Author Topic: Raising an Ebenezer at the church of her (March, 2005)  (Read 31194 times)

Richard Johnson

  • ALPB Administrator
  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 10584
  • Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    • View Profile
Raising an Ebenezer at the church of her (March, 2005)
« on: March 02, 2005, 04:46:38 PM »
Raising an Ebenezer at the church of her
(March 2005)
by Richard O. Johnson, associate editor
Copyright 2005 Americzn Lutheran Publicity Bureau. All rights reserved.
 
In Forum Letter’s December issue, we included Pr. Marshall Hahn’s report on a pair of Episcopal clergy in Pennsylvania who achieved notoriety when it became known they were also priests of the ancient pagan religion of Druidry (“Christians 2—Druids 0”). Of course, as Mom used to say, when you point a finger at someone else, three are pointing back to you. Fittingly, we recently came upon the website of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation. Frankly, it makes Druidry look rather traditional.

A new form of church
The congregation is Ebenezer Lutheran Church in San Francisco, a fine old historic place, the “mother church” of the Augustana Synod on the Pacific coast. Like many urban congregations, Ebenezer has seen better days. Baptized membership is reported in the low 60s, down from over 600 twenty years ago, making it the smallest ELCA congregation in the City by the Bay, with the exception of a predominantly Hispanic group in the Mission District. But, as their web page proudly states, “a new form of church is happening at Ebenezer,” and it gives a whole new meaning to the concept of “mother church.” Under the leadership of Pr. Stacy Boorn, it centers around “a lively, engaging, thoroughly inclusive and feminist service of worship.” This group is “a diverse community” (well, as diverse as an average attendance of 30 can be) “standing firmly within the Christian tradition in order to reconstruct the divine by reclaiming her feminine persona in thealogy [sic], liturgy, church structure, art, language, practices, leadership, and acts of justice.”

Even though the feminist stuff gets the lead on the web page, a closer reading suggests that the “feminist liturgy” is only offered on the first Sunday of the month. Of course “all other worship events are inclusive, diverse, and dynamic” — not that we had any doubts about that. And just in case you were wondering, the congregation is “Reconciling in Christ” with links to Lutherans Concerned, the Lutheran gay lobbying outfit.

Goddess beads
What, you ask, might it mean for a congregation to “stand firmly within the Christian tradition”?

One answer comes into view when you read about the brand new worship event beginning this month, the Goddess Rosary prayer service. Each Wednesday evening the sanctuary will be open for prayer and meditation. Not only will there be “candles to light and bells to ring,” but they will make available Goddess Rosary Beads and booklets with Christian Goddess prayers. Each quarter hour there will be a “community spoken Goddess Rosary.” It goes in part like this:

Hail Goddess full of grace.
Blessed are you and blessed are all the
fruits of your womb.
For you are the MOTHER of us all.
Hear us now and in all our needs.
Blessed be!


Now we have never been especially attracted to the Rosary, not even to the various attempts to make it ecumenically acceptable to Protestants. But then we don’t have any congenital apprehension about it, either. If rosary beads help one pray, then we’re for it — with one caveat, of course, which is that prayers advertised as being “within the Christian tradition” ought to be somewhere in the neighborhood of the actual tradition being claimed.

But that does not seem to be the thrust of Ebenezer’s “new form of church.” Here God is the Eternal Feminine, the Divine Mother, ready to cater to our every whim. Here’s a lovely prayer by Miriam Therese Winter: “Our Mother who is within us, we celebrate your many names. Your wisdom come, your will be done unfolding from the depths within us . . .” Well, you get the idea. (Miriam Therese Winter, by the way, is the ex-nun feminist spiritual advisor who convinced Hillary Clinton to role-play Eleanor Roosevelt while she was First Lady. It was a stress reliever from Whitewater, Monicagate, her husband’s impeachment trial, and all that.)

The will of ourselves
“Within us,” of course, is exactly the root of the problem with all of this. We human beings want a deity whose will unfolds from within ourselves. Makes it easier to follow that way, huh? Safely encapsulated within our own identity, this deity is very accommodating, affirming everything we think we are. We want a deity who is like us, a reflection of us. We don’t want Incarnation so much as our own divinization, on our own terms. We want a divine being with “many names.” We’ll pick the one that works best for us. We don’t want the stodgy old God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That God is, like, you know, way, way retro. Especially, we suppose, in California.

And so let’s find a different god, or goddess, or godthing. The web site contains a poem that seems to speak to that desire. Mother God begins “God to me / Is my dark-haired mother, / Stroking my forehead / As she lullabies me to sleep.” A colleague remarked after reading it, “This is great news! I can generally get anything I want from my mom!”

Divinely humorous
There is a highly precise and technical theological term for this human view of God. The word is “idolatry.” But in the ELCA, as in most American churches these days, we are not prepared to use it. Nor do we use “heresy,” because nobody believes in heresy anymore, and “flakiness” is regarded as impolite. So we prefer to speak about “contextualization” and “niches” and “theological exploration” and “spiritual journey,” and the like. Well, as God once said through the psalmist with surprised incredulity, “You thought that I was one just like yourself!” (Psalm 50:21).

For further information, and directions to Ebenezer, we urge you to visit their website, the aptly named <www.herchurch.org>. When you do visit, remember, a sense of humor is crucial. We recommend keeping in mind another psalm: “He who sits in the heavens
laughs.” (Psalm 2:4)

Copyright 2005 ALPB. All rights reserved
« Last Edit: June 02, 2007, 04:58:44 PM by Richard Johnson »
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Brian Hughes

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2005, 04:22:40 PM »
Richard,

I think your article is wonderful.  I also think there's probably a whole 'nother aspect to humor going on here:  Could she be your synod's secret weapon against declining congregations?  Given her track record, maybe she was sent there to make sure the place "just went away."  Then the property could be sold, other dying ministries can be funded for a few more years, etc.  In other words, who's the real target audience of this joke?   :-)

Brian

G.Edward

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2005, 05:38:02 PM »
How does a person who would lead a circus like this ever get through the candidacy process?  Seems more like UU than ELCA.  

Brian Hughes

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2005, 04:05:49 AM »

> How does a person who would lead a circus like this ever get through the candidacy process?  


   The more appropriate question might be, "How coiuld her bishop allow this to go on?"

  Which helps us circle back to the recent  response (posted elsewhere on alpb) by the group of serious theologians.  When there are no policies and procedures guiding the overall understandings of what it is to be ordained in this church, (ie; local option), this is what will happen.

   I plan to copy off sections of this webpage as a "See, this is where it will lead" learning tool about the sexuality recommendations.  Also, you should call up Christ Church in San Francisco and copy off the first page of their webpage.  Steve Sabin was removed from the clergy roster in Iowa.  Do your own research, but after leaving his wife and family and coming out, his home synod released him from the ELCA - as a result of a trial.  Think that one through.  Members of this church had to go through the trauma of such an event and yet there he is serving as a pastor of an ELCA congregation.

http://www.christchurchlutheran.org/

   Ross Merkel was removed from the roster of the ELCA when he came out at St. Paul Lutheran in Oakland, yet there he is serving as their pastor to this day.  Scroll down the page:

http://www.gamaliel.org/Affiliates/California/occ/OCCboard.htm

   BTW,  as an aside, if baptisms are performed by either of these two defrocked pastors still serving ELCA congregations, would those baptisms be recognized by the universal church?  Hmmm ...


   Anyway, in response to your question, we shouldn't be so naive about what's really happening in some corners of the ELCA - regardless of what happens this summer.  The vote won't change Ebenezer, Christ Lutheran or St. Paul.  Unless, as a  result, pastors and congregations in that synod confront the growing mess out there.
 
Brian
 

DanTC56

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2005, 12:03:59 PM »
In regards to your aside Brian,I believe that the baptism is considered valid as long as the Triune Formula is used--baptizing the child with water in the name of the Father,the Son,and the Holy Spirit. I believe that I read somewhere that even baptisms performed by heretics using the Triune Formula are considered valid. Or am I wrong....? Anyone ??

Richard Johnson

  • ALPB Administrator
  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 10584
  • Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    • View Profile
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2005, 01:03:02 PM »
Quote

>
   BTW,  as an aside, if baptisms are performed by either of these two defrocked pastors still serving ELCA congregations, would those baptisms be recognized by the universal church?  Hmmm ...

 


Assuming the baptisms were done with water, and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the answer is "yes, of course." The efficacy of the sacrament does not depend on the morality or the status of the administrator of the sacrament.

This was pretty much settled during the Donatist controversy, I believe.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2005, 01:03:51 PM by roj »
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 44298
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2005, 02:34:54 PM »
Quote


Assuming the baptisms were done with water, and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the answer is "yes, of course." The efficacy of the sacrament does not depend on the morality or the status of the administrator of the sacrament.

This was pretty much settled during the Donatist controversy, I believe.

It was settled then, but is in a flux now. The Mormons use water and the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." (For them "Holy Ghost" is different than "Holy Spirit.") There are questions about whether or not that is Christian baptism and whether or not Mormons need to be baptized in a Christian church when they convert.

Principle 24 of The Use of the Means of Grace states:
Holy Baptism is administered with water in the name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism into the name of the triune God involves confessing and teaching the doctrine and meaning of the Trinity. The baptized are welcomed into the body of Christ. This is the community which lives from "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit . . . ."
While uses the language of the Trinity, the Mormons do not "confess" or "teach" the doctrine and meaning of the Trinity -- at least not the orthodox position of mainline Christians.
"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]

Gladfelteri

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2005, 05:52:40 PM »
Quote
I believe that I read somewhere that even baptisms performed by heretics using the Triune Formula are considered valid. Or am I wrong....? Anyone ??

Who said that Mormons were heretics or even apostates?  Mormons are, in my humble opinion and that of a great many scholars of comparitive religion, a non-Christian polytheistic faith with most of the characteristics of a cult.

Gladfelteri

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2005, 05:55:02 PM »
Quote
The Mormons use water and the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." (For them "Holy Ghost" is different than "Holy Spirit.") There are questions about whether or not that is Christian baptism and whether or not Mormons need to be baptized in a Christian church when they convert.
.

In addition to the Baptisms being done in water, and in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, isn't there also supposed to be the intent on the part of the officiant to be administering Christian Baptism?  

Since Mormonism is a polytheistic non-Christian religion, how can the officiant be intending to administer Christian Baptism?  Considering the doctrines taught by Mormonism and contained in their sacred books like "Doctrine and Covenants" and "The Pearl of Great Price," there is no way Mormonism is Christian.  Therefore I do not consider their Baptisms valid and do, in fact require Mormon converts to be re-baptized.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2005, 03:19:42 PM by Gladfelteri »

DanTC56

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2005, 08:25:04 PM »
Good points to consider, Fr.Irl...didn't think of them. Thanks for the insight.....

Richard Johnson

  • ALPB Administrator
  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 10584
  • Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    • View Profile
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 200
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2005, 05:49:24 AM »
Quote

Who said that Mormons were heretics or even apostates?  Mormons are, in my humble opinion and that of a great many scholars of comparitive religion, a non-Christian polytheistic faith with most of the characteristics of a cult.


And for me, that would be the issue. The defrocked pastors may or may not be heretics or apostates. They may simply be Christians who have been misled on an issue of sexual ethics. Be that as it may, I would assume that, if they baptized with water and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, their INTENTION is Christian baptism, however mistaken their teaching about sexuality (or anything else) may be.

Mormons, as pointed out, are not in that camp, IMHO.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Gladfelteri

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2005, 03:22:49 PM »
As far as the defrocked Pastors are concerned, I certainly would accept Baptisms performed by them as long as they used water and the Trinitarian formula as Christian Baptisms.  To not do so would be to slipinto the Donatist heresy.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2005, 03:24:06 PM by Gladfelteri »

Brian Hughes

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2005, 05:15:23 PM »

 Yes, I'm familiar with the Donatist heresy and the outcome.  Augustine left us with ex opere operato instead of ex opere operantis.  But in order to dance a few times on the head of that pin ... 1) It wasn't until the Council of Trent in 1547 that Augustine's insight was officially written into canon and 2) The issue we are facing today is (I believe) a different concern.

  At the time, Donatus was primarily unhappy with priests who had denied Christ in order to save their skin.  OK, once the political climate changed, former denying priests wanted their life back in the church.  The super-pious martyr wing wasn't so sure about their entree'.

   OK, so here's the rub: at any point during the rise of the original Donatist position, were the Donatists dealing with priests who had been defrocked  - an action of the church to remove their standing as priests?  For example, and for the sake of discussion, if the Roman Catholic Church today were to defrock a priest, would he be allowed to conduct baptisms using a font located inside one of their sanctuaries?  Why or why not?   What if said defrocked priest conducted a series of baptisms at the local river or in a neighborhood pool, would these baptisms have standing in their church?  Would the local parish or Bishop recognize these sacramental acts by said defrocked priest?

  If the answer is "yes", then we're done with all this and I guess it's OK to have defrocked pastors leading our congregations and engaging in Word and Sacrament ministries.

  If the answer is "no" to any of the above Roman Catholic senarios,  then we have not fully answered the question concerning baptisms in the Sierra Pacific Synod.  Will the universal church accept as valid baptisms performed by pastors who have been defrocked by their larger church?  Probably not something in BEM, but it makes for interesting conversation considering the LWF was a participant in that document.

 AND since this whole topic started with Ebenezer, do we know what formula is being used there?  Reading the webpage, Orthodox Trinitarian theology seems less obvious than godess imagery.

Brian
Musings on a Sunday evening.

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 44298
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2005, 08:41:24 PM »
Quote

What if said defrocked priest conducted a series of baptisms at the local river or in a neighborhood pool, would these baptisms have standing in their church?  Would the local parish or Bishop recognize these sacramental acts by said defrocked priest?

The first pastor at a church I served was "defrocked" -- or at least "derostered" in a predecessor body. When he was removed, he started his own independent Lutheran congregation. He did baptisms and communions and weddings. In his mind, he was still an ordained Lutheran minister. He attended the local ministerial association. Wore a collar. The independent church at folded by the time I came to the area. Some of the members were at my church. I considered their baptisms valid. In fact, that "pastor" turned over his parish records from the independent church to me.
"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]

Gladfelteri

  • Guest
Re: Raising an Ebenezer (Part 2)  (March, 2005)
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2005, 12:41:46 PM »
Quote

The first pastor at a church I served was "defrocked" -- or at least "derostered" in a predecessor body. When he was removed, he started his own independent Lutheran congregation. He did baptisms and communions and weddings. In his mind, he was still an ordained Lutheran minister. He attended the local ministerial association. Wore a collar. The independent church at folded by the time I came to the area. Some of the members were at my church. I considered their baptisms valid. In fact, that "pastor" turned over his parish records from the independent church to me.

These Baptisms would certainly be recognized as valid Christian baptisms in my Denomination.   The fact that he would be considered by some to be schismatic is irrelevant. I would simply consider him the Pastor of an Independent Lutheran Parish.  After all, a great many of the microsynods have been started by pastors in the same situation as the one you describe.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2005, 12:45:29 PM by Gladfelteri »