This Week in God

>> Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Last Sunday, the 3rd, I got really irritated by the interim pastor's sermon. Our regular pastor is out on maternity leave until late February. He started off talking about Babylon and Tiamat and Marduk. Fine. No problem there. I don't mind history. Then at some point he started making comments about the ELCA's recent decision and said they were "moving away from the Word of God." Dude's gotta know that that's a touchy subject right there. He's a retired pastor. He should know better than to make comments stirring up strife within a congregation that isn't his.

After that, I couldn't pay much attention to what he was saying. I kept thinking, hey, we don't stone women who aren't virgins when they're married like Deuteronomy says, does that mean we're not following the "Word of God?" We don't stone people for adultery and divorce is legal. Should we start stoning them so we can "obey" the "Word of God." I'm pretty sure there are plenty of people that eat bacon and ham in the church including you (interim pastor) and doesn't that make them and you "unclean?" He then went on to quote a passage from a United Church of Christ minister supposedly to make his point about how off base the direction the ELCA is going. I don't remember a single word he said because I was thinking, "Hey, aside from Exodus the Bible is pretty much a pro-slavery document. Should we reinstitute it so we can "follow" the "Word of God?" Yeah, I was pretty pissed in the moment, but my dad said that the UCC minister's quote totally repudiated what the interim was trying to say against the ELCA. Figures.

Then towards the end of coffee hour, there was a small group of about five people chitchatting. It was comprised of Mr. & Mrs. What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately, Mrs. Unrepentant-Sinners and another couple. I could hear Mrs. What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately exclaiming, "It used to be a choice, now it's genetic? Which is it really?" Yeah, she's going right back to her "it's a choice!" mentality about the gays. I don't think I have to explain that genetic studies are fairly recent and certainly wouldn't have played a part in society 100 or 500 years ago.

On the way home, one of my parents mentioned that they overheard someone telling the church president that they had been reviewing Robert's Rules of Order and figured out a way to get something on the agenda that normally wouldn't have been on the agenda. Presumably, this person wanted to have a vote on whether or not to leave the ELCA since this was a person who did not like the decision from August. I was just like, "You know, I really wish one of the older ladies sitting up in the front would speak up. None of them want to leave regardless of whether or not they liked the decision." I think some of these people making a huff would reconsider their attitudes just a bit if one of them did speak.

At a certain point, all of this ruckus begins to look like much ado about nothing. Nothing within the church has changed. The pastor hasn't changed; she'll be back after maternity leave. This church is highly unlikely to ever have a gay pastor given that it's in Utah and gay pastors in general are a small minority anyway.

I was actually upset over this last week. I spent a couple days looking online for resources possibly to make an argument for staying in the ELCA. I actually came across a letter written by Rev. Eric Lemonholm of Grace Lutheran in Detroit Lakes, which is where my parents spend half the year but attend a different church. I thought he made some excellent points such as:

  • the decision made by Churchwide is to allow local churches the authority to make up their own minds about this issue, recognizing that we do not have a consensus – the decision does not force any congregation to call gay or lesbian pastors. It is a step in the ELCA toward greater local congregational independence. In this case, a vote to leave the ELCA would indicate that one disagreed that local churches should have that authority or independence. There are denominations with less diversity on political issues like this – the Missouri Synod, for example – but do we really want to go there? Do we want to go from being a ‘big tent’ church to being a ‘small tent’ church?
  • the ‘either-or’ way of thinking that some have fallen into: either the majority of the ELCA has to agree with our interpretation of the biblical law about homosexuality, or we and our congregation leave the ELCA – ASAP. Why are those the only two possibilities? Why the sudden urgency? When Martin Luther had real disagreements about core Gospel issues with the Roman Catholic Church, he did not leave the church, nor did he want to; he wanted to stay in the Catholic Church and work to reform it. Instead, Luther was kicked out. Some of us have a disagreement with the majority of ELCA members about a non-core issue of biblical interpretation of the law (more on this later), and immediately want to leave the ELCA? Ask yourself, why is this such a big issue? Why have we fallen into either/or, win/lose thinking? Why is it either my way or the highway?
  • in the long run, this issue will be like earlier church controversies such as the debate about the ordination of women: that debate was not settled on purely biblical grounds. We probably all had friends or family on all sides of that issue in the past. People on both sides of that issue had biblically-based, heartfelt beliefs; the issue was resolved over time using Scripture and sound reason, and we moved on; those who divided themselves from the wider church because of that disagreement were, in the end, in the wrong. It is often only in retrospect that the issues are clear.
Totally rational arguments. My mom has been irritated that those who want to leave the ELCA are doing this when our pastor is out on maternity leave, so that she can't put her two cents into the debate. A fair point considering that she's not able to write anything like the above points while she's away. My mom specifically remembers one of pastor's last sermons before going on maternity leave talking about togetherness: "And we can only accomplish it together. I cannot stress to you all enough how essential every single one of you is to what we are about."

This Sunday the interim didn't give what I felt was a strife-causing sermon like he had the week before. The only thing I remember him talking about was how everyone is a child of God. Well, guess what. Those who wanted to leave the ELCA decided that this Sunday was going to be their last Sunday. Apparently they don't think that gays in long-term, monogamous relationships or those that are married qualify as children of God. I overheard one lady after church saying to one of her friends that she couldn't stay another Sunday if we weren't going to leave the ELCA. Her way or the highway.

I don't know for sure how many are going. At this point it looks to be about eight people that I know of. Not a large number but population-wise this isn't a large church. Another guy said that he was just taking a break from church for awhile.

These people are leaving because the church council decided that there would not be a vote on the issue. Not enough people on the council were for it. Don’t know where they’re going to go. This is in northern Utah, the land of not so many Lutheran churches. There are currently 3 ELCA churches within the county including the one they’re leaving. There is also a Missouri Synod church in town. Supposedly, some of them are going to attend this non-Lutheran church in town called “The Genesis Project.” (Yeah, the name totally reminds me of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.) This Genesis Project church doesn’t appear to be associated with any kind of larger church body, but one of my friends, who is Catholic, referred to them as “the born-agains.” I suspect that a few of them may return after a few months. Probably not all of them though.

One of the other ELCA churches within the county is having a vote on this next Sunday. I have no idea how things are going over there. Basically two of the three ELCA churches are not going to have a vote on this. I’ve heard the third ELCA church in the county is not going to have a vote either; apparently they have too many other fish to fry. But back to the church that is going to have a vote. I suspect that they may actually vote to leave, considering this is Utah. IF that happens, I think it’s possible that those who wanted to stay within the ELCA may leave that church to go to one of the other ELCA churches, possibly ours since its closer. Those who left our church may have a Lutheran church nearby that they would feel comfortable with because I really can't imagine some of them permanently at "The Genesis Project."

One of the people who left/is leaving was the financial secretary/counter. I've been asked if I would do it. I said sure. There goes any excuse for getting out of church on Sunday mornings when my parents aren't here.

2 comments:

Anna 13 January, 2010 13:06  

I saw your comments on my blog and thought I'd come and read your thoughts on yours. First off, I think it was a low blow to say that I was only disappointed because things "didn't go my way". I am disappointed by the vote, but there would have been a ton of fall-out no matter what had happened on Sunday. Let's just say I don't like change, and there's too much of it going on all at once right now.

Second, I'd like to refute some things you have stated on my blog and here. No, we don't stone people anymore for adultery or divorce. Why? Because Jesus set the precedence when he reprimanded the Pharises. The whole, if you're without sin cast the first stone, business. He was not condoning her behavior, in fact, if I remember correctly, He said to go and sin no more. But He was saying that it was not right to put her to death. While we who are anti-ELCA statement are essentially saying that we think homosexuals are living in sin, we are not saying that we do not love them, and do not welcome them to worship. Neither do we "throw stones" or at least those who have a conscience that realizes that we are all sinful don't. Two, the whole "bacon and ham eating" business is ridiculous. Those were laws set down by God to the Jewish people before Christ came to erase all previous definitions of being "clean" and "unclean"

House of Brat 13 January, 2010 15:47  

No, it's not a "low blow" to say what I said about things not going your way. There's a LOT of change coming in the next ten years. Grow up and get used to it.

And, no, Anna, it is not ridiculous. You're proving my point in your cherry-picking of the Bible to support your homophobic views.

I didn't say that we "stone people anymore for adultery or divorce." I said:

Are you for stoning rebellious children? (Deuteronomy 21:18)

Do you consider a marriage only valid if the wife is a virgin? If she isn't a virgin, then should we execute her? (Deuteronomy 22: 13-21)

How about all those verses saying women should be silent? (1 Timothy 2: 11-12) That basically would exclude you ever having a vote on any issue in your church regardless of your age.


You didn't answer any of my questions, just attempted to deflect them. I'm pretty sure Jesus said something about don't judge people unless you want to be judged. You should probably reflect a little more on those verses since you seem so ready to mete out judgements on people, i.e. those who are gay.

I realize you're a high school kid and don't have much life experience. You've probably never met anyone who is gay based on what you write. Most people who are gay, ones whom I've known personally, don't appreciate the "love the sinner, hate the sin" mentality. Perhaps someday you'll have some gay friends and be able to tell them that when they're in love with their partners that they're engaging in sin and their relationships are based in sin. That is clearly what you believe. Good luck with that.

You may think that gays are welcome in your congregation, but I can tell you, based on what you've written, that most gays would never consider themselves welcome at your congregation given what you describe as the atmosphere there.

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