John 3:21

John 3:21
"It is the nature of all hypocrites and false prophets to create a conscience where there is none, and to cause conscience to disappear where it does exist." Martin Luther

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Help needed for a Church voting for its second, second vote

I am bringing this update on behalf of Zion Lutheran Church in Clear Lake, Iowa.  This congregation and these pastors are walking through deep water with their synod.  Their first vote to leave was rejected by the elca on a technicality.  Their second first vote won easily at 80+%.  Their first second vote, lost by 2--they needed 319 and got 317--the people figured it was a done deal, but the bishop of that synod has actively marshaled the opposition.  

They are now facing their second, second vote--there is nothing in the constitution that says that if the second vote fails, that you have to start over, the bishop has already said that he will reject their second, second vote, even though there is no reason to do so.

The congregation is wondering if there is any other church who has gone through this (a second, second vote).  If so, could you please contact them directly.  Their website is:

And add them to your prayer lists as well for this weekend!  Their pastors names are Pr. Dean Hess and Pastor Derik Yarian.
Mark Vander Tuig
Services Coordinator, LCMC

Rural church leaves ELCA over gay clergy, genetics proposal

Rural church leaves ELCA over gay clergy, genetics proposal

(RNS) A rural North Dakota church has voted to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, not only to protest its recent policies to allow gay clergy but also its proposed statement on genetically modified foods. 

Members of the Anselm Trinity Lutheran Church near Sheldon, N.D., interpreted the ELCA's draft statement as saying farmers who use genetically modified seeds are "pretty much sinners," said church council president Jill Bunn. 

The church is located in the Red River Valley, where farmers often use enhanced seeds to help plants resist weed killers.

The 25-4 vote, taken Nov. 7, comes at a time when other churches are leaving the ELCA after it decided last year to permit noncelibate gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions. 

Bunn said news of the ELCA genetics proposal in a farming publication gave the congregation another reason to depart. "That just added to the gay-lesbian proposal that they passed already," she said. 

Bishop Bill Rindy of the ELCA's Eastern North Dakota Synod said he was unaware of any concern the congregation might have had about the proposed genetic statement when it voted to leave the ELCA. 

The 63-page draft statement is being developed for consideration at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly next August, but Rindy said it will likely be revised before then. 

"If anyone reads the statement for themselves they'll see that it does not condemn genetically engineered seeds and it doesn't make any recommendation on farm management practices," said Roger Willer, the ELCA staff person working with the task force developing the statement. 

The North Dakota church has joined the more conservative Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which attributes most of its growth to departing ELCA churches.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ELCA and Zion Dispute Continues

ELCA and Zion Dispute Continues

Reported by: Shane Delaney
Last Update: 11/09 8:19 pm
WAVERLY, IA - A north Iowa congregation is days away from again deciding whether to separate from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
But the Northeast Iowa Synod Bishop says it's not going to count. A final vote by Zion Lutheran in Clear Lake to leave the ELCA failed earlier this summer, but church leaders aren't letting the issue die.
"A am not aware of any other place in the whole ELCA in which a church has intentionally voted to violate their constitution," said the Rev. Steven Ullestad, bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod.
Bishop Ullestad says it doesn't matter what the church decides in its upcoming Sunday vote.
“The constitution allows for congregations to take a first vote, have a consultation, take a second vote. When that vote fails that concludes that process," said Ullestad.
And the vote did fail at Zion, two other times. The process should be over, but since that time church leaders continued moving forward with the disassociation process.
"The constitutional crisis was created when they clearly said they would not follow the police or any policies or procedures of the ELCA," said Ullestad.
After the vote to disassociate failed, Zion leaders decided to associate with another Lutheran branch: The Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.
"That resolution in which they stated they are now a member of another Lutheran church body in addition to ours is also in violation of the church's constitution," said Ullestad.
Because of those decisions Bishop Ullestad says Zion’s pastors Dean Hess and Derik Yarian are no longer considered ordained ministers.
"They are not to represent themselves as pastor they're not to preside at sacraments or weddings or wear a stole and not use the title of reverend or pastor," said Ullestad.
And even though this whole process has created division within Zion, Bishop Ullestad hopes everything will work out.
"We are committed to them as a congregation and to the members of that congregation and to help bring reconciliation so that together our witness to the world will be, see how those Christians love one another. That's what is at stake for us," said Ullestad.
Bishop Ullestad extended an invitation to Dean Hess to discuss this entire issue in person, but Hess has not responded to that invitation.
Zion Lutheran was contacted today for a comment. Hess said the church will release a statement responding to the bishop's claims later this week.
Bishop Ullestad says Zion Lutheran is still under ELCA leadership and subject to their policies. If they do not follow those policies they could face disciplinary measures and legal repercussions.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bishop Barbie and the Brave New Church

An Exchange

An Open Letter to “Bishop Barbie”

by Barbara Bruneau on Monday, October 11, 2010 at 5:25pm
To whomever is posing as “Bishop Barbie” on Facebook:

You’ve made quite a splash on Facebook in the past ten weeks – that’s how long it’s been since your first blog post and your first appearance on Facebook.  In less than ten weeks, you’ve accumulated over 500 “friends” along with probably an equally large number who follow your comments without benefit of friendship.

At first your posts were witty and clever.  While I didn’t agree with everything you said, I enjoyed following your daily comments.  As time rolled on, however, your comments took on more of a biting edge.  Even so, I continued to read your posts and occasionally found a nugget of truth under the sarcasm.

Today, however, the slippery slope has led you to cross the line into the territory of malicious, hurtful statements.  I posted a status update indicating my prayers for those employees of ELCA headquarters who might learn today that their jobs are in jeopardy.  You were quick to enter into the resulting conversation, not with any expression of care or concern for those whose future may look very bleak indeed, but instead with a snide comment about ignoring denominational difficulties as you celebrate National Coming Out Day.

You joke about this being National Coming Out Day – perhaps it is you who should “come out” from behind the “Bishop Barbie” mask and make your real identity known.  If you have comments, criticisms, even sarcasm, that’s fine.  But it seems to me that only a coward would take such cheap shots at others without owning their own statements.

You showed no awareness at all that these ELCA employees are real people experiencing real pain, unlike the artificial identity you have created.  The price they are paying is high, unlike the cheap shots that flow so easily from your keyboard.  The Gospel that you say the ELCA has left behind… doesn’t it call you to care for your neighbor in need?  The catechism you hold in such high esteem… doesn’t it call you to put the best possible construction on the words and actions of your neighbor?  Excuse me, Pesudo-Bishop Barbie, is that a log I see sticking out of your eye?  Perhaps your plastic persona has blinded you to what it means to be real; you might check with a nearby Velveteen Rabbit for some coaching.

You have stopped being entertaining or thought-provoking.  I’m sad to say, Pseudo-Bishop Barbie, that you are no longer my friend.

An Open Response to Ms. Barbara Bruneau

by Bishop Barbie on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 11:10am
Dear Friends and Acquaintances of Bishop Barbie,

Mrs. Barbara Bruneau wrote an open letter to my Pinkness and I’d like to offer a brief response.

First, I’d like to respond to the charge of identity.  I don’t “expose” myself for two reasons (and neither reason is in the interest in cowardice).  First, the character frankly doesn’t work when you know the writer behind it.  Second, far too many have realized that dissent in the ELCA is greeted with vocational and social difficulties including firings, shunnings, etc. of too many pastors, leaders, and church members.  You do not know this author’s place of employment and the fact that this author’s ability to speak freely is limited.  Those who disagree with the ELCA’s decisions are brazenly put down and shunned while the content of grievances continue to go ignored amidst the clarion cry of “all are welcome!” and “we respect all bound consciences!”

It is a terribly sad sign of sin in the world and in our church body when there are objectively bad decisions made on all levels, only to see the results of those terrible decisions result in the job losses at ELCA Headquarters and in other places around the U.S. and the world.  Even while Bishop Barbie and friends see a clear correlation between the reasons behind this layoff and church-wide decisions, we shouldn’t view the layoffs with joy as if it were the justice of “an eye for an eye” (“a job for a job”).  In the end, it just means everyone is jobless and barely scraping by, which does nothing in service for the Gospel because all outsiders then see is our flagrant harm and further abuse of one another.  Bishop Barbie realizes that the people who this affects on Higgins Road and elsewhere are real people with real families, real needs, and a real future to manage.  Job loss is a type of death and these are real people experiencing the death of security, community, and more.  You and I are called to pray for and objectively support those who suffered these losses.  Along with prayer, where you find opportunities to support the life and livelihood of those who have lost their jobs, you are called to do it immediately, resourcefully, respectfully, and cheerfully.

All of this being said, Ms. Bruneau has called the author of Bishop Barbie to repentance. The author of Bishop Barbie confesses to the sin of misplaced and overly sharp words on this occasion – and even on other occasions.  Bishop Barbie’s intent is to lampoon the circumstances of many in and surrounding the ELCA and is rarely at a loss for material.  The intent of the comment on Bruneau’s page was intended to critique the cause behind the job losses, not the job losses themselves.  Nevertheless, the author realizes he caused unnecessary pain and chose to comment unwisely about terrible circumstances - circumstances in which even the author finds reprehensible regardless of reasons behind them.  I repent of this sin against you and those who lost their jobs.  I apologize to those I hurt by my misplaced comment so wisely exposed by Ms. Bruneau.

Not a Moment for Butterfly Kisses,
The Author of Bishop Barbie

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pink slips handed out by Hanson

News Releases

October 11, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Announces New Churchwide Organization Design for 2011
     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) took action Oct. 8 to affirm the concept for a new design of the ELCA churchwide organization in 2011, said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, in an Oct. 11 announcement to churchwide staff.  The council authorized the officers of the churchwide organization to take the necessary personnel actions and to implement the new design beginning Feb. 1, 2011, the start of the next fiscal year.
     The council deleted continuing resolutions in the ELCA Constitution related to churchwide units and adopted new continuing resolutions to implement the design and establish lines of responsibility, Hanson reported.
     The council also expressed appreciation to the staff of the churchwide organization, saying they would "hold in prayer" employees personally affected by a reduction in staff prompted by the new design.
     "This new design positions the churchwide organization to make a vital and vibrant contribution to the ministries of this church and the work of partners throughout the world," Hanson told the ELCA News Service.  "The new design also assumes that financial support will continue for these vital ministries -- and enable us to engage in these ministries in a more flexible and forward way."
     Council members took the action during a special meeting held by conference call, most of which was in executive session because of personnel implications. 
     Currently there are 16 unincorporated units and sections, and three offices in the churchwide organization.  Under the council-approved design, there will be three churchwide units and three offices, according to Hanson's written proposal to the council.  Separately incorporated ministries continue.
      Implementation of the new design will mean the 358-member churchwide staff -- including 270 here at the churchwide office -- will decrease by approximately 65 employees or 60 full-time equivalents, Hanson said.  In addition because nearly half of ELCA Global Mission's mission support budget covers costs for mission personnel, unit reductions will affect up to five mission personnel currently in service, said the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director.
     Staff directly affected by the new design are being notified Oct. 11 about their positions. 
     "The churchwide staff most directly affected by these decisions have served this church with distinction.  Even as we pray for new opportunities for their service, we will build on the good work they have done," Hanson said.
     Hanson appointed a seven-member design team of churchwide staff in June to evaluate and propose changes in the churchwide organization "in light of the changing mission and ministry needs of this church and the resources available to the churchwide organization," he wrote.  In particular Hanson said the action was precipitated by a significant drop in mission support income -- funds from ELCA congregations to the churchwide organization and shared by the church's 65 synods.
     "In 2008 after adjusting for inflation, the value of mission support income had declined by half since the founding of this church in 1988," Hanson wrote to the council. "From 2008 to 2011, estimated churchwide mission support dropped from $65.3 million to $48 million."  The work of the design team is based on an estimated range of $45 million to $48 million in annual mission support income for the next three years, Hanson said.
     The design team consulted with the ELCA Conference of Bishops and its executive committee; committees of the Church Council; churchwide leaders and staff; the Living into the Future Together (LIFT) Task Force, appointed to study the ELCA and make recommendations for its future; and outside consultants.
     Additional action regarding the new design will be considered by the Church Council at its November 12-14 meeting and by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August 2011.
     Hanson said the design team focused on two churchwide organization priorities: accompanying congregations as growing center of evangelical mission; and building the ELCA's capacity for evangelical witness and service in the world to alleviate poverty, and to work for justice and peace.
     He wrote that goals of the design team were to design an organization that "effectively and efficiently" works with ministry partners, maximizes resources through efficient operational infrastructure, better communicates and interprets effectiveness and efficiency of the church's response to the world, increases collaboration and accountability, and reflects the church's core values.
Interdependent relationships key to churchwide organization design      "Achieving the priorities of this church is dependent upon strong interdependent relationships between congregations, synods, the churchwide organization and the agencies and institutions of this church," Hanson wrote in his proposal summary. "These interdependent relationships will extend the mission capacity of this church, promote accountability and provide for the best stewardship of the resources of this church."  He added that it will be a churchwide organization priority to help build such relationships with and among mission partners.
     Three units created by the new churchwide design are Congregational and Synodical Mission; Global Mission; and Mission Advancement.  The continuing resolutions adopted by the council describe the functions of each unit:
+ Congregational and Synodical Mission Unit: The Congregational and Synodical Mission unit shall foster and facilitate the work of synods, congregations, and partners in making congregations vital centers for mission and in creating coalitions and networks to promote justice and peace. Its work includes creating and revitalizing congregations; leadership development; providing worship and liturgical resources; enhancing discipleship; supporting multicultural ministries and the commitment of this church to inclusivity; fostering relationships with educational partners; facilitating the engagement of this church in advocacy; and related activities that serve the evangelical mission of synods and congregations.
+ Global Mission Unit: The Global Mission unit shall provide integrated support of this church's work in other countries and be the means through which churches in other countries engage in mission to this church and society. The Global Mission unit shall build capacity and provide support for mission in the following areas:
     a. Global Community: maintaining church-to-church relationships and mutual endeavors for evangelical witness, leadership development, sharing of mission personnel and collaborative work.
     b. Mission Formation and Relationships: mutual learning and growth with companion churches, and ELCA synods and congregations in the accompaniment model for mission, companion synod relationships, young adults in global mission, relationships with independent Lutheran organizations related to global mission, and mission efforts for full communion partners.
     c. Diakonia: meeting human need and working collaboratively with partners toward the flourishing of human community through engagement in international development and disaster response.
+ Mission Advancement Unit: The service unit of the churchwide organization is the Mission Advancement unit, which shall be responsible for coordinating this church's communication, marketing, public relations, mission funding, major gifts, planned gifts and constituent data management. It also shall oversee the work of the following:
     a. The Lutheran magazine
     b. The ELCA Foundation
     Hanson announced that the Congregational and Synodical Mission Unit will be headed by the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, currently executive director, ELCA Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission.  He also said Malpica Padilla, currently executive director, ELCA Global Mission, will lead the Global Mission Unit, and the Rev. Howard E. Wennes, who has served as acting president of California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, and is a former bishop of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod, will be interim executive director of the Mission Advancement Unit.
     The Office of the Presiding Bishop will assume responsibility for theological discernment, including justice for women and studies. Most of its other functions are unchanged, as are most functions of the Office of the Secretary and the Office of the Treasurer.     
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

Sunday, October 10, 2010

One Pastor's Thoughts

You are not alone facing this mystery; we all struggle to understand the complexity of life. Rushford Lutheran Church is a place where you can come to learn about God's love for you, where you can grow in faith, use your gifts, and a place where you can share your joys and sorrows in a community of care, compassion and faith. We invite you to come and to experience the difference this makes in your life.

For more information about the mission and ministry at Rushford Lutheran Church please call (507) 864-7152 or e-mail
Pastor's Thoughts
Our congregation will vote in just a few days after you have received this newsletter.  I hope the voting result will show a congregation that has put aside differences and has decided to move ahead with unity; however, I fear it will show, once again, a split in our congregation of how we understand the Bible.  Let me share with you my journey in that understanding.
I grew up in a Lutheran Church that taught us God's Word is the light unto our feet to guide us in our daily living.  The Holy Scriptures provided the teachings by which we were to live out our daily calling as Christians in the world.  When I was ordained into the American Lutheran Church, I took a vow to abide by and uphold the teachings of the church.  To preach, teach, or live contrary to my ordination vows would be heresy.  In October, 1980, the ALC put out a social statement titled, “Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior,” in which it stated, This church regards the practice of homosexual erotic behavior as contrary to God's intent for his children.  It rejects the contention that homosexual behavior is simply another form of sexual behavior equally valid with the dominant male/female pattern.  The social statement also addressed the issue of abortion: We view abortion as a fundamentally inappropriate means of birth control.  Indeed, willful abortion—the sacrifice of a fetal life—is always an offense against God and the human spirit.
The Lutheran Church in America also put out similar statements at that time.  After the merger of the ALC, LCA, and the AELC (Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches—a breakaway group from the LCMS), both of these social statements have been reversed.  How could things change so quickly in just twenty years?  The answer is in the leadership of the ELCA.  Herbert Chilstrom was voted in as the first presiding bishop of the ELCA.  It soon became apparent that Chilstrom wanted changes made.  He did not view abortion as something against God's will but rather a woman's choice.  He did not regard the practice of homosexuality as something contrary to God's will but as a normal sexual lifestyle.  Chilstrom then set up committees, or taskforces, to work at overturning the recent social statements. 
I watched and listened to what was going on, thinking these things won't happen.  Most of the other pastors thought as I did, that these changes will never happen.  I didn't realize the power of the bishop or the way politics is played out in the church.  When you can put on the task force who you want, you can stack it to say whatever you want it to say.  This is what has happened with all the social statements that have come out of the ELCA.  In just a few years the statement on abortion was overturned and last year the social statement on sexuality was adopted, overturning those made thirty years earlier.
The question remains, however, as to why have our presiding bishops and many of our pastors taken these positions that are opposite to what the church has always taught?  They are part of a group of theologians who have a new theology to which they adhere.  It is called revision theology.  They believe that the only basic truth we need to get from the Bible is that God loves us and Jesus is the Son of God and saves us from our sins.  Everything else in the Bible is not binding on our faith.
Social justice is very important to revision theologians.  Since they view homosexuality as a social justice issue, the teachings in the Bible against homosexuality become irrelevant.  Since God is love and everybody is loved by somebody, and certainly by God, then everybody will be saved.  Universal salvation is a strong teaching among revision theologians, even though the Bible teaches us otherwise.
After the churchwide assembly in August of 2009, I was still with the ELCA.  I was dazed but somehow I believed that this could be corrected.  Groups like WordAlone and CORE have been working within the ELCA
for many years to try and get the ELCA back to the center.  They have failed and now recommend leaving the ELCA.  Last fall I attended a conference at Roseville Lutheran Church in the cities put on by WordAlone.  There I met Dr. Preus and Dr. Crumley, the two presidents of the predecessor church bodies.  Dr. Preus was with the ALC and Dr. Crumley was with the LCA.  Both have been working hard to correct the direction the ELCA has taken.  They said that if they knew the ELCA was going to go in the direction it has, they would never have gone through with the merger.  They are deeply saddened as to what has happened in their church.
What would Jesus do?  I think Jesus would call Bishop Mark Hanson and the Chicago council hypocrites.  He would speak to them like he did to the Pharisees.  They take the Word of God and change it for their own traditions and like to puff themselves up, ignoring the advice of the Council of Bishops and others who advised them not to change the 2/3 rule for the Churchwide Assembly vote.
I, too, was in denial for years about what was going on in the ELCA and where it was headed.  I must stop.  I must be true to my faith.  I must, as the Bible teaches us, put God first.  I must love God above all else.  Salvation is not from the ELCA—it is from God alone.  Some of you will vote to stay in the ELCA because of friendship.  That is the wrong reason.  Your friends cannot save you.  What do you believe in your heart?  When making choices about faith and life, morality and ethics, where do you place the importance of the Bible?  By their own admission and writings the ELCA doesn't place the Bible as the most important anymore.  First and most important is our individual experience they say.  How do you feel about this?  What is your experience?  Second in importance is science.  We must let scientists inform our faith.  Third is philosophy.  As if faith is a matter of the mind and reason.
People should vote to stay in the ELCA if you agree with the new theological interpretations; if you agree the leadership of the church can manipulate and control church policies and doctrines; if you agree that the cross of Christ is now emptied of its power because there is no one to save because everyone will go to heaven; if you agree that human nature has changed and Jesus didn't have it all right.  I will cling to the cross; I will trust in God's Word as it is revealed in Holy Scripture.
It's so sad because the ELCA has many wonderful ministry programs.  To have such inept leadership that would jeopardize the ministries of the church to further their own theological and social agendas is appalling.  It is both futile and foolish, as well as contrary to its duties and rights, for a Christian congregation to subject itself to the opinions of human leaders who depart from the Word of God.
Go with the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ).  Contrary to what some are saying, we will lose nothing except those above us who are trying to control the church.  There will still be a youth group, a women's organization, a men's club and so forth.  I have chosen to go with LCMC.  If the vote goes to stay with the ELCA, I will resign as soon as I receive a call from a LCMC church.  I hope that doesn't happen.  I would like to stay and continue to be your pastor, teaching and preaching the gospel as I was taught, helping you to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Roger Michaelson 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ELCA Treasurer Provides Mid-Year Financial Report to ELCA Leaders

ELCA Treasurer Provides Mid-Year Financial Report to ELCA Leaders

Date Tue, 5 Oct 2010 17:21:35 -0500

Title: ELCA Treasurer Provides Mid-Year Financial Report to ELCA 

>October 5, 2010  

ELCA Treasurer Provides Mid-Year Financial Report to ELCA Leaders

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- A mid-year budget reduction of $4.2 million in
current fund spending by the Church Council of the Evangelical 
Church in America (ELCA) has helped the churchwide organization 
a balance of income and spending for 2010 through Aug. 31, said 
Jackson-Skelton, ELCA treasurer.  However, in a report to ELCA 
she expressed concern about continuing declines in mission support 
to the churchwide organization, down $5 million so far this year.


For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or