Saturday, July 31, 2010

All Elvis All the Time

Some people have no taste.  I've held off on this one, but no longer.  A few days ago president elect of the LCMS, Matt Harrison, posted an Elvis link on his Facebook page. Most people responded favorably.  But two musically challenged individuals pushed back.  Their posts follow:

John T. Pless I prefer Elert to Elvis.

Paul T. McCain We have to have a talk about Johann Sebastian Bach. I had to cleanse my ears with JSB after listening to this.

In response to these unnamed Philistines, I have changed the music on this blog to All Elvis All the Time!

Monday, July 26, 2010

An Argument for Retaining Theological Interviews

The most recent issue (July 27, 2010) of the Christian Century hit my desk today.  There are two very valuable articles on megachurches in it, about which I may have more to say later.  However, what immediately caught my eye was a little piece title "False Shepherds."  It reads as follows:

"For clergy, losing faith is not only an occupational hazard, it's often a huge and burdensome secret.  If they remain in the pulpit, it's because they need a job, or to protect their own family or congregation from the secret they carry.  In a study reported in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, a common denominator among pastors who claim to have lost their faith is exposure to historical-critical study of the Bible in seminary.  These pastors are often protected from having to divulge their secret by denominational and congregational processes that scrutinize pastoral candidates for their pastoral and relational skills but only superficially test candidates' theological commitments (RNS)."  ("False Shepherds," Christian Century [Juuly 27, 2010]: 8).

ELCA Welcomes Gay Pastors

In August 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted to allow noncelibate  gay/bisexual/transgender individuals to serve as active pastors.  This action was a reversal of earlier policy and affected several pastors who had been suspended from the clergy of the ELCA.  Now that vote is beginning to impact the life of the church, as the following story shows.  The original may be found


Lutheran church welcoming gay pastors who earlier were barred

Published: Sunday, July 25, 2010, 5:16 PM     Updated: Sunday, July 25, 2010, 5:19 PM

SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- Seven pastors who work in the San Francisco Bay area and were barred from serving in the nation's largest Lutheran group because of a policy that required gay clergy to be celibate are being welcomed into the denomination.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will add six of the pastors to its clergy roster at a service at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco on Sunday. Another pastor who was expelled from the church, but was later reinstated, will participate in the service.

The group is among the first gay, bisexual or transgender Lutheran pastors to be reinstated or added to the rolls of the ELCA since the organization voted last year to lift the policy requiring celibacy.

Churches can now hire noncelibate gay clergy who are in committed relationships.
"It's going to be an extremely glorious and festive ceremony because it's the culmination of decades of work to welcome LGBT people into the ELCA," said Amalia Vagts, executive director of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a nonprofit that credentials openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for ministry.

Megan Rohrer, one of the pastors who will participate in Sunday's rite of reception service, grew up in South Dakota and attended a Lutheran college where she said students tried to exorcise her "gay demons" by throwing holy water on her. Some of those people are now Lutheran pastors in South Dakota, she said.

Rohrer, who is transgender and a lesbian, was ordained by four congregations in San Francisco in 2006, but could not join the ELCA roster until the denomination's national assembly approved the new policy in August.

"I didn't really believe the policy was going to change as quickly as it did," she said.
Rohrer said she is hopeful Sunday's service will be a "symbol" to young people that the Lutheran church is working toward becoming more welcoming of people of all different backgrounds.

"The actions the church is taking on Sunday affirms the decisions of those congregations," Johnson, pastor of the University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, said. "The church is respecting our family, our partners, the choices we're making."Jeff Johnson, another one of the pastors who will be added to the roster, said the ELCA's position for years of not accepting the choice of some congregations to ordain gay clergy was painful and disappointing.

A small number of congregations have voted to leave the ELCA in response to the August vote. Johnson and Rohrer want Sunday's service to heal some of the rifts.
Johnson said the goal, in part, is to show people the church has space for many different opinions.

"There's room for them," he said. "It's a tolerant church."

The special rite of reception that will be used for the first time on Sunday was developed specifically to welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pastors, said Melissa Ramirez Cooper, a spokeswoman for the ELCA.

Two more rite of reception services are scheduled for September in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area and another will follow in Chicago, Cooper said.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

LWF on President Kieschnick's Visit

Here is a report from the Lutheran World Federation on International Lutheran Council (ILC) Chairman and LCMS President Kieschnick's visit to the recent LWF assembly in Stuttgart.


Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and chairman of the International Lutheran Council, brings greetings to the Eleventh Assembly. © LWF/Erick Coll


International Lutheran Council head concerned that Reformation, scriptural truth being lost

Kieschnick nonetheless grateful for ties with LWF

STUTTGART, 24 July 2010 (LWI) – The chairman of the International Lutheran Council expressed thanks for the relationships developed between The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), while at the same time lamenting the directions taken on matters of sexuality by some LWF member churches.
The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, who is also president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a denomination in the United States, addressed the Eleventh Assembly of the LWF here and said he feared that “many of the sacred scriptural truths which precipitated the Reformation are in danger of being lost.”
Kieschnick said that challenges to Christian truth have “first been tolerated, then accepted, and now affirmed.” Christians today, he added, have no “general consensus of broad concurrence, not to mention complete agreement on what constitutes marriage in the eyes of God, or what is acceptable or non-acceptable sexual behavior.”
The ILC president was referring to on-going controversies in Lutheranism and other denominations over whether to bless same sex unions or allow non-celibate homosexuals to serve as pastors and other church workers.
The ILC, a fellowship of conservative Lutheran church bodies around the world, adopted a statement last year which regards “homosexuality as a violation of the will of God,” Kieschnick said. Some of the 34 churches that are in the ILC have associate membership in the LWF. Some LWF member churches have taken steps to endorse same sex unions and allow people who are gay and lesbian and in committed relationships to serve as pastors.
“I share these words with this Assembly neither to stand in judgment, nor ignoring the logs in my own eye,” he said, “but with a heavy heart.” Kieschnick said that such controversies can lead to “significant internal strife, serious spiritual conflict and even organic schism.”
Despite his concern that Reformation principles and biblical truth was in danger in some LWF churches, Kieschnick referred to LWF President Mark Hanson as “my brother in Christ” and expressed gratitude for his friendship. “While we do not agree on numerous matter of faith and life,” he said, “I have genuinely appreciated your fraternal collegiality and gentle spirit and pray God’s blessings on your future endeavors.”
Kieschnick’s term as president of the 2.3 million member LC-MS is at an end, for although he was a candidate for re-election, the Rev. Matthew Harrison was elected president by a slim margin, when the church met in convention this month. (397 words)

Abendmahl fur Hunde?

Years ago Charles Merritt Nielsen wrote “Abendmahl fur Hunde (‘Communion for Dogs’),” which  appeared in Perspectives in Religious Studies10.1 (1983).  It was a rather humorous article.  Guess what?  It's now happened!

Can a dog receive communion?
Embarrassed reverend says it won’t happen again

Published On Thu Jul 22 2010

Noor JavedStaff Reporter
St. Peter’s Anglican Church has long been known as an open and inclusive place.
So open, it seems, they won’t turn anyone away. Not even a dog.
That’s how a blessed canine ended up receiving communion from interim priest Rev. Marguerite Rea during a morning service the last Sunday in June.
According to those in attendance at the historical church at 188 Carlton St. in downtown Toronto, it was a spontaneous gesture, one intended to make both the dog and its owner – a first timer at the church — feel welcomed. But at least one parishioner saw the act as an affront to the rules and regulations of the Anglican Church. He filed a complaint with the reverend and with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto about the incident – and has since left the church.
“I wrote back to the parishioner that it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give communion to animals,” said Bishop Patrick Yu, the area bishop of York-Scarborough responsible for St. Peter’s, who received the complaint in early July. “I can see why people would be offended. It is a strange and shocking thing, and I have never heard of it happening before.
“I think the reverend was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming.”
Rev. Rea was contacted numerous times about the incident, but did not want to comment.
“She is quite embarrassed by it,” said Yu.
But congregants of the church say the act wasn’t meant to be controversial. Peggy Needham, the deputy people’s warden was sitting near the front of the church when the dog was given the wafer.
It was the first time Needham had seen the man and his dog in church. He had been invited to the service after an incident where police heckled him as he sat peacefully on the steps of the church early one morning during the G20 weekend.
Angry over the experience, he called the church to vent. They invited him to come to church, and he did, bringing his dog with him.
When it was time for communion, the man went up to receive the bread and the wine, with the dog. “I am sure for Marguerite that was a surprise, like it was for all of us,” said Needham. “But nobody felt like it was a big deal, because it wasn’t a big deal.”
According to the account Yu heard, the man asked the reverend to give the dog a wafer. But Needham says she doesn’t recall the man making such a request. Instead, she said Rev. Rea instinctively leaned over and placed a wafer on the dog’s wagging tongue.
“I think it was this natural reaction: here’s this dog, and he’s just looking up, and she’s giving the wafers to people and she just gave one to him,” said Needham. “Anybody might have done that. It’s not like she’s trying to create a revolution.”
Days later, the church and diocese received a complaint from one parishioner, who felt the church offended the sacred ritual. The bread and wine are meant to represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ and are only to be given to those who have been baptized.
Yu said when he spoke to Rev. Rea, she apologized for what she had done and said she would not do it again.
“Unless there is any further evidence that she is giving communion to animals, the matter is closed . . . we are after all, in the forgiveness and repair business,” he said.
Needham said the church has always been open to animals and once a year conducts a service to bless pets. Which is why the incident hardly caused a stir among the congregants – except for one.
“In his email, the man’s argument was that Christ wouldn’t have liked it,” said Needham. “But in my opinion, Christ would have thought it was neat. It was just being human. And it made everyone smile.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Music for the Church Militant

After a few days of triumphalism all over the place, certain events have reminded me that we do still live in the church militant.  In honor of this, I have changed the music on my blog over to military marches.  Enjoy!

Krauth on the Overthrow of Error

My favorite American Lutheran theologian is Charles Porterfield Krauth (1823-1883).  He lived and worked in challenging circumstances as he sought to lead his synod (Pennsylvania) and church body (the General Council) to a doctrine and practice consistent with the Lutheran Confessions and the church catholic.  Many of the congregations and pastors that he sought to influence had little or no familiarity with confessional Lutheran theology and practice.  They had been catechized in a form of  Lutheranism that intentionally sought to accommodate American culture.  He succeeded in some ways, and, perhaps, not in others.  That notwithstanding, his The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (recently reprinted by Concordia Publishing House with an intro by yours truly) remains the most influential book on the nature and character of Lutheranism that I have ever read (with thanks to Robert Preus, who directed me to it).  And my favorite part of my favorite work is this:

"The spirit of the Reformation was no destroying angel, who sat and scowled with a malignant joy over the desolation which spread around.  It was overshadowed by the wings of that Spirit who brooded indeed on the waste of waters and the wilderness of chaos, but only that he might unfold the germs of life that lay hidden there, and bring forth light and order from the darkness of the yet formless void of creation.  It is vastly more important, then, to know what the Reformation retained than what it overthrew; for the overthrow of error, though often an indispensable prerequisite to the establishment of truth, is not truth itself; it may clear the foundation, simply to substitute one error for another, perhaps a greater for a less.  Profoundly important, indeed, is the history of that which the Reformation accomplished against the errors of Romanism, yet it is as nothing to the history of that which it accomplished for itself. The overthrow of Romanism was not its primary object; in a certain sense it was not its object at all.  Its object was to establish truth, no matter what might rise or fall in the effort.... The mightiest weapon which the Reformation employed against Rome was, not Rome's errors, but Rome's truths."

Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, intro Lawrence R. Rast, Jr. (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2007), 202-203.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Christianity Today on the LCMS Convention

The Christianity Today blog has some interesting reflections on the recent events at the convention of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.  The text follows.  For the original of the article, click here.


July 14, 2010 2:51PM

Missouri Synod Election Signals Shift Toward Denominational Distinctives

Defeat of evangelical-focused incumbent implies desire to refocus on Lutheran identity. (Corrected)

Jeremy Weber

Amid ongoing debate over the vitality or usefulness of denominations today, CT has observed that manydenominational meetings of late have debated the merits of reinforcing denominational distinctives vs. loosening them in favor of focusing on evangelism.

CT columnist Mollie Ziegler Hemingway sent a brief report on the latest case study, this time at the ongoing Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod convention:

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) elected as its new president the leader of the church’s World Relief and Human Care division. Matthew Harrison received 54 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Gerald Kieschnick, who received 45 percent of the vote in his third re-election attempt.

The 2.3-million member LCMS is holding its triennial convention in Houston, where over 1,200 delegates are electing new officers and debating whether to restructure the synod.

While the conservative denomination does not face conflict over many hot-button cultural issues, the election of Harrison represents a shift from the Kieschnick administration’s support of evangelical programs and style to a more traditional Lutheran identity. While 54 percent – 50 votes more than the 593 votes needed to win – was not a huge mandate numerically, Harrison was elected on the first ballot at a convention that saw most issues narrowly won after lengthy debate.

“I realize this is a tumultuous change in the life of our synod,” Harrison said in his acceptance speech immediately after the vote. He asked delegates for forgiveness and prayers as he prepares to lead the synod through a new restructuring that streamlines operations at the national headquarters.
The Kieschnick administration, which served for the past nine years, encouraged congregations to adopt praise teams, coffee house worship and small group ministries. It had also overseen the cancellation of Issues, Etc., the synod’s only nationally syndicated broadcast ministry. Harrison’s first post-election interview was with the program, which re-launched outside the denominational structure.

Harrison, leader of the LCMS mercy arm and possessing multiple degrees from the denomination’s Concordia Theological Seminary, was also the preferred candidate of those in the church body that favor a return to traditional Lutheran identity of liturgical preaching, hymns that teach doctrine, and the placement of ordained missionaries overseas.

“There was a great deal of division on the direction things were going. Harrison has an opportunity, in a pastoral way, to bring back unity in [the LCMS] so that we can have stronger service in missions and outreach of the gospel,” said delegate Jeffrey Horn from Garrett, Indiana.

Harrison’s 643 votes yielded the largest margin of victory in a synodical presidential election since 1998.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ugly, Vulgar, Hard, Hermetic, Hardly Eye-catching

WOW! Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff has really given it to the Netherlands team for their style of play in last Sunday's World Cup final.  Here is the story, which may be found here.

Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff has launched a scathing attack on Netherlands' display in the World Cup final, deriding it as "anti-football".

The Dutch received nine yellow cards, and a red card for Johnny Heitinga, as they lost 1-0 to Spain in South Africa.
"Sadly, they played very dirty," Cruyff told Spanish newspaper El Periodico.
"This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style... If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they lost."
Cruyff was the symbol of 'Total Football', which earned the Dutch successive World Cup final appearances in 1974 and 1978.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk appeared to opt for pragmatism over style as he led the Oranje to a third final in South Africa, but the result was the same, as Andres Iniesta scored an extra-time winner for Spain.
Cruyff, along with many others, believed Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong were lucky not to be sent off before half-time, Van Bommel for a tackle from behind on Iniesta and De Jong for kicking Xabi Alonso in the chest.But Sunday's game was also notable for Netherlands' surprisingly aggressive approach.
"They should have been down to nine immediately, then they made two [such] ugly and hard tackles that even I felt the damage," said the 63-year-old Cruyff.
"It hurts me that Holland chose an ugly path to aim for the title."
Cruyff brought his footballing philosophy to Barcelona in an eight-year spell as manager, and he is widely credited with the one-touch passing style still employed by the Catalan club, who provided the backbone of Spain's World Cup-winning squad.
However, in the Champions League semi-final last season, Pep Guardiola's side were upset by a defence-minded Inter Milan, coached by Jose Mourinho - a fact not lost on Cruyff.
"On Thursday they asked me from Holland 'Can we play like Inter? Can we stop Spain in the same way Mourinho eliminated Barca?'
"I said no, no way at all. I said no, not because I hate this style, I said no because I thought that my country wouldn't dare to and would never renounce their style. I said no because, without having great players like those of the past, the team has its own style.
"I was wrong. Of course I'm not hanging all 11 of them by the same rope, but almost. They didn't want the ball."
Cruyff also joined in the criticism of English referee Howard Webb,accusing him of being too soft with the players.
"A World Cup final deserves great refereeing and, above all, deserves a referee who dares to do everything it means to be a judge," he said.

Podcast on Oral History Project

Last week I had the profound honor of interviewing a number of LCMS pastors, teachers, and laymen and laywomen while at the LCMS Black Ministry Convocation.  This podcast gives a little intro to the overall project.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Continuing Education Opportunity

Follow this link to further information:

Seattle, WA - Registration is still open!
August 16–20, 2010
History and Theology of the LCMS
Dr. Lawrence Rast, Jr., Ph.D.
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

This course is an extended consideration of the history of the LCMS with a focus on the last 40 years. (3 CEU)
Contact Person:
Rev. Ernie Lassman

Messiah Lutheran Church
7050 35th Avenue NE
Seattle,WA 98115