Thursday, June 24, 2010

So What Happens Now?

Tonight--well, technically, LAST night--it being after 1:00 a.m. Thursday now, our church talked and sang and sweated through a "special congregation meeting" with a vote on whether or not to disaffiliate from the ELCA.  The vote was taken shortly after 7:00 p.m. and a half hour later the vote was announced--with 111 voting "yes" to leave the ELCA and 116 voting "no." 

Later I got a text from a friend: So what happens now? 

I replied: Well... We keep praying... No quick decisions... I wasn't wanting this vote... It turned out about how I thought... Don't know what is next.  Thank you for asking.

And that's the truth. God holds the future! We are not in control! God is good! Praise God for that! God, and God alone knows "What's Next."

After spending some sweet time with friends late into the evening, we came home and I saw that my daughter Naomi had already written in her blog tonight.  Her blog is called "Simply Shalom."  She began by quoting a Roman Catholic priest and author, Henri Nouwen from his book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
"We are not the healers.
 We are not the reconcilers.
 We are not the givers of life.
 We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anybody we care for."
That is so true, Naomi.  We simply submit ourselves to God and rest in His care.  Naomi went on to say:
Tonight my parents’ church voted on whether or not to leave their denominational affiliation. I was there to vote too. (I am a member, my dad is the pastor… but I do not really call it my church because I only lived there for one year.) The resolution to leave the ELCA did not pass–the vote was pretty much split 50-50, but needed a 2/3 majority to pass. But this means the congregation is split 50-50 on this subject and probably on many other related topics as well. (I wrote about this conflict before in my post “Washing Feet for Unity.“)

Our synod bishop* was there and she said to my dad (the pastor), “This just means you’ll have to work on reconciliation.” And my dad said, “Sometimes reconciliation is not possible. People are not only in conflict with one another. They are in conflict about a principle.” (see the ELCA social statement on human sexuality that was adopted in the 2009 churchwide assembly here.)
After this "vote" which showed that we are quite different from one another, and even when we cannot be FULLY reconciled, we can still can be kind to one another.  We can care about one another even when we disagree about things that are hugely important.

But even Jesus was not fully reconciled with everyone during his time on earth--we'll see that as we read from Luke 9:51-62 assigned for this coming Sunday.  There are times for many things under heaven.  There are times to "scatter" and there are times to "gather."  There are extended times of uncomfortable feelings and outright disagreements. There are things no human being can control.  Even leaders are simply too broken and weak to do much of anything sometimes.  We can follow Jesus' example.  We can love and forgive.  But we can't make someone make up.  Even Jesus didn't do that.

I hope everyone will stick together, but that's not something I can make happen.  So, when I think again about my friend's question, "So what happens now?"  I have to say, only God knows.  And tonight I'll leave it in God's hands.

If you wonder what happens now -- Ask God!  Pray, believe, and do all you can to live at peace as the Word of God commands you in Romans 12:9-21Breathe and trust our God.  He holds the future.  We do not.  When we surrender to God, He will work things out.  All we do is trust and obey.

On another dear "friend's" facebook wall I was reminded of these verses tonight:
Jesus said,
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
(Matthew 11:28-30)
That's the promise I will rest in tonight.  I have a promise from Jesus--an excellent promise of his eternal love that holds me even though I don't deserve to be held.  I'm rambling, I'm tired, I'm disoganized.  But I am so thankful that my Lord holds me anyway. Praise the name of Jesus forever!

I want to be with Jesus.  I hope you will too. Only as we are "yoked" or "connected" to Jesus can we find peace, or, as my daughter would say, "Simply Shalom."  Good night.

*My daughter promoted Pastor Linda Pedersen to bishop!  Her official position is "Synod Minister" and she serves as assistant to Bishop John Anderson here in Southwestern Minnesota.  Naomi's blog post from tonight, pictured above, is called "We are not the reconcilers." Click the colored words for links.


  1. I think the "bishop" is correct. Now we will see what kind of pastor you are. The conflict began on your watch. Now the congregation has spoken. Now you need to listen to the congregation and work with them (all of them) to bring them to the point of doing mission rather than doing conflict. Too often pastors leave after a vote like this and let someone else pick up the pieces. I think God has called you to be the pieces picker upper and lead the strong congregation in rediscovering its united mission.

  2. Would you be willing to meet with me, anonymous, so we can talk together? Perhaps that would be a good beginning.

  3. One more thing, anonymous, I responded to a facebook comment a moment ago that may be related to what you are saying. My response says this: If anyone ever hears propaganda instead of God's Word from me or any other church leader please let me know what you heard immediately so I can repent. If anyone has ever propaganda instead of God's Word in the past can you remember when so I can look at what I have said and apologize? When you see selfish acts and deeds from me or any other church leader please let me know what you have seen or heard so I can have an opportunity to repent. Perhaps you have seen or heard selfishness or propaganda instead of God's Word through this blog in the past. If so, let me know when you have seen or heard that so I can repent? If anything I ever do or say is not based on God's Word then it is sinful and I need to be given an opportunity to examine myself in regard to it and repent and mend my ways. We need one another so we can hold one another accountable. Many times we may be blind to our own sin and need our neighbors to point out the log or the speck in our eyes. I give you permission, friends and all who read this, to do that... but I would ask that you not make me guess what it is that you have perceived as propaganda or selfishness. Matthew 18:15 and the verses that follow are essential--so important for peace in the church. I ask that you not simply overlook any past sins but that you point them out to me and help me to understand what they are.

  4. I prefer not to meet with you at this time, particularly while you are still angry about the outcome. Sometimes we need to remember that the people of a congregation can also be faithful, can also be led by the Spirit. Sometimes we need to listen. The Spirit may have been instrumental in the vote. Just as the Spirit may have been leading the ELCA in its deliberations and votes.

  5. I don't feel angry. I had interesting discussions today with others. Honestly, if there is anger in my heart, I pray the Lord would reveal it to me because I'm not feeling angry at all. I was not surprised about this outcome. If I am angry the scriptures command me to work it out with the person I may be angry with... but there needs to be willingness to get together so we can talk. If you want to bring a friend with you that would be fine.

  6. Pastor Steve - here's one anonymous "outsider" who does not pick up a modicum of anger from your current posting. May you and the congregation continue to be led by the Spirit of God as you work through this. Blessings!

  7. Pastor Thorson,
    I stumbled across your blog on "pretty Good Lutherans" yesterday, but didn't have a chance to comment until today. I can understand your philosophical disagreements with the ELCA and share them with you. I was wondering if, since your church voted to stay with the ELCA, would you consider starting a church with those who share your beliefs from your church? It seems like it would be a natural step, and would let you continue to teach the Bible as you are led to by God, but would allow the members who disagree to stay at the church. It would also allow you to continue to lead others by the plans God set out in the Bible. What are your plans now? Are there any plans or ideas from those who wanted to leave? I'm sure that there are many more people like me that are supporting you and your mission. Thank you for your dedication!

  8. Thanks anonymous of 9:42 last evening. It could be that the previous anonymous saw or heard me as angry in another forum. On facebook I did quote Ephesians 4:25-27 as my status there so perhaps that's why he or she thought I was angry. I'll just wait and see if they respond and try to make myself accessible. I do have a lot of office work to do today though. It looks like a recycling center in here. ;-)

  9. What happens now? Well those of us who hold to God's written word, could always take our direction from Christ.

    Luke 9:3-5
    3He (Jesus) told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them."

    again here:

    Matthew 10:14 Jesus said,
    14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.

    Jesus also said:
    John 15:18-19
    18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

    Jesus Prays for His Disciples:

    John 17

    "14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them by the truth; YOUR WORD IS THE TRUTH. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."