Sunday, December 30, 2012

Getting One Thing Straight

It seems like maybe I need to do a little clarification on the purposes of this blog.  As I say at the top, these are my personal and professional musings, of a person who happens to be very clearly in the minority in the ELCA.

Take a look at the blog - some of it's personal, some of it's professional.  Some of it is critical of the ELCA, other posts, neutral or less so. 

I want this to be a place where I can toss out my musings, as I say, and where others can engage the conversation - tell me I'm right, tell me I'm wrong, ask questions, offer your own thoughts, etc. 

But: I don't want anyone to interpret my criticism of the ELCA as a lack of "loyalty", or my continued presence in a church body with which I frequently disagree as indication of my failure to have any personal integrity/listen to God/reject heretics/etc.

I am in the ELCA because it is where God has called me to be, and to stay, and to preach and teach and administer the sacraments.  This is not a conclusion that I have come to lightly.  Long before 2009, and in its wake, I thought and prayed long and hard about where God would have me serve and worship.  I did the very - very - hard work of discerning this.  I shed many, many tears.  I read like crazy, I met with people of varying denominational and confessional stripes.  I thought, cried, and prayed some more.  And through it all, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, right behind where God was leading me. 

And here I am.  It is not a perfect place, but neither is it the maw of hell.  Attempts to convince me otherwise, to try to convert me to...whatever, or to consign to perdition any and/or all who are in any way associated with the ELCA, are not helpful for any of us.  A very, very wise pastor who is by no means unclear on the necessity of proclaiming the law in addition to the gospel, who I have yet to see sacrifice truth for popularity or convenience, once said, "We are called to speak the truth in love.  If you cannot speak the truth in love, you are not ready to speak the truth."

I have many good friends, and plenty of acquaintances who have left the ELCA for a wide of variety of reasons.  I do not in any way begrudge them this.  The splintering of the Church is a tragedy, and all of us would do well to ponder and pray on that more often, but it also is what it is, and a good friend once reminded me that "it's not going to go back together the way it came apart". 

If the ELCA is not the place where you can, in good conscience, do these things - and for many people it is not - then by all means, get out.  Go in peace, + and go with God - wherever it is that he leads.  And then let go.  Let go of the hatred, the anger, the bitterness that you have toward the ELCA or mainline Protestants or liberals or whoever.  Remember the words of St. Paul, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you", and St. James, "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."  Let go.

And if the ELCA continues to be a place where you can worship, pray, proclaim, and live in good conscience, then please stay.  God is not yet finished with "this church".

Each one of us needs to be where God calls us to be, for whatever his purposes might be.  We need to be in a place where we can worship in peace and in good conscience.  We need to be in a place where we can focus on the main thing - the death and resurrection of Jesus as the only thing that has the power to fix this broken world, forgive sin, bring life out of death, and overcome the power of the devil.  But we cannot do that if we consistently spend our days fixating on denominational affiliation - our own or anybody else's.

Faith, hope, and love - for God and neighbor: may these gifts of God be yours in the coming year, and wherever you live denominationally or confessionally, may you keep your eyes focused firmly on Christ.


Kathy said...

Let us keep firmly focused on Christ. Exactly. But this is 2013, not 1513. What is "this church"? What is "that church"? Don't you see? "This" makes no sense!

Denominational. A named entity. Let's just be "THE Church"! No name necessasy. We are catholic, universal.

Elizabeth of Hungary said...


*Of course* it makes no sense - sadly, it's a term the ELCA uses at nearly every turn. When I use those two words, in that order, in quotes, it's sarcastic, and intended to mock the completely serious use of it elsewhere.

Sorry, I have a strange personality and sense of humor... :)

Kathy said...

You think you have a "strange personality and sense of humor"??? You don't know me. Everyone -- including all of my family -- thinks I'm nutz!

Unlike you, poor thing, I am old, and I don't care! I think I have enough $$ to last me, so I will say what I think! Also, yes, I believe God talks to me. Don't you? If He doesn't, where do I get all of this? I try very hard to be as "loving" as possible, but we live in "difficult times" and it is necessary to speak the truth.

Kathy said...

Here is the link to my new blog. I live in Miami, FL -- but I was born in Evanston, IL and grew up in Wilmette, IL -- New Trier Township -- LCA -- Swedish/German.

Elizabeth of Hungary said...

I like the blog, Kathy! And yes, I believe God talks to me - I don't think I've ever audibly heard his voice, burning bush style, but certainly, he's got things to tell me, and I hope that I'm listening!

Kathy said...

Let's keep listening... this is 2013 not 1513. No one is "converting" anyone. The "project" Luther started has long been finished. The reforms are implemented. The world has changed, and new reforms are needed. What is NOT needed is for the Church to be broken. No 2 people on the Earth will ever agree on everything. We need to have a "father" of the "family" who gives unity and keeps order. This is the will of Christ. The family is not a democracy. The church is not a democracy.

As for me, I will keep writing.........

Kathy said...

Elizabeth -- I just read your 2 posts, and I agree with everything you said (unlike what I just wrote last night!). Your experiences are very similar to mine. When I made those comments on Dan Skogen's blog about "some reason," I was trying to say a lot in a few words and it came out very harsh. I apologize.

In 1972 I was a member of Tim Lull's (Timothy F. Lull) church in Needham, MA. That's when I decided to become a Catholic. I agonized over it, then one day I knocked on the door of the rectory of the local Catholic Church and mumbled to a young priest: "What do I have to do to become a Catholic?" He responded something like: "Huh? Why would you want to do that?"

That was the beginning. As the '70s (post-Vatican II) went on, I realized the Church was full of liberal theologians... and worse. I raised my family. In my 50s, I decided to get a degree in Theology in order to teach. I went to St Thomas and Barry in Miami. I was kicked out of both -- for being orthodox.

I cried. A lot.

I do believe that God has you in the ELCA for "some reason." The ELCA is coming apart very fast, and something will step in to fill the vacuum -- I think it will be the Emergent Church. You are a part of this. You will have to act.

What would Elizabeth of Hungary have done? From where did she get her strength? I say: The Eucharist. I say: Return to the Mass. Where are the Lutheran saints? Where are the miracle workers in the Lutheran Church?

When Tim Lull died, do you know what was above his coffin? A crucifix? A picture of Christ? No! Two large framed portraits -- one of Martin and one of Katherine. Where are the saints???

Anonymous said...

Dear Conservative Chica,

Dr. David Yeago from Southern Seminary has offered a similar but more academic perspective that you might find interesting if you have not already read his stuff. In one of his documents, he talks about "impaired communion" as a state of being for the ELCA. You can probably access his comments via your internet search engine.

It is intriguing to me that you strongly differentiate between Christianity and other religions with an obvious loyalty to Christianity. Then, you differentiate between traditional Lutheranism and the ELCA, but maintain loyalty to the denomination. Fascinating.

Many theologians now argue that we live in a post-denominational world. In the ELCA, believers continue to express their faith by voting with their wallets and feet. The mess at Luther Seminary, losses of mission support to Chicago and declines of local congregations (see the most recent issue of The Lutheran) are only symptoms of the disease.

A strong percentage of ELCA clergy continue to serve and stay in the denomination, but not because they want to. Impaired communion has sapped the passion for the ELCA's brand of Lutheranism, simliar to how the owners of franchises feel whose brand is freefalling in the marketplace. They've invested too much to leave and start over even though it pains them to stay. Their loyalty may be technical, but it is not functional.

You are in your first call out of seminary. You have not yet fully experienced the ELCA's actions that negatively affect your church's membership and giving. It will be interesting to hear about your loyalty once you see the fruits of your God-given labor be eaten by another church!

Post a Comment

My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23