September 1, 2009
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit of love!
My family and I returned last week from a week and a half of vacation – for most of which we were camping near the shore of Lake Superior, at Gooseberry Falls and Madeline Island. As such, I missed being an active witness to two events.
First, was the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly, where some momentous decisions were made. Second, was our church member Wally Rawson’s funeral, for which Pastor Greg Anderson so graciously filled in. Since returning from vacation, I have spent some time catching up. I was thankful to be a participant at the burial of Wally’s ashes at the Methodist Church’s Memorial Garden. Just a week ago, we Lutherans entered into full communion with the United Methodist Church. Wally worked so hard to nurture relationships with our Methodist brothers and sisters through the Jamaica United Mission Partners – JUMP. How appropriate that we joined in full communion with our Methodist friends the week that Wally passed away!
Other decisions that were made at our Churchwide Assembly are more controversial: the ones about the social statement on Human Sexuality, the blessing of lifelong, committed same sex relationships, and the ordination of gays and lesbians in lifelong committed relationships.
In the book of James, which we are focusing on for the next month, we read: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” That’s what we need more of these days. Just as our nation is polarized about the latest social issues of the day, so is our church. The ELCA is a big tent church. We have people from every place on the spectrum of social and political issues. Can we accept that? Can we accept that not everyone in our church will agree with us? Can we be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger? Are we willing to really listen to each other, and strive to understand one another’s perspective? Are we willing to be in a denomination with fellow churches and fellow Christians who disagree with us on the issue of homosexuality?
These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves today and in the weeks ahead. Let us not let this social issue divide us. Instead, let us strive to understand one another, and let us find ways to set aside what divides us and focus on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ and sending them into the world to share the good news. Be sure to read Bishop Larry’s letter, and Dr. Tim Wengert’s article on Bound Consciences later in this newsletter (Dr. Wengert was one of my advisors at Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia). More on this issue in the months to come. Let’s keep talking!
God’s work. Our Hands.