Presbyterians to ordain gays & swinging singles

The Presbyterian Church (USA) opened the door to ordaining sexually-active gays–as well as other single people who want to be sexually-active outside of marriage–by removing the celibacy requirement for single clergy:

After decades of debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Tuesday struck down a barrier to ordaining gays, ratifying a proposal that removes the celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy, in the latest mainline Protestant move toward accepting gay relationships.

The change was endorsed last year by the Presbyterian national assembly, but required approval by a majority of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies. . . .

The measure approved Tuesday eliminates language in the church constitution requiring that clergy live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” The new provision instead requires ministers to “submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.” Each regional body will decide who it should ordain, and some districts are expected to continue to reject gay and lesbian candidates.

via Presbyterian vote removes barrier for ordaining gays and lesbians after decades of debate – The Washington Post.

Notice that this goes beyond simply allowing gay clergy, though that is what will get all of the attention.  It allows pastors to have extra-marital sex.

The way the church body went about this strikes me as worse than just allowing gays to be ordained.  Statistically, there are going to be more single heterosexuals than homosexuals, and this will permit all kinds of scandalous behavior in the parsonage.  This is worse than accepting gay marriage, since that misguided notion at least locates sex including gay sex within the office of marriage.   This ruling undermines marriage itself.

I’m curious how the Presbyterians construe submitting “joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life” to allow for this.

Closing a campus ministry because it works?

University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis is the LCMS campus ministry to the University of Minnesota.  It has ministered effectively to generations of college students, quite a few of whom have gone on to seminary and the pastoral ministry due to its influence.  My oldest daughter went to the University of Minnesota, and though exposed to some of the worst excesses of left wing postmodernist academia, she graduated battle tested and more firmly grounded in her Christian faith than ever, thanks to her involvement with University Lutheran Chapel.  It is theologically conservative, confessional, liturgical, and connects to young people.  But maybe that’s the problem.

The Minnesota South District wants to sell the property–which is a church that looks like a church in a prime location just off campus–so that it can take the money and start a different kind of campus ministry, one that follows church growth principles.  But do those ever really work with sophisticated college students?  It sounds like the approach that actually does work is being thrown out in favor of an approach that may or may not, but which accords more with the theoretical convictions of the mission executives in the district.

This sounds like what happened with the then-synodical radio program Issues, Etc., which was shut down by advocates of reaching out in evangelism even though the program reached out in evangelism to more people and did so more effectively than virtually any other synodical venture (save the daily Divine Service in ordinary congregations across the country).

The real reason for shutting down Issues, Etc. (now going strong on the web, as you can click in from our sidebar here) and now ULC seems to be the hostility of church-growth advocates who insist that contemporary worship and pop music and feel-good sermons are the ONLY way to do “mission” and that confessional, liturgical efforts must not be permitted no matter how effective they are.

Steadfast Lutherans » The U of M LCMS Chapel is a Church Growth Dream Come True, by Pr. Rossow.

 

This is the church, where is the steeple?

Steeples and bell towers have gone out of fashion for church buildings, reports USA Today. What hurts is the reason:

Nationwide, church steeples are taking a beating and the bell tolls for bell towers, too, as these landmarks of faith on the landscape are hard hit by economic, social and religious change. . . .

Architects and church planners see today’s new congregations meet in retooled sports arenas or shopping malls or modern buildings designed to appeal to contemporary believers turned off by the look of old-time religion.

Steeples may have outlived their times as signposts. People hunting for a church don’t scan the horizon, they search the Internet. Google reports searches for “churches” soar before Easter each year. . . .

After three decades of repairing steeples, [steeplejack Michael] Hardin still considers it “a bit of joy to restore something so old and so beautiful and help it retain its integrity.”

The average age of the churches he works on is a half-century. The older steeples, “built with top-notch lumber and a lot of heart,” are holding up structurally, and more often need only cosmetic fixes.

In more recent decades, Hardin says, “church builders went a little haywire. People used shortcuts and cheaper lumber or they moved to the fiberglass steeples that claim to be maintenance-free. And if there’s a problem they stand back and try to get band-aid repairs or they just remove it and cap it off.” . . .

Providence Baptist Church in McLean, Va., a congregation of 450 in the Washington suburbs, managed to get a whole new aluminum steeple and $25,000 annually for its maintenance budget by hopping on the leased-tower trend last year.

Senior Pastor Tim Floyd says the original steeple, moved from the congregation’s first location, was “in good shape, but it was too small for the larger, newer church. And we needed to bring in more money for our maintenance budget. So what could we do? We saw that cellphone companies are using innovative methods, like artificial trees with antennas, to disguise their equipment and bring in cell coverage without unsightly towers.”

Church leaders located a company ready to deal, negotiated the design and “now we have a steeple, hiding two cell antennas, that gives us a really big profile on the horizon. It’s elegant and majestic and a win-win for us,” Floyd says.

It’s also a visual contrast to a massive, modern megachurch across the street that boasts no steeple.

No surprise, says architect Gary Landhauser, a partner with Novak Design Group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who worked on nearly 30 churches in past 15 years.

“We have done a lot of church designs, but we haven’t done a steeple design in 15 years,” Landhauser says.

Today, he says, people want their church to look comfortable and inviting, “more like a mall.”

via Church steeples, aging out of fashion, meet their maker – USATODAY.com.

Architecture, like other art forms, expresses meaning.  Do you know why older churches built steeples?  Why they had bells?  What does it mean that today’s churches tend to use cheap materials?  Why are they being made to look “more like a mall”?  What does it mean when the sanctuary has a stage with studio lights, big speakers, and a drum set?  What do these design features  tell us about contemporary Christianity?

HT: Mollie Hemingway

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”

The readings in church last Sunday included this passage from John 20:

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

We get into a lot of good theological discussions on this blog.  Some of them get heated–and I apologize when they cross the line of Christian charity–but I know I learn from them.   I’d like to ask the non-Lutheran readers of this blog, what do you do with this passage?   We Lutherans, as is our wont, take it literally:  We see the office of disciple in the office of pastors today, so we believe that pastors, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, can forgive sins.  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.”   This happens individually, in private confession and absolution, and also every Sunday in corporate confession and absolution.   The whole congregation prays a prayer in which we confess our sins, and then the pastor says, “upon this your confession, as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  This often freaks out non-Lutheran visitors.   But I’ve wondered, how do they get around this passage?  One could have a different theology of the ministry and apply that ability to ALL Christians (actually, Lutherans do say that laity too can forgive sins), but surely this passage clearly gives human beings who have the Holy Spirit the power to forgive sins.  This is as clear statement as I can imagine, and I can’t see how it could be interpreted any other way.

So I’m asking, what do you Reformed, Arminian, Baptist, Pentecostal, and adherents to other Protestant Bible-believing theologies do with this passage?

“Cross & the Switchblade” author killed in auto crash

Rev. David Wilkerson, a pioneer in youth and urban ministry who founded Teen Challenge and wrote The Cross & the Switchblade, was killed in a car wreck.   The pastor of Times Square Church in New York City, he was 79.

Rev. Wilkerson was successful in reaching the seemingly unreachable. And yet he didn’t seem to pander or water down or conform to those he was trying to reach. At least that is my impression, though some of you may know more about his ministry than I do. If so, what was his secret and what is his legacy?

Religious Icon Rev. David Wilkerson tragically killed by a car crash in Texas – San Jose Christian Perspectives | Examiner.com.

HT:  Grace

You’ve got to read this book

For Lent I took up once again John Kleinig’s Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. That has to be one of the most helpful books I have ever read. I have been a Christian for a long time, and I am not unconversant when it comes to spiritual subjects. But I found myself learning fresh insights into the Christian faith on every page of this book.

Dr. Kleinig, an Australian theologian and Bible scholar, is simply the most illuminating contemporary Christian writer that I have come across. His subject here is “Christian spirituality,” what mystics and those seeking a deeper spiritual life all crave. But what he does is to open up that deep spirituality that can be found in the everyday life of the Christian: in the Gospel, in going to church, in reading the Bible, and in prayer. Grace Upon Grace has chapters on Christ and what He has done and continues to do for us; on how to meditate on God’s Word; on prayer; and on spiritual warfare.

Go to the Amazon site, which has a “look inside” feature for a sample. Go on and buy it there and the Cranach blog will get a commission. Some time ago I posted excerpts from the book on this blog. Do a search for “John Kleinig” and you can find them.

Reading it this time had an even greater impact on me than before. I was struck especially with what I was learning about intercessory prayer–praying for other people–and what it means to pray in Jesus’ name (praying as His agent for what He wants to happen). Also what he says about vocation, with his application of the New Testament’s military metaphors, with the garrison soldier not being responsible for the whole battle, just the plot of land where he was stationed.

Dr. Kleinig is Lutheran, but if you aren’t Lutheran, don’t let that keep you from reading it. All Christians can benefit from reading this book–pastors, young people in confirmation classes, lay people, new church members, everybody. If they do, they will be introduced to the riches of the Christian life. Seriously. Trust me on this. Read this book.


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