops and others are trying to find reasons for people to stay? All while we are still in division I might add.

As one who, while on the Lutheran CORE steering committee. tried to help congregations find reasons to stay, all I can say is that the way of the cross is a hard sell.  Shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose, but somehow it was.

Dan Fienen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #160 on: December 30, 2011, 11:21:27 AM »
Pr. Krause, what keeps a family together?  It is their family ties, their relatedness and their love for each other.  Politics are not a part of the core of what it means to be family.  A family can simply avoid talking about politics without harm to "family" because that is not part of what makes it family.  You have perhaps known people for whom politics is a core identity issue.  For them to not talk politics is to deny an essential part of their identity.  For them to not talk politics in family is very hard - they usually can't avoid it.  "Love me, love my politics."  In my own family we usually try to avoid talking theology.  I am LCMS, my father, one brother and sister are now WELS, and my other brother is ELCA.  We have a core faith that we can agree on, but theology and church politics is a minefield.  But theology is not what makes us family.
 
What makes church?  Can we be church while avoiding talking theology?  Is that not part of the core of what makes us church?  Unless the unity comes simply from having a common pension plan, or a common worship book - believe what you want so long as your worship service looks right - common ethnicity or mutual friendships. 
 
This is perhaps part of why ELCA and LCMS has so trouble talking with each other, much less forming common bonds.  Confessionalism is a part of our core identity.  Yes, we are not perfectly theologically united.  Anyone who pretends that the LCMS is a perfect church is delusional.  Yes, we may well be too proud of our attempts at doctrinal unity and do not live up to our self-image of what we would like to think we are.  Is that so strange?  Is the ELCA perfectly united in your mutual respect for bound consciences and mutual bearing of burdens?  I do not think that the LCMS has a corner on the market of hubris.
 
It seems from what you say that part of the core identity of the ELCA lies in the bonds you feel for each other that transcend theological differences - that allow you to be "family" even if you have quite different theological commitments.
 
Quote

This challenges the base assumption that we are just a happy family that will live through thick and thin and stick together in spite of our difference. We are not an organic whole. People can "check out," and do. They have done it before after all and all was well with them. Add to this this point: To some extent, memories of better places, Lutheran (ALC, LCA) and otherwise, make the idea of departing palatable even to Lutherans. 'The world will not end. It is just a corporate affiliation. We changed it once before. Why not now." And again the idea of this organic whole that the LIFT process held up is challenged. We are not this one happy family. A deep value and a grand dream, the a dream of a united Lutherandom on American shores, is being challenged.

Which brings me to the second point: People do not like it when their base assumptions are challenged and people do not like it when some reject the base assumption hard enough to walk away. Right now it is conservatives who are walking off so they are the ones that are raising the ire of those who want to think that we are just a one happy family. As conservatives walk off, their friends who chose to stay will be viewed with suspicion. That is what I think brings in the bias against conservatives you are trying to understand.

If an important part of your core identity is family that puts up with differing theology, part of our core identity is confessional unity.  It seems that you are family in spite of great theological differences, we are family because of our relative theological unity.  Your way of being church seems to many of us as alien as our way of being church must seem to many of you.
 
Essentially, it seems to me, that you consider your ties to each other as part of a church body are more important than the theological issues and that those who find the theological issues of great importance have betrayed the ELCA core identity and betrayed the family.
 
There is a basic incompatability here, which is why we have so much trouble talking to each other.  The LCMS admonishes the ELCA for what we see as departures from the core of Lutheran identity, and you hear it as an attack on your core identity of being Lutheran.  The ELCA admonishes the LCMS (less officially) to get over our obsession with some illusional ideal of confessional unity and come be family with them as they are with each other so that we can work and play together, and we hear it as an invitation to loose our identity and betray our commitment ultimately to God.  And neither can understand why the other is so upset.
 
I don't know what the answer is.  How do you talk about what is important if you disagree fundementally over what is important.  Yelling at each other to get over yourself does not seem to work.
 
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Dan Fienen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #161 on: December 30, 2011, 11:24:58 AM »

I know this is a touchy subject to raise: What keeps you <fill in alphabet sup combination of your choice>? But, does it not go to the heart of the issue in Eau Claire or many places in ELCA where churches and individuals have been leaving in the last two years and where bishops and others are trying to find reasons for people to stay? All while we are still in division I might add.

As one who, while on the Lutheran CORE steering committee. tried to help congregations find reasons to stay, all I can say is that the way of the cross is a hard sell.  Shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose, but somehow it was.
Those who try to balance loyalty to the institutional family and loyalty to confessional integrety have an especially hard row to hoe.  Yet if some did not try, where would be tug in the family for seeing theological issues of importance and to witness to those parts of the Christian witness.  Very hard.  Those who do have my admiration.
 
Dan
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George Erdner

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #162 on: December 30, 2011, 11:25:20 AM »
Two things: Yes, it is post modern in a way but if you think about it, families do this all the time. My brothers and I are "diverse" in our political views. At the same time we get along quite well. What happens when one of us just cannot resist talking politics? Angry faces and swollen voices. What holds us together? Well, we are brothers. COuld it happen that we get in so deep a fight with one another that we would permanently take a vacation from one another? It is possible I would suppose - other families have done so. We know that some subjects will be divisive and we stray there only with much care.

I would think that we continue to work under the assumption that the ELCA is a very cohesive family with deep roots in this faith we call Lutheran and have cherished through the generations. It is an assumption that the generation that worked out the merger worked under and it is the assumption that allowed them to leave even important things unresolved in the trust that, since we will do it like we always have, we can afford to wait a spell before we make a definite decision. Being from three different ways of being church, I think that was a big mistake since the closeness we assumed was not as abundant as we dreamed.

 As I look at my own congregation and the congregation that surround me, it occurs to me  that generational adherence and deep roots in Lutheranism, ELCA, ALC, LCA, are in the minority. Many of my colleagues and I are in congregations that have dipped into the pool of unchurched, loose Catholics, Methodist, etc. Life time members, Lutheran or congregational, are a minority where I travel.

This challenges the base assumption that we are just a happy family that will live through thick and thin and stick together in spite of our difference. We are not an organic whole. People can "check out," and do. They have done it before after all and all was well with them. Add to this this point: To some extent, memories of better places, Lutheran (ALC, LCA) and otherwise, make the idea of departing palatable even to Lutherans. 'The world will not end. It is just a corporate affiliation. We changed it once before. Why not now." And again the idea of this organic whole that the LIFT process held up is challenged. We are not this one happy family. A deep value and a grand dream, the a dream of a united Lutherandom on American shores, is being challenged.

Which brings me to the second point: People do not like it when their base assumptions are challenged and people do not like it when some reject the base assumption hard enough to walk away. Right now it is conservatives who are walking off so they are the ones that are raising the ire of those who want to think that we are just a one happy family. As conservatives walk off, their friends who chose to stay will be viewed with suspicion. That is what I think brings in the bias against conservatives you are trying to understand.

The question is well asked: What holds any denomination together? Maybe you can answer it for the LCMS, Dan. But, don't come to me with "subscription to the confessions." That makes you Lutheran. What makes you LCMS to the point that you will never walk away? What glues any of us into our denominations, in the corporate entity sense of the word? "Because we got <fill in the blank> right?" That can change, can't it? "Because it is here where I found out about God and God's amazing Grace?" Thankfulness? That has limits and we all know it. Congregations go through turmoil when pastor Bludwizc leaves after 30 years of ministry because "He was the guy who first taught me about God's amazing Grace and maybe now it is time to go on." Subtitle: I was only sticking around to thank Pastor but now . . .

I know this is a touchy subject to raise: What keeps you <fill in alphabet sup combination of your choice>? But, does it not go to the heart of the issue in Eau Claire or many places in ELCA where churches and individuals have been leaving in the last two years and where bishops and others are trying to find reasons for people to stay? All while we are still in division I might add.

Once again, the problem with analogies and metaphors arises. Church's might be like families, but they aren't identical to familiar. Maybe a case could be made that congregations are like nuclear families while denominations are like extended families, but that wouldn't be a perfect comparison either. Though it would be more accurate for a member of a congregation in one particular denomination to view his fellow congregants as brothers, the members of nearby congregations as cousins, and the members of distant congregations in other synods as second, third, or fourth cousins or even in-laws. I can think of a few members of the greater ELCA "family" who are about as close to me as my ex-wife's brother's father-in-law.
 
Sure, when one has blood ties with one's brother, getting past differences of opinion over matters unrelated to the relationship is something to be expected. But churches are families in that sense. We don't share the same DNA. Membership in a congregation that has a denominational affiliation is a choice, not a legacy. At least, it should be a deliberate, conscious choice. That choice should be based on a call from God similar to the call to the ministry. One should recognize within that what a church teaches regarding the details about the relationship between oneself and God is true and accurate, or at least in conformance with what the Holy Spirit leads one to believe.
 
If all that matters is agreeing with the big picture, then there's little use for worrying about the subtle nuances of theology. If all that matters is what's contained in the three creeds, you might as well throw away all the copies of the Book of Concord because they aren't needed. And that would be ridiculous.
 
The reason for staying in a given congregation should be what is taught and preached there, and the relationships one has with the other members. That is a strong bond. Staying in a given denomination might matter to clergy, since their credentials are certified by the denomination they are affiliated with. But to an ordinary pewsitter, like me, denominational affiliation is little more than an extra logo on the bulletin, if that.
 
Take the controversy over this church, and this stupid lawsuit. As I repeatedly pointed out earlier, this argument over denominational affiliation and who owns the property involves only around 20% of the members. One out of every 10 wants to change affiliations, one out of every 10 wants to remain in the ELCA. But eight out of every 10 just plain don't care. That's because affiliation with a denomination isn't a "family" issue. It's a metaphor that helps explain a relationship to a point, but that just doesn't hold up to intense scrutiny. The most troubling thing I'm observing in looking at the memberships of congregations that change denominational affiliation is how many of them show a decline in Baptized members, but maintain the same average attendance. I suspect that just proves that CEO's don't think of themselves as "family".

Dadoo

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #163 on: December 30, 2011, 11:26:38 AM »
Yes,  Lou, if Presiding Bishop Hanson said a person without a call is not on the ELCA clergy roster, he was wrong. If that is what he meant when he said a person without a call is not a pastor, he was wrong.
Retired pastors are not a "sub-category," they are a different category. As a retired pastor, I have served full-time and part-time interims. I preach and preside regularly, take part in our local and synodical events and do what I am asked to do to help local pastor in their ministries. Nothing "sub" about that.

Charles,

I am happy to hear that you still perform pastoral duties as asked for by the bishop or contracted by a congregation. Unlike a pastor not retired, however, you remain on the roster even if you decide to build sand castles, write opinion pieces for the newspaper, or go on tour with the barbershop Quartet instead. An active roster pastor would be removed after three years (with one possible three year extension granted by synod council/ bishop/ CoB/Secretary ELCA) of inactivity, you remain indefinitely so long as you maintain membership in an ELCA congregation. Des Selben Gleichen: The pastor on leave from call also can still perform pastoral duties as asked for by the bishop or contracted by a congregation. Only in her case, in spite of such service, after three years without ordinary call she would still be subject to removal from the roster.

So the ontological change is actually delayed until retirement in ELCA constitutional ecclesiology.  ;D

« Last Edit: December 30, 2011, 11:58:50 AM by Dadoo »
Peter Kruse

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George Erdner

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #164 on: December 30, 2011, 11:27:16 AM »
Those who try to balance loyalty to the institutional family and loyalty to confessional integrety have an especially hard row to hoe.  Yet if some did not try, where would be tug in the family for seeing theological issues of importance and to witness to those parts of the Christian witness.  Very hard.  Those who do have my admiration.
 
Dan

That's because a denomination is not a family. Comparisons to families to attempt to prove a point about denominations will never truly work, because a denomination is not a family, it's not even really like a family.