Author Topic: The ELCA Requires Nothing  (Read 50413 times)

DCharlton

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #165 on: January 07, 2013, 01:22:40 PM »
Thinking about what I wrote to John Bergfest a moment ago, I present a half-playful/half-serious interpretation of our recent conflicts in the ELCA:

1.  Is agreement on matters of the Law necessary for church unity?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES. 

2.  Is agreement on policies and constitutions necessary for church unity?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES.

3.  Is uniform adherence to policies and constitutions necessary for church unity?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES.

4.  If one believes ELCA policies or constitutions defy the will of God, may one ignore said policies and constitutions?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES.

5.  If one ignores an ELCA policy/constitutional provision because of the conviction that policy or provision defies the will of God, should one be disciplined?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES.

The result is dozens of different positions pertaining to the Law in the broad sense of rules and regulations.   I submit that the desire to focus on Gospel rather than Law has lead us to ignore these issues, and thus exacerbated our divisions.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2013, 01:29:36 PM by DCharlton »
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Was Algul Siento a divinity school?

Dadoo

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #166 on: January 07, 2013, 03:40:07 PM »
I thought it at seminary and still think that theology is a mental game. We are trying to comprehend the incomprehensible God with our puny brains and limited vocabulary. One might even consider it a joke to believe that we could capture God with a theology.

Yet, some folks apparently think that they have comprehended and that they have a  special calling to hold others accountable to their understanding of doctrinal purity.

But that should be obvious. To have a theology of insufficiency or a theology of doubt one has to first of all have a theology - only it is a non-theology-theology, a deconstruction theology. It has nothing constructive to say and sees its own value in pointing out to those who have a theology that their theology is insufficient and should be rejected in favor of doubt. It is a non incarnational theology. Not very interesting. (it is kind of bad apple Calvinism or really poorly understood Bath - God might love you , but then again , what do I know, just do what you think God will do what God will do and we should not think about it too much - I think Crandall wrote about it in the LCMS NALC stream - read at your leisure)


What a "theology of doubt" you are expressing here! You doubt that one can or should have such a theology; but it's what scriptures tells us about our understanding of God -- it will always be inadequate in this life.


"We know in part and we prophecy in part; but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end.… Now we see a reflection in a mirror, then we will see face to face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known." (1 Cor 13:9-10, 12)


"My plans aren't your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans." (Isaiah 55:8-9)


Eugene Peterson in his description of the magos in Acts 13 (which I also take to apply to the magi in Matthew 2) as "Mr. Know-It-All". Part of the transformation of the magi was coming to see that we don't know it all. They needed God's help and the guidance from scriptures and scholars to find the new king.

Perhaps not "doubt" so much as "partial" or "incomplete" or "temporary for now".

Quote
To the thread: Let's just theorize that the writer of the offending column thinks this as well. Maybe he thinks there is lots and lots of grey and virtually no black or white. How does one then call for unity? By adherence to the institution and use of "proper channels," by making argument not on right or wrong but on "who do I know that is important" who did or said what I think YOU should do or believe. To live in that system requires that the pastor always strive to "network" with important people but otherwise is free to be congregationalist. It helps to be a self promoter as well, so it is good to have a competent journalist n the congregation who will write to Seeds or Lutheran on all the great things we do and who makes sure no public relations opportunity is ever missed.


You keep basing unity on something we have or know or do. Our unity comes from God. Our unity comes from us all believing and praying, "Our Father in heaven." We write and promote what God is doing among us.

Quote
In that system one can of course also retreat into isolation. But one retreats into obscurity and irrelevance as to the decisions that the organization (no longer church in a recognizable way) will make in the future. If he means that, and I certainly hope that Pr. Christian actually gets theology and values it, then his column really said: "You could have stayed and saved yourself (and us) the trouble of voting and leaving, you could have lived your days out here just fine. After all it doesn't matter what you believe, theology is just words and being divided over it is irrelevant. But numbers matter because size of denomination is status and you just hurt us and being small as you are you are not going to be listened to by the important people in Washington that I know."


In recent months I've been dealing with people with estranged family relationships. They loss of the "family" unity is painful, especially if one (like Pr. Christian and many others in the ELCA, believe it was unnecessary.)

Quote
Again, I am using the idea that theology is nothing and means nothing to read into Pr. Christian who probably does not agree with the idea that theology is merely a mental game.


I will state what I've stated before: We are not saved by theology. We are saved by God. (And before Scott Y. chimes in, yes, I know that's a theological statement.)

Brian,

We are responding to your claim that theology is  a mind game and a way to restrict God. No one has claimed that one is saved by theology . . . .  so far. In my case, I took that sentence and some knowledge how you do theology - and yes, you do it- and drove it off the cliff that it was headed for anyway.

As far a grief is concerned. Pr. Christian and you were not unaware that the departures of 2010 and 2011 were looming should the ELCA vote it ended up doing in 2009. The church voted and now everyone gets to grieve. That's life.
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Dadoo

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #167 on: January 07, 2013, 03:43:29 PM »
More personally, it is not a purely a matter of understanding why you believe (though there is a theological answer) but what you believe. In your case you seem to know that, since you bring up Justification and Baptism. Our divisions as Christians and Lutherans are about the what of belief.

Among Christians, and, especially, among Lutherans, I have not heard much division regarding the what of belief. 

I do hear frequent arguments in which one person re-interprets within his own paradigm the words that another person uses that reinterpretation to draw baseless conclusions - well if you say this, then you must believe that and, therefore, you don't really believe the doctrine of justification.  Imho, that approach employs flawed logic and violates basic groundrules for constructive conversation.

John,

I think there is plenty of the latter, but also plenty of the former.   Not all disagreements are a matter of drawing false conclusions.  Some disagreements are over substantive matters.    The disagreement that many of us have with Brian's notion of theology is long standing.  We have been in dialogue with him for years and there is a definite difference between us. 

For example, Lutherans disagree with Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and Reformed Churches on many things.  In the past, when our disagreements devolved into polemics, we were often guilty of what you describe in your second paragraph.  That, however, does not mean that all or our disagreements were a mere matter of misinterpretation. 

Brian often implies that our differences are mere illusion based on misinterpretation (as well as pride and prejudice).  The old blind men and the elephant analogy comes into play here.  We are left then with the bizarre exchange: "We don't really disagree."  "Yes, we do."  "No, we don't."  We refuse to agree about whether we disagree or not.

In some ways, that's what the divide in the ELCA comes down to.  The ELCA says, "How can you leave, since we don't even disagree."  The departers say, "But we do disagree."  The ELCA counters, "We don't really.  You're just seeing things too narrowly."  The Departers say, "No, we are identifying a real difference."  "Well then," says the ELCA, "what we disagree about is not really that important."  The Departers respond, "Yes it is important."  The ELCA retorts, "If you think this minor disagreement is important, you are guilty of narrow minded fundamentalism."  "No," counters the Departers, "you are guilty of a fuzzy headed liberalism."

On and on it goes.  No progress is possible because we can't even agree about whether we are in disagreement or not.

David (Or maybe not David.  Who's to say?)

I like that fictional dialog. It seems to ring true.
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Dadoo

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #168 on: January 07, 2013, 03:47:28 PM »
Thinking about what I wrote to John Bergfest a moment ago, I present a half-playful/half-serious interpretation of our recent conflicts in the ELCA:

1.  Is agreement on matters of the Law necessary for church unity?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES. 

2.  Is agreement on policies and constitutions necessary for church unity?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES.

3.  Is uniform adherence to policies and constitutions necessary for church unity?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES.

4.  If one believes ELCA policies or constitutions defy the will of God, may one ignore said policies and constitutions?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES.

5.  If one ignores an ELCA policy/constitutional provision because of the conviction that policy or provision defies the will of God, should one be disciplined?

     Some say NO.  Some say YES.

The result is dozens of different positions pertaining to the Law in the broad sense of rules and regulations.   I submit that the desire to focus on Gospel rather than Law has lead us to ignore these issues, and thus exacerbated our divisions.

There are 64 answers (I think) to this question and answer matrix. What it overlooks, however, is that law and Gospel are both God's word, both are good. Both are important. the problem seem to be that we separate them instead of keeping them in close proximity and distinguishing them. The Gospel answers the accusation of the Law.
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Johan Bergfest

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #169 on: January 07, 2013, 04:12:23 PM »
We are responding to your claim that theology is  a mind game and a way to restrict God. No one has claimed that one is saved by theology . . . .  so far.

Really?  The authors of ACELC's admonition seem to behave as though they have a lock of pure doctrine and you'd better believe it their way, or else.

Dadoo

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #170 on: January 07, 2013, 04:17:30 PM »
We are responding to your claim that theology is  a mind game and a way to restrict God. No one has claimed that one is saved by theology . . . .  so far.

Really?  The authors of ACELC's admonition seem to behave as though they have a lock of pure doctrine and you'd better believe it their way, or else.

Are they ELCA and are they participating in this discussion? I may have missed them, but I do not remember a believe my dogma or God will run you over with all four tires claims.

Or are they the ones who wnat our teachers to be armed? :)
Peter Kruse

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Charles_Austin

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #171 on: January 07, 2013, 04:25:56 PM »
And once the word, "matrix," floats into the conversation we enter the astral realm of speculation and connectivities that are so complex and manipulated, not even the manipulators know where their number-jinkeying will end up.
Try this. No "matrix," just reality.
The ELCA made some decisions in 2009.
A lot of people didn't like them.
A good number of those people left the ELCA.
Some who stayed are still not happy with the decisions.
The decisions of 2009 are being implemented.
Sixty-five synods have held two synodical assemblies since then and no serious move has been made to change the decisions of 2009.
The ELCA had a church-wide Assembly in 2011 and the topic of "2009" was hardly a misty-puff on the agenda.
Since 2009, the ELCA has continued its mission, started ministries in various places in the U.S. and around the world, educated and ordained pastors, educated and put lay professionals on our roster, baptized, taught, confirmed, married, counseled and buried hundreds of thousands of people.
A good many of those ministries and much of that work has almost nothing to do with the controversial decisions of 2009. Some of it happened because of the decisions of 2009.
Just where, I keep asking, is all this "disagreement" and toe-curling angst over policies and procedures? Is it a vast stream of icky fluid running through the ELCA and each Synod?
There are difficulties, to be sure, when local disputes reach certain levels. But who is mounting the barricades, gathering the volunteers, and developing the battle plans to take over the ELCA or change its direction?
Who?
You want that kind of stuff, turn your eyes to that other large Lutheran denomination in our land.

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #172 on: January 07, 2013, 04:38:14 PM »

The ELCA requires nothing of congregations. ...

So with total freedom, why do congregations and pastors depart from the broad and global Lutheran family?


I was unaware that the ELCA is "the broad and global Lutheran family."

So why be part of a group that has no requirements? Perhaps because "no requirements" is not the same as "no expectations."

What does it say when a former synodical official compares on one hand the meager trickle of departures over civil rights, the War in Vietnam, mergers, and politicized pension investing to, on the other hand, the flow of departures over the last decade attributed to "phobias" of Islam (huh?) and the (apparently) unimportant matters of marriage, family, and sexuality.

The "disconnect" Pastor Austin wrote about does not seem one-sided.

Kyrie eleison, Steven+
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #173 on: January 07, 2013, 05:26:28 PM »
We are responding to your claim that theology is  a mind game and a way to restrict God.


We cannot restrict God. Do to our limited knowledge, understanding, and abilities, we can not fully comprehend the entirety of God. It is the hubris that seems to think, "I've got God all figured out" that I object to.



Quote
No one has claimed that one is saved by theology . . . .  so far. In my case, I took that sentence and some knowledge how you do theology - and yes, you do it- and drove it off the cliff that it was headed for anyway.


Yup, and once off the cliff, we have nothing but trust in God to save us, because we're no longer on the solid ground of our theology.

Quote
As far a grief is concerned. Pr. Christian and you were not unaware that the departures of 2010 and 2011 were looming should the ELCA vote it ended up doing in 2009. The church voted and now everyone gets to grieve. That's life.


And the church bent over backwards to try to create spaces for those who disagreed with the vote. So it feels like a slap in the face for all our efforts to respect and continue to welcome the "traditionalists" in our church when the can no longer stand to be with us. (Granted, there were perhaps more than a few who were not so respectful and welcoming.)
"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]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #174 on: January 07, 2013, 05:33:07 PM »
I think the two kingdom issue is one that divides some ELCA Lutherans in that world-views are at test here.  The American world-view (and much of that world-view that has been accepted into the thinking of some Lutherans in America) pictures God as somewhere else.  Jesus is dead and gone a figure of history who passes away like all others in history.  If there will be any sort of unity in American Lutheranism the 2 kingdom issue will have to be wrestled on a very fundamental plane.


You might be partially right. There are those who keep arguing about what God did back in history: exactly how God created the world, what precisely happened the first Easter morning; rather than believe and trust in a present-day, living, active God who guides and directs our thoughts and actions today. There are many theological statements that sound more like a history lesson than a declaration of the living God.


I'm often tempted to tell someone who says something like, "I believe God created the world in six-24 hour days," or "God physically raised Jesus from the dead on the third day," with "So what! How is that affecting your life today? What are you doing differently today because you believe that about God?"
"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]

A Catholic Lutheran

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #175 on: January 07, 2013, 05:38:02 PM »
We are responding to your claim that theology is  a mind game and a way to restrict God.


We cannot restrict God. Do [sic] to our limited knowledge, understanding, and abilities, we can not fully comprehend the entirety of God. It is the hubris that seems to think, "I've got God all figured out" that I object to.



Quote
No one has claimed that one is saved by theology . . . .  so far. In my case, I took that sentence and some knowledge how you do theology - and yes, you do it- and drove it off the cliff that it was headed for anyway.


Yup, and once off the cliff, we have nothing but trust in God to save us, because we're no longer on the solid ground of our theology.

Quote
As far a grief is concerned. Pr. Christian and you were not unaware that the departures of 2010 and 2011 were looming should the ELCA vote it ended up doing in 2009. The church voted and now everyone gets to grieve. That's life.


And the church bent over backwards to try to create spaces for those who disagreed with the vote. So it feels like a slap in the face for all our efforts to respect and continue to welcome the "traditionalists" in our church when the can no longer stand to be with us. (Granted, there were perhaps more than a few who were not so respectful and welcoming.)

This whole exchange reminds me of nothing so much as a snipet from C.S. Lewis' master-work The Great Divorce:


“Do you not even believe that He exists?”

“Exists? What does Existence mean? You will keep on implying some sort of static, ready-made reality which is, so to speak, ‘there,’ and to which our minds have simply to conform. These great mysteries cannot be approached in that way. If there were such a thing (there is no need to interrupt, my dear boy) quite frankly, I should not be interested in it. It would be of no religious significance. God, for me, is something purely spiritual.”
 


Or...
“What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.”

Seriously, Brian, I wonder if you ever realize or dare to wonder just how FAR you wander from the reality of the Faith?

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
« Last Edit: January 07, 2013, 05:41:45 PM by A Catholic Lutheran »

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #176 on: January 07, 2013, 05:46:42 PM »
Well, Pastor Fienen, I know quite a number of former LCMS pastors and other former LCMS pastors have served the ELCA as bishops and in other ways. I have never heard them even mention Seminex, except in an academic way.


Seminex and/or the events of the LCMS schism come up once or twice each month in the weekly pericope study that I host for our conference's ELCA pastors. 

Regular attendees include a pastor who says he was the first to be excommunicated from the LCMS after Pres. Preus' election (and who, upon reaching retirement age, was promptly notified by the LCMS pension plan of his benefits!), a couple who were transitioning from pre-sem within the System to seminary as Seminex was emerging, veteran LCA pastors for whom it is but stories about others, and young ELCA pastors for whom this is all ancient history. 

Me?  My Seminex profs at PLTS were either classmates or college/sem teachers of my LCMS-rooted ELCA colleagues.  I guess it makes me the perfect host!

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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #177 on: January 07, 2013, 05:47:15 PM »
Seriously, Brian, I wonder if you ever realize or dare to wonder just how FAR you wander from the reality of the Faith?

Nope, not at all. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. That's the reality of the Faith.


I don't buy into all the extras some people seek to add to the Faith.


It's like adults telling me about the Small Catechism they got in confirmation -- a 160 page book! I point out to them that Luther's Small Catechism can be printed in 16 pages. Most of those 160 pages were additions of some person's comments about the Small Catechism. "Oh, I didn't realize that," is a common response.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2013, 11:04:24 AM by Brian Stoffregen »
"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]

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #178 on: January 07, 2013, 05:49:11 PM »

I am trying "to get on with things."  But writers like Pr. Christian keep bringing the old anger and insults back up, every time I think it has started to die down.

Makes one no longer wonder, my friend, if there is such a thing as "a sore winner."  How many of these "My Turn" screeds must we endure?

 :(
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A Catholic Lutheran

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Re: The ELCA Requires Nothing
« Reply #179 on: January 07, 2013, 05:55:02 PM »
Seriously, Brian, I wonder if you ever realize or dare to wonder just how FAR you wander from the reality of the Faith?

Nope, not at all. Jesus loves this I know, for the Bible tells me so. That's the reality of the Faith.


And that, my friend, is the truest manifestation of what you were decrying up-thread: hubris.

Oh, and by the way, the lyric is "Jesus love me, this I know..."  not "this."  There are many things our Lord does not love, though he most certainly loves the person.  And yet...

But we've been down this road before I know far too well not to engage in your petulence.  You answered my question candidly and I appreciate it.  I will continue to pray for you.  Maybe one day you and I can sit and shudder at both of our posts on this forum.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS