Tag Archives: ELCA

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.


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.


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


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.


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


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Sermon on the Parameters We Prefer For Jesus to Work Under

Nadia Bolz-Weber lecture - Thursday, May 16

Nadia Bolz-Weber lecture – Thursday, May 16 (not when this sermon was preached) (Photo credit: LutherSeminary)

Pr Nadia Bolz Weber preaches about relaxing in Jesus’ grace. From Sarcastic Lutheran: the cranky spirituality of post-modern gal.

Audio link

Stories of churches denying your call to ministry because you fall outside the parameters of which gender is allowed to be ordained and stories of churches denying you the Eucharist because you fall outside the parameters of what kind of sexual orientation is allowed to receive the means of grace, and stories of churches denying you a place in community because you just weren’t sure if you believed in God and that falls outside the parameters of doctrinal purity – well, these kind of stories are sadly bordering on cliché around here. We hear them all the time.

So I’m really grateful that Jesus has always tended to disregard people’s preferred parameters for how he should do things, and that he always just seems to keep seeing people, touching them, healing them and then thumbing his nose at anyone who says he really should be more discerning about his cliental and his tactics.

Read more.

Audio link


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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 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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Four factors behind opposition to women’s ordination

Karen Bloomquist has served until recently as Director for Theology and Studies of the Lutheran World Federation.

Further to our thoughts on how context and history influence the way we interpret Scripture, (most recent post – Patriarchy in colonial Lutheran schooling) the following more scholarly synopsis is taken from Karen L. Bloomquist‘s article on women’s ordination in the ELCA.  She speaks of four factors leading to the opposition of women’s ordination.

[3] Where there is hesitation or opposition to ordaining women, four factors typically are involved:

1. HISTORICAL LEGACIES from churches and mission societies that first established and continue to support churches here in Africa. This especially includes interpretations of the Bible and ways of being church that they have passed on, sometimes in opposition to positions of their own churches. Such interpretations deeply affect how we read Scripture to legitimize positions that may have been arrived on other grounds. As Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro has written:Whether or not to ordain woman has depended largely on the practices, visions and wish of the ‘mother church,’ as well as the local perception of leadership in society, access to theological education, and interpretation of received traditions.

2. TRADITION – what is customary in a society or a church, which of course for much of church history has not included women as pastors. Theological or biblical arguments against the ordination of women typically are lodged here. However, in the New Testament, there are many accounts in which Jesus over-turned traditions and practices of his time, especially in how he an observant Jew related to women. Similarly, Martin Luther freed people from being bound to tradition, as represented by the Catholic Church of the time, especially when tradition hindered being faithful to God’s freeing Word of the gospel. Since the Reformation, basing something on “tradition” has been theologically suspect for Lutherans.

3. CULTURE is often set forth as a reason for not ordaining women. Certainly it is important that the gospel be inculturated or contextualized in a given culture. A culture sustains a people and therefore is good, but it also can protect or legitimize sinful practices, such as excluding or abusing those who are female. Those who are abused by cultural assumptions and practices usually are not those who defend the factor of “culture.” For Christian, culture can never be the last word, but is continually being transformed in light of the gospel.

4. GENDER refers to expected roles for women and men that are constructed and reinforced through culture. This is also reflected in many passages of Scripture, in which male-dominant gender understandings prevailed in patriarchal cultures that were the context when these passages were written. The problem is that these assumptions about the relationships and appropriate roles between males and females — which are human constructions — often are mistaken as being the will of God for all time.

via Ordaining Women Goes to the Heart of the Gospel – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

 Karen Bloomquist’s four factors could be used to explain why some Australian immigrants return to live in their country of origin, but then discover that it is not the same place and often fail to make the transition successfully.  Many of them reverse their decision and return to Australia, deciding finally to be one with Australia.

An evolving culture will not always be comfortable for everybody, but it is, at least temporarily, a fact of life.  In Christian faith, our challenge (like Australian immigrants) is to find roots in that evolving culture or fade away in despair through lack of connection.  It is always our choice.

What culture have you found yourself adapting to? What has been challenging and what has been liberating?

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in history, politics, sociology, women's ordination


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Toward understanding the LC-MS

Under the leadership of Pr Semmler, the LCA has snuggled closer to LCMS, but records of this evolution, to our knowledge, will not be found in committee minutes or official policy.

Should be we be strengthening ties with with LCMS, or should we take another route? Bill Weiblen, a pastor, chaplain, professor and president of Wartburg Theological College, Iowa, attempts to answer these questions for the ALC in 1980, some 8 years before the ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988.  He writes on the differences between the ALC  and the ELCA. The American Lutheran Church (ALC) was one of three church that united to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  A brief timeline and flowchart of both churches is listed at the end of this post.

The post is lengthy and possibly imposing.  May I suggest you read the conclusion at the end of the quoted article.  To whet your appetite the following is an extract from that paragraph, “It is the mark of totalitarianism in both religion and politics to insist on monolithic understanding to suppress dissent.”

Read the rest of this entry »


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Experiencing gender discrimination in the church

Pastor Rick Mickelson, from the ELCA (USA), who served in the Barossa (SA) and Epping (NSW), once wept that he couldn’t affirm for his daughters that there was nothing they couldn’t do. He was painfully aware that in secular life there are no boundaries for girls. In spiritual life, which connects at a much deeper level, women are told in the LCA that certain things are not for them.  How many women in churches around the world have been told that they don’t really have a call to the ordained ministry because they are women?

“It’s sad, really, that the only place in my entire life that I have experienced gender discrimination is the church,” VanScoy emailed me. “Certainly God never intended to gift a woman to do something she was not intended to do.” source – Soujourners Magazine.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in sociology, theology


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Loving pastoral leadership after a major vote

20px Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, B...

Image via Wikipedia

Bishop Hanson of the ELCA showed a profound depth of pastoral care after the Ministries Policy vote in 2010. In the video below he shows a deep concern for his people, and careful thought about nurturing his Church.

Video from ELCA page.

I am thankful for Churches when strategies exist for healing and reconciliation in times of division.  At such time leadership is fundamental in building bridges.   Without wise leadership the Church nurtures divisions.  Without wise leadership the Church ignores those with little power.  The following is an excerpt from the video:

That passage (Colossians 3:12–17) gives invitation and expectation that those deeply disappointed today will have the expectation and the freedom to continue to admonish and to teach in this church. And so, too, those who have experienced reconciliation today are called to humility. You are called to clothe yourselves with love. But we are all called to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, remembering again and again that we are called in the one body. I will invite you tomorrow afternoon into important, thoughtful, prayerful conversations about what all of this means for our life together. But what is absolutely important for me is that we have the conversation together.

Here is the transcript (.pdf) of Bishop Hanson’s address.

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Posted by on March 12, 2011 in theology


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There are times when we need to help make it better

It is not enough to say that one day women will be ordained in the LCA. Many of us have recited that tenant of faith for decades. As Christians we desire to live out God’s will, to be God’s hands in this world, and to bring reconciliation and justice.  What might that mean for me in regards to women’s ordination?

Bishop Burnside, from the ELCA, recalls a time as a child when, on being bullied, his father simply told him to stand his ground and stand up to the bullies. On later witnessing his son being bullied he went to his rescue and said, “Bruce, I am sorry!”

This is the last paragraph from Bishop Burnside’s YouTube Video

There are times when we can’t stand up for ourselves and we have to rely on others to stand with us. We can’t just say that one day it will be better for those who are victimised or brutalised or bullied. There are times when we need to help make it better. As a Christian I believe that Jesus teaches that there is a place in his kingdom where there is a preference for those who are victimised, those who are oppressed, those who are brutalised and there is a place in this kingdom for those of us who stand with them, so I call on you to not just believe that one day it will be better but to help make it better.

Bishop Burnside talks not just about victims of bullying, but also about those who are oppressed and brutalised. Women, in being dismissed as not fit for ordination, continue to be minimised, oppressed  and brutalised!  It is time that we said, “We are sorry!” However, it doesn’t end there. The consequence of a genuine apology is that we promise to do something or to change our ways.

What is it that each of us need to do today as a result of our apology for how the LCA has treated women?

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Posted by on December 22, 2010 in sociology, theology


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