Sunday, December 05, 2004

And here we go again...

In this AP article today, the Pacifica Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has punished an urban ministry that aids the poor and homeless in a dispute over an associate pastor who is in a lesbian relationship. The article says "the decision by the Pacifica Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which oversees congregations in parts of Southern California, marks the most severe punishment of a Lutheran congregation over the issue of homosexual clergy" since the last two congregations were tossed out in 1990.

There is no mention of this on the ELCA's main website. But on their "news" page, dated two days ago, there is this statement in support of the UCC, who tried unsuccessfully to get a promotional ad aired on CBS and NBC. The ELCA's article says that "The ad, part of the UCC's new identity campaign that began airing nationwide Dec. 1, stated that -- as Jesus did -- the United Church of Christ (UCC) seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation." The ELCA communications director is joining other denominations' officials in supporting the UCC's efforts to get their ad run with CBS and NBC.

Now isn't that interesting?

The ELCA is more than willing to go to bat with the UCC, supporting their right to air an advertisement saying that they can welcome folks regardless of sexual orientation. But the very same denomination won't let our own people actually minister to the poor if they are in a relationship in that same orientation. And we'll punish the poor people that were being served by this renegade ministry... just to show that you can't play in our sand-box if you have a same-sex partner, no matter how much good you are doing for people.

Sound a little schizophrenic to you? Me too.

Want to see the UCC ad that sparked the conflict? Check it out here. I just wish our denomination could air an ad like that...but it would be false advertising... ::sigh::


Dave said...


My Dad's conference is UCC. They mean what they say. He is very proud that they were the first denomination to ordain a gay minister. And this was back in the mid seventies. I'm starting to think that the word "evangelical" is a warning word that means the type of people Jesus would give a tongue lashing to if he were to come back today.

Poor Mad Peter said...

Our denomination, the United Church of Canada, is the most analogous to the United Church of Christ of the American denominations in structure and theology--and controversy.

We removed sexual orientation from the accepted questions of a ministerial candidate in 1988, and lost perhaps 30% of our membership, which includes those who stayed and fought a rearguard action before forming renegade "covenanting" congregations which do not support the regional or national church bodies in any way.

Years later, with the legalization fo same-sex marriages in many provinces in our country, the controversy has resurfaced because a number of same-sex couples are (naturally) applying to get married in churches: our congregation included.

In one way, I feel an impatience that forgodsake we ought to be past this and moving on toward the Community of God in this and many areas. That includes work with the poor and needing.

But in another way, I see the whole thing perhaps as the Isaiah passage in which the prophet declares that the wolf shall lie down with the lamb, etc etc. in toehr words--this is our wish. This how we'll know the Community of God is here, when we see these. Until then, these are wishes, prayers, indeed things to aim for.

Which brings me back to your comment about "false advertising", Steve. Maybe it is and maybe it's an expressed wish that has yet to be realized.

And one more thing: people go to a church, stay with a denomination, for many reasons. One of the most common, I've found, is an unexamined tribalism and habitual affiliation. We may not agree with these reasons, but they are a part of the reality, and we need to work carefully and humbly with that reality as we move closer to God.