New Church Body to be Formed for Lutherans
More than 1,000 Lutherans from throughout North America will gather Aug. 26-27 in suburban Columbus, Ohio, to form a new church body for confessional Lutherans. The annual Convocation of Lutheran CORE will adopt a constitution that will give birth to the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).
“The NALC will embody the center of Lutheranism in America. The NALC will uphold confessional principles dear to Lutherans including a commitment to the authority of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE.
The Convocation will take place at Grove City Church of the Nazarene in Grove City, Ohio. A theological conference featuring some of the most significant Lutheran scholars in America will precede the Convocation. “Seeking New Directions for Lutheranism” is the theme of the Aug. 24-26 conference at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church in Hilliard, Ohio.
Lutherans throughout the United States have been reacting to actions by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reversing ELCA policy to allow pastors to be in same-sex relationships and to officiate at same-sex union ceremonies.
Lutheran CORE leaders note that the problems in the ELCA are really not about sexual behavior but rather about an ongoing movement away from the authority and teaching of the Bible throughout the ELCA.
“It was not our choice to leave the ELCA, but the ELCA has chosen to reject ‘the faith once delivered to the saints,’ so now we are acting to maintain our position within the consensus of the Church catholic,” said Ryan Schwarz of Washington, D.C., chair of Lutheran CORE’s Vision and Planning Working Group.
The proposals to be considered by the Convocation have been designed to provide a way for Lutherans who uphold Biblical teaching to move forward together. In addition to creating the NALC, Lutheran CORE’s 2010 Convocation will also consider proposals for the continuation of Lutheran CORE as “a confessional and confessing unity movement” for traditional Lutherans regardless of their church body affiliation, including in particular those traditional Lutherans who will remain in the ELCA for the time being.
“We have a great opportunity before us. We not only want to look back toward the past, but to look ahead to the mission God has given us — to confess Christ faithfully, to witness to others, and to grow in God’s mission. This is our opportunity now in Lutheran CORE and in the North American Lutheran Church,” said the Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pa., chair of Lutheran CORE.
More info: www.lutherancore.org.
Tatchell given standing ovation at Christian festival
The gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has received a standing ovation at the Greenbelt Christian festival. Speaking about “the struggle for queer freedom in Africa”, he attacked church leaders who condone homophobic abuse, but praised the “brave, heroic Christians who refuse to go along with the persecution of people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual”.
Greenbelt, one of Britain’s largest Christian festivals, has drawn over 21,000 visitors over the weekend. Tatchell was speaking on Saturday evening (28 August).
Prior to the weekend, Tatchell had told Ekklesia that he was “looking forward” to the weekend and that, while not a Christian himself, “we have more in common than divides us”. The turnout suggests that few had heeded a call by the socially conservative group Anglican Mainstream, to boycott Greenbelt because of Tatchell’s presence on the programme.
Tatchell drew enthusiastic applause from parts of the audience, and uncomfortable expressions from others, when he accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, of “colluding” with the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Africa. “The Anglican Church and Archbishop Rowan Williams have a lot to answer for, because they have put church unity before human rights,” he said.
Tatchell outlined the contrasting legal situations facing sexual minorities in various parts of Africa and elsewhere in the world. These range from South Africa, which was the first country in the world to outlaw homophobic discrimination in its constitution, to Uganda, which plans to introduce the death penalty for a repeat ‘offence’ of same-sex relations.
Pointing out that most homophobic laws in Africa date from the colonial era, Tatchell said, “They’re not genuinely African laws”. He added, “They’re laws that were inspired by a conquering imperial power”.
In response to questions, he emphasised that it is necessary for Western advocates of human rights to support African LGBT people in their campaigns, rather to open themselves to accusations of colonialism by seeming to impose their values from outside.
Tatchell gave emotional descriptions of the abuse of LGBT people in countries such as Nigeria and Kenya, where he accused Christian and Muslim leaders of whipping up mob violence. He also attacked conservative evangelical groups from the USA who have travelled to Uganda to argue that the country’s biggest problem is “not poverty, not corruption, not human rights abuses, not rigged elections” but homosexuality.
He was keen to make a distinction between Christians who oppose homosexuality and those who encourage persecution. “It’s one thing to say that homosexuality is wrong, and people are entitled to that belief,” he said, “What they’re not entitled to do is to say that the law of the land should discriminate”.
But Tatchell was quick to praise Christians who have stood up against such attitudes. He singled out South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ugandan Bishop Christoper Senjyonjo, who has “paid a very, very heavy price” and been denied his pension.
He also spoke passionately of LGBT African Christians, including Davis Mac-Iyalla and Jide Macauley, who have risked their lives by being open about their sexuality.
For all of those, gay and straight, who do take a stand, I salute you, I thank you,” he concluded.
Tatchell was questioned on a number of points during in the question-and-answer session that lasted for a long as his talk. One questioner suggested that he had underestimated the importance of church unity in working against persecution in the long term.
Tatchell drew laughter early on in his talk, when he began by “paying tribute to Anglican Mainstream, who by their attacks on me and on Greenbelt, have boosted ticket sales and ensured a successful Greenbelt”.
He didn’t refer to the issue again until it was raised by a questioner, who asked about the possibility of legal action against Anglican Mainstream, whose spokesperson Lisa Nolland had suggested that Greenbelt had put children at risk by including Tatchell on the programme. But Tatchell insisted that, “I’m agreatbeliever in free speech; that includes people criticising me”. He said Anglican Mainstream had quoted him selectively and out of context. He accused them of bearing false witness. There was enthusiastic applause as he added, “I would urge Anglican Mainstream to re-read their ten commandments”.
Female priests ask why God was still referred to as a man
The new form of worship, which removes words such as “Lord, he, his, him” and “mankind” from services, has been written by the church in an attempt to acknowledge that God is “beyond human gender”. Episcopalian bishops have approved the introduction of more “inclusive” language, which deliberately removes references suggesting that God is of male gender.
Traditionalists have criticised the changes on the grounds that they smack of political correctness and because they believe they are not consistent with the teachings of the Bible. The alterations have been made to provide an alternative to the established 1982 Liturgy, which, like the Bible, refers to God as a man.
The new order of service, which can be used by priests if they have difficulties with a male God, has been produced by the church’s Liturgy Committee in consultation with the Faith & Order Board of General Synod and the College of Bishops. The controversial changes were discussed at the church’s General Synod recently. The minutes of the synod reveal that female priests had asked why God was still referred to as a man.
The altered version of the 1982 Liturgy sees masculine pronouns removed when they refer to God and the new approach has even been extended to humans. For example, the word “mankind” has been taken out and replaced with “world”.
Some senior religious figures have objected to the new form of words. “It is political correctness,” said Rev Stuart Hall of the Scottish Prayer Book Society and Honorary Professor of Divinity at the University of St Andrews. “It is quite unnecessary. The word man in English – especially among scientists – is inclusive of both sexes. Those who try to minimise references to God as the Father and Christ as his Son have great difficulties, because the New Testament is shot through with these references.”
Direct quotations from the Bible have been spared change, because of a reluctance to interfere with the word of God. However, the blessing at the end of services has been changed by some ministers from “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” to “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. The changing of God language is a little tricky,” admitted Rev Darren McFarland, convener of the church’s liturgy committee.
“It is then that opinion is much more divided. We have really tried not to mess around with the descriptions of God in the biblical text. But what we want to see is generous language when it comes to gender. God is above and beyond human gender.
“We are not saying God is not masculine. God is also feminine. The problem is trying to use human language to describe the indescribable The bishops have permitted these changes, people do not have to use this form. But we are trying to honour the breadth of descriptions of God in a way that’s helpful to the church and its membership.”
Political incorrectness in Texas
St Vincent’s Episcopal School in Texas has decided not to permit a child raised by two lesbians to enroll for the 2010-2011 school year.
“We regret the disappointment the mother feels,” the school said in a statement. “It is clear, however, that enrolling the child in a traditional Christian school, such as St. Vincent’s School, would not foster her own personal values at home.”
“And it might undermine the moral instruction of our clergy and teachers
in the minds of our school’s students and parents. Our prayers are with Olivia and her mother.”
Jill and Tracy Harrison had gotten “married” in Canada in 2006; Jill became the mother of Olivia through a sperm donor. When they enrolled Olivia, Jill said that she wrote her name next to the word “mother,” scratched out the word “father,” and wrote “mother” next to Tracy’s name as well.
School officials, however, said they thought Tracy was a man. But after the couple attended a parents night Olivia was denied admission. “St. Vincent’s School as a ministry of St. Vincent’s Cathedral upholds the clear teaching of the Christian faith, the Holy Bible, and the Anglican Church in North America,” said Rev. Ryan Reed, Dean of St. Vincent’s Cathedral.
“We based our decisions about enrollment on what is best for the children of St. Vincent’s as a whole and in conformity with the above standards,” continued Rev. Reed. “We regret the disappointment the mother feels, but also do not understand why she would want to enroll her child in a school that would undercut her own personal values at home.”
St. Vincent’s Cathedral is a member of the Anglican Church in North America, which split off the Episcopal Church in the United States in part over the Episcopal Church’s attitude towards homosexuality. The Episcopal Church ordained as bishop the openly homosexual Gene Robinson in 2003, and recently ordained the lesbian Mary Glasspool as bishop. Olivia has since been enrolled in another school with no religious affiliations.
At least one other similar case has occurred in recent memory, when two lesbians tempted to enroll a child under their care in a Catholic school.
Last March, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver supported a Boulder grade school that told a lesbian couple that they would be unable to enroll their children in the school.
“Most parents who send their children to Catholic schools want an environment where the Catholic faith is fully taught and practiced. That simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents,” said Chaput. “That isn’t fair to anyone – including the wider school community.”
Such a situation he said, would put ‚ “unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church.”
Diocese sues for return of Stockton church property
The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin on Aug. 30 filed a lawsuit against the former members of St. John the Evangelist Church, Stockton, to seek return of the church property.
St John’s was among 40 congregations whose members disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church in 2007, first realigning with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and later with the Anglican Church in North America. They refused to relinquish church property.
Similar cases are currently pending against the former members of St. Francis’, Turlock; St. Michael’s, Ridgecrest; St. John’s, Porterville; St. James’, Sonora; Redeemer & Hope, Delano; St. Columba’s, Fresno; St. Paul’s, Visalia; and St. Paul’s, Bakersfield, according to a press release from the diocese.
Litigation became necessary after invitations from San Joaquin Bishop Jerry Lamb to discuss the orderly return of the churches were largely ignored, according to the release.
“It is particularly disappointing given the recent and unequivocal decisions of the California Supreme Court and Court of Appeals’ rulings that the properties and assets are held for the Episcopal Church and its dioceses,” said Diocesan Chancellor Michael Glass.
He said the litigation is focused primarily on returning the properties and assets to the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. He said the lawsuits are not initially seeking monetary judgments against individual defendants “unless it becomes evident that such defendants have diverted parish assets to other purposes or parties.”
The parish litigation is in addition to pending litigation brought by the diocese and by the Episcopal Church against the former bishop, John-David Schofield, which is now before the Fifth District Court of Appeal for review of the trial court’s determination that: (a) Bishop Lamb is the bishop of the diocese and incumbent of the corporation sole and other diocesan entities; and (b) the attempts to modify the diocesan constitution and canons and articles of incorporation of the corporation sole to disaffiliate the Episcopal diocese from the Episcopal Church were null and void. The Court of Appeal has not issued a decision, but oral argument before it is set for Sept. 8.
On July 23, 2009, a Fresno Superior Court judge determined that Lamb is the bishop of the diocese and the officeholder of the diocesan corporations, and that earlier attempts to amend the diocesan constitution, canons and corporate documents to remove the diocese form the Episcopal Church were void.
Lamb said that regardless of whether or not litigation is pending, “the diocese remains committed to working with any parties to facilitate the return of the properties so that we
can all be about the work that Christ has called us to undertake in his name.”
Episcopal News Service
Gay divorce is up in Britain
Dissolution of civil partnerships in England, Scotland, and Wales almost doubled in 2009 compared with 2008, The Independent reported onAug. 20. The figure jumped from 180 to 351. At the same time, the number of people entering same-sex civil partnerships dropped from 7,169 to 6,281. Female couplings were less successful in 2009 than male unions. Sixty-three percent of English and Welsh dissolutions and 71 percent of Scottish dissolutions were between women.
More than 40,000 couples have entered civil partnerships since they became legal at the end of 2005. The partnerships include all the rights and obligations of marriage, except use of the word “marriage.”