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Pr Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop of the ELCA, interview on ABC America

Prior to Pr Elizabeth Eaton’s installation as Bishop of the ELCA in Chicago this weekend (recorded here), she gave an interview on America’s ABC TV network.  She touched on a number of topics but describes a Lutheran Church which reflects God’s unconditional embrace of everyone. We believe that the LCA is also called to witness to this astounding love and grace for all people.

Some of the interview is transcribed below.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America not only welcomes paradox (but) we embrace (it). We realise that God has created an incredibly diverse world and that diversity is a kind of a beauty and so we’re a church where everyone is welcome, we would say.  We also hold fast to this notion … that we’re loved by a God who wants to lavishly, unconditionally love every one of us. …  Since we have been loved in this way we are free then to love the world and serve the world. …

We believe that God loves us unconditionally.  God does not love us (as the Billy Joel song says) “Just the way we are”, God wants to call the best out of us.  And so in that freedom we think that we can take controversial decisions…When we say we welcome everyone, I think that’s very important. It was a costly decision for us (ordaining gay and lesbian pastors) but if it is the right decision then no cost is too high. But when we say we welcome everyone we also welcome those who disagrees with that decision.  They are fully members of our Church because we can agree on the cross of Jesus Christ. …

Lutherans have a specific way of reading the Bible.  We are not Biblical literalists – I mean, there are different lists of disciples, the mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed and it doesn’t mean that our Lord didn’t know what he was talking about, but whatever shows forth God’s love as it was revealed in Jesus Christ, that’s what key.  There’s a lot of stuff that is not as important.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Hermeneutics, sociology, theology

 

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ELCA Elects Their First Female National Bishop

Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA's first female national bishop

Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA‘s first female national bishop

From Huff Post

From all accounts Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA is a remarkable and extraordinary pastoral leader.  It is thus very surprising that Elizabeth Eaton, current Bishop of Cleveland, has been appointed as Bishop of the ELCA by an astounding margin and is the ELCA’s first female national bishop. Elizabeth Eaton won the vote 600 to 287.

The USA now has a female as bishop of the Episcopal Church and ELCA, which are in full communion with each other.  It is heartening to know these significant churches have wisdom to embrace change and thus offer a prophetic voice to the world.

The LCA, meanwhile, is in the formative moments of a genuine conversation on women’s ordination, after installing Bishop John Henderson.  The Bishop is meeting with St Stephen’s congregation this Sunday afternoon at 1pm (Sunday 18th August, 2013), Wakefield St, Adelaide, SA.

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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in women's ordination

 

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Changing Church: Rev. Lori Eickmann from the ELCA

Rev. Lori Eickmann

Gather together 100 women from the LCA, ensuring that you have sampled younger generations, and listen to stories.  Some no doubt will be full of praise, but stay a while and listen to the stories of hurt, being dismissed and being sidelined.  Listen as they relate how men were lifted up for service and leadership, while their skills were overlooked in favour of more men.

It’s not just an LCA issue.  Mainstream Christian religion still struggles with finding a place for women beyond that of the kitchen.  Even those Australian denominations that do ordain women, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America still have ample stories of the glass ceiling for women.

Rev Lori Eickmann of the ELCA knows the story well, but she is grounded in the Bible and knows the discrimination does not arise from there.

From jannaldredgeclanton.com April 23, 2013

Church tradition has forgotten, ignored or repressed the feminine images of the Holy that are present in the Bible. The truth of inclusive language for the Divine is biblical. We risk impairing the witness of the good news of Jesus Christ when we try to keep God in a box. Also, female imagery for God is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition Woman Wisdom in the Old Testament and Jesus as Sophia’s—Wisdom’s—prophet or Sophia incarnate in the New Testament. Someone once said that the exclusive use of masculine names and imagery for God is the Golden Calf of this century. We must teach people that the Divine Feminine is reality and truth, and justice will flow. …

Lori’s story in Birthing God (Lana Dalberg, Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divineincludes this excerpt: “I felt invisible, there in church. Maybe it was because I had children—one son and one daughter—and I was seeing the world through their eyes. I had to notice that the world offers a God who, as someone wrote, ‘is somehow more like my father, husband and brother than like me.’ I began to ache for all the daughters who couldn’t see themselves reflected in the Divine. I ached for them and for myself, because I knew we were created in God’s image, but mainstream Christian religion seemed unwilling to admit that” (San Jose Mercury News, May 2, 1998).   (Lori’s story is found here)

via Changing Church: Rev. Lori Eickmann, Intentional Interim Pastor, Sierra Pacific Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

 

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Elizabeth Platz – The ELCA’s first female pastor celebrates 40 years

Pr. Elizabeth Platz on her ordination       www.elca.org/archives

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Platz is celebrating 40 years of ordained ministry in the ELCA on Nov 22, 2010.  She has served her entire ministry at University of Maryland campus pastor.

“I came to it slowly,” she said. “Never underestimate the persistence of God.”

Another link to Elizabeth A. Platz and the anniversary.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on November 3, 2010 in politics, sociology

 

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Guest Post by Rev. David R. Froemming from the ELCA

The following is a sermon given on Good Friday, 2010 by Rev. David R.. Froemming.

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The cross reveals 1) our violence, (not God’s!) 2) and God’s love for us revealed in Jesus Christ.

An implication of this is that the exclusion of women, or any group for that matter, is rooted in our violence, and are not part of who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ.

John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

We held our palms this past Sunday, as did the crowds that greeted Jesus when he entered Jerusalem. But historically, these palms were symbols of military victory for the Jewish people. The palms were not some nice gesture on the part of the crowd that day. The crowd hated living under Roman rule, and was filled with hopes of Jesus being their military liberator. The Jewish people would have remembered what was written concerning the Maccabean Revolt, less than 200 years earlier, when the Seleucid Empire’s ruler defiled the temple in Jerusalem, and slaughtered villages of people. A fighter by the name of Judah Maccabees led an armed revolt and defeated the Seleucid soldiers in Jerusalem. In the First Book of Maccabees, chapter 13:51, we find written:
On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred and seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.
The palms are symbols of violent conflict. The people have totally misunderstood what kind of kingdom that is was Jesus proclaimed. Pilate totally misunderstood Jesus. John 18:33-36 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” And today, one needs to ask the same question – do we understand what kind of kingdom that it was Jesus proclaimed?
It was not a kingdom built upon violence that Jesus proclaimed. The disciples did not understand this. Recall, what happened as the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. John 18:10-11 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Do we understand this? Do we understand that the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed is not built upon violence? This is the judgment that John’s Gospel is speaking of when it says, Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. Jesus is speaking of his crucifixion as the revelation that our world is built upon violence.
God’s son came as a loving servant among us, and we nailed him to a tree. We nailed him to a tree – for the entire world to see – our sin exposed – our violent ways captured and told in the gospel.
Like Cain, who killed his brother Able, we are caught in a world of violence and we do not know how to end this cycle of violence. Genesis 4:8-9, Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” We like Cain, try to hide and deny, how we are caught up in the violence of this world.
In his meditation on the cross Martin Luther reminds us that unless we realize that we are totally capable and responsible for the violent ways that nailed Jesus to the cross, we have not grasped the crucifixion. The cross of Jesus has exposed the ways of Cain; the ways of human violence, and our acceptance of its use.
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
Jesus knew our violent ways, and knew that he would die. Prophets foretold it. For the prophets knew the violence of the people as well. But do we know this? Do we understand that the cross of Jesus has exposed our violence? Or,– like Cain – try to hide, reaching for some images of a warrior god, to hide behind, like many do from the Old testament, in order to justify today’s violence in the world?
Are not we followers of Jesus? Why do we look away from the cross? Have others misdirected us away from the cross and the judgment it has passed on our violent world?
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
We are now in the judgment – and the biblical word for judgment is (crisis). We are in a crisis of ongoing violence. And the violence is not God’s – the violence and the acceptance of violence springs from us. And now God – with Son on cross – has revealed who we really are. The cross is the truth about us. Without this cross we are like Cain, still in denial; still hiding; still on the run, with no escape.
Our world has heard too little of the cross. Too often we have reduced God to morality lessons. Too often we have wrapped god into our causes to conceal our anger and violence. Jesus died on the cross to save the world from the concealment and denial of its own violence; violence that never brings lasting peace, nor life, but only death. Behold the cross of Jesus, it really is our salvation.
Jesus knows us. Jesus knows us. And yet, and yet, he loves us; he loves us. Jesus loves us, and will not let us live a lie like Cain – doomed to live a life on the run – on the run from our violence; violence that cannot deliver us, nor ever save us. Behold the cross of Jesus, it is our judgment and our salvation. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Amen.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

High stakes in October 2018 at the LCA General Convention

Women’s ordination is again on the agenda at the LCA national general convention in Sydney (Oct 2018).  It’s been around for generations and has repeatedly been turned down, needing to achieve two-thirds of the vote at General Convention.

While many have already left the LCA in search of a more tolerant and inclusive denomination there may be huge ramifications in October if the LCA again refuses to ordain women.

When Lutheran school teachers from Australia and NZ met in Adelaide (2017), one of the guest speakers was Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber from the ELCA (USA).   She was an inspirational speaker, providing encouragement for those struggling to remain within this denomination that has persisted in excluding women from leadership.

It’s humorous to recount that when she visited Australia on an earlier occasion, certain conservative clergy sneered at the thought that Nadia might have something to offer them in the way of preaching.  After all, she’s just a woman.  No, she’s not just a woman. She is a gifted woman with a powerful story, who brings many gifts because she is a woman.   She is a woman who happens to be clergy and she has a well-honed ability to preach the good news of God coming to live amongst us.  Coming to share God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s justice, God’s compassion  – all for those struggling in life in one way or another.

The response to Nadia Bolz-Weber was remarkable.  Many people were moved to tears and after her presentations the applause persisted and persisted. She answered questions that related some despair on the matter of women’s ordination.  No doubt there were individuals present who didn’t believe that women should be ordained, but we believe the response was an indication of what the people of the LCA think.

Australia’s contentious same-sex marriage survey was acted upon by Parliament in 2017.  Majority approval resulted in new legislation – contentious, yes, but that’s how it has to be to retain social stability. The alternatives are abusive and elitist, where those with power rule over those who have been marginalised.

There must be more evident democratic processes within the Church.  The majority view of the people should be enshrined in Church legislation. Currently an oligarchy and less than 40% of those voting at Synod, and logically (and generally speaking) the oldest and most conservative sector of the Church, have imposed their theology and their world view on the rest of the denomination – a recipe for revolution.  While some might argue that we have a theocracy that rules and protects our constitution, this is a fallacious argument as Church funding and the means for its very existence comes from individuals and congregations which ultimately can choose to withdraw that support.

Assuming no change of the voting proportion at the General Convention this year, these are the results of this theocratic gerrymander:

  • young people, other individuals and families gradually disappear from congregations and committees. (It has been happening for a long time.) Gradually, members, along with children and grand-children see no reason to continue to support a denomination that does not reflect God’s love or Biblical scholarship.
  • some progressive Church leaders leave the LCA, unable to remain in a denomination that pays no heed to God’s word on this matter. No one wants to live the rest of their life in a denomination that has lost its way.
  • with the loss of these individuals and families, the Church inevitably becomes more conservative and more out of touch with society.
  • some progressive congregations choose to break away from the LCA, no longer able to support an institution that continues to deny the need for democratic representation.
  • as the Church continues to lean right and away from social norms, rather than having more influence throughout its supposed faithfulness, the Church has less credibility in the manner it attempts to reveal God’s grace.
  • with the continued absence of women from leadership and reinforced male perspectives on relationships and power, the structures of domestic violence are strengthened.
  • women’s voice is reduced at all personal and committee levels of congregations, districts and national governance.
  • women are increasingly confined to gender-roles within the Church as men are lauded and women are disempowered.
  • the Church experiences a pious subjugation of women, with Scripture being used as a tool of subjugation, not dissimilar to the manner in which slavery was justified. Southern Baptist theologies come to mind.
  • general LCA theology leans further to the right on all matters, further alienating members who are engaged with society and grappling with evolving issues of justice and compassion.
  • the ensuing legalism and entrenched conservatism will have the LCA creeping closer to the sect-like Missouri Synod, and further away from the ELCA.
  • the decline of the LCA increases as congregations close.
  • the voice of the LCA becomes less significant on all matters.
  • the LCA becomes a small, insignificant denomination that retains just members who have been indoctrinated into a socially conservative view of the world, such as the Amish or Mennonites.

Without women’s ordination, without engaging with today’s issues and without something a little closer to democratic representation, the death or torpor of the LCA is assured.

On the other hand the LCA might embrace God’s ongoing creation and revelation, ordain women and have a decent go at speaking and living God’s word.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in theology, women's ordination

 

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Bishop Rimbo’s address to the ACCEPTS Conference

Bishop Rimbo, from the New York Metropolitan Synod of the ELCA, was invited to address the ACCEPTS (supportive of GLBTIQ members of the LCA) conference, held at Immanuel Lutheran College, Novar Gardens, South Australia. The address was an hour long so the following text is a huge document.  You will find, however, that the theology is sensible, caring and profound.  Such theology is long overdue in the LCA.

While women’s ordination in the LCA is inevitable, the acceptance and embrace of GLBTIQ members will be slower.  This conference was an important first public step towards that goal.

Bishop Rimbo, from the Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA

The Radical Acceptance of the Gospel

Introduction and Assumption

I am humbled by and grateful for your invitation and for the gracious words of introduction. I am particularly thankful for Kristine Gebbie and Lester Wright, dear friends, who were extraordinarily faithful worshippers at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in New York City where I was pastor for an all-too-brief time before being elected Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod.

I want, also, to introduce my dear spouse Lois whom I had to force to come with me to Australia. We’ve been obsessing on you, reading about you, and delighting in this country and continent. Lois has been a faithful companion and partner for over forty years and I hope you have the opportunity to meet her today.

I want to speak to you today about four things, get you a bit agitated about the Radical Acceptance of the Gospel and perhaps allow some time for questions and reactions. If that doesn’t happen in this hour-or-so, be assured that I will be available to you all day and into this evening. Since Lois and I are relying on Kristine and Les for transportation!

Under the Theme: The Radical Acceptance of the Gospel I will first, briefly, describe what I mean by that word “radical.” Then, I will outline my understanding of Lutheran Hermeneutics – that is, how Lutherans read the Bible. Third, I will share some experience from my own life and that of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which led to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly votes to be radically welcoming – at least officially; you must know that it is not universally true for us – New York City is not Fargo. And then I want to share a particular passage from Scripture which I think should have great, radical meaning for all of us.

Let me share an assumption which you may reject but you are stuck with because I’ve already written my paper.

I think there are people in this room in deep need of the Gospel. In fact, I know it because we all are, all the time, the insiders and the outsiders. So I want to say at the outset, as a card-carrying, creed-believing, confessional Lutheran who is an insider par excellence – a bishop, for heaven’s sake – I want to say how thankful to God I am for you and for your continuing, unfailing witness to the Church and your deep desire to be accepting of all people.. The Church and by that word I mean the whole thing with an upper-case C, has developed a bad habit of talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender people as if they are a problem. So let me say that they are not. Quite the opposite: they have provided the Church with enlightenment, with eye-opening and life-changing examples of Christian courage and grace, and with models of how to live the Christian life under adverse conditions. The Church’s policies and practice – and again, be clear, I’m talking about the capital-C-Church – have been restrictive and exclusive to the point of cruelty. We have told many people who want to give their lives to Christ and the witness of the Church, including the willingness to devote their lives to service as ordained pastors, that they cannot. Their choices or their lifestyle or even the way God has made them are so wrong that we’ve had to erect special barriers to keep them from serving.

The Church’s teaching has downright perverse effects. In my experience, the more LGBTQ people conform to the practices the Church blesses and honors for heterosexuals – like public pledges of fidelity to another person, family commitment to the nurture of children – the less likely it is that they will be gladly invited to work out their discipleship in many Christian congregations.

Yet, here they are, active or eager-to-be-active in the full life of the Church, if only we were a welcome place, if only we were really accepting. They keep on witnessing to the truth of Christ in their lives. They keep on offering help that the Church desperately needs but is too proud or too stubborn to accept. They keep on ministering, with us, to people who have the approval and the privileges that have been denied to them. We can learn to be accepting. So that’s my goal for this address.

Radical

First, that troublesome word “radical.” At least it is troublesome to some folks. I was born in 1950. I’ll give you a few moments to do the math on that. I grew up in the State of Illinois in the flat middle of the United States. We defined ourselves – perhaps you know what I mean – we defined ourselves by what we were not. Not Black, not Mexican, not queer, not Catholic (heaven forbid), not…well, you know what I mean. And certainly not radical. We were good, decent folks there in Lemont, Illinois.

Now that you’ve done your math, you must realize that I grew up in the turbulent 60s. Were they turbulent here, too? And it was in the 60s that I came to know that the word radical has a deeper meaning, from the Latin word for root – which makes it a very good word for us when talking about the foundation of our faith, the root of our tree of beliefs as Christians, the Good News of God reconciling the world through Jesus, the Gospel.

So now I turn to talking about that radical Gospel and how it drives our efforts to be accepting of all people, especially as Lutherans.

Lutheran Hermeneutics

How you read the Bible is always glued to how you think people “get saved.” I think this is a most Luther-an understanding. There are many quotes from Martin Luther to this effect, of which I share only two:

From one of his famous Table Talks: “When I discovered the difference, that God’s Law is one thing and God’s Gospel something else – that was the breakthrough.”

And from his Commentary on Galatians: “I must listen to the Gospel. It tells me not what I must do but what Jesus Christ the Son of God has done for me.”

This radical, fundamental understanding of truth, where the Gospel, the Good News of God’s rescuing all of us through Jesus Christ, is the lens through which we read all of Scripture. It is what gives authority to the Bible because the first and most important definition of the term Word of God is Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen.

So, I want, now, to speak a bit about how Lutherans interpret the Scriptures. What is our hermeneutic.

Lutherans interpret scripture contextually.

We ask about the literary context of the book in which any Scripture passage is found. We ask about the historical context of the situation the passages were intended to address. The biblical perspective on sexuality is decidedly heterosexual. That is not arguable. But how is that perspective to be viewed given our modern understanding of homosexuality?

Lutherans interpret scripture by principle of analogy.

We ask whether situations in the modern world are analogous to those in the biblical world – even if they are not exactly the same. Old and New Testament passages focus on questionable sexual practices which scripture describes as “unnatural.” Given a growing consensus on the nature of sexual orientation, are such practices to be considered “unnatural” for other orientations? Do prescriptive passages apply to these two orientations in the same way? Can they? Should they?

Lutherans interpret scripture in light of scripture.

We try to reconcile what is said in one part of scripture with wat is said in other parts of scripture, so that we can be faithful to the entire Bible.

Lutherans believe in “a canon within the canon.”

We believe that some things in scripture are more important than other things. Jesus gives us principles for determining what is the most important. We believe that Jesus has given the Church the authority to determine which commandments in the Bible apply to us today and which do not. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19) and it’s similar passage in Matthew 18:18 – “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

We exercise this authority responsibly when we follow the guidelines Jesus has given: God prefers mercy to sacrifice (Matthew 9:13; 12:6). The greatest commandment is to love God with one’s whole being, and the second is to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matthew 22:24-40). We are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12). The weightier matters of the law are justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).

There are very few references to homosexual behavior in the Bible; and no references to homosexuality. The Bible speaks nine times more frequently about how we relate to money than on how we relate to sexuality. As an issue or practice it was of minor concern.

What does our being reconciled to God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit mean for us? How radical is that gospel? As I have indicated before, it is interesting, in the context of our society and in a church which is rightfully concerned about the state of marriage, we hardly spend any time talking about the much more strenuous Jesus-of-the-gospel strictures against divorce. I hear people in the homosexual community weep when they talk about the portrayals that demean the quality of their covenanted relationships.

I hear pastors and congregational leaders rejoice in the exemplary grace-filled lives you live. I hear people say that gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered people are exactly the kind of folks they would like to have serve as their pastors.

I hear gay and lesbian people speak with far more clarity about their life in Christ than do those who do not have to defend their very identity.

Let me be clear and bold: I have discovered that there is nothing in the Bible that speaks clearly and directly to this set of issues. There’s some stuff about prostitution, pedophilia, abusive relationships, but there is nothing about homosexuality or about the faithful, committed relationships in which many confessors of Christ find themselves today. I have struggled with our Lutheran confessional writings and have dug deep into Luther’s works and learned that there is great freedom in our communion and that we are called to err on the side of grace at any cost. I have heard the voices of Christians in other parts of the Church. But most importantly, I have spoken with scores of gay and lesbian people and more recently with transgender and bisexual people and I have found them to be, first, followers of Christ. And I would say to you that it was in these conversations that I discovered the broad, high, and deep meaning of what I claim is the theological bottom line of the radical acceptance of the Gospel.

There are theological issues that I believe Lutherans have a particular, God­

given vocation to address.

Marriage: I believe we need to look very carefully and thoroughly at the institution of marriage. Our churchly involvement in this practice is very fascinating. Lutherans believe that marriage is not a sacrament, though many in our churches treat it as such. In Lutheran understanding, it is a function of the state which has been imposed on our pastors to carry out.

But I believe we also need to address the state of marriage in the Church today. For example, the Bible makes it very clear that divorce is unnatural and contrary to the design of God. Jesus stridently says much about it. Heterosexuals who think gay couples are undermining their marriages should seek help, as nearly half of all heterosexual marriages end in divorce.

A review of Lutheran history and the current practice in many European countries where Lutheranism has been central will indicate that the legal agreement is carried out first, outside the church building, and then the newly-arranged covenant is blessed inside the church building.

When Lois and I were married 42 years ago and again when our son and his wife were married, the wonderful part was not the signing of a legal document, but the thanksgiving to God in which all of us engaged. The church should offer that kind of event to every couple, homosexual or heterosexual, and get out of what is, in the opinion of many, the practice of marrying only some and extending a thousand-plus benefits to those elect heterosexuals. I’m still working on this, so let me pursue this a bit by talking about “Blessing.”

I think the Church, led by Lutherans, should reclaim the word “blessing” as it has been used by God’s People throughout time. But I want to be very clear about this: the blessing the Church does is, first, a blessing of God; that is, a giving of thanks to God for the gifts God has given us. This is the ancient pattern of the Hebrew berakha, blessing God for the gifts God has given including the gift of godly relationships of grace and commitment. As a confirmation class student said to me once, “With all the hate in the world, if two people are in love with each other I think we ought to thank God for it.”

Another theological problem is Forced Celibacy: I believe that policies which force people who are homosexual in their self-understanding to live a life of forced celibacy, are in fact contrary to Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions. 1 Corinthians 7 declares that celibacy is a gift, not a curse, and it should always be voluntary, never forced. Likewise, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, one of our Lutheran documents, says, in Article 23, that it is “not possible to remain chaste outside of marriage” apart from “a high supernatural gift of God.” All of which is to say: those who require celibacy of any one do not have the Bible or the Lutheran Confessions on their side. While the Bible does not prohibit homosexuality anywhere, ever, it does prohibit celibacy requirements.

Biblicism: We Lutherans need to announce to the world and ourselves that the real issue is not one of biblical authority. When, guided by the Holy Spirit, we enter into a deep and committed study of the texts the Church has misunderstood and used as weapons, we will realize that the Bible’s purpose is not to exclude but to include, not to condemn but to save, not to heap on Victorian moralisms some claim to be divinely-imposed moral absolutes but to proclaim the amazing grace of God, not to reject but to accept. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments demonstrate God’s love and forgiveness when God’s people, individually or corporately, fail to live up to the expectations that God has set forth. That love and forgiveness is the Gospel. I believe, for example, that the Bible sets forth standards of life and behavior, but I do not believe that the Bible is fundamentally a rule book. It is, instead, the story of God and God’s people. Its primary character is not “I” and the story line is not principally about how “I” should behave. The primary character is God, and the story line is primarily about how God has behaved, how God has responded, how God has been made incarnate in Jesus Christ, and how that risen and living Jesus continues today to lead us into all truth by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Those who seek biblical warrant for such inclusiveness need only look, for example, to the encounter between Jesus and the Woman at the Well in John 4, where he breaks all kinds of rules in order to offer her new life, or at the amazing story of Jesus’s healing the man born blind in John 9, a wonderful text that asks the important question “What glorifies God?” It’s a great reading for us. I also think the raising of Lazarus is splendid. In John 11 well, you know the story: Jesus raises his stinky friend from the dead and then turns to the crowd and says, “You unbind him.” I think that’s a great model for us: when God raises people from the dead through the wonderful mystery of Holy Baptism then it’s up to the church to unbind them. And that Lazarus story brings me to the bottom line for me, theologically.

Holy Baptism is the most radical acceptance we offer, especially the practice of baptizing infants. This is, in my opinion and I believe in Lutheranism’s confessional understanding, the theological bottom line. It’s the riskiest, most radical thing the Church does: baptize.

People in both or all camps write and read lengthy biblical, theological, and psychological papers that cancel each other out. We set up all kinds of wars in the Church, including derogatory attacks on other Christians, other people for whom Christ died. The set of issues before us is far more important, far more foundational than any agenda.

I regularly look into the faces, the eyes, of candidates for ministry, people who have a consuming desire to serve the Church. And I am puzzled by the theological claim that we are all ordained in Holy Baptism – the wonderful, sometimes-misunderstood and often-ignored Lutheran gift of the priesthood of all believers – yet we set standards for membership that exclude certain people from the church even though they have been ordained already in the water and the word at the font.

4. Clear and Challenging Words from the Gospel

A Church that engages in the risky business of baptizing infants, a Church that rejoices in the claim that this is a means of grace, a Church that welcomes all is called by God to remove the double standard and open its arms to all people.

If you are seeking clear words from God about what it means to engage in this Radical Acceptance, let me suggest the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus invites us, urges us, to stand on our heads and see the world, our society, individual lives and the Church from that Christ-like perspective. I think of the amazing words of the Beatitudes as both challenge and opportunity for those of us who are privileged to stand-with-Jesus-on- our–heads, for all of us who have been gathered here today and for the thousands we represent. And as I think of these words I also want to see them clearly as challenges to us, invitations for this day and for a lifetime, to continue to stand on our heads, to continue this risky business of being the Church.

Blessed are the poor in spirit; yours is the kingdom of heaven! What could

the Church do, not just say, that would make the poor in spirit belie..v..e. that?

Blessed are the mourners; they shall be comforted! How will the mourners believe that if we are not God’s agents in bringing that comfort?

Blessed are the meek; they shall inherit the earth. How will the meek ever believe such nonsense if the Church does not stand up for their rights against the rich and the powerful in the name of the crucified Messiah who had no place to lay his head?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s justice; how will that message get through unless we are prepared to stand alongside those who are denied justice and go-on-making-a-fuss until they get it?

Blessed are the merciful; how are people to believe that, in a world where mercy is weakness, unless we welcome the estranged?

Blessed are the pure in heart; how will people believe that, in a world where

impurity is big business, unless we ourselves are worshiping the living God until our hearts are set on fire and scorched with God’s purity?

Blessed are the peacemakers; how will we ever learn that, in a world where war in one country means business for another, unless the Church stands in the middle and says that there is a different way of being human, a different way of ordering our common life?

Blessed are those who are persecuted and insulted for the sake of Jesus; how will that message ever get across if the Church is so anxious not to court bad publicity, that it refuses ever to say or do anything that might get it into trouble either with the authorities for being so radical and subversive or with the revolutionaries for insisting that the true revolution begins at the foot of the cross?

I wish I could say that I knew of a Church somewhere in the world that had fully grasped this strange agenda of Jesus and was living by it. No parish I have served has, nor has the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, nor have I, nor have you. But there are signs to give us hope. There are moments when I think the Reign of God is nearer than when we first believed. And I rejoice to say that the efforts being engaged by Accept and organizations such as this have been models of this kind of spiritual life, this new life in the new creation of the new humanity worked through Jesus Christ. We are not what God wants us to be, yet. But we are on the way. So I am, once again, most grateful for your trust toward me and for your invitation. And while I cannot speak for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or for its Conference of Bishops, or for the Metropolitan New York Synod of which I am bishop, I can speak for myself about my hope for all of us, for this new creation in Christ. I want to invite you to strive for accepting all people and to remain faithful and diligent in engaging The Radical Welcome of the Gospel.

Closure

In closing I want to say again how grateful I am for your faithfulness, your strength, your gracefilled living. As a Lutheran I feel compelled to offer at least a small word from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans as a kind of summary of what God is calling us to do; “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15)

Friends in Christ, may God fill us and all God’s People, always with the welcoming love of Christ, The Radical Acceptance of the Gospel.

Thank you.

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

28 March 2016

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in theology

 

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Free But Not Free

What if women’s ordination gets up at the coming LCA National Convention in Rochedale?

After the celebrations the next phase will be the delay before ordination.

To our knowledge there has been negligible preparation for a positive vote.  Bishop Henderson however has issued a warning that it will take some time for the LCA to prepare for WO – despite the generations of discussion.  Despite a potential positive vote women will still be in the wilderness, presumably for a number of years.

The delay will be akin to the granting of freedom to British slaves in 1833.  It took five extra years until 1838 for for “enslaved men, women, and children in the British Empire to finally became fully free after a period of forced apprenticeship following the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.” link  Despite it being a huge moral victory, 46 000 British slave owners, mainly in the West Indies, still had to be paid off for losing their slaves. link   Why is it that the oppressed are forced to pay for the institutions’ lethargy in facing issues of justice?

Ironically, the ELCA this year celebrates 45 years of women’s ordination.  Other protestant churches have also been ordaining women for many years.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in history, women's ordination

 

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The growing list of Lutheran churches ordaining women

In 2012, we first posted the incomplete list of Lutheran Churches which ordain women. We have now updated the list but it is still a long way from being complete. Can you help us?

 

1926 The Netherlands – Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Nederland ordains female priests
1927 Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany accepts Pfarrhelferinnen (Assistants to Priests), 1930s woman Vicars. In Eastern part of  Germany women took over more and more as actual priests during WW2, and remained so after  the war.
1930(estimation) Germany – Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Hanover
1960 Women priests in West Germany and 1978 total equality with male priests.
Before 1938 Lutheran Church in Austria Vicars
1948 Denmark – Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark
1948 The Lutherans in Schlesia
1951 Slovakia — The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession
1960 Sweden – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden
1961 Norway – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Norway
1964 Belgium – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium
1970’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
1974 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland
1986/88 Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
1988 Indonesian Lutheran Church
2000 The Church of Pakistan ordained its first women deacons. It is a united church which dates back to the 1970 local merger of Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other Protestants
2000 USA (South Carolina) – ordained women at its inception
2001 Ethiopia – Ethiopian Lutheran Church ordains women
2002 Central African Republic
2004 Taiwan – Lutheran Church of Taiwan ordains first women pastors
2005 Zambia – Zambian Lutheran Church ordains first female pastors.
2006 Norway – Evangelical Free Church of Norway (a nationwide Lutheran Church) ordains its first female pastors.
2008 – The Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  15 out of the 16 LWF member churches in the Latin American and Caribbean region now ordain women – dates yet to be determined
2009 Mexican Lutheran Church
2009 Cameroon Lutheran Church.
2011 The South Andhra Lutheran Church (SALC) in India ordained its first women pastors on 12 January
2012 Cameroon – Evangelical Lutheran Church ordains first women ministers.
2014 Lutheran Church in Chile ordains its first woman pastor. Link Link2

It is our understanding that in 2000 over 90 Lutheran Churches worldwide ordained women.  We are waiting confirmation of details.

Women Bishops (some of them)
1993 Church of Norway – First woman bishop Link
1997 Church of Sweden – Christina Odenberg
2001 Evangelical Church of Bremen – Margot Käßmann
2003: The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church (GCEPC) USA — Nancy K. Drew
2007: Evangelical Lutheran Church in CanadaSusan Johnson
2009 Great Britain – First woman bishop of Lutheran Church of Great Britain is consecrated
2009: Evangelical Church in Central GermanyIlse Junkermann
2010: Evangelical Lutheran Church of FinlandIrja Askola
2011 Hong Kong – Jenny Chan installed as Bishop of Lutheran Church of Hong Kong
2011: North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran ChurchKirsten Fehrs
2011: Evangelical Church of WestphaliaAnnette Kurschus, titled praeses
2012: Church of IcelandAgnes M. Sigurðardóttir. Link1  Link2 (in language)
2012: Church of DenmarkTine Lindhardt
2012 ELCA Alaska Synod installs first woman bishop
2013: Evangelical Lutheran Church of AmericaElizabeth Eaton

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in sociology, theology

 

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Thanking God for the preaching of Nadia Bolz Weber

Hey, gentlemen Pastors, try to beat this sermon!  It’s from Nadia Bolz Weber from the ELCA.  It doesn’t come more gutsy than this.

Web page of Nadia Bolz Weber of the ELCA

Web page of Nadia Bolz Weber of the ELCA

2013-03-24 NBW Sermon <—click here to listen along.

the first bit

Because these people of the Holy Week story are we people.  And we people are the likes of which God came to save.  God did not become human and dwell among us as Jesus to save only an improved, doesn’t make the wrong choices kind of people.  There is no improved version of humanity that could have done any differently. So go ahead. Don’t wait until you think your motivations are correct.  Don’t wait till you are sure you believe every single line of the Nicene creed (no one does).  Don’t worry about coming to church this week for the right reasons. Just wave branches. Shout praise for the wrong reason. Eat a meal. Have your feet washed. Grab at coins. Shout Crucify him. Walk away when the cock crows.  Because we, as we are and not as some improved version of ourselves…we are who God came to save. And nothing can stop what’s going to happen.

 
 

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