Author Topic: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Curtis  (Read 3720 times)

Richard Johnson

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What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Curtis
« on: December 18, 2004, 09:48:00 AM »
What's Wrong with Local Option

(An On-line Forum Letter article)

There is a lot of talk these days about “local option” as a salutary and perhaps satisfactory way out of the ELCA’s sexuality dilemma. In fact, local option is the worst possible outcome for pastoral ministry.  I think that the malaise people are talking about is coming from the subliminal knowledge that local option changes everything for everyone, if it were to be adopted, and is as much a total change as changing the policy for everyone openly and up front would be but without the honesty of it.

For instance, if there is local option, then no pastor has the support of the larger church to decline when asked to bless a same-sex relationship, since the larger church will have declared such blessings to be perfectly fine.

What about congregations who will take local option to require their clergy to engage in such blessings on behalf of the church and as a visible representation of God's approval of the relationship?  Think of the effect on the call process? We immediately have not one roster, but two.

Congregations will be required under local option, as the matter comes up, to make decisions in council or congregational meetings about whether or not they will allow such blessings to take place.  As if the pastor doesn't have enough on his or her plate already, the division in this one congregation will be replicated in the next one to which he/she is called.

As people change their minds on issues and switch sides, congregations are likely to do exactly that, and the personnel matters and the ability to then, without clear agreement and direction from the larger church, engage in recurring conflict are quite serious.

As it is now, in ordination and call, I am to preach, teach, confirm, baptize, marry, and bury.  I am required to do those things for anyone in the community who meets the criteria of the church for that act.  I am not required to do any of these things for just anyone, but if they are a member of the congregation, I am.  In the matter of marriage, if the criteria for a safe marriage is present, I am required to marry people.

If I started not marrying people in the congregation due to my local option, rather than in extreme circumstances (which I have never had) then the congregation would be in an uproar.

So sooner or later, if blessing same-sex unions is local option someone has to define WHO gets to do the opting about what the leadership will do and for how long a time period and where they will and won't do it. I think the assumption is that it will be the pastor's sole call, and thus it only roils the waters for a single person, and it looks neat and tidy.

But that is not at all clear.  In any case, local option guarantees adding an area of conflict within a congregation, focused on actions of leadership on its behalf, and divides us from one another and one roster of ministry.

Pr. Nancy E. Curtis

Copyright ©2004 ALPB




« Last Edit: February 12, 2005, 02:09:47 PM by roj »
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2004, 10:48:51 AM »
Quote
As it is now, in ordination and call, I am to preach, teach, confirm, baptize, marry, and bury.  I am required to do those things for anyone in the community who meets the criteria of the church for that act.  I am not required to do any of these things for just anyone, but if they are a member of the congregation, I am.  In the matter of marriage, if the criteria for a safe marriage is present, I am required to marry people.


In terms of marriage, we already operate with "local option". The ELCA does not say who I have to marry. The ELCA does not say which relationships I cannot bless.

I think that we are "required to marry" members just as we are "required to confirm" members. Each congregation and pastor can set standards for marriage or confirmation for that local congregation. Some congregations require one year of catechetical classes, others may have up to nine years.

A pastor in my conference requires at least seven meetings before he will marry members. He does not do outside weddings. If members don't meet his requirements, (which include homework assignments,) they don't get married in the church. My requirements are not nearly so rigid. I imagine that what Pr. Curtis or Pr. Johnson require in terms of confirmation and marriages are different from what I do.

We already have local options in these areas and they are not church dividing.
"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]

Norsk

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2004, 01:49:03 PM »
At the risk of stating the complete obvious, each pastor's (or congregation's) choices regarding standards for pre-marital counseling or catechetical instruction are manifestly adiaphora.  There is no scriptural guidance on the question of whether one, three or seven pre-marital instruction sessions are most appropriate or beneficial.  Your so-called local option on these matters is not church-dividing because the substance of those questions does not involve anything that would be church-dividing.  It is a flawed analogy.

In any event, it is not the local option which would be church dividing.  Rather, it would be the church's decision to permit teaching that many understand to be at variance with Scripture (and tradition, if that is your predilection) that would be church-dividing.  This is equally true if the novel teaching is mandatory or optional.

ltss3yr2

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2004, 06:16:05 PM »
Brian mistakes local option for discretion.  Confirmation is not a local option.  It is something to which one is called and one is mandated to perform it if all the proper critera are met.  So the congregation cannot, for instance, decide that others than their pastor shall marry within that congregation.  That would abrogate the call.  The pastor cannot decide that he/she will not confirm under any circumstances.  That would abrogate the call.
    Thus, if the church decides that one may indeed in any place in the ELCa marry same-sex couples, then that is quite different from deciding whom to marry and whom to confirm within the parameters of call.  
  The problems I predict would indeed exist, and immediately, too.  Brian compares apples and oranges.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2004, 08:20:43 PM »
What would you say that we have now in the ELCA concerning the blessing of same-sex unions? I am calling it "local option," because whether or not a pastor blesses such relationships is at the discretion of the pastor (and congregation). There is nothing in ELCA documents that require a pastor to bless them nor anything that prohibits a pastor from blessing them. Thus, my original point was that in terms of blessing same-sex unions, we already have "local option."

In practice, local option has already taken place concerning non-compliant congregations and clergy. In some cases, bishops have not evoked the disciplinary process, and in others they have.
"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]

Norsk

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2004, 05:25:16 AM »
No, what we have is unwillingness consistently to enforce the Church's teaching on human sexual relationships.  The protestations of ELCA leadership notwithstanding, we DO have a policy on human sexuality and it has been unchanged since the time of St. Paul.

That said, it is also worth noting that the problems identified with formalized local option by Pr. Nancy would not arise in the sort of de facto local option described by Brian.  The latter is driven mainly by activist pastors in activist congregations.  It is largely "self contained" within a like-thinking community.  The problems identified by Pr. Nancy will arise when pastors and congregations across the broader church are forced by an institutional policy pronouncement to "choose sides".

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2004, 08:08:45 AM »
Quote
No, what we have is unwillingness consistently to enforce the Church's teaching on human sexual relationships.  The protestations of ELCA leadership notwithstanding, we DO have a policy on human sexuality and it has been unchanged since the time of St. Paul.

We DO NOT have a policy concerning the blessing of same-sex unions. This is stated clearly in JTF2:

"The ELCA has no policy on the blessing of same-sex unions. In 1993 the Conference of Bishops stated that they did not approve an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of same-sex unions because they found no basis for it in the Bible or in tradition. Statements of the bishops do not establish policy for the church but do shape its understandings and practice."

Under our present policy, officiating at such a blessing cannot be grounds for disciplining a pastor. At the same time, refusing to officiate at such a blessing is not grounds for discipling.

Our policy does allow for discipline against a congregation who calls a non-rostered person. Our policy does allow for discipline against a rostered person who is in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. If you are saying that the ELCA does not consistently enforce those rules, I might agree with you. In regards to our pastors blessing (or not blessing) same-sex unions, the ELCA has no rules. (Although individual pastors and or congregations may have their own rules about such blessings.)
"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]

Dan

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2004, 12:47:29 PM »
An LCMS pastor, now sainted, would marry any couple who came to him and asked for it.  No counseling was involved.  "Since when has marriage been a sacrament in the Lutheran Church for which one has to prepare?"  It has absolutely nothing to do with one's salvation.  It's solely in the realm of God's Left hand Kingdom--a function of government which in the case of most if not all US states permits ministers to act in the name of the state.
It seems that in the minds many, marriage has moved into the realm of a sacrament or at least a "quasi" one.  Maybe the Church should bow out of marrying or blessing couples altogether and leave both to the state.

baksd

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2004, 01:10:28 PM »
In marriage do not the two become one flesh?  Are they not united as Christ and His Church are united?  If this is not sacramental, then certainly we are not paying attention to the Scriptures.  Indeed, as the common service states, what GOD has joined together, let no man put asunder.  This is a godly estate, as our confessions teach us, one that has God's Word on its side and is not a human invention or institution.  From the first Adam and his bride Eve to the second Adam and His bride, the Church, marriage is portrayed as a holy thing, a mystery in which the two involved partake in the mystery of our God.  I don't know that we should be so quick at throwing such a sacred thing out of the Church entirely.  

baksd

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2004, 01:16:07 PM »
And in response to BS's reply to Norsk, it seems to me that what Norsk was implying is that if we still take our norm of faith and life from the Scriptures (and I hope and believe we do) then we DO have a policy regarding same sex unions, since the Scriptures testify to this and Tradition attests to it as well, regardless of what JTF2 states.  

buechler

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2004, 01:32:19 PM »
 :'(What is wrong with Local Option? I wasn't aware that the Scriptures or the Confessions subscribe to the idea that obedience to God's word is optional. That is what is wrong with local option.

As for the ELCA not having a policy about sexual behavior whether it be heterosexual or not is tripe. What in the world can "Visions and Expectations" be called? Why were seminarians told they had to observe this (when I was at seminary) because it is current policy?

However, one other thing needs saying: "To have no policy is to HAVE a policy." In other words, we are now being told we have "freedom" to do as we like sexually. To paraphrase from Saint Paul, why don't they go the whole way and simply say: "We believe in absolute sexual hedonism."


Brian Stoffregen

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2004, 03:36:22 PM »
The topic I've been addressing is whether or not an ELCA pastor can bless a same-sex union. There is nothing in V&E to prohibit that. There are prohibitions against a pastor being in a same-sex relationship -- or even an other-sex relatinoship without marriage.

There is almost nothing in scriptures in regards to a marriage rite. In fact, the OT does not have a word for marriage. One indication of this is that the Greek words for marriage used in the NT, gameo, gamizo, gamisko, are not used in the LXX of the Hebrew Bible.

In terms of pastors officiating at marriage (or unions), there is nothing in the Bible that address that role.
"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]

Norsk

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2004, 03:51:42 PM »
Yes, baksd, that was where I was headed, although you stated it rather more eloquently.  Another way of making the same point is that if the ELCA still is a Nicaean church, then we most certainly do have "policies" on those matters on which the historical understanding of Scripture is unambiguous, even if not addressed by our Confessions, consititutional documents and convention resolutions.  

It is interesting to note, with regard to the ELCA's "we have no policy (ie history and tradition means nothing)" posture, that one of the major defenses of the catholicity of the Lutheran reformers was that they rejected nothing in tradition that did not conflict with Scripture.  The contrast between then and now is glaring.

buechler

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2004, 06:19:11 PM »
The issue is not if the scripture says anything about a marriage rite. The issue is if Scripture, tradition(confessions) say anything about marriage. Because they do, and Jesus is quite clear (as is Paul, Peter, etal) that marriage is between a man and a woman, and no other; therefore no pastor can preside at a "marriage" of homosexuals or incestual heterosexuals or beastial relations.

V@E speaks to sexual behavior. Since only married, monogamous, heterosexual unions are viewed as valid grounds for sexual activity, no pastor can preside at a "marriage" ceremony for gay/lesbian couples without also violating at least the spirit of this policy.

That is why we need to be clear. Marriage rites are not the issue. Presiding at that which cannot be defined as marriage is. That cannot be done, and we do have policies against such things for some two millenia.

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Re: What's Wrong with Local Option by Pr. Nancy Cu
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2004, 08:08:54 PM »
What are pastors doing when they "bless" something? Our Occasional Services Book has a "General Order of Blessing" and "Blessing of a Dwelling". Although not in the book, some pastors will bless pets. Some will not. (Sounds like a "local option" blessing, but not church dividing.) How is something or someone who is liturgically blessed different than the same thing or person who is not?
"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]