I don't generate much controversy here at JogAmericaBlog. I've been pretty open that my personal politics lean to the left, but I don't blog about political issues much. There are plenty of blogs dedicated to that kind of thing that do it much better than I can.
However, the other day, I chanced to mention that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will be opening its ministry to out gays and lesbians. I have exchanged a couple of e-mails with my friend who thinks that's a bad thing. Eventually, we just threw up our metaphorical hands and decided that we aren't going to change each other's minds. However, some of what I wrote I'm proud enough of that I've decided to share it with a wider audience.
That inoffensive little six sentence paragraph managed to attract its very own troll! (Thanks for stopping, Jason!) If anyone wants to comment on this longer post, feel free. If you'd rather that I stuck to pasting my picture into the American landscape, stick around. There will be plenty more of that.
Jason (my commenter) points out that Martin Luther himself would probably be "stunned and completely disappointed" by this decision. My friend took a similar tack, complaining that the new decision changes the way that the church reads and interprets the Bible. To which I reply:
Well, thank God for that! I think that as we mature, we ought to change how we read and interpret the Bible. It’s certainly true for an individual. I read and understand the Bible differently than I did when I was 35, or 25, or 15, or 5. If my understanding of the Bible grows and matures, shouldn’t the church’s?
Without even half trying, I found a half dozen passages from the Bible that I'm pretty sure the ELCA doesn’t interpret the way that Martin Luther did.
How about Matthew 5:31-32: “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” The ELCA recognizes divorce. Even the Catholic church, which doesn't, allows its members to get an annulment, declaring that the marriage in question never existed. How exactly this is better escapes me.
Leviticus 25:44-45 “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.” I imagine that this was a passage that was used to justify slavery 150 years ago. It doesn’t even say that slavery is permissible. It assumes that slavery is permissible, and just makes rules as to whom you can enslave.
1 Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Whoa! Better tell that to any of the at least six women who are bishops of the ELCA, or to the hundreds of women pastors and other leaders. The first female Lutheran pastor was ordained in my lifetime. I’m sure at the time people complained that the church was reinterpreting the Bible. I’m sure that people left the church over it.
1 Corinthians 11:5-6: “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.” I doubt this particular verse is the basis for many sermons these days.
The fact is, there’s no such thing as a Biblical literalist. It’s simply impossible. Everyone has to interpret the Bible in the light of their own experience, their understanding of God, and their own moral compass. And my moral compass says that we should treat gays and lesbians as full and complete members of society, and as full and complete members of our church.
Yes, there is going to be a lot of backlash to this decision. I truly believe that if those people and congregations that are threatening to leave the ELCA will just stick around, they will find that gay and lesbian pastors are pretty much like everyone else. Some are outstanding preachers, and some kind of boring. Some are compassionate listeners, and some need to work on their people skills. Some will get along well with their church councils, and some will butt heads with them. Some will rise to leadership within the church organization, and some will stick with small-town pastoring. All are pretty firmly dedicated to the church. Why else would they fight to become pastors against such strong opposition? And there’s really nothing different about them that matters in terms of their ability to serve a congregation.
This thing shows every sign of blowing up into a full-fledged schism. I think that's too bad, because I think we find too many reasons not to worship with each other. But people will do what they feel they have to do. For my part, I have no fear that on Judgment Day, God will say to me, "I'm sorry, but you were just too accepting in your lifetime. There's no room for that kind of tolerance in heaven."
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