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

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fallout Continues from ELCA’s Gay Clergy Decision as Lutheran Churches Leave

By Peter J. Smith
CHICAGO, August 16, 2010 ( – The departure of several more congregations in central Illinois from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has once again highlighted how the denomination’s decision to approve active homosexual clergy has triggered a slow, steady bleeding of congregations.
One year ago this month at its national convention, the ELCA voted "to open the ministry of the church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships."
The policy change was decided by more than 100 votes – 559 in favor to 451 against; but since the vote the ELCA has both dropped in members and congregations.
According to Illinois’s News-Gazette, at least three more churches have initiated the process to leave the ELCA, which claims a membership of 10,400 congregations and 4.6 million baptized members. Under the ELCA’s rules congregations that wish to disaffiliate themselves must take two votes passing by a two-thirds majority to leave, with a 90 day consultation period with the local bishop scheduled between the votes. The congregation officially cuts off ties with the denomination upon passage of the second vote.
The journal reports that by the end of June, 462 congregations had cast their first votes to leave the ELCA, with 312 adopting the resolution. Of these, 196 congregations have taken their second vote, with only 11 congregations opting not to leave the ELCA.
The pastors of three Lutheran churches in Illinois told the News-Gazette that they were leaving the ELCA over concerns that the denomination was no longer faithful to the biblical basis of the Church’s teaching, especially when it comes to teachings on sin and salvation.
Rev. Jeffray Greene, pastor of American Lutheran Church in Rantoul, where 94 percent of his congregation voted to leave, told the News-Gazette that he knew from his seminary days that proponents of a homosexualist theology were determined at the beginning of the ECLA’s history to change the church’s teaching.
"Twenty-seven years ago, when I was in the seminary, (Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif.), there were two mutually exclusive theologies going on in the ELCA,” said Greene. He added, “The ELCA was formed to be what it is. Three gay guys I went to school with had this as their agenda.”
Pastor James Lehmann of Immanuel Lutheran in Flatville, where 94 percent also voted to leave, told the Illinois newspaper that the ELCA is sending the message that there are multiple ways of salvation rather than through Jesus Christ, and that posed an insurmountable problem.
"I think it's unfortunate that we had to take the vote,” said Lehmann, “but to be true to our faith, we need to do that."
Some of the Lutheran congregations revealed they were considering affiliating with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), which was formed in response to the ELCA’s homosexual clergy decision. There are a number of conservative Lutheran denominations in the United States, such as the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, American Association of Lutheran Churches, Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, and others.
Delegates of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod in July voted to approve a resolution commending two study documents that stated the ELCA’s decision on homosexual clergy both contravened Sacred Scripture and strained relationships between the two churches, by creating the impression that all U.S. Lutherans were in agreement with ELCA’s position.
The LCMS also voted to strengthen efforts to promote fidelity to confessional Lutheranism worldwide as a positive response to the ELCA decision.

See related coverage by
Prominent Lutheran Pastor: Yes, I Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction
US Evangelical Lutheran Church Approves Homosexual Clergy

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Heresy and the ELCA?! What does this have to do with Wicca, Paganism, and Witchcraft?

Heresy and the ELCA?! What does this have to do with Wicca, Paganism, and Witchcraft?

Hello again all! So I just couldn't help but to share this with you since I can see some of the implications it is going to have on the Pagan community, but it's also very through provoking, and some of you know me, and I love to think...a lot.

Just wondering what YarrowSage is going about in this forum discussion...well the short version is that the ELCA, aka the Evangelical Lutherans Church in America has apparently found a Goddess. A what you cry out, a Goddess, a female interpretation of the divine you say! Well yes and here is some of the fantastic linkage to the story and to the actual ritual documents that show everything that happened.

The Blogger page which gives an overview of the event:
You do have to scroll down on the page to the August 4th 2010 entry to get to it.

The ELCA page which has the ritual detailed for all to read:
It's rather long to be honest to you, but well worth the finger on mouse scrolling you'll be doing. It's also a beautiful and fantasticservice which honored and re-instated seven gay and lesbian Lutheran ministers while openly admitting to its congregation that discrimination against GLBT community was not only wrong, but really bums out Jesus. He's not cool with it.

The event, which took place on July 27th, 2010, was done by the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) as a formal apology to the GLBT Lutheran community and to show the right step that the community is taking. Needless to say, 98% of ELCA's pastors are not stoked about this, and while the discrimination against the GLBT community in my eyes is silly, its gonna be an interesting ride.

Why you ask? Well, not so much about the GBLT Lutheran community being recognized and apologized to and these seven brave and heroic pastors (it's not easy being a pastor, especially a GLBT one) finally being able to religiously do what all other heterosexual and closeted GLBT pastors do, but rather their inclusion of a Goddess, as mentioned above.

Now, please do not assume that I am against a Goddess in Christianity, although I don't know if the religion itself can traditionally support one. I will say that it threw me for a loop until I realized that the Goddess they are referring to, Sophia, is actually to the best of my knowledge (please feel free to fix this if its wrong) is the feminine aspect of God, and the wisdom of God. So, not so much a female deity, but rather it seems with the ELM that God can and should have female characteristics. Again, nothing wrong with this, but it seems to some of the ritual documentation that Sophia, who is also called " Our mother" makes Sophia seem more deity like rather than the  Christian mysticism concept of wisdom. This prayer highlights that:

O Sophia, Wisdom and Mother of us all, you are One with many names and
images. May we see in all who are gathered here today your multiplicity
of blessings. Today we honor your unlocking systems and practices that
devalued and demeaned us for so many years and by putting your way of
honoring people in its place.

My boyfriend's family is ELCA, and his brother, an ordained Lutheran pastor are not happy about this, which means not only is this Mother and Goddess aspect offensive to them, but also the fact that during a part of the service, one no longer as to use a standard prayer, but rather (and I quote this from the ritual texts) "Now in union with our friend and lover Jesus, and in the language most familiar to you, let us pray" is given their choice of three different prayers to use. The first one is the standard one, the one that I heard the Catholic version of back in my days of Catholic school and seemingly forced mass. The second one is gender neutral, and very well written, however, the third one is Goddess centric in its linguistic style and inclusion of "Mother" and feminine personification of God. The third player is below:

Our Mother who is within us, we celebrate your many names.Your wisdom come, your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us.Each day you give us all that we need.You remind us of our limits
and we let go.You support us in our power and we act in courage.For you are the dwelling place within us,the empowerment around us,and the celebration among us, now and forever. Amen.

I don't have an issue with this, but I guess the whole reason why I wrote this forum was to see:

1. What you all think of this?
2. Is there a branch of Christianity that I am not familiar with which explains the third player along with the feminine personification of God?
3. What ramifications could this have on the Pagan community? For example, what would this interpretation of God do to feminist oriented witchcraft (if that's the wrong term I apologize now) or Dianic Wicca/Witchcraft where God is strictly female?
4.How does this impact Christian Wicca where one attempts to mesh the God/Goddess with Jesus/Mary? I do find this question to be the most thought provoking of them all.

I do want to understand if this is me misinterpreting the facts or if there is some branch of Christianity that I totally missed out on. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a very proud DRW and I shall be, but this seems at the very least something interesting to me. I'm not mad that there is a Goddess deity and/or personality being used in Christianity, but I just can't help but see where it fits in with standard Conservative Lutheran practices. Thanks in advance for the great discussion!

Replies to This Discussion

You might want to check out the Pistis Sophia - from the Nag Hamadi Library - Which is a gnostic christian text from 6thC in it there is a section that has echoes of the Charge of the Goddess which makes for intriguing reading. Blessings
Thank you Steve, I shall have to read that. BB good sir!
Excellent thread and news!

1. This is fantastic! A positive step in restoring the balance in the Godhead so long neglected by Christianity. While it is a very small sect, that may end up facing (another) schism, keeping it in the new theological context is simply beautiful. Extra props in the reinstatement of the same-sex preference priests! Honestly, this is rather exciting even to me, who has no part of it or have experienced Lutheranism. I can see why many are not pleased, but such radical steps either sizzle out or become a larger part of the norm. Here's to it propagating further and further. Even if the others don't catch on, maybe they'll show fair understanding.

2. Sophia was celebrated as the Divine Feminine in Greek Gnostic Christianity. Her name means "Wisdom" and was an adoption of the Jewish Shekinah ("Presence") of Christianity's previous tie. To the Gnostics that later acquired familiarity with the Roman Christianity, She became identified with the Holy Spirit but kept Her feminization. With a few of the heretical sects (by standards of Rome) She was part of the Pleroma, a collective pluralistic view of Deity that created and controlled the Universe. Totally recommended cultural-contexted reads: "The Thunder, Perfect Mind" and "Pistis Sophia".

3. It could build into more positive relationships with the pagan community. I can't see it as being the least bit aversive. With Goddess-only sects such as the Dianics, they'll probably keep on trucking only with Goddess.

4. Christian Wicca will never make sense since it attempts to blend two different religions. Even with the acknowledgment of the Divine Feminine, it still doesn't blend in together too well. HOWEVER, it would make more sense than using "Mary" since in the original (heretical) Gnostic Cosmology, Christos and Sophia were "consorts" (for lack of better words), making more on par with Wicca. However, that still wouldn't necessarily make a blend of the two more sensible.

Monday, August 16, 2010

ELCA Reports Biggest-Ever Drop in Membership

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America witnessed its biggest-ever drop in membership last year, according to a recently released analysis.
By the end of 2009, ELCA membership stood at 4.5 million – 90 thousand less than the year before, reported the ELCA Office of the Secretary and ELCA Research and Evaluation. Before the latest drop, the biggest loss was 79 thousand – a drop witnessed in 2005.
The ELCA congregation count, meanwhile, was recorded as 10,348 – 48 less than the year before. The largest-ever drop in the congregation count was recorded in 2004 – a drop of 72.
Despite the losses, the reported total assets of ELCA congregations was found to have grown in 2009 by 1.2 percent to $20.9 billion.
And average giving per baptized member grew 2.8 percent in 2009 to $492, reported ELCA secretary David D. Swartling.
"During these challenging times, ELCA members have continued to be remarkably steadfast in their giving," remarked Swartling to ELCA’s official news service.
"[A]nd many ELCA congregations remain surprisingly healthy from an economic perspective," he added.
Also included in ELCA’s report was the average number of people in worship in ELCA congregations, which declined slightly from the previous year.
A total of 1,289,967 people, or 28.39 percent of baptized ELCA members, attended weekly worship in 2009. In the previous year, 1,330,709, or 28.71 percent of baptized members, attended weekly worship.
Like other mainline denominations, ELCA has witnessed a steady decline in membership. In 1987, thedenomination reported a membership of 5.3 million and more than 11,000 congregations.
Despite the losses, ELCA remains the largest Lutheran church body in the United States. The next largest, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, reports a membership of 2.5 million.