In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Who's Ready for a Big Dose of Church Politics?

There is certainly a lot going on in the ELCA. It's time ripe with angst.

Down in Atlanta, a friend of mine has been told by the Committee on Appeals that he is no longer a pastor on the roster of the ELCA. For a while, things were looking incredibly hopeful. The disciplinary panel had suggested that Visions and Expectations was a bad policy that has no effect other than to hurt people. They even gave suggestions on how to change the policy so that Pastor Brad would be able to continue to serve his congregation without being punished by the ELCA.

At the same time, there is a wonderful debate going on over at Lutherpunk's blog about Word Alone and its purpose and value. I was in college and seminary when a lot holy heck was raised about Call to Common Mission and its implications. However, as a layperson, I didn't ever get that involved in the debate much at all. It appeared to me (it remains to be seen how accurate this perception was) that this was something that only mattered to clergy. After all, it was primarily about ordination and who and who would not be giving the authority of the office of pastor. I also suspected that it had a lot to do with resentment of church hierarchy, primarily bishops and our Churchwide office.

I've always held these two debates side-by-side. For one thing, I was under the understanding that, at one time, Word Alone was pushing for less power to be held within the hierarchy. However, when it comes to the ordination and call of gay or lesbian pastors, these same people (I'm stereotyping here) are very adamant that the bishop come in to punish the pastor or congregation, or both. They do not want a synod office policing what they do, but they certainly want someone watching what other congregations do. This seems contrary to the idea of a more congregational-based polity.

Now, I'm not advocating for us to be a congregational-based denomination. In fact, I appreciate the fact that there is a hierarchy (or, as I like to call it, a system of back ups). I've been part of enough unhealthy congregations to know that sometimes someone needs to step in and referee the place.

In a few weeks, the ELCA will be having its Churchwide Assembly in Chicago. I will be there, not as a voting member, or as a visitor (I've been that in the past). I'm going to be there to help promote a change in our policy that allows folks like Bradley, and countless others, follow the call that God has given them. This will place me in the camp of Lutherans Concerned and Goodsoil. It also places me in (perceived) opposition to the Lutheran CORE, Word Alone, and the Rock Solid Lutherans (do they even exist anymore). It is a position I am not looking forward to.

I enjoy talking about church politics, but I hate having to live it out. I would prefer to talk, learn and grow in community. However, I was educated at a very polarizing institution (hint: It's in St. Paul.) that didn't know how to foster a community. Churchwide Assembly just seems like a bad extension of that.


Blogger Melissa said...

Hi Ross...I too will be at CWA, but as a voting member. At least from the standpoint of the Minneapolis delegation we have been building community before we go. And I will be excited to see you in Chicago and anyone else I can call my community. Shalom...

11:12 AM  

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