Listening to Faithful Voices
I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his 1938 masterpiece, Life Together, "A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray."
Here are voices from leaders and members of this church who are defining what it means to be faithful in these times:
The Rev. Lowell Erdahl, former bishop of ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod, said:
"I regret my previous blindness and the harm I have caused. I'm grateful that the ELCA has opened the door to the blessing of committed same-sex relationships and to the ministry of people in such relationships. I continue to pray and work for their full inclusion in church and society, including their right to civil marriage.
"It will be a great day when homosexual humanity is as clearly understood and as fully affirmed as Copernican astronomy is today."
The Rev. Ron Bock, St. John Lutheran, Fargo, N.D., said:
"At the end of the day we go home knowing that we are accepted as a child of God. The issue of sexuality has less importance. I believe for this church than it does for others churches in the Fargo-Moorhead area. I'm proud of this congregation. I'm proud of these people for being willing to deal with hard issues even if they don't agree and then come sit next to each other in the pew that's what it's about."
The Rev. Paul Wayne Meier, St. Matthew on the Lake Lutheran Church, Benton, Ky., wrote:
"Of the $18,000 my congregation sent to the Indiana-Kentucky Synod for benevolence in 2008, we know it sent $9,000 to the churchwide organization. Of that amount $8,960 supported missionaries, new congregations, seminaries, campus ministries, social ministry organizations, etc. Less than $40 of our $9,000 helped with the development of social statements (and no dollars for the sexuality study, which was funded by previous years’ surpluses). So to make a statement in principle concerning the 'right thinking and policies' of the church by withholding money makes a far greater impact on the poor, the hungry, future pastors and college students than it could ever make on the social resolutions of this body of Christ."
Dr. David Yeago, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, wrote:
"Here is my dream for the future of traditional Christians in the ELCA. Instead of thinking of ourselves primarily as dissenters and opposition, let us ask God to make of us a movement of repentance and renewal, so that the continuing presence of traditionalists in the ELCA will be a blessing and an adornment for the whole church."
The Rev. Terri Stagner-Collier, ELCA Southeastern Synod, wrote:
"I now join the ranks of the many pastors and lay people who disagree with this action, asking the resulting question: 'Now what?'
"I write today as a parish pastor and as secretary of the synod to reflect on possible responses to the 'now what' question. If you feel a need to 'do something' about this, please consider the long-term impact of what you do. Will your actions divide our church or could they preserve our unity in Christ and continue the ministry we share."
Bishop Jessica Crist, ELCA Montana Synod, wrote:
"Many of you are aware that even within our [synod] staff there is not unaminity of opinion. We represent the diversity that is in the church, and that is intentional. And we intend to continue to work together for the good of the Church. We are committed to maintaining the unity of the Body of Christ. I have always said that there is room in the church, room in this synod for a diversity of opinion on social and political issues. And I have also said that congregations and pastors will not be forced to do something they cannot, in good conscience, do."
Bishop Lawrence Wohlrabe, ELCA Northwestern Minnesota Synod, wrote:
"Let us all ask God to walk with our church as we ponder and live into the implications of these actions of our Churchwide Assembly. Although, like many of you, I was not in favor of changing our ministry policies, I am willing to abide by the decisions of the Churchwide Assembly and to continue to lead our synod forward into God’s future. God is with us, and God will see us through this chapter in our life together. Thank you, as always, for your partnership in the gospel and in the great mission to which God has called us -- to make Christ known in a world hungry for good news."
Linda Rattle, member of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Racine, wrote:
"What a blessing this experience [at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly] has been to me. It has certainly changed my life. I have wept this week, laughed this week, strangers became friends and my relationship to God became stronger. I so love this church and each and every member. The respect and dignity shown throughout the week was unbelievable. The concern and love for fellow members was so apparent. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, united as one to do His work. . . God’s work. Our hands."
The Rev. Mike Poole Jr., voting member from the ELCA Southern Ohio Synod wrote:
"I am a called and ordained minister of Christ's Church. The accountability of my witness is not how I do when things are good, and things are easy, and things are warm and fuzzy. The accountability of my witness is how I do when things are not good, when things are divided, when things are at their most difficult, when things are hard and jagged. That will be the accountability of my witness. I have been called to humbly and faithfully serve in such a time as this. What will my witness be? I hope God hears that I was a humble and faithful servant. I hope God hears that I was a leader in a time when the Church needs leaders to lead. I hope God hears that I did the best I had, for this poor broken sinner, in a broken world. I hope God hears my witness. And not from me. But from the world, and from you."
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod, wrote:
"I strongly encourage all of us to take a breathing period during which members and congregations take no action to leave the ELCA. And, while we are breathing, let’s call upon the breath of the Spirit to enable us to listen to each other, bear one another’s burdens, and pray (sometimes with sighs too deep for words).
"In the meantime let us commit to pray for one another and for the ELCA, let us engage more fully in Bible study and the Book of Faith initiative, let us 'not grow weary in well-doing' as we serve the hungry, the homeless and the stranger and let us meet together at the cross our true source of life."