Author Topic: The Battle Lines are Drawn  (Read 10532 times)

JMOtterman

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The Battle Lines are Drawn
« on: July 10, 2007, 03:53:52 PM »
A letter I recieved today in my mail from A Lutheran Pastor that I do not know. 

The letter is dated July 7, 2007

Greetings from Atlanta.  My name is Jill Henning and, like you, I am a voting member at the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August.  My husband, Matt, and I are both pastors in the Southeastern Synod.  Between being pastors and parenting two children, ages nine and five, we know first hand how busy all of our lives can be.  Still, I'm writing to you about a matter of real concern for my family, my synod, and the ELCA.

Before we leave for Chicago, I'd like to tell you about my good friends, the people of St. John Lutheran Church in Atlanta and their pastor, Bradley Schmeling.  If you read The Lutheran, you may have seen something about them.  St. John's is the oldest Lutheran Church in Atlanta.  Pastor Brad is a dear man, an excellent preacher, teacher, evangelist, and spiritual advisor.  I would love to have Bradley as my pastor.  With the leadership of Prastor Bradley, St. John has grown in its membership and service to the community.  The pews are filled--well, except in the summer, just like everywhere else--and the members are learning to park down the street so there's room for their many visitors.  What a wonderful problem to have!

Pastor Bradley has been open with the congregation and Bishop Ron Warren about this sexual orientation since before he was called in 2000.   The Bishop approved his call and has affirmed his outstanding ministry.  Pastor Bradley ever served as my conference dean.  The congregation, Matt and I were all thrilled when Bradley announced, in March of last year, that he had found a life-partner in Pastor Daren Easler.  However, on August 11th, 2006, the Bishop filed charges  against Pastor Bradley for "conduct incompatible with the office of ministry."  After nearly a year of legal briefs, a trial, a decision and an appeal, the ELCA Committee on Appeals decided on July 2, 2007, to remove Pastor Bradley from the ELCA clergy roster.  the congregation recieved the news with tears and resolve to tell their story.

At the Churchwide Assembly St. John's will be joined by 22 synods of the ELCA, representing 40% of the ELCA's members.  They have asked the Churchwide Assembly to eliminate the ELCA's policy of discrimination against ministers in committed same-gender relationships and the congregations that call them.  Because the Churchwide Assembly is the highest legislative authority in the ELCA, you and I will have some important decisions to make.

To help you prepare for Chicago, enclosed you will find a brief summary of the trial.  It includes words from Pastor Bradley himself, his partner, his mom, and the first Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Dr. Herbert Chilstrom.  You will also see a timeline that the many congregations and pastors affected by the church's policies of exclusion.  It only takes 10 minutes to read, but it carefully asks us to consider, "are we really living together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements?"  This is precisely the question that we must answer in August.

Thanks for giving me a chance to tell you about these friends of mine.  I look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

In Christ,

Jill J. Henning
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Lilburn, Georgia

JMOtterman

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2007, 04:18:34 PM »
Good Soil has sent me and I am guessing all the other CWA voting folks an 8 page newsletter.  One of the pages is called Questions and Answers.  Here goes.

Why not delay any more conversation about the ordination of partnered gay clergy until after the social statement on sexuality has been approved?

The guide Journey Together Faithfully Part 3: Free to Serve the Neighbor, is not intended to offer study resources or guidance to the church regarding homosexuality, blessings of relationship or partnered gay clergy.
At CWA 2005 the assembly considered numberous resolutions regarding the recommentdations of the Sexuality Task Force.  The upshot was a collection of votes which confirmed our desire to live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements, stayed the course with intentional ambiguity concerning blessings of same-gender relationships, and said what we don't want relative to ordination but not what we do want.  The ciritical vote of the day was the defeat of a motion to enforce the current policy of exclusion.  The recommendation of the Church Council on an exception policy for partnered gay pastors failed to reach a majority by only seven votes.
You should know that many gay, lesbian, and allied voting members were not in favor of the exception policy and voted against it since it would have established extra rules for the qualification of partnered gay clergy as well as a second class of rostered clergy. 
If we don't change the policy in 2007, the issues will stand before us again at Churchwide 2009 and beyond until the policy is changed.  If we do not come to terms with out disagreements regarding homosexuality, we will not be able to pass a social statement of human sexuality which will require a two-thirds majority vote. 
Meanwhile pastors, like Bradley, stand trial or are pressured to resign their calls.  How many gifted pastors must we lose, until the church says enough is enough and the policy fails? 

Why all the fuss about the story of just one person?
We are concerned about Bradley--but also about many others.  Because of the policies currently in place, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in the ELCA have been denied their calling to the ordained ministry.  Pastor Schmeling's story is just one of many similar situations occuring since the beginning of the ELCA.  Se the timeline beginning on page 6 listing the 4 trials the ELCA has conducted, the 12 otherwise qualified seminarians which the ELCA wouldn't approve for ordinations, 7 ELCA rostered leaders that have been defrocked or forced to resign, 3 congregations removed from the ELCA, 7 ELCA congregations which have been disciplined, and 15 Extraordinary Candidacy Project pastors currently serving ELCA and Independent Lutheran Congregations.  Ultimately, the current policies impoverish the whole church--all laypersons, all ordained clergy, all servants, all leaders of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Are the policies precluding homosexuals from the ordained ministry of this church part of the ELCA constitution?
No, they are not.  In Chapter 7, the constitution gives the standards for ordained ministers which include commitment to Christ; soundness of faith; aptness to preach, teach and witness; educational qualifications; examination; proper call and ordaination; acceptance and adherance to the Confession of Faith; diligence and faithfulness in the exercise of the ministry; and life and conduct above reproach.  An ordianed minister shall comply with the constitution of this church.  the constitution does not mention homosexuality.

Why aren't the policies included in the constitution?
Those on the first ELCA church Council detemined that policies like Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline for rostered leaders and Vision and Expectations for ministerial candidates should be separated from the constitution, allowing for the use of discretion in their application.  The constitution sets the firm boundaries for the denomination.  Amendments to the constitution require a two-thirds majority of voting members of the Churchwide Assembly over two consecutive assemblies.  the constitution is not easily changed.  The first Church Council saw that, over time, situations might occur requiring change in the policy documents; therefore these policies should not rise the authoritative level of the constitution.

Who put the policy in place?
There is a constitutionally prescribed process for the creation of Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline and Vision and Expectations, the Committee on Appeals presented a draft to the ELCA Church Council which edited it to include the current language precluding practicing homosexuals for the ordained ministry.  The Council passed the policy in November 1989.  The policiy was never approved by the CWA.
For Vision and Expectations, the Division for Ministry in consultation with the Conference of Bishops presented a draft to the ELCA Church Council which was edited to include the phrase, "persons who are homosexual in their self understanding are expected to abstain from Homosexual sexual relationships."  The Church Council passed Vision and Expectations in October 1990.  The policy was never approved by the CWA.

Must the policies in Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline and Vision and Expectations comport with the ELCA Constitution?
Yes, they must.  Until the Schmeling trial, no one has challenged the constitutionality of the policies excluding partnered gay pastors.

Which entity holds the highest legislative authority in the ELCA?
The Churchwide Assembly is the highest legislative authority in the ELCA.  The ELCA Church Council has interim authority between CW assemblies.

Can the ELCA CWA change the policies excluding partnered gay clergy?
While the CWA may not change the policies outright, according to Secretary Almen, the assembly may direct the appropriate units of the church to change the policies.  Consequently, memorials regarding policy change must be worded carefully to direct the responsible entities within the ELCA structure to make the changes as instructed.  Such memorials directing change will require a simple majority pass.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2007, 04:59:26 PM by JMOtterman »

peter_speckhard

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2007, 04:18:56 PM »
Is there any policy of any kind that cannot be termed a "policy of exclusion" by people who would rather break the policy and be thrown out than abide by the policy and remain in good standing? If our service is at 9:00 a.m. does that mean we have a policy of exclusion toward people who show up at 10:00? Or would it be more fair to say we have a policy of welcoming everyone, and part of what we're welcoming them into is a church that meets at 9:00 a.m.? Pastor Schmeling is more than welcome on the ELCA clergy roster; it is just that it is more important to him to engage in homosexual sex.  

JMOtterman

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2007, 05:09:50 PM »
Good Soil: How many gifted pastors must we lose, until the church says enough is enough and the policy fails?

PJ:  We shall lose every gifted pastor if the pastors continue to be "turned in on themselves" for to be a pastor is not a right or guarantee.  To be a pastor is a privelege extended to those called to serve.  The privelege of serving as Pastor carries with it expectations that are valued for the public office of pastoral ministry, of which on my own merit because of my sinful ways I am unworthy and unable, but that of Jesus Christ crucified and risen am I saved for the faith given me by God, God has called me to serve and I will serve and I ask God to help me in my serving as Pastor.  It is an honor to serve God and God's people and when I graduated I thought my call was a right, I was wrong.  But when the issue is about being served, about getting your just desserts, may God send you quail. 


Bergs

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2007, 06:35:06 PM »
As I mentioned in another topic, watch for the intense emotional full-court press coming on this issue.  My responses are in italics.

Quote
The letter is dated July 7, 2007

Greetings from Atlanta.  My name is Jill Henning and, like you, I am a voting member at the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August.  My husband, Matt, and I are both pastors in the Southeastern Synod.  Between being pastors and parenting two children, ages nine and five, we know first hand how busy all of our lives can be.  Still, I'm writing to you about a matter of real concern for my family, my synod, and the ELCA.

I never quite get how this concerns her family?  The letter below does not make that connection.  The family stuff is just ever so much emotional, trying to connect with the reader.

Quote
Before we leave for Chicago, I'd like to tell you about my good friends, the people of St. John Lutheran Church in Atlanta and their pastor, Bradley Schmeling.  If you read The Lutheran, you may have seen something about them.  St. John's is the oldest Lutheran Church in Atlanta.  Pastor Brad is a dear man, an excellent preacher, teacher, evangelist, and spiritual advisor.  I would love to have Bradley as my pastor.  With the leadership of Prastor Bradley, St. John has grown in its membership and service to the community.  The pews are filled--well, except in the summer, just like everywhere else--and the members are learning to park down the street so there's room for their many visitors.  What a wonderful problem to have!

You know the Southern Baptist churches I attend are filled even in the summer.  So we might really learn from them.  We always have to park a block away.  So if that is the measure of success, Bradley Schmeling would never have received his first call.

Quote
Pastor Bradley has been open with the congregation and Bishop Ron Warren about this sexual orientation since before he was called in 2000.   The Bishop approved his call and has affirmed his outstanding ministry.  Pastor Bradley ever served as my conference dean.  The congregation, Matt and I were all thrilled when Bradley announced, in March of last year, that he had found a life-partner in Pastor Daren Easler.  However, on August 11th, 2006, the Bishop filed charges  against Pastor Bradley for "conduct incompatible with the office of ministry."  After nearly a year of legal briefs, a trial, a decision and an appeal, the ELCA Committee on Appeals decided on July 2, 2007, to remove Pastor Bradley from the ELCA clergy roster.  the congregation recieved the news with tears and resolve to tell their story.

Bishop Warren was always open with Bradley Schmeling and let him know from the start that if he entered into a committed same-sex partnership, the Bishop would file charges.  Yes, one could predict there would be tears in the congregation and that it would get highlighted.  So in March, Bradley Schmeling announced to others that he was in a committed relationship but did not tell his Bishop until August.  As indicated in an earlier post, the August date was very convenient for timing things to hit the press just as Synod conventions were setting up resolutions.

Furthermore the Committee on Appeals did not decide to remove him from the roster, the Discipline Hearing Committee did.  The Committee on Appeals affirmed their decision and correctly set the date.


Quote
At the Churchwide Assembly St. John's will be joined by 22 synods of the ELCA, representing 40% of the ELCA's members.  They have asked the Churchwide Assembly to eliminate the ELCA's policy of discrimination against ministers in committed same-gender relationships and the congregations that call them.  Because the Churchwide Assembly is the highest legislative authority in the ELCA, you and I will have some important decisions to make.

40% sounds like about the same split as votes on the critical Sexuality Task Force recommendations.  To my ears, there is no more support to change things than there was 2 years ago.  Plus consider that LCNA made a major effort on this and still could only get a minority of synod conventions to go along with them.

Quote
To help you prepare for Chicago, enclosed you will find a brief summary of the trial.  It includes words from Pastor Bradley himself, his partner, his mom, and the first Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Dr. Herbert Chilstrom.  You will also see a timeline that the many congregations and pastors affected by the church's policies of exclusion.  It only takes 10 minutes to read, but it carefully asks us to consider, "are we really living together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements?"  This is precisely the question that we must answer in August.

The odds are very high that Bradley Schmeling, his partner, and his mom will speak well of him and how badly he is treated.   As for Chilstrom, he mucked things up horribly  at our little congregation when he was LCA Bishop.  His integrity has been shot with me for nearly 20 years.  He is a noisy gong and I would not read anything he wrote if it was 3 word phrase on a bumper sticker.

Yes, we are doing the best we can to live together faithfully.  It seems to look different in different synods.  But can we continue to live together faithfully as traditionalists are discredited by ELCA leaders?


Quote
Thanks for giving me a chance to tell you about these friends of mine.  I look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

In Christ,

Jill J. Henning
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Lilburn, Georgia

Who paid for this?  Was there disclosure?  Was this just a plain old parish pastor who got the mailing list on her own and sent this out cause Bradley Schmeling is such a nice guy and this was so important to her and her family?  I would be curious to know if the organization behind this identified themself.

Grace & Peace
Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN
But let me tell Thee that now, today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing.
The Grand Inquisitor

Jeffrey Spencer

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2007, 07:32:03 PM »
Brian Bergs wrote:  40% sounds like about the same split as votes on the critical Sexuality Task Force recommendations.  To my ears, there is no more support to change things than there was 2 years ago.  Plus consider that LCNA made a major effort on this and still could only get a minority of synod conventions to go along with them.

I add:  That 40% figure, which, as a CWA voting member, I expect to hear bandied about quite a bit in Chicago, is misleading.  They are happy to state that the synods which passed the Good Soil resolutions represent 40% of the membership of the ELCA.  However, while that might be true, you can bet that none of those resolutions passed unanimously.  Most, like the one passed in my own synod (SWWA), probably only barely passed. 

I'll bet the most reliable figure we have gauging support for blessing/rostering practicing homosexuals is to be found in the results of JTFII, which (I just looked it up) had only 18.2% unabashedly in favor.

What we're seeing (I got the letter and accompanying newsletter too) are the machinations of a well-oiled political spin machine.

Jeffrey Spencer
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Winlock, WA

Charles_Austin

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2007, 04:48:04 AM »
Jeffrey Spencer writes (re a communication from the Good Soil organization):
What we're seeing (I got the letter and accompanying newsletter too) are the machinations of a well-oiled political spin machine.

I ponder:
And what would one call the messages from those organizations that oppose any change in ELCA policies on the matter under discussion?

EENGELBRECHT

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2007, 07:12:10 AM »
Dear JMOtterman,

Greetings in Christ. Could you or another participant please bullet point for me the "battle lines"? (e.g., party one, party two, etc, but not too detailed). Though I'm aware of the theological issues, I'm not clear on the political fronts.

In Christ,
EE

P.s. - Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered in My name, there [will be politics] among them."  :-\

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2007, 08:07:56 AM »
Jeffrey Spencer writes (re a communication from the Good Soil organization):
What we're seeing (I got the letter and accompanying newsletter too) are the machinations of a well-oiled political spin machine.

I ponder:
And what would one call the messages from those organizations that oppose any change in ELCA policies on the matter under discussion?

What messages opposing changes have been mailed to all delegates?  Who funded them? 

Grace & Peace
Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN
But let me tell Thee that now, today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing.
The Grand Inquisitor

Charles_Austin

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2007, 08:11:08 AM »
Someone writes:
Though I'm aware of the theological issues, I'm not clear on the political fronts.

I comment, one more time:
When we think of discussions within the body of Christ as "battles" and draw "battle lines," we are on destructive ground. When we speak of "political fronts," we are on even more dangerous ground. If such lines need be drawn, it should be on matters relating to the core doctrine of the Gospel of justification by grace through faith.

But it seems, at least in these forums, that we are unable to abandon such language; and that we are unable to think brothers and sisters in the whole Church - and that means the whole ELCA and the rest of Christendom -  as fellow proclaimers of the Gospel, united in the faith, who are struggling through difficult issues.

And before the piling-on begins; I intend these comments to apply to those seeking change and those resisting change.

Charles_Austin

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2007, 08:17:36 AM »
Brian Bergs writes:
What messages opposing changes have been mailed to all delegates?  Who funded them?

I comment:
I am not a voting member, (people who go to assemblies are not "delegates"), so I do not know. But I do know that newsletters, position papers, and other materials are widely circulated throughout the ELCA by Word Alone, Fellowship of Confessional Lutherans and other groups. And they hold rallies and workshops and conventions to promote their views. Some of this I find a little distasteful; but I do not consider it a horrendous wrong. We are all free to promote our views.

As for funding, what does it matter? I would like to see all activist organizations report the sources of their funding, just for the sake of full information. (Do we suspect that drug companies or other corporate behemoths have some stake in what the church does?  ;D) But that probably won't happen.

MMH

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2007, 08:43:23 AM »
This may seem like a small thing, but 22 divided by 65 is not .40.  It is .34 (being generous & rounding up)  They would need 26 synods to hit 40% of 65.

So-

Are the folks pleading for Mr. Schmelling incapable of good research, or are they being disingenuous?  In either case, is there a reason to believe them?  Luke 16:10 comes to mind.

Matt Hummel+

Keith Falk

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2007, 08:49:33 AM »
This may seem like a small thing, but 22 divided by 65 is not .40.  It is .34 (being generous & rounding up)  They would need 26 synods to hit 40% of 65.

So-

Are the folks pleading for Mr. Schmelling incapable of good research, or are they being disingenuous?  In either case, is there a reason to believe them?  Luke 16:10 comes to mind.

Matt Hummel+

Without actually looking at synod membership numbers myself, I would suspect that out of the total ELCA membership, 40% of that total comes from those 22 synods.  For the sake of easy math... if we have 5 million in the ELCA (5 million is easier to deal with than 4.82 or whatever the actual number is), then those 22 synods have 2 million members.  The other 43 synods have the remaining 3 million.
Rev. Keith Falk, STS

Eric_Swensson

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2007, 09:06:43 AM »
Jeffrey Spencer writes (re a communication from the Good Soil organization):
What we're seeing (I got the letter and accompanying newsletter too) are the machinations of a well-oiled political spin machine.

I ponder:
And what would one call the messages from those organizations that oppose any change in ELCA policies on the matter under discussion?

What messages opposing changes have been mailed to all delegates?  Who funded them? 

Grace & Peace
Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN

First, in respose ot what someone wrote a few posts back, I think a reasonable person must make a clear distiction between a reform group and "activists." Sure Lutheran CORE and LCNA both organize and as part of that solicit funds, but one is trying to keep the church to our received Christian faith and hold to policies that reflect it, where as the latter's sole purpose is to change a policy.

To answer the question where does the LCNA money come from, how can anyone forget the campaign to raise $2,000,000 that we got tipped to in Lent 2006. A letter was sent around to friendly activists written by the pastor of http://www.trinitylowereastside.org/ which was signed by our former bishop, Barbara Lundblad and others.

BTW, WAN annual budget is less than most congregations with one pastor.

Erma_S._Wolf

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Re: The Battle Lines are Drawn
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2007, 09:26:58 AM »
Jeffrey Spencer writes (re a communication from the Good Soil organization):
What we're seeing (I got the letter and accompanying newsletter too) are the machinations of a well-oiled political spin machine.

I ponder:
And what would one call the messages from those organizations that oppose any change in ELCA policies on the matter under discussion?

Why, Pastor Austin!  I had no idea you thought so highly of Lutheran CORE (et al)!  "Well-oiled political spin machine."  Granted, I would have preferred "dedicated (and humble) servants and protectors of Christian truth as revealed in Scripture and Lutheran Confessions", but the times being what they are, we'll take what recognition and credit we can get. 

Erma Wolf
vice chair, Lutheran CORE steering committee