Monday, August 31, 2009


Some of the comments to this blog are getting posted on facebook "notes" and NOT on the "comments" section of To read the comments that people put on facebook, and to see what else is going on, feel free to friend me - search for stevekarl - that's my username.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kids Love

Earlier in August we got an email forward from a friend named Rose. She lived next door to us in Ladysmith when our daughter Naomi was born. We got to see Rose and one of her sons this summer -- it was great!

I'm copying the email forward on this blog because it's just so important to remember how precious children are. Let's keep loving kids, our kids and "other people's kids," no matter what. Let's make sure there is safety, care and kindness in each home so our kids will know the gift of love.

Here's what some kids said about love.
'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.' (Rebecca- age 8)

'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.' (Billy - age 4)

'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.' (Karl - age 5)

'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.' (Chrissy - age 6)

'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.' (Terri - age 4)

'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.' (Danny - age 7)

'Love is when you kiss all the time.. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss' (Emily - age 8 )

'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.' (Bobby - age 7)

'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,' (Nikka - age 6)

'Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.' (Noelle - age 7)

'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.' (Tommy - age 6)

'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.' (Cindy - age 8)

'My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.' (Clare - age 6)

'Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.' (Elaine-age 5)

'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.' (Chris - age 7)

'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.' (Mary Ann - age 4)

'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.' (Lauren - age 4)

'When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.' (Karen - age 7)

'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross.' (Mark - age 6)

'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.' (Jessica - age 8)

Finally - a four year old child’s elderly neighbor had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just helped him cry.'
If there's ever a time we need love, it's now. If there are any challenges in your home, let someone know. Don't hide. On the other hand, if things at home are pretty good, but it would be good to spice up and enrich the love between husband and wife, there are a couple of weekends coming up I'd recommend.
  • This is in the Pulse newsletter that went out from our church this week:
» Two Lutheran Marriage Encounter Weekends will be held Oct. 16-18 in Duluth and Nov. 20-22 in Brooklyn Center, MN. Attending a Marriage Encounter Weekend will make your marriage run like new. You'll spend two nights in a hotel and enjoy five delicious meals from Friday at 7 p.m. to Sunday at 5 p.m. It's great for couples who already have a good marriage and want to enrich their relationship, but it also does wonders for those marriages that have lost their luster through years of child rearing and work obligations. Please register a month in advance. For more information, contact Dick & Judy Dehnel at 952-432-3105, Pete & Phyllis McMahon at 763-561-1575 or visit
  • There are other possibilities too…
Toni and I went to “A Weekend to Remember” back about 10-15 years ago and learned a lot and grew in our relationship in ways that still matter. Click here for info about upcoming conferences in our area--page 2 of the PDF has dates and locations that aren't too far away.
If you think it would be good for you and your spouse or fiance to go to something like this, but the cost seems a bit much, let me know. We never want money to stand in the way of love.

Pulpit Supply Sep 6

I decided yesterday to be gone next weekend (Labor Day Weekend) to attend a family reunion. Looking for a faithful believing pastor type to preach and preside here September 6. • 8:30 a.m. Traditional LBW worship with the Lord’s Supper • 10:30 a.m. Contemporary non-communion with worship band. Contact Pastor Steve Thorson, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cokato, MN, cell 763-291-3499, church office 320-286-5964, home 320-286-616.
Added 9:30 a.m. - My college friend, Becky Sogge, a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, Buffalo (on sabbatical), has agreed to preach and preside Sep 6. Thank you Becky!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Good Things

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change... James 1:17

Please come to worship this Sunday at our church -- website under construction here! (Colored words in this blog are links.) I'll be tag teaming a sermon with a daughter of our congregation, Brittany Bayuk. The James 1:17 verse above is one of the scriptures we'll be reading. The others are available at this link.

Please worship with us Thursday at Dassel-Cokato High School! Our communities have enjoyed remarkable blessings as people from many churches have studied scripture, prayed and worked together. Come and share at a community worship and praise event on Thursday, September 3. Songwriter Robin Mark** will be our leader. He is a worship leader from church in Belfast, Northern Ireland. That church began when students who believed in God began to organize and pray together "24/7" for peace. (See The Days of Elijah Come to Cokato for more). Discount tickets - pay what you can afford - are available at our church office.
  • 4:30 p.m. - An hour of fellowship and conversation with Robin Mark. He will share his story and talk about how worship impacts lives, churches and communities. See Second Chronicles 29 and bring your Bible.
  • 6:00 - 7:00 - Supper -- food available from vendors. There will be a time of conversation for worship & prayer leaders, pastors and others. Let's share and pray together to mutually strengthen prayer, worship and peace making for the good of our communities as we prepare for the fall school season.
  • 7:30 p.m. - Praise Concert and Worship led by Robin Mark. Lyrics will be projected so all present can worship and sing along. Local songwriter Rachel Kurtz will lead the first 20 minutes. She currently serves as minister of worship, music and young adult ministries at Faith Lutheran Church, Hutchinson.
I need to get the Youth YDT material (link on this blog at top right) updated. Sorry I haven't done that yet. Too distracted... the first thing will be a meeting with parents on September 9. We had hoped to do this Sept. 2 but there were too many conflicts.

The ELCA pastors of our area met yesterday. We agreed to keep one another informed about what's going on in our churches.
  • A "Questionnaire On Our Local Church's Response To Denominational Issues" is going in our church's newsletter and is available in PDF form by clicking here (2 pages).
  • A letter and a couple of other items given to our church council president by me is available for the asking. Email, stop by the office, or give me a call.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Meeting Today

This afternoon I am meeting with other local ELCA pastors in regard to our response to what's been going on in our denomination. If anyone has any questions about anything, I hope you will not hesitate to call, email or comment.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sticking with Jesus (audio)

Click here for a link if you want to listen to my sermon (8:30 a.m. version) of Sunday, August 23. The scriptures were the ones assigned from the Revised Common Lectionary: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18; Psalm 34:15-22; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69. You can read them here.

At worship we distributed the following letter:
August 23, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

At the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) a resolution was passed permitting the blessing of same-sex unions. A resolution was also passed allowing clergy in such unions to serve as pastors in the ELCA. A third resolution made it clear that no local church will be required to bless same-sex unions or to call clergy in such unions as their pastors.

We are pastors serving ELCA congregations in the Dassel-Cokato area. We want to inform you that our position on these issues has remained unchanged. Based on our interpretation of scripture we cannot bless same-sex unions or participate in the ordination of individuals who are part of such unions.

We ask your prayers and your comments. We look forward to speaking with you about this or any other issue.

Sincerely yours,

[signed by five ELCA pastors whose churches are located in the Dassel-Cokato school district area]
This morning I sent the following note to our church staff and council
Please pray for me now that I'm back from the assembly. These are hard days because I'm feeling that my church denomination has moved away from scripture in a way that is new.

Pray that I will have the right balance of patience and zeal. I committed myself to working with [the other ELCA pastors in my area]. We are feeling different things these days, even though we agree on the basics of marriage, etc. [Some of us think we we should] work through ELCA channels. I'm not sure that's what God is calling me to do. [Other pastors] are also concerned but I don't yet know what they are thinking this week.

The difference between us was that I was at the assembly. I felt things way down in my gut. They didn't have that experience. So I'm feeling quite zealous and impatient.

But, I do not want to be led by feelings. Feelings are unstable. To correct this, please pray that I will be able to focus on the "routine" things of my job -- preparing for worship, working with our energetic leaders, ministering in crises -- so that in doing those routine things I get back to the basics -- sticking with Jesus and his love.
I ask that you, blog reader, would also pray. Pray not only for me but for all of us in the ELCA. Thank you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Unbinding the Conscience

I am looking at scriptures assigned for this coming Sunday, August 30 in our church. In these scriptures I hear God working to unbind our consciences from what is false in order to form them according to his Word. The ELCA's new statement on human sexuality seems to celebrate the "bound consciences" of people so as not to do just what God's Word does in the scriptures for this coming Sunday. If anyone reading this can help me, I'd appreciate it, because I am thinking that this "bound conscience" idea as articulated by my church body is about the same as what we often confess on Sunday mornings, that "we are in bondage to sin."

Here is a link to the scriptures for this coming Sunday:
First Reading
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Psalm 15
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9

Second Reading
James 1:17-27

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
for more on "conscience" see A Prayer for Transformation.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Crabby Christians?

At the risk of allying myself with Christians who have, at least in our area, been perceived as crabby, I'm posting an article here from WordAlone Network president Jaynan L. Clark:
To all believers, not just Lutherans, and to all not-yet believers in Jesus Christ: Have ears to hear!

It is very important for you to hear today that Jesus died for you to save you from your sin through repentance, forgiveness and new life, which are true freedom in Him.

That is the message and the calling for the church. That is not up for a vote.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America cannot change the need for repentance and forgiveness by a vote to accept homosexual behavior as it did during its assembly this week.

Only the arrogant, the ignorant and those led astray would believe such.

Luther never wanted a church named after him. I’m doubtful he would want these actions connected to his name. The ELCA has put a stain on the fabric of all churches that carry Luther’s name.

Instead of questioning the Bible from their perspective, churches should let the Bible question them, their perspectives, experiences and actions.

Hear also, Lutherans, and all other, Christians, how important it is to distinguish the human institution from the true church of God. Lutherans from the time of the Reformation have believed that the organization exists “for good order.”

Luther’s last stand was based on the Word of God and on sound reason. He was not convinced otherwise then, we in WordAlone are not convinced now.

When God said, “I am who I am.” He meant it, not “I am who you want me to be” or “who you want to remake me to be.” God and His Word are the authority over all of faith and life.

God’s Word is not up for a vote and, remember, He always gets the last word because He alone is eternal.

The ELCA assembly has now voted against the authoritative Word of God. The assembly has swapped His Word for human words that are neither based on sound reason or good order. In fact, the assembly voted against the Word of God, sound reason and the good order of creation.

That is not only not Lutheran, it is not Christian and it is not the work of the church but of a misguided , shrinking, sideline denomination whose leadership’s ears cannot hear and can no longer even discern or recognize, let alone revere, God’s direct warning and intervention.

God will not be mocked.

Steeples fall, the cross hangs upside down, the tables are overturned and the ELCA leadership pushes forward a human agenda and dismisses God’s clear directive and the churches’ long history of teachings. So, is what was passed now to be taught to our children?

Is this what Jesus’ love that “knows no bounds” really means? So what is it the ELCA will say “no” to? Are there any boundaries? That type of faulty parenting should bring to our door the Christian equivalent of child protective services. We are leading Jesus’ children astray.

Is the ELCA saying “no” to Jesus, to the Bible, to the historical teaching of the church, to those who stand only on the Word of God and to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church but not to desires, and experiences of homosexual behavior?

This is really an old, old story . . . as old as the debate over the apple itself. As it was then, it shall always be that when humans are faced with doing either what they want to do or what God tells them to do, we “fall.” It is the same old sin—self over God and His Word.

Swapping Jesus’ story for its own will have consequences for the ELCA.

But the end of this story is the beginning of another that witnesses to the One who is eternally to be known as the Crucified One because, as we have witnessed, even this church continues pounding the spikes into His scarred hands.

As the eternally Risen One, bearing the scars of our sin, He promises not to abandon but to abide and to raise up a faithful remnant to join with the vast majority of the faithful Lutherans worldwide.

We are not Lutheran orphans, because we stand with all the other Lutheran bodies who still believe in the authority of God’s Word and with the whole Holy Christian Church.

Be changed by God’s Word. Don’t let the Word be changed.
Please hear what Pastor Jaynan says, and please don't hesitate to share your concerns of any kind. If you think we're just being too crabby, please let me know.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sticking with Jesus

Those who have been following this blog or the ELCA assembly action know this has been quite a week. Emotions have run high and low. For me this week seems, at least now, like it's the end of an era.

It was at the Minneapolis Convention Center in 1980 that I first heard a personal call to serve as a pastor in what was then the American Lutheran Church (ALC). This week, in the same location, I was present when the highest legislative body in the ELCA*, the churchwide assembly, made what I think are some major changes in church teaching.** These changes made me, and others, wonder about our future within the ELCA. (See Friends for the Journey to know that we're not alone.)

As I do that, I will not forget my responsibility to the people of my local church. Most likely many people don't understand the importance of what happened at the assembly. Though what happened at the assembly seems quite traumatic for me, lots of people may just be scratching their heads at what they've heard on the news, not quite sure what to think. Many people have gay or lesbian friends or family members. Some members of our local church probably don't understand why I'm not happy.

So, as I prepare for worship tomorrow, I need to remember, more than anything else, that it's my responsibility to preach the good news of forgiveness, salvation and transformation through the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ. Fortunately, the gospel reading for tomorrow points in that direction.

At a very difficult time in Jesus' ministry, when his teachings had led many to question whether they would stay with him or not, Jesus turned to his disciples and said:
"Do you also wish to go away?"

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Whether or not we stick with a particular church denomination, the most important thing is sticking with Jesus, who reached out to the outcast and the sinner, claiming them as his own.

*In 1987 the ALC merged with the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
**I found a helpful summary of some of these changes on the website of Bethel Lutheran Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Click this link to go to the page.

Friends for the Journey

It's been a long week and last night was a late one. I want to get out and get some exercise to clear my head and give my body a break from sitting. Before I do I want to let you know that (1) the ELCA churchwide assembly continues and (2) those of us who believe that the ELCA has moved away from clear scriptural teaching are not alone.

For now, I'll just post links to two groups that I think are going to be very helpful in the days and weeks ahead. The colored words in this blog are links.

The Lighthouse Covenant
provides "a focal point for progressive evangelicals to key on mission with those who share certain non-negotiables": (1) a high view of Scripture (2) a focus on kingdom expansion and congregational growth (3) the use of all spiritual gifts through the priesthood of all believers (4) commitment to marriage between one man and one woman and (5) that local churches are the most important part of the church's mission and life.

Lutheran CORE
represents "the CORE faith and principles of Lutheranism in North America" and "the vast middle of American Lutheranism, spanning geographical regions, vocations, and political viewpoints." The Lutheran CORE website says "We are united by our common commitment to the authority of Scripture in the life of the ELCA... and seeks to be a voice for the solid, faithful core that is the majority of ELCA members, pastors, and congregations."

I'll have more to say later today and tomorrow. I am thankful for those who have commented on this blog or who have sent email or facebook messages or who have called. Please do not remain silent. We need each other as we move ahead.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Not?

The ELCA this week has made decisions that will lift up and honor publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender sexual relationships and to allow people in such relationships to be pastors and other "rostered ministers" in this church. In short, we have laid the groundwork that will make possible gay/lesbian marriages and pastors in such "marriages" to be pastors in the ELCA.

I think this is not good.

Here is an attempt to say, in regard to honoring
homosexual relationships,
why not?:
God's Word and God's creative order show that God intends male and female marriage to be the place where we are to HONOR sexual intimacy. This plan is written into the fabric of creation, where God made us male and female so we can "be fruitful and multiply." God's intent, which comes to us in a broken and fallen world, is that intimate heterosexual sexuality be the foundation of family life, where mothers and fathers care for children in self-giving and self-sacrificial love.
Now, let me pause and say that I love adoptive parents and all those who stand in the gap for children whose birth parents cannot provide the loving home that is required for healthy children to grow up. I love couples and grieve with those who want but cannot bear children. I know that all married men and women will not bear children. Many gay and lesbian couples have provided loving, caring homes for children. It's also true that many couples who are not married, heterosexual and homosexual, have strong, loving relationships that bring joy into their lives and the lives of others.

Because it is in the context of heterosexual marriage that God has chosen to create human life, I believe God lifts up heterosexual marriage above all other expressions of sexual intimacy. God's Word teaches us that other forms of sexual intimacy are out of bounds, fall short of God's intent, and, therefore, by definition, are examples of our human brokenness and our fall into sin.
THEREFORE, PRAISE GOD FOR JESUS, who gave his life a sacrifice for sinners--for you and for me. We are all standing on equal, level ground before the cross of Christ and his glorious empty tomb.

This whole issue is complex and difficult, and I so want to be able to share Christ's sacrificial love with all people, including homosexuals. But I find that I need to let you know where I stand, with prayers that if I am wrong that I will be corrected and will repent, and if I am not sufficiently clear that you'll ask me to clarify my position.

I believe that what the ELCA is doing in this assembly, in honoring homosexual sexual relationships, is to move away from God's intent. I appreciate your prayers as I, and many others, decide what we will do and how we will act in the days and weeks to come.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Next - Impementing Resolutions

The Churchwide Assembly voted on the Social Statement on Sexuality just before 6:00. The vote was 676 to 338 - it required exactly 676 to adopt. If any one of those voting positively had voted no, the result would have been the reverse.

Click here a for a link to the voluminous statement. Now the assembly is starting to debate the implementing resolutions--they are at the end of the statement.

Personally, I think this is a sad day for a church that says it relies on the Scriptures as our source and norm for proclamation faith and life.

Added 10:22 p.m. - Click here for a StarTribune story.

Appreciation & Concern

While I'm serving as a "congregational observer" at the ELCA churchwide assembly I'm thankful for the hospitality of my parents. They live in the "uptown" area of South Minneapolis, an easy bus or bike ride to the convention center. Being here is one of the privileges I enjoy but do not deserve. It's raining this morning, I'm thankful for that too.

I haven't been downtown at the assembly site since last night. I've done some other things and saw part of this morning's plenary session on line. I'm thankful that our local church has seen fit to give me two weeks of time each year for continuing education, part of which I'm using this week as I learn and discuss at the churchwide assembly. I consider it my responsibility to use what I learn to benefit the work of our local church, now or in the long term. I praise God for our work together.

So what is there to appreciate about the ELCA? What draws me, more than anything, is how the ELCA proclaims God's unconditional love, made possible through what Jesus has done for us on the cross and resurrection. Secondly, I am thankful for the ELCA's willingness to tackle challenging issues (though I am dismayed when we talk about them on any other basis than the scriptures centered in Jesus Christ). Because we know that we are loved through Jesus Christ, we dare to talk and debate and disagree with one another without fear.

What concerns me? Those of you who have followed what I've written in this blog over the past year and a half know just where I stand on the sexuality issue. Read back over what I've written in the past couple of weeks and follow the links. If it's still not clear to you, please ask me!

(Someone called me this morning from my church who wasn't sure where I stand! I was surprised, but perhaps my commitment to Jesus' unconditional love for all has overwhelmed everything else I've said. I certainly don't apologize for that! I will always highlight that love first and foremost in all my sermons! If I ever don't do that, please let me know! But, in case you don't know, I am opposed to the proposed social statement on sexuality and to proposed changes that would allow for pastors in same-sex unions.)

I'm aware how uncomfortable it feels to address some issues. But I'd rather that we talk about them than remain silent. Silence leads to alienation and fear, something Jesus never encouraged.

Once again, as I have done many times in this blog, I encourage you to look at the Lutheran CORE and Word Alone websites. There you'll find what I believe are good positions on many of the issues facing our church, including the issue of sexuality. I continue to pray that we will always to the clear teachings of Jesus Christ and what he does for us for the answers.

What do you appreciate about your church? What concerns you? Yesterday I sent a survey to the church council. Is it time for our congregation to examine it's denominational affilation? Are there other things we need to be doing to maintain a witness within the ELCA? Lutheran CORE has been doing that recently, and WordAlone has been doing that for years. Should we affiliate with a group like that?

The four ELCA pastors from the Dassel-Cokato area will be meeting tomorrow afternoon to talk together. Please be in prayer for us.

Be praying for the ELCA assembly too. Lutheran CORE believes that the best chance for stopping the ELCA's slide into blessing homosexual unions is if the ELCA votes against the proposed social statement on sexuality this afternoon. The statement requires a 2/3 vote to pass. May the Lord grant wisdom and grace to those who vote.

I can't vote. I'm not a "voting member" of this ELCA assembly. All I can do is observe, witness, and pray.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Note from Minneapolis

I've been in Minneapolis since yesterday afternoon for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA). You can follow the action at this link.

An official ELCA news release having to do with the sexuality business that I've been writing about in this blog says that the CWA:
"...turned back a motion that would have required a two-thirds majority for changes in policies relating to the rostering of clergy, associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and deaconesses. The vote, with 57 percent in opposition, came late in the evening of the first day of the gathering.

"A vote to allow people living in committed same-gender relationships to be on the professional rosters of the ELCA is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21.

"The action leaves in place a recommendation that a simple majority vote be sufficient for the proposed policy changes."
After last night's session ended, I went to a meeting of Lutheran CORE, one of the unofficial groups that is getting together during the CWA. Lutheran Core believes church decisions should be based on scripture.

I am a supporter of Lutheran Core. I am concerned that the ELCA makes some decisions in a way that dishonors what God has revealed in the Bible. No church has perfect knowledge of God's will, but in some matters, including sexuality, I believe that the ELCA has drifted away from its scriptural basis.

I encourage you to look at the news releases produced by Lutheran Core. This morning's Lutheran Core news release said this:
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted 584-436 Monday night to reject a proposal that would have required a two-thirds majority to change ELCA teaching and policy to allow pastors to be in same-sex relationships.

The assembly rejected appeals from voting members including five synod bishops that a two-thirds majority would serve the unity of the ELCA.

“A two-thirds vote would indicate how seriously and carefully we have addressed this topic,” the Rev. Larry Wohlrabe, bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod, told the assembly.

“Right now this church requires of us a higher standard,” said the Rev. Callon Holloway, bishop of the Southern Ohio Synod.

Leaders of Lutheran CORE expressed disappointment in Monday’s decision. “I am very disappointed that the voting members seem willing to let basic Christian teaching be overthrown by a simple majority vote of a tiny percentage of ELCA members,” said the Rev. Steve Shipman of Lock Haven, Pa. “Such a decision would lack any legitimacy both ecumenically and among our members.”

“The assembly seemed intent on achieving a particular legislative objective rather than considering the wider implications of the action on the ELCA and on the global Christian community,” said Ryan Schwarz of Washington, D.C.

“It is a shame that the assembly intends to make such a serious decision by a majority margin. It shows utter disregard for most of the rest of the Christian Church,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE.

“Consideration of these proposals threatens the ELCA’s relationship with our partner churches in the Lutheran World Federation. Church leaders from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe have already written letters stating that approval of the sexuality proposals would greatly damage the ELCA’s relationship with their churches,” said the Rev. Mark C. Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE. “These proposals will also severely damage the ELCA’s relationship with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestant Christians.”

“The ELCA has already been damaged significantly just by presenting the sexuality proposals to the Churchwide Assembly. And the damage will be compounded no matter what the assembly decides,” Chavez said. “A Christian church has no business voting on whether the Bible is relevant to the faith and life of its members.”

Respected theologians and church leaders say the proposed social statement would overturn Biblical teaching as it has been understood by Christians for nearly 2,000 years.

“No church has the authority to overturn the Word of God that protects sexual relations by placing them properly in the structure of marriage, and establishes marriage as being between male and female,” said the Rev. Erma Wolf of Brandon, S.D., vice chair of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee. “When any church finds itself accommodating its teachings to the ways of the culture, that church is in trouble.”
A group representing another view is Goodsoil.
"Goodsoil is a collaboration of organizations working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families in the full ministerial and sacramental life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). [Goodsoil works] to reconcile our church’s policies and practices regarding same-gender marriage, blessings of covenanted unions, and the rostering of partnered LGBT ministers, harmonizing these with our shared values of faith, trust, commitment, monogamy, mutuality, and dignity."
I think Goodsoil, and many within the ELCA, would strongly disagree with the thesis I posted on Saturday. I am putting it up on this blog again today in the hopes that people from our church or others would comment below.
Because God has chosen to create, protect and nurture human life through the sexual act and committed love of one man and one woman, therefore we honor committed heterosexual monogamous marriage above all other forms of sexual intimacy.
Please continue to share your opinions on that thesis and any of the other issues that will impact our church's future.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Would You Wish For?

That was the title of yesterday's sermon. You can listen to the 10:30 version by clicking this link. It's longer than usual, about 21 minutes, because it begins with five Bible passages, four of them printed on our church bulletins plus one additional. In this message, about wisdom and love, I addressed the issues regarding sexuality that will be before the ELCA churchwide assembly beginning this afternoon. I'll be there as a congregational observer.

One thing I wish for is comments from you! Click the word "comments" below on this blog post. Feel free to submit anonymous comments, but I always enjoy knowing who you are so we can discuss things in more depth. I hope to respond to comments myself (making my own comments)... I still need to do that for the last two or three posts when I can find time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wisdom & Love

Good evening all! Toni and I are back in town and I'm trying to get ready to preach tomorrow, reading through the scriptures again, looking over what I wrote on our camping trip. I'm focusing on the "wisdom" theme of Proverbs 9:1-6 and Ephesians 5:15-17 by telling part of Solomon's story from 1st Kings 3. My title, borrowed from Kathryn Schifferdecker's commentary is "What Would You Wish For?", a take off on what God asked Solomon in a dream.

As I'm getting ready to be a congregational observer at the ELCA churchwide assembly I am praying (and wishing) for wisdom. At the same time, as I read Solomon's story, I know how much of a bust wisdom was in his life. Known to be the wisest of the wise, Solomon made incredibly stupid choices which caused much suffering (see 1 Kings 11).

We need something greater than wisdom. We need God himself, his unconditional love revealed in Jesus, and his guidance. What we will be trying to do at the assembly, I hope, will be to remain faithful to how God has revealed himself (1) in Jesus Christ, (2) in the scriptures and (3) in creation. I hope we will keep the love of Jesus first, making sure that the gospel light shines brightly enough for all to see, while, at the same time, calling people to live in a way that honors the creator of all things.

Sitting up at Copper Falls Wisconsin State Park, I began writing the following thesis, hoping that I could post it and have people comment.
Because God has chosen to create, protect and nurture human life through the sexual act and committed love of one man and one woman, therefore we honor committed heterosexual monogamous marriage above all other forms of sexual intimacy.
At the same time, we need to extend Christ's love to those who believe differently. Only Jesus can show us the way.

Monday, August 10, 2009

ELCA Sexuality Business

Note: Those who have not been following this blog or may be otherwise unaware of the upcoming ELCA churchwide assembly may want to look through previous posts that refer to this to get the context. In the blog, go to the top left of the words "Sharing Ministry and Faith" above and type "sexuality" into the search or go to posts entitled "The Future," "Synod Assembly," "Help for What God Intended" and the links you'll find there.

As I’ve been mulling over where I stand in regard to the sexuality study and proposed changes in ministry policies (to be discussed at next week's ELCA Churchwide Assembly), I find myself where I have been for a long time, believing that there is a God-given design for sexuality and family and resisting any attempts to dilute that standard. I’m aware that some (1) theologians/pastors/teachers and some (2) "regular folks" disagree on with me this issue. But, as a pastor/teacher/theologian myself, I find that I have quite different reactions to the "religious professionals" who disagree with me than I do to the everyday people who see things differently.

As far as my work with people who aren't religious professionals, I want to make sure that nothing stands in the way of proclaiming and sharing the grace and mercy of God that leads to repentance and faith, whether that's from the pulpit, in writing or in more practical, loving ways. I want to make sure that nothing we do hides from anyone the grace of our Lord Jesus, bought at the price of his suffering and death. I hope that God's Word shines through to all, whatever someone’s opinion on this issue is, or whatever their sexual orientation or sexual relationships are.

On the other hand, I find myself standing firm against those who would teach that homosexuality is a God blessed option, or that God planned to make some people homosexual, or who would proclaim God’s blessing on homosexual unions or would want to change the ministry policies of our church (as outlined in a document called Visions & Expectations). I stand firm in this way I believe it’s abundantly clear in creation (Romans 1:18-20) and in scripture (Genesis, Song of Solomon, the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, etc.) that God’s plan is to bless heterosexual unions for the good of the world. I believe that creation itself teaches us why marriage is part of God’s good plan for the world, children being the most obvious fruit.

As an aside, I find it interesting that in our current semi-continuous reading of Ephesians that the lectionary leaps over Ephesians 4:17-24, 5:3-14 and 5:21-6:9. Not that these passages aren’t challenging to interpret and apply, but they speak directly to the importance of moral standards among those who are called by Jesus’ name.

I'm still hoping that people from my church and beyond will share their thoughts and opinions with me. I do not believe God rejects any of us from his grace simply because we have different opinions on this or any other issue. So, let's talk.

P.S. The pastor who serves as our Southwestern Minnesota Synod Bishop has written and distributed a "pastoral letter" on this subject - you can download the 2 page pdf file by clicking here.

P.P.S. According to an update I received by email today, you can follow the action at the assembly in real time at You'll find live Web streaming of plenary sessions, video, audio and text news releases, photos and more. If social networking is your preference, connect via Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and read blogs at The proposed schedule is at On Saturday, Aug. 22 the ELCA will send out an email summarizing the assembly's actions on the issues related to sexuality and ministry standards. On Wednesday, Aug. 26, ELCA Communication Services will post "A Brief Summary of Actions" for download.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Future

In just over a week from now the national denomination of which we are a part will meet at the Minneapolis Convention Center. It will begin with worship at 4:00 on Monday, August 17 and will conclude at noon on Sunday, August 23.

Visitor registrations will be accepted at the Assembly Registration Desk in the Minneapolis Convention Center as space permits. The Registration Desk will open at 11:00 A.M. on Monday, August 17, 2009, at the Minneapolis Convention Center and remain open throughout the duration of the Churchwide Assembly.

The decisions made at this "ELCA churchwide assembly" are not binding on us as a local church. They do, however, influence our future, especially as regards the next generation of pastors and church teachings.

A paper copy of a "2009 Pre-Assembly Report to Congregations" has been received in our church office. Included in the Pre-Assembly report are the following:
- MINISTRY POLICIES (regarding homosexual pastors & other "rostered leaders")

If you would like a paper or PDF copy of all or part of this report that is now in our church office, please call or email and let us know.

I am pre-registered as a congregational observer and plan to attend as much of the assembly as seems prudent. If you plan to come down during the assembly as a visitor, let me know!

Please share your thoughts, questions, concerns and ideas. Please be in prayer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Challenging Truth

While Toni and I were driving back from her parents cabin yesterday afternoon we heard two interesting items on the radio. The first claimed that it's easier, and more common, for people to believe lies (and tell them) than it is to discover the real truth (and speak the truth). The second talked about honesty in interracial relationships.

What have you read or listened to lately that has challenged you or made you think? God made our minds and he wants us to know and speak the truth, even when it takes a little work.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Crossing the Street

For some folks, crossing the street to come to a neighborhood or church event is a big deal. I was reminded of this on vacation as I biked by a church of an unfamiliar denomination, wondered what goes on there on Sundays, and wondered if I'd be welcome. And I thought, "if I felt that way, even for a moment, how often do people feel that way in our town?" Then, tonight, at the Parkview Apartments National Night Out, going from house to house in the neighborhood, I had little if any success as I encouraged people to stop by for a hot dog and get to know their apartment dwelling neighbors. For some, leaving home, walking across the street, it's hard to do.

How can we, as God's servants in our community, help people take those first steps toward the relationships God wants for each of us? And, if it's a challenge to meet new people, we need to be helping people be introduced to the Lord in a gentle way too.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Home Tuesday

It was a week ago that Jon & I came up to Toni's family's cabin. It's an annual retreat that reinforces the family ties. And, as I have noted multiple times in the past, our families, both Toni's and mine, are very special because of our unity in Christ. We may not see everything in the same way but we do share love and forgiveness that come straight from the heart of God. Besides that, Toni's parents set incredibly high standards of loving service, working in the kitchen while we're here and, I'm sure, getting things ready before we came and getting things back in order after we leave. Dick and Jo spoil us with great food, wonderful relaxation, very few responsibilities. I've done some work related things here, some reading, some study, some caring for people at a distance--but all at a very relaxing pace.

In just over 36 hours, however, this part of our summer vacation will be over. Toni's brother David & family left for Colorado--he was already hard at work en route while his son Seth drove. Our son Dan has returned to Okoboji where he's on camp staff. Our nephews Andrew and Matt left today for their work on a farm 30 miles from the Canadian border at Stephen, MN. We'll head back Tuesday. Even though we love it here, our return home is a part of our call from God.

One of the scriptures for this coming Sunday (Aug. 9) is this:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
Unless we are like Toni's parents, working to keep the rest fed and comfortable, we really can't say that we are fully living as servants of God while being hidden away up here in the north woods, far away from the pressing needs of the world. Jesus is our savior who makes it possible for families to love one another and be kind, even in close quarters, but he is also our Lord who calls us to follow him in serving him by giving ourselves for the sake of those who aren't as fortunate as we. I think especially of those whose family life is complicated and who are hurting in many other ways.

God is calling us to home and work. We'll get another break with my side of the family beginning next Wednesday. A part of me would just like to stay in this cocoon forever. But when I think of my Lord, and his willingness to give himself for my sake, I know that the end of "vacation" is a great thing--a time to follow my Lord in his life of sacrificial love.