Friday, August 21, 2009

Lutherans may split, updated.

The vote over the issue of accepting gay clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) I posted about Monday has been taken; gay clergy are now recognized. The vote was close- it required a 2/3 majority, and the winning percentage was 66.67% More details are available here

Many are not happy with the vote, and schism is threatened. ""The word of the Lord will endure forever," said Wayne Jacobson, of the Northeast Iowa Synod, "and this vote won't change it."" The closeness of the vote indicates the depth of feeling, but I hope they find a Modus Vivendi. I often get a feeling that from marriages to churches to political parties to old friendships we're just too quick to divide, and the center just never seems to hold any longer. It's probably just an old man's regrets and sentimentality, but I wish everyone would work harder on keeping things together- let our new motto become Veni, Vidi, Velcro.


Diggitt said...

I understand your point, Joel. My concern is what happens to the thinking in groups that a) split or b) stay together.

If you have a group that feels strongly enough about an issue to leave the fold, or start a new fold, I suspect that being alone with themselves, reinforcing their ideas, will make them stronger in their sad beliefs. The people who are left behind are likely to be more moderate, because their group will include people who disagree with them but did not want to leave.

So if you support, f'rinstance, gay marriage or the ordination of gays or whatever the issue is, will the cause be better served long-term by a split? I haven't decided yet.

Bill Baar said...

They'll split. The issue is way to basic.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

IMHO this is a case where folks in the same group disagree about what qualifies as "standards" for defining their identity.

For years, the standards for being Christian (or specifically Lutheran) included specific rules about sex, gender and intimate relationships. No ifs, and or buts -- you either fell in love and married someone of the opposite sex, or stayed celibate. That's what God wanted.

Then, reality happened.

First, more and more scientists in various disciplines found that sexual and gender identity were not as fixed as so many people thought. This led people to ask the question: Why create so many people who don't fit this mold about sex and gender, then tell them they have to fit the mold? And that led in turn to a deeper questioning about the meaning and context of all those biblical verses about sex, and a more profound and nuanced theology of sexuality and gender.

The result? From my perspective, there are actually three camps on this:

1) The "traditionalist" camp -- They had always been told that the old standards were ordained of God and integral to Christian/Lutheran identity, and cannot acccept otherwise.

2) The "progressive" camp -- They have come to believe that the old standards were in error, that the new standard should be about love and justice, and that the church should be inclusive of all God's children.

3) The "tolerant" camp -- This is the vital center you mention, Joe. They are guided by the threefold maxim: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity." They tend to think that "all this sex stuff" is not so essential to the faith as whether you believe in God, the incarnation and resurrection, the Augsburg Confession, etc. So they disagree with both camps in part, but are willing to live with both and let others live as their conscience guides them.

My take is that this third camp, or many of them, were willing to side with the progressives because they shared with them the ability to see a hierarchy of values. Belief in God, an ethic of love -- that's at the top. Other people's sexuality -- not as important.

The traditionalists, OTOH, seem unable to do this. Every single standard is "up there," and woe unto those who would tamper with what God has ordained.

As to the possibility of a split ... Wayne Jacobson's words could be interpreted another way, that many traditionalists will choose to continue the fight within the ELCA. I suspect that those who leave may likely look to one of the smaller conservative Lutheran groups, most likely the Missouri Synod, rather than form yet another denomination. We'll just have to wait and see.

BTW, Debra Haffner also covered this in her blog