Saturday, January 16, 2010

Uncomfortably Transparent

Writing this blog has, for me, been a way to let people "in" on my work and ministry as a pastor here in Cokato.  I've laid myself out pretty openly here.  Everyone who cares to know can know pretty much how I am feeling and thinking about many subjects. I've thought, by doing so, communication would be more open among us.

People who know me will say that I'm pretty transparent.  Not perfectly, but, as someone once said, "Don't get me talking, or I'll tell you everything I know."

I have a very hard time being political.  There's very little that's "strategic" or "planned" here.  Some folks think there are hidden motivations behind what I do and say.  This sometimes causes undue fear. But the fact is that I've put myself out as completely as I can. 

That's especially the case lately in regard to matters connected with out church denomination.  Some think that because I recommended that our congregation adopt the Common Confession and join Lutheran Core, that I was wanting to "push" us out of the ELCA.  But the truth is, I'm conflicted about just what God is calling me to do.

Here are a couple examples of what I've written on another open space for sharing (facebook)... first my response to a comment by Al:
My hope, Al, is that we can take enough time to allow people to come along. For some people admitting that they are on different roads than people and institutions that they've been with for a long time is a really hard thing and different people's personalities move at different paces. It's been clear to me for ten years that I've been on "somewhat" of a different road. That's why I've been part of WordAlone. Now WordAlone has come to the conclusion, according to their recent newsletter, that "efforts to reform the ELCA churchwide organization are 'futile.'" I was in doubt about whether I could get a call in the ELCA last time, when I came here to Cokato... but this congregation seemed like a pretty good fit for me... now differences are coming to the surface, probably a necessary though painful thing. I hope we can take enough time so people are reacting not to personalities and emotions but to convictions and issues and the Word of God. I am so thankful that you've hung in here so far... if some of our key people like you left, I can't see how I could stay.
Then another response to a comment by Tim:
Tim, I am so double minded about all this. 'Leaving' is something I've never been in favor of. I have stayed for a even though I've had some pretty major issues with the institutional church for long time already because I've believed that the ELCA and every institutional church needs pastors like me. (As I write that I sound sinfully proud, but my call to the ordained ministry was actually in those words, from the president of the ALC who, in preaching at a charismatic Lutheran conference said "We need your gifts." I heard my call in that.) Also, I've always believed that a call from god is TOWARD something or someone or some cause, not moving 'away' as if in fear, and acting out of fear is very dangerous: "...whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." Romans 14:23b That's why I thought bringing the "Common Confession" would be a good step as saying what we stand "for." The question of the staying connected or not staying connected with the ELCA needs to be asked in time, not quickly. The first question, as Steve King talked about Sunday, is "What shall we teach and preach?" That still needs to be worked out clearly in our congregation first.
So, what's the truth?  The truth is as I have written.  I am conflicted about our relationship with the ELCA.  I'm not conflicted about what the scriptures teach about marriage and family, but as to what the future holds for my and our ELCA connection, I just haven't worked all that out yet.. If that feels uncomfortable, it's just the truth.  I just don't know.

I'm not very good at hiding.  When you read what is written, you'll get pretty much the unvarnished me.  And, if you care to comment, or email me, or phone or, best, talk with me in person, you'll probably get your questions answered.  I'll try to be transparent with you too.


  1. By "key people" in your response to Al, do you mean people that are of the same thinking as you? Because I would say our church is going to lose "key people" either way.

  2. Thanks, anonymous, for your question. By "key people" I was thinking of those active leaders and volunteers from our church who have come and talked with me. The ones who are talking about leaving ELC seem, like Al, to be the ones who have a more "traditional" stance on marriage and family... so, yes, those would agree with me. It's very sad to think we are going to inevitably lose people. I haven't wanted to believe that was true. I thought if our church took a clear stand (i.e. adopt the common confession) we could avoid having to make a decision about ELCA affiliation, at least in the near future. I was surprised at the negative reaction the Common Confession brought out in December, especially since the church council unanimously (11-0) voted to recommend it to the congregation. So, now, I am going to propose the same things as Gethsemane in Dassel has already adopted -- a "teaching statement" that was developed in NW MN and an option to individually direct benevolence (retroactively to the time when our council voted 7-5 to hold benev. in Oct.). Yes, I'm aware that some people would choose to leave our congregation if we disaffiliated with the ELCA, but I have never made that recommendation. I hope people will be open with one another about their opinions, and, if members of our church think I am being unfaithful as a pastor, that they would come and talk with me. My goal is to remain faithful to my ordination, which at which time I "acknowledged that [I accepted] the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God."