There are three things I would like to talk about in this letter. The first one is something I would highly recommend. The other two are matters of great concern.
VIDEO BOOK REVIEWS AND ONLINE SEMINAR
I hope you have checked out the video book reviews, which have been posted on our You Tube channel. Here is a link to the four that have already been posted.
Our intent is to post a new video review during the first week of every month. Many thanks to the people – so far all Lutheran pastors – who are making the reviews.
The most recent one is a review of the book, Recovering the Way: How Ancient Discoveries Help Us Follow Jesus Today, by the author, LCMC pastor Bob Rognlien. In addition to his other work, Bob leads Footsteps of Jesus and Footsteps of Paul pilgrimages. In the fall of 2016 I had the privilege to join him on a two-week journey to Turkey and Greece to follow in the footsteps of the apostle. With his extensive knowledge of the Bible, history, and archaeology, he makes the Scriptures come alive.
I have had the privilege of traveling to Israel five times. The first time was in 1980 when I was thirty-two years old and I went with a friend. Two young males are able to experience a country in a way that no one else can. We did extensive hitchhiking in the West Bank (something I would neither do nor recommend today). Israel was in the process of giving the Sinai peninsula back to Egypt thirteen years after the Six Day War. The overland route between Tel Aviv and Cairo was opened on June 1. We took it on June 2. Along the way we traveled through the Gaza Strip (again something I would neither do nor recommend today). After re-visiting the land in 1982, in 1990 and 1993 I studied at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem (now called Jerusalem University College). In 1995 I took a group with a professional tour company.
How much I wish I could go one more time. If I were able to go one more time, I would sign up for one of Bob Rognlien’s Footsteps of Jesus pilgrimages. But at the age of seventy-three I would no longer be able to keep up. I would no longer be able to hike the trails and climb the steps at the various sites.
The next best thing – in addition to reading Recovering the Way – would be to attend one of the weekend, in person seminars that Bob has been offering. But even that is not currently available because of COVID.
So Bob has converted his weekend seminar into an online format. I participated last fall and found it to be outstanding. Bob has scheduled another online Footsteps of Jesus Weekend Experience for Friday-Sunday, March 5-7. I highly recommend it. Bob writes –
“Come and join us on a virtual pilgrimage as we follow the life of Jesus and gain insights into what it means to follow him by exploring the history, archaeology, and culture of the places where he carried out his mission! We will gather online via Zoom and Bob will be using hundreds of photos, illustrations, and maps to illuminate the life of Jesus and what he means for our lives today. There will be lots of opportunities for Q&A and personal reflection as well. Register as soon as possible to take advantage of the Early Bird Discounts: https://fojwkndexp03-05-21.eventbrite.com.”
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“I DID NOT HEAR ANYONE NEAR ME PRAYING THAT VERSION OF THE PRAYER”
I remember after the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which provided for the possibility of the ordination of persons who are in (PALMS) publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same sex relationships. There were several people who had already been ordained as Lutheran pastors, but outside of approved ELCA procedures. The question was raised, How do these people now come onto the ELCA roster?
It was felt that they should not be ordained, since they had already been ordained – though not through established and approved ELCA procedures. Instead there was a service of welcome. Several ELCA bishops participated in that service, including the bishop of the synod in which I was rostered at the time.
As part of the service – at the time when we would normally pray the Lord’s Prayer – there were seven different prayers offered (you could take your pick!), including a prayer to the goddess Sophia. This prayer was provided by Ebenezer HerChurch, a radically feminist ELCA congregation in San Francisco.
I had read that the ELCA Conference of Bishops had had a discussion of the service as part of their next meeting. At a subsequent gathering at which my bishop was present, I asked him about the discussion. I asked him how did the bishops feel and what did the bishops have to say about the service – including the prayer to the goddess Sophia. His response was the same minimize-the-whole-thing kind of response that I have received countless times from ELCA bishops ever since. He said, “I did not hear anyone near me praying that version of the prayer.”
I would like to thank the friend of Lutheran CORE who has written a side-by-side, phrase-by-phrase comparison of every phrase in the Lord’s Prayer as used by Ebenezer HerChurch with the version of the Lord’s Prayer as translated by the English Language Liturgical Consultation. Here is a link to that comparison.
Here is a link to the website of Ebenezer HerChurch, a congregation in the Bay Area that is in good standing with the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA.
Reading that comparison, learning more about that congregation, and seeing what the ELCA will allow, how could you possibly say something like the following? “It is OK because it does not affect me.” “It is OK because I did not hear anyone near me praying that version of the prayer.”
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A NEW LOW
In the July 2018 issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice, we told you about the agenda that the ELCA was relentlessly pushing at the triennial youth gathering. One of the keynote speakers was a transgender activist and her pre-adolescent transgender child. Another one was a highly celebrated ELCA pastor, who led 31,000 young people in a chant rejecting traditional views of human sexuality as a lie.
What kind of workshops on human sexuality do you think were provided for the adults who work with our young people at the annual ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza, which was held online and at host sites earlier this month?
I need to warn you, some of this material is very explicit and deeply offensive.
Here are videos that were used to promote three workshops on sexuality that were offered at the ELCA Extravaganza.
Sexuality and Faith Conversations
Affirming Logistics: Showing God’s Care for LGBTQ Youth in the Practical Details of Ministry
Internal Welcome and External Witness: LGBTQ Youth Ministry and Public Advocacy
If you want or need further evidence of the kind of perspective that the ELCA is pushing and promoting to those who work with youth, here are links to two sections of the website of the presenter at the first workshop.
What can we say? All three presenters are LGBTQ+ affirming. All three presenters leave the LGBTQ+ affirming position as the only option for faithful advocacy, caring about and for LGBTQ+ youth, and providing “safe space” for them. There is no support at all for a traditional position and/or for youth workers who hold and want to teach a traditional position. There is not even a mention of an alternative that would affirm the value of LGBTQ+ persons while also helping and equipping them to live faithfully. There is no concern at all to provide support and a “safe space” for youth workers and youth who hold to traditional views.
The ELCA has reached a new low. Once again, how can the ELCA claim to be inclusive? How can the ELCA claim to want diversity? How can the ELCA claim to have any moral integrity when it so blatantly violates the commitments that were made at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly to also honor and give a place to traditional views and those who hold them?
Dennis D. Nelson
Executive Director of Lutheran CORE