Schism in Lutheran charities

The Associated Press has a good and remarkably objective story on how the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) is stopping its co-operation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in military chaplaincy and charity work.  From journalist Rachel Zoll:

The latest casualty of the long-running Protestant conflicts over the Bible and homosexuality is a massive network of social service agencies that work in areas ranging from adoption to disaster relief.

The theologically conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod announced this week that direct work with its larger and more liberal counterpart, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has become “difficult if not impossible,” because of doctrinal differences, including the 2009 decision by liberal Lutherans to lift barriers for ordaining gays and lesbians.

Neither denomination would discuss the potential financial impact Wednesday. Many Lutheran-affiliated agencies receive substantial state and federal money through contracts and grants that would not be directly affected by any split. However, similar to Catholic Charities, Lutheran agencies are some of the biggest service providers in their communities and have been struggling to meet increased demand for help during the recession.

Just one of the joint Lutheran agencies, Lutheran Services in America, said on its website that it encompasses more than 300 health and human services organizations with a combined annual budget of more than $16 billion.

“We recognize that this is a difficult issue. It’s complicated,” said the Rev. Herb Mueller, first vice president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, based in St. Louis. “We’re trying to take a nuanced and caring approach to all of these situations that’s also faithful to what the Bible teaches on these issues.”

The Rev. Donald McCoid, an ecumenical officer for the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said, “we are deeply concerned about the ministries of care that may be challenged by the recent action of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.”

The Lutherans are among several church groups facing fallout over recent steps toward accepting same-sex relationships. The Episcopal Church caused an uproar among fellow Anglicans worldwide in 2003 by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Just this month, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally lifted the celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy, striking down an obstacle to gay and lesbian ordination.

The situation for Lutherans differed in that decades of splits and mergers had already largely divided the religious community along theological lines. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with about 4.5 million members, was formed from church bodies with Danish, Finnish, German and Swedish backgrounds. The merger that led to its latest incarnation occurred in 1988.

Yet, even with separate denominations, Lutherans continued to work together in a wide range of joint ministries such as Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Lutheran World Relief. Among the cooperative agencies are organizations that offer health care to senior citizens, support for the disabled, job training, tutoring and housing, along with finding homes for foster children. Mueller said in an interview that 81 of the 120 recognized service organizations of the Missouri Synod cooperate in some way with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Twenty-two of the agencies offer adoption services or foster care, he said.

The 2.3 million-member Missouri Synod has been studying the issue for more than a year through its Committee on Theology and Church Relations. This week, the panel issued a 15-page document of guidelines for churches, congregants and ministries on how they should decide whether to continue direct joint work with the Chicago-based Lutherans.

The only immediate announced break was for the Missouri Synod to stop its practice of training military chaplains with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The president of the Missouri Synod, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, said in a statement that the decision, effective next year, was based on the ELCA decision on gay ordination, and on the military’s plan to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy. The two denominations had trained military chaplains together for decades, but

However, the guidelines for evaluating the joint relationships made it clear that cooperative work in many of the agencies is likely to end.

via Gay split causes upheaval for Lutheran charities – Faith and Values – TheState.com.

Why can’t the two denominations work together to deliver relief for earthquake victims and the like, just because they differ about homosexuality?  Explain.

Alaska report

As I said we’d be, we are in Alaska.  This land is vast.  This one state is a fifth the size of all of the others put together.   It’s not only the northernmost state and the westernmost state, it is the easternmost state, since some of the Aleutian islands stretch into the Eastern hemisphere.  And much of this land is virtually inaccessible.  If you look at a road atlas of Alaska, you will see one red highway like an artery circling around the middle of the state, plus some capillaries around Anchorage.  And that’s about all the highways there are.  (You will also see a road headed up to the far north.  That’s the one featured on Ice Road Truckers.)  You can’t even drive to the state capital.  The only way into Juneau is by ship or by plane.  The main way to get to the little towns and other sites in the vast northland is to fly there.  In Anchorage you can see huge parking lots of private planes, some of them ancient little Piper Cubs, plus float planes in the lakes docked at the piers like boats.

The parents of a former student have been very, very gracious in showing us around.  We went two hours inland into the mountains and hiked on a glacier.   One might think that a glacier would be like a sheet of ice, smooth like a skating rink.  In reality, as we learned, the surface of a glacier is utterly irregular, with slants and hills and holes and streams and crevasses.  Also patches of rocks and silt as well as ice that is sometimes white, sometimes clear, and sometimes an eery glowing blue.  You had to watch every step.  It was extreme hiking.

Thanks to our guides to Anchorage for your hospitality, for your driving, and for your bringing  such adventure into our usually humdrum lives!  Later today we get on the ship!

9.5 Theses on the Emergent Church

In the tradition of someone else, Wheaton professor David Milliner has posted 9.5 Theses against the Emergent Church (that variety of the church growth movement that tries to be postmodernist).   Here are some of them:

1. I’ll say it again: He who marries the spirit of the age will soon become a widower. Do those who married postmodernity realize their spouse is in a nursing home?

1.5 Christians who cater their theology to accommodate deconstruction are comparable to sub-rate CCM bands who copy Green Day five years after they’ve ceased being cool. They’ll sell, but to a subset of evangelicalism who want to be “relevant” – which is the only group they’ll ever be relevant to.

2. Yes Paul said he sees through a glass darkly – but he still saw. Don’t forget to keep reading.

2.5 Paul did not end his speech at the Areopagus by saying “the Unknown God” is a great idea, sorry I bothered you. Nice statue. Can I have a copy? . . . .

NEW! 4.75 POP QUIZ! What is wrong with the following Biblical quotation? “Seek and you shall seek.”

Revised! 5. Protestantism’s only hope is to cling to its birthright, a passionate focus on the written Word of God, the unique, authoritative avenue to the Word of God in Christ. Protestants are an order of the written Word (in very sad condition) within God’s woefully divided church. Our guide in stewarding this threatened charism is not the “spirit of protest” but the Holy Spirit. There’s a difference. . . .

6.5 Speaking of big words, consider this one: “And.” It’s especially helpful when confronted with polarizing rhetoric shortsighted enough to suggest one must choose propositional/factual truth or narrative/aesthetic truth.7. It does not “puncture the hegemony of logic” to deny the central tenets of the Christian faith. The central tenets of the Christian faith do a fine job of that already. It is not humility to deny what God has done by impenetrable obscurity masquerading as “nuance.” It is pride.

7.5 To correct abuses of rationality (which are legion) by neutering epistemology is like correcting poor carpentry by outlawing tools.

NEW! 7.75 The most radical postmodern epistemology appears numbingly Newtonian next to the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 8: You can’t know this kind of knowledge (verse 3), this Knowledge knows you.

8. Heresy is boring, not exciting because it eviscerates mystery. If you’re attracted to heresy because it makes you feel naughty then that’s kinda creepy. If you’re attracted to it because you don’t want to “limit God,” then the religion that serves a God who became a particular first-century Palestinian Jew might not be for you.

via millinerd.com: 9.5 Theses.

HT:David Mills

Satan sandwich with a side of Satan fries

The debt compromise had two groups of people who are normally polar opposites agreeing with each other at long last.  The measure was opposed by both those who are really conservative and those who are really liberal.   Here is what the latter are saying (lover of colorful metaphors that I am, I have to salute the imagery of “Satan sandwich”):

Dispirited liberals fumed Monday over the deal to raise the debt ceiling that would cut deeply across the government, include no new tax revenue from wealthy Americans and would not provide any additional stimulus for a lagging economy.

Most of all, they lamented President Obama’s failure to anticipate and overcome the leverage exerted by House Republicans who threatened to force a national default.

“It’s a surrender to Republican extortion,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who voted against the deal. “It’s one thing to say we want this, we don’t want that as part of negotiations. It’s another to say we will destroy the country and the economy if you don’t do what we want.”

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said he, too, was voting no because of the “dangerous precedent” by Republican demands. But most offensive, he said, were the cuts unmatched by any new revenue. “My constituents are suffering; they’ve lost their jobs and their homes, and now to cut the very programs that could have provided them with support while the rich are given a pass — it’s ridiculous.”

The ire burned hottest online, where liberal groups such as MoveOn.org mobilized opposition and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) tweeted that the deal was “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich. If you lift the bun, you will not like what you see.”

The White House dispatched Vice President Biden to lobby congressional liberals, and by day’s end some were reluctantly coming round. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led the way, telling ABC’s Diane Sawyer that she would support the deal despite it being a Satan sandwich “with some Satan fries on the side.”

via Angry liberals seek silver lining in debt-limit deal – The Washington Post.

Stayover relationships

Living together out of wedlock is still something like marriage.  Too much like it, apparently for an increasing number of couples today.  The latest trend sees living together as too much of a commitment, as too permanent.   So cohabitation is giving way to “stayover relationships”:

More couples in long-term relationships are choosing to stay over a few nights per week at each other’s home instead of cohabitating, a university study has concluded.

University of Missouri PhD student Tyler Jamison conducted the study that found the growing trend among college-educated men and women in their 20s.

The appeal of these “stayover” relationships for young couples is keeping their independence and staying away from the big commitment that living together brings. Couples who live together and break up have to deal with apartment leases, shared household items, and other things that automatically bond people who live together. Men and women in their 20s are in transitional times in their lives and many do not want to be tied down to commitments in their personal lives.

Some participants in the study said they had no interest in ever cohabitating in a romantic relationship outside of marriage, but do engage in stayover relationships. Some couples even stay over at their significant other’s house seven nights a week, but maintain their own residence. They cited that if they can go home or tell the other person to go home, they are not cohabitating.

via Study: Young Couples Stay Over Rather than Cohabitate  | SmartAboutHealth.Net.

The “hobbits” vs. Mordor

Did you hear about how former Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been mocking the Tea Party folks as “hobbits”?  He apparently never read Lord of the Rings.   The lowly hobbits ended up defeating the unlimited government of Mordor.  And, according to Marc Thiessen, this is what happened in the debt reduction battle:  How the Tea Party ‘hobbits’ won the debt fight – The Washington Post.

I think the Tea Party folks should drop the Boston harbor revolutionary label.  They should do as “Christians” and “Protestants” and “Lutherans” have done:  embrace the label intended as derogatory.  Tea Partiers should change their name, trademarks, and stationery and start calling themselves “Hobbits.”  That reference, with its connotation of ordinary down to earth villagers up against overwhelmingly superior power, would make them far more sympathetic.  I know John McCain’s attempt at a putdown (what if he were president?), which he got from the Wall Street Journal, makes me appreciate more these populist activists who are forcing the government to control itself.  Again, conservatives need to win the battle of language and the battle of metaphors to win over the nation’s imagination.


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