ELCA NEWS SERVICE
December 24, 2009
San Francisco Lutheran Congregation to Celebrate First 'Feast of Hope'
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco, will celebrate its first "Feast of Hope" worship Dec. 27, in celebration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly decision directing changes in ministry policies.
The Rev. Anita Hill, pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Church, Minneapolis, will serve as guest preacher.
Since 1995 the congregation has held a "Feast of Expulsion" in late December, commemorating the date when the congregation was expelled from the ELCA, according to a news release from the congregation.
On Dec. 31, 1995 St. Francis was removed from the ELCA's roster of congregations for calling ministers in same-gender relationships, a violation of ELCA policy.
The 2009 Churchwide Assembly directed changes to ELCA ministry policies that created the possibility that people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships could serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers. The assembly also adopted a social statement on human sexuality.
St. Francis members were among many others in the ELCA who worked for years for changes in ELCA ministry policies.
The Rev. Robert M. Goldstein, who serves as lead pastor at St. Francis, said the congregation council began discussions about changing the emphasis for the congregation's annual observance.
"We weren't sure what to name it," he said in an interview. "Since the congregation on the whole is very hopeful, and we're still in a holding pattern until we see the details in the (ELCA) Church Council's reformulation of polices, we thought 'hope' was the best and most accurate name to give this."
When it meets in April 2010, the ELCA Church Council is expected to consider revised policy documents implementing the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. The proposed policies will be reviewed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops before any council action.
Goldstein said the congregation wants its event to be "forward-looking."
"It's time to accent the future now, and not live in the past," he said. Most of the congregation's approximately 135 members will likely attend Sunday's event, Goldstein said.
While members at St. Francis celebrate hope for the future, there are some congregations in the ELCA that do not agree with the assembly's decisions. Many cite biblical authority as their reasons. David D. Swartling, ELCA secretary, reported that as of Dec. 16, about 135 of the ELCA's nearly 10,400 congregations have taken first votes since the assembly to leave the denomination. Ninety-seven congregations achieved the required two-thirds vote and are moving forward in the process; 38 failed to achieve two-thirds.
Goldstein said members of congregations who disagree "are my brothers and sisters as we disagree over something that St. Francis' brothers and sisters feel very strongly about." He said he and St. Francis' members recognize others are in pain over the decisions, but noted many at St. Francis have been in pain for years because of the longstanding policies.
Goldstein added that he hopes one day there can be a "rite of reconciliation" for St. Francis and the ELCA.
Information about St. Francis Lutheran Church is at http://www.st-francis-lutheran.org on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com