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Archive for February, 2009

An Open Letter of Concern to Blogging Lutheran Pastors, No. 2

February 21st, 2009 Comments off

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Readers might recall the previous open letter I posted. This is a follow up to that letter. A friend of mine and I were discussing a phenomenon we are noticing on several Lutheran pastors’ blog sites: relying on passive-aggressive game playing, rather than clear assertion and propositional argumentation and debate.

Here is what my friend said, and I thought it was interesting. Perhaps you will too.

“Passive-aggression is not a psychological disorder, it’s a game people play. And some Lutheran bloggers play it well. It’s not pop psychology, but the identification of a game wherein a person appears benign and victimized but actually is the aggressor. The “I’m offended” crowd is particularly good at this gambit. It’s also not really an ad hominem, since you are not making a point by attacking a person personally, you’re simply calling out his game.

This is really the whole mode of some Lutheran bloggers. They write ambiguously and then complain that no one understands them. I’ve fallen prey to that one on several occasions. Some Lutheran bloggers take weird positions on things, and then complain that people think they are weirdos.

I think the bottom line with the whole passive-aggressive Lutheran blogging crowd is that they like the attention, and they’ll do most anything to get it, including redefining Lutheranism. They’re not content with being another irrelevant cog in the wheel. They want recognition. In a way, when a person responds to them they provide the very thing they are looking for: recognition, attention, validation and credibility. The more attention you give them, even negatively, the more they do what they do.”

My respectful suggestion to Lutheran bloggers, particular Lutheran blogging pastors, is to drop the gamesmanship and start making clear and well reasoned assertions. Leave the amateur psycho-analysis, ad hominems and emotionalism at the door when you blog.

 

Categories: Blogging

An LCMS Statement on the ELCA’s Study and Recommendation on Sexuality

February 20th, 2009 8 comments

Rev. Matthew Harrison is the Executive Director of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod's Board for World Relief and Human Care. He and his department relate more often and more directly to agencies and entities of the ELCA than any other in the Missouri Synod. I appreciated Pastor Harrison's tone and clear word of concern about the implications and meaning of the ELCA's social statement.

Statement of Rev. Matthew Harrison on ELCA’s Task Force on Sexuality Study

ST.
LOUIS, Mo. – Yesterday the church commemorated the 463rd anniversary of
the death of Martin Luther. His last written words, found on a note in
his pocket, were "We are beggars: This is true." Hermann Sasse regarded
these final words as a summation of Luther’s great legacy to
Christianity. In all matters of faith and life, Christians are beggars
who receive what the Lord gives, and as the Lord gives. Salvation is
all by grace, all by Christ’s doing. All that we are to believe and
practice in the church is very clearly given in the Bible, God’s own
infallible Word.

Today the ELCA’s Task Force for ELCA Studies on
Sexuality released its "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies"
(http://www.elca.org/faithfuljourney). The report recommends a path for
the ELCA’s 2009 church-wide assembly to recognize and accept publicly
accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships of clergy
in those synods (ELCA regional divisions) and congregations, which
desire to approve of such relationships.

The LCMS position on
homosexuality is that of the Bible and the church catholic from the
very beginning. Revisionist readings of the Bible that assert otherwise
are deeply dependent upon views of the Bible that are at odds with its
self-definition as God’s very Word.

We at LCMS World Relief and
Human Care (LCMS Board for Human Care) have many tasks mandated by the
Missouri Synod, which involve a great deal of interaction and
partnership with ELCA offices, entities, affiliated agencies, and
individuals. We have sought to carry out these mandated tasks with
complete and uncompromising fidelity with charity, faithful to the
LCMS’s clearly stated positions, including those on human sexuality.
This task is becoming ever more complex, and the proposals of the ELCA
task force promise to increase this complexity greatly. We will
continue to the best of our ability to ensure that service
organizations recognized by the LCMS "respect and do not act contrary
to" (6.2.1 LCMS 2007 Handbook: Constitution, Bylaws, Articles of
Incorporation, page 200) the biblical position of the LCMS on this
issue.

To say that we are disappointed in the Task Force
proposals would be a vast understatement. But we are not surprised. We
are deeply concerned about many ELCA friends (on both sides of the
issue) and especially about those who find themselves holding the
orthodox position while their beloved church body slips into
heterodoxy. But we do not write in order to self-righteously castigate
the ELCA. Rather in deep humility and repentance, we think of our own
many and deep sins: our own failure to hear the word of God; our
failure to bear convincing witness on this issue; our own deep sins and
our lack of love for one another, which have often rendered our witness
of no effect; our lack of love and failure to reach out "with might and
main" to those who struggle with the issue of homosexuality.

Today,
Feb. 19, 2009, is a day of deep repentance. Join me in praying for the
future of the Lutheran church, in America and throughout the world.
Please join me too, in praying for the hundreds of Lutheran agencies,
which faithfully struggle to serve those in need. We are beggars: This
is true.

Rev. Matthew Harrison
Executive Director
LCMS World Relief and Human Care

(For
a further discussion on this topic from a biblical and Lutheran
Confessional viewpoint please see Armin Wenz’s The Contemporary Debate
on Homosexual Clergy
published by LCMS World Relief and Human Care.)

A Pastor’s Reaction to the ELCA Sexuality Proposals

February 19th, 2009 5 comments

I'd say this pretty much sums up the very heart of the problem, and concern. Here is how one of my ELCA pastor friends has expressed what he sees as the greatest tragedy in the ELCA debates over homosexuality and now the latest round of proposals.

I'm concerned with a generation of young people who are being taught in
ELCA congegations a false understanding of God's intent for marriage
and family.  I'm concerned with a generation of young people who,
having had the institution of marriage fall in on them as they
experienced their parent's divorces, have few positive models of
marriage and we have yet to expend any significant effort extolling WHY
God's intent for marriage is a healthy choice for them.  I'm concerned
with a yet another generation of young people who will never know the
Gospel or what it means to experience deep seated freedom and grace in
Christ because we have  wasted the last 20 years on this issue and are
becoming increasing inept at evangelism in our current culture along
the way – with many more years to come as these recommendations go
forward.
If these recommendations pass as written, the ensuing
political chaos will be visited upon every synod in the ELCA as the
advocates take the fight local.  We will no longer function as a
national church, but a federation of synods with conflicting standards
for ordination and expected clergy behaviors – and all the on-going
conflicts and "will to power" that entails.


Categories: Lutheranism

ELCA Receives Sexuality Task Force and Recommendations

February 19th, 2009 15 comments

I'll reproduce the official press release from the ELCA below, but today the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America released its official recommendation for a "social statement on sexuality." In it the task force that prepared it recommends several resolutions that would enact the full inclusion of openly homosexual men and women as pastors and other church workers in the ELCA.

The first resolution calls on the ELCA Churchwide Assembly this summer to "make a decision" on the fundamental question: do we, or don't we, on the question of "monogamous, life-long homosexual relationships" for their pastors and other rostered workers. Now, you might say, "OK, fine, they just reject that, then, no problem."

But here is the problem. The ELCA's Church Council a couple months ago, set in place a rule that would require only a simple majority vote on these issues, with no further churchwide ratification and not even a 2/3 majority vote. In other words, game over. The last ELCA Assembly, by a simple majority, placed a moratorium on any disciplinary measures for openly homosexual persons on their roster.

As one of my good ELCA pastor friends just said on another forum, a week ago he predicted this kind of strategy: call for loving acceptance of all diverse opinions, allow for 'local options' and then simply say that none of this need divide them as a Church. He then added: "I'm grieving that as of today the end-game of the
ELCA as a National Church may have been officially set in motion." I share his grief.

February 19, 2009

ELCA Task Force Releases 'Human Sexuality: Gift And Trust'
09-046-MRC

     CHICAGO (ELCA) — The 15-member Task Force for the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Studies on
Sexuality released Feb. 19 "Human Sexuality:  Gift and
Trust" — a proposed social statement on human sexuality.
     The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly — the chief
legislative body of the church — is expected to consider
the social statement for adoption as an official statement
Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.
     The proposed statement addresses a spectrum of concerns
relevant to human sexuality from a Lutheran perspective. It
responds to the question:  "How do we understand human
sexuality within the context of Jesus' invitation to love
God and love our neighbor?"  If adopted by the assembly, the
social statement will assist the ELCA in its moral
deliberation, govern its institutional policies and guide
the church's public advocacy work.
     While the document does not offer once-and-for-all
answers to contemporary questions about sexuality, it "seeks
to tap the deep roots of Scripture and the Lutheran theological
tradition" for Lutherans to discern what is "responsible and
faithful action," according to the proposed statement.
     The document contains sections on key Lutheran principles,
trust and human sexuality, social structures that enhance trust,
sexuality and trust in relationships, sexuality and social
responsibility, and a series of resolutions to incorporate
the statement into the mission and ministry of the ELCA.
     "Sexuality has to do with relationships, and God has made
us relational beings," said the Rev. Rebecca S. Larson,
executive director, ELCA Church in Society.
     "The underlying question of this social statement,
therefore, is what makes right relationship. Our model is
God's unfailingly, trustworthy relationship with people and
creation.  No human relationship can thrive without trust.
The social statement therefore considers all human
relationships and social structures in light of what fosters
trust, commitment and protection for those who are vulnerable,"
she said.
     The call for trust is woven into the proposed statement's
discourse about marriage, same-gender relationships, family
and children, commitment in relationships, adult cohabitation,
society, public ministry and more.
     On the topic of marriage the document states that the
historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions
recognize marriage as a covenant between a woman and a man.
In recent decades the church has begun to understand "in new
ways" the need of same-gender couples who seek relationships
of "lifelong companionship and commitment as well as public
accountability and legal support for those commitments," said
the statement.
     The proposed statement acknowledges that "consensus does
not exist" among ELCA members on how to "honor" committed
same-sex relationships.  The statement reflects differing
conclusions on the basis of biblical and theological
interpretation.  Some members believe homosexuality is a sin
in their understanding of biblical teaching and natural law,
and some members believe homosexuality "reflects a broken
world in which some relationships do not pattern themselves
after the creation God intended."
     Some Lutherans believe same-gender relationships are to
be "honored and held to high standards and public
accountability" but do not equate these relationships with
marriage, and some believe that same-gender relationships are
to be held to the same "rigorous standards, sexual ethics
and status as heterosexual marriage," said the statement.
     Despite the varying viewpoints, the church encourages
all people to live out their faith with "profound respect for
the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor," said the
proposed statement.
     The document calls on congregations to be safe places for
children and youth, and it calls for education on human
sexuality for children and youth.
     "Degrees of physical intimacy should be carefully matched
to degrees of growing affection and commitment," stated the
document.  For this reason, the document calls the church to
oppose "non-monogamous, promiscuous or casual sexual
relationships."
     The statement addresses the topic of the value of
friendship, adult cohabitation, and Lutheran opposition of
sexual exploitation within and outside the church.  It also
asks that justice for women in church and society continue
to be an important dimension of Lutheran response.
     "When approved, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust will be
the 10th social statement of the ELCA," said Larson. "All
social statements are developed through at least a five-year
process in a broadly participatory way."
     "Human sexuality infuses all of life from the time we
are born until the time we die.  It is also social.  Economics,
business and advertising, social roles, medicine and science
are all relevant to human sexuality and the ways we act in
relationship to others.  How to use this gift in a way that
honors God and serves the neighbor is a critical issue,
particularly in this culture," Larson said.
     A draft of the social statement was given to ELCA members
in March 2008 for study, review and feedback.
     Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust "reflects what the task
force heard from this church in response to the draft social
statement," said Larson.
     "The theological section has been both focused and
expanded.  The role of God in creation and the role of law in
our lives has been made more prominent.  There is more material
on how Lutherans approach social ethics from a perspective of
faith.  The order of the sections has been changed to deal
with the intersection between the individual and social aspects
of human sexuality," she said.  "Also, it is 1 thousand words
shorter."
     Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust completes a directive from
the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to develop a social statement
on human sexuality.
     The task force also released a "Report and Recommendation
on Ministry Policies" to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly regarding
the professional leadership of the church on Feb. 19.  This
document completes a directive from the 2007 assembly to address
and make recommendations on changes to policies that preclude
Lutherans in committed, same-gender relationships from the ELCA's
professional rosters.
     The proposed social statement and the report and
recommendation on ministry policies are two separate documents.
They are open to review by the ELCA Church Council — the
church&#
39;s board of directors — and will be considered by the
2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
- – -
     "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" is available at
http://www.elca.org/faithfuljourney on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
http://www.elca.org/news
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog

Categories: Liberal Christianity

Let me TELL you about The Essential Lutheran Library

February 17th, 2009 12 comments

For a number of years you might have noticed that Concordia Publishing House has a "thing" for the color burgundy. The precise color we are talking about here is "Sangria," which is the manufacturer's name for the color of the cover material we have been using of late on a number of books. And upon further thought you might have wondered if there was a reason for this trend, beyond a certain fondness for the color. The answer is, "Yes, there sure is." Let me tell you about The Essential Lutheran Library. I'll just put the TELL volumes' pictures up here and then invite you, gentle reader, to put two and two together, and offer your own explanation for why we call these volumes The Essential Lutheran Library—Books that Every Lutheran Should Own and Use!

TLSB
The Lutheran Study Bible

Concordia

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

Lsb

Lutheran Service Book

223110

Martin Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation

061324
Lutheran Book of Prayer

Treasury
Treasury of Daily Prayer



Categories: CPH Resources

A Note to College and Graduate Students

February 16th, 2009 8 comments

College and graduate students, it is wonderful you
are working on a degree. But part of
graduate work is learning how to do research. It is not easy. It is hard work. There are no short-cuts. Do not send me
an e-mail asking me to document, for you, every book published on X, Y,
Z. God created Google for a reason, along with your brain, and digital
card catalogs and, gasp, you might have actually to crack a real book
open, now and then, and check out what they call a “bibliography.”
Seriously, don’t expect me to do your work for you. That is all, and
thank you.

Categories: Uncategorized

Cyberbrethren Widget: Get It Here

February 13th, 2009 3 comments

Categories: Blogging

In Honor of Darwin’s Birthday

February 12th, 2009 5 comments

Poster31827215

Source of picture and story: Pastor Cwirla

A little story in honor of St. Darwin from a few years ago:

Once upon a time, a man took a long trip
on a boat to a faraway island to look at birds and bugs and think about
the origin of life.  He came up with a Theory that nothing became
everything all by itself, and he wrote a book about it.

His friends liked the book very much and began to look for all sorts of
evidence to support the Theory.  They searched up and down, high and
low to find all sorts of things that proved how nothing became
everything all by itself.

Soon they all got together and formed a little club called “Friends of
the Theory.”  They began to insist that the Theory was the only
possible explanation for all the evidence they had gathered to support
the Theory.  They refused to play with anyone who questioned the Theory
or even to talk with them.

“How can nothing do something?” a wise old man once asked, scratching
his head in confusion.  "It just doesn't make sense."  The Friends the
Theory laughed at the old man and threw stones at him and called him
names. “Religious stupid head,” they yelled, which made the old man
very sad.

Then the Friends of the Theory went to a judge so that no one could say
anything bad about the Theory ever again.  The judge ruled the Theory
that nothing became everything all by itself was “science” and not
religious stupid head stuff.  

The Friends of the Theory were very happy with the judge.  “See, all
the smart people agree with us,” they said.  “And anyone who doesn’t
agree with us is a religious stupid head.”

And that, my children, is how everyone came to believe that nothing became everything all by itself.

The moral of the story is:  When people believe nothing, they will believe anything. 

_______________

For what can be  known
about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his
invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have
been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the
things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  (Romans
1:19-20)

Categories: Secularism

Major Internet Buzz Over The Lutheran Study Bible

February 11th, 2009 5 comments

Wow, our web team at Concordia Publishing House reported that after we
announced the updated web site for The Lutheran Study Bible, with
pre-order, contributors, a comparison chart, and the first two of
substantial samples we are making available, we experienced the highest
traffic to our CPH web site, for three solid days, that we've had in
the past five years!
And we get a lot of traffic anytime, so this is saying something.

To say there is a bit of excitement in the
air over the announcement about The Lutheran Study Bible is a
considerable understatement.

Thanks for all you are doing to spread the word, hither and yon, to and fro.

Please keep
promoting and sharing the link to The Lutheran Study Bible's internet
home page:

http://www.cph.org/lutheranbible

Also, be sure to sign up for The Lutheran Study Bible's Facebook page.

Categories: CPH Resources

They’re Back! Indulgences On the Rise

February 10th, 2009 4 comments

Just this week in the Treasury of Daily Prayer we are reading in the Smalcald Articles and tomorrow will come to Luther's comments about Repentance. The controversy over indulgences sparked the Reformation and this article demonstrates that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Self-Control and Disciplining the Body: Our Calling in Christ

February 9th, 2009 3 comments

Self Control Poster
My good friend, Pastor William Weedon, offers these pastoral thoughts on the Epistle lesson many of us heard in church last Sunday.

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to
receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run
aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my
body and keep it under control,
lest after preaching to others I myself
should be disqualified." (1 Cor. 9:25-27)

Our Lord calls for bodily discipline and self-control. It seems to me that this falls into a variety of areas:

*
Food
- he calls for us to be disciplined in our use of the good gifts,
the tasty treats, He sets before us in creation. Lent is coming in a
few short weeks, providing a great time to work on this not as
individuals, but as a community of faith. My suggestion is to observe
the Lenten fast by 1) simplifying your food (if you will, more
hamburger less filet mignon); 2) eating moderately every time you eat
(consciously avoid pigging out); John Cassian wisely observed that the
Father's had only one rule of fasting: "stop eating before you are
full"; 3) plan to regularly skip meals and use the time saved for
reading, prayer, or service. A discipline I've adopted in my own life
that I've come to treasure is that I don't eat outside of mealtime,
save for an apple in the middle of the afternoon. I treat each Sunday,
though, as a little feast and allow snacks on that day.

*
Drink
– by which I mean alcohol. Again, moderation is the key.
Drunkenness is never fitting for the child of God, but people differ
significantly on how much alcohol they can consume before they cross
that line. The discipline I try to follow is no more than one alcoholic
drink per day – almost invariably a glass of wine. Sundays I allow
myself a bit more, as with the food. I am not suggesting that as what
any given reader of the blog to do, but just to provide an example.

*
Sex
– which is the real taming of the beast. The discipline to which
the Lord summons us there means that sex is reserved pure and simply
for marital intercourse and that there are no exceptions – within or
without marriage. Gentlemen, you know what that means. I've written
before that the problem with porn is not porn per se, but the behavior
that accompanies it and if that behavior is changed, the problem with
porn doesn't even exist.

* Exercise – I'll quote my good
friend, Todd Wilken: "The old Adam hates cardio." Does he ever! But
pushing the body into subjection is, as the Apostle said, "useful for
this life."

* Tongue – hey, it's part of the body. I'm talking
about talking, especially about grumbling about and criticizing the
folks around us. We need a fast on that. I wonder what would happen if
we promised that we'd not open our mouth to speak to our spouse, child,
co-worker, whatever in harshness or judgment before we opened our mouth
to speak to God about them in prayer? I think we'd have a bit more
silence, and I think that would be a good thing.

These five
areas supply most Christians, especially Christian men, with plenty of
trouble. But in the great power of the Christ who lives within us, by
whom we "can do all things through Him who strengthens me" even these
four areas of bodily indulgence can be disciplined and brought under
control. And that discipline is, I would argue, pure freedom. And if
you've managed by Christ's power to overcome in one or more of these
areas, you know exactly what I mean when I say that it is not and can
never be a source of pride – it's perfectly clear WHO gave the power
and the strength, and who alone supplies it every day. And the warning
of the Apostle is always apt: Let him who thinks he stands take heed,
lest he fall. The "way of escape" that St. Paul mentions is given a few
verses later: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the
communion of the blood of Christ? The bread we break, is it not the
communion of the blood of Christ?" He enters us to forgive us when we
fall and to give us the strength to do what is impossible by human
effort alone – for He alone can change our desires.

Hope the
thoughts are of some help as you prepare to enter Holy Lent and give
thought to how you will observe this time of bodily and spiritual
training, "for the present form of this world is passing away."

Categories: Christian Life

Book of Concord Blog Finally Updated

February 7th, 2009 Comments off

With no thanks to my co-authors (hint-hint), the Book of Concord Blog has been updated, with a new discussion on Repentance, based on the third article, of the third part of the Smalcald Articles.

Categories: Blogging

Blogs

February 4th, 2009 Comments off

I have noticed that since my major "Blog Reading Reduction Plan" at the end of last year, I accidentally cut a few out that I need to stay up with. Mercy Journeys by Pastor Harrison, and Get Religion are but two that come to mind. So, I've updated my blogroll, for what it is worth, which is not much, but I highly recommend these two blogs as well.

Categories: Blogging

The Book of Romans in The Lutheran Study Bible

February 3rd, 2009 Comments off

We have samples from The Lutheran Study Bible available now for viewing online. Here is the Book of Romans, along with the introduction to the Pauline Epistles. To view more resources, and place a prepublication order, visit The Lutheran Study Bible's home on the Internet.

Categories: CPH Resources

The Lutheran Study Bible: Pricing Information, Samples, Contributor List and More

February 3rd, 2009 2 comments

Please pay a visit to The Lutheran Study Bible's home on the Internet. We have updated the site and now you can see:

The list of contributors to The Lutheran Study Bible
Read the story of The Lutheran Study Bible
View samples from the Bible, including the entire Book of Romans
See the comparison chart of study Bibles

We are also now taking orders, and the pre-publication prices are the lowest prices we will offer on the Bible between now and October 31, so be sure to take a look and place your order.

Categories: CPH Resources