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The Christian Gospel is the most powerful “meme” ever crafted on this planet.

1/3 of the terrestrial population claims it plays a central role in personal life.

In its most reductionistic form, it takes on a phrase like “Jesus died for our sins.”

Of course, unpacking that phrase theologically could take a lifetime of work.

The problem is, it becomes a language game which can be accepted or rejected without any actual spiritual experience. Isn’t it possible that a person could say yes to it without any real “saving” happening at any meaningful level in his or her life?

Language games don’t need a real God any more than Monopoly boards need a real Atlantic City. They work because they keep their own rules.

This “disconnect” effect becomes even more pronounced with usage; even those who accept the Gospel can face serious diminishing personal returns and even boredom when a reductionistic form of the Gospel is repeated over and over for decades.

For this reason, I wrote the June 2011 Summerside Press novel The Blackberry Bush.

I wanted to explore biblically-responsible atonement models in a medium (fiction) that would allow great freedom of expression.

You see, getting saved or not had to be “real” and believable for Kati and Josh, the protagonists. Just having someone approach them on the beach (props to Mr. Luptak for the image) and presenting them with a reductionistic Gospel would not have been believable to the readers.

And I wanted their “salvation wrestling” to work for two kinds of people:

1) Those who don’t identify with the Christian salvation ‘meme.’

2) Those who have heard it for so long that it no longer really matters to them in real life.

More on this later…

How would you describe salvation without getting reductionistic?

 

This is the number two question I get, after:

Are there pets in heaven?

Both questions are tough to answer in a simplistic way!

First of all, there is often a “question behind the question.” So,  before answering, I counter with “What do you mean by Lutheran?”

Let’s start with Martin Luther (1500’s in Germany). I once was blessed to meet the greatest Luther scholar of the 20th century, in person, Roland Bainton, in the early 80’s after a lecture. I asked him why he never joined a Lutheran Church. His witty response was: “I’ve never seen one. Luther himself, ironically, would not be welcomed in most Lutheran churches today.”

Martin Luther

So, are you Lutheran? If you can answer difficult theological questions simplistically, you probably aren’t following Luther’s pattern.

Asked whether there is pre-destination, Luther answered “yes and no.” Asked if we can lose our salvation, Luther answered “yes and no.” Asked if we are basically sinners or totally justified, he answered “yes.” Luther was a Bible teacher, and not a systematic theologian. He loved the (obvious) dramatic tensions in scripture and was OK with just leaving them be. His counterpart, Calvin, seemed to have a high need to cram the Bible into a neat system.

There are parts of Luther’s teaching and personality that I, without reservation, condemn and reject. His bizarrely anti-Semitic view of European Jews was an outrage. His mowing down of the peasant revolt was inexcusable. His eschatology was primitive at best and incomprehensible at worst (He thought Pope Leo was literally THE Antichrist). He had no sense of Christian mission to the majority of the non-Christian world.

But he was spot-on right about the whole Bible revolving around Grace, Faith, and Christ. And he was crazy-courageous in standing up to the whole authority structure of his world (Popes and Emperors) to make it stick. He rediscovered Paul’s “Jesus plus nothing” and remade much of the Western Church around it.

Along with Isaac Newton, he is one of the most mercurial and influential humans ever to walk this planet (Newton, like Luther, had his mega-quirks). By deconstructing the monastic world-view (which had been dominant for centuries), philosophically and practically, Luther helped lay the foundation for the Modern World in which you and I live.

Ironically (I thought of this while walking the ancient stones of the Via Sacra), Luther and Paul were the two greatest historical figures ever to walk the streets of Rome. No one at the time, in that city, even noticed them. Luther and Paul could care less–they just went out and re-made the world. All of the emperors and heroes of Rome amounted to: not much. We name our sons Paul–and our dogs, Nero.

Am I a follower of Paul or Luther? No. So perhaps I’m not a Lutheran, in that sense. Luther didn’t want us to use the term “Lutheran” (see his exact quote at the bottom of this page) and Paul, in 1 Corinthians, was horrified that people would label themselves with his name. I, like Luther and Paul, am a follower of Jesus Christ alone.

But what about faith families? What about denominations? I am totally a product of Lutheran theological-cultural upbringing, and can’t do much about it. It’s like being Jewish, it’s a cultural tattoo which you can’t remove without lasers. Even if I (God forbid) were to become an atheist, I’d be a Lutheran atheist.

If I were to join a Baptist or Catholic congregation, I’d still be a Lutheran member of that church. If you are Jewish or Lutheran, you understand the tribal implications of these labels :-). I’d actually, if I had my ‘druthers, like to be a charismatic Anglican (the Alpha London folks), but I’m too blue-collar Lutheran to pull it off long term.

So, is the church I pastor, Robinwood Church, Lutheran, because I am the primary teacher? Perhaps. We affirm (in our bylaws) the unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Small Catechism, and the ecumenical creeds.  We would qualify, thus, for joining the Lutheran World Federation.

But we are non-liturgical. Totally. More than you think. And we are very Pentecostal in our expression. It doesn’t look “Lutheran.” We have no Euro-centric trappings of any kind. We are a California beach church that meets in a warehouse. No Lent. No Advent. No lectionary. No altar table. No permanent cross. I don’t own a clerical collar. There isn’t a single hymnbook in the building. It would be hard to find the word “Lutheran” on our website. I only wear shoes if it’s a cold day. The music is loud.

But if any trained theologian were to visit us for three Sundays, he or she would say:

They sure aren’t Calvinists or Arminians. Not Roman Catholics. Not Southern Baptists. Not Eastern Orthodox. Not liberal North American PC activists. Not Anglicans. By default, they must be Lutherans. Expressive, non-legalistic, missional–but pretty dang Lutheran at the core.

If Luther were to show up at Robinwood Church, I’d probably tell him off (privately) for that goofy Jew-bashing (and a few other things) of his, but we’d pour him a beer (and cut him off at two) and share his love of God’s Word, and the tensions that are simply there in it.

Is Robinwood Church Lutheran? Yes and no 🙂

And like Luther and Paul, we don’t care if “important” people don’t notice what we’re up to, we’re busy remaking the world.

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For more information:

Robinwood Church Website

Robinwood Church Worldwide Podcast

My book explaining Pentecostalism to Lutherans.

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LUTHER’S QUOTE on LUTHERAN LABEL:

“People should not call themselves ‘Lutherans’. ‘What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine. Neither was I crucified for anyone . . .How then should I — poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am — come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name?’ Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teachings we hold.”

Who said that?

Martin Luther.

–from, “A Sincere Admonition by Martin Luther to All Christians to Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion 1522”

Have a look at this FASCINATING video from the Royal Society of the Arts.

Link to share: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

What if we aren’t totally sinful? Granted, we all have incurable sinful tendencies, and we need a Savior, but what if the Lord also implanted countering tendencies like empathy?

For those of you looking for a definition of Total Depravity, see the Wikipedia article on the same topic.

I’ve been a committed follower of Christ for some time now, and have never, in my gut, totally bought into the notion that we are “totally depraved.” I’ve always gotten chills when we sing “saved a wretch like me.” Does the creator create wretches?

Never liked saying over and over every Sunday that “I am in bondage to sin and cannot free myself.” Felt like reinforcing a curse. I think I can say “yes and no” to that on different levels, but it’s just not that simple.

I would say that we are more complex than that.

We are beautiful and broken.

We are noble and sometimes pathetic.

What if original sin is true. AND original blessing…

Does it have to be all or nothing?

I’m Lutheran in my tendencies, and Lutherans have always been good at holding things in tension. Already and not yet. Simul iustus et peccator, etc. That works for me.

This is a key issue in evangelization–if we can’t agree, basically, about the human condition, with those we are trying to reach, we have no table on which to serve the “dinner” of the Gospel.

I would love to hear your thoughts. The conservative TULIP Calvinists among us are going to go nuts.

Isn’t what the Bible teaches much richer than “total depravity?”

Have at it. But play nice. 🙂

I have always been fascinated by Cranmer’s poetic rendering of Matthew’s (and Luke’s) rendering of Jesus’ phrase:

Give us this day our daily bread.

Please stick with me through some heavy linguistics. It will be worth it.

In Greek, which Matthew wrote and Jesus didn’t use when teaching his Lord’s/Kingdom/Father prayer, it says:

THE – BREAD – OF – US – THE – EPIOUSION – GIVE – TO – US – TODAY

Apparently, according to Danker’s Lexicon, the word epiousion was coined by the evangelists where they were translating Jesus’ Aramaic “Abba” prayer (see also J. Jerimias: Abba). Origen said early on that the word was coined by the evangelists.

The word exists nowhere else. In the New Testament or in secular Greek literature.

“Ousia” means substance/being. “Epi” means marked or designated “right on top of.” Think “epicenter.”

In depth-etymological terms, it can’t mean “daily” or “tomorrow’s bread” as so many have suggested.

We have to go with depth etymology, because we can’t go with any parallel Greek usage outside of “our” literature.

Thus they coined a Greek word to get at what Jesus was saying in Aramaic, because what he was saying was not to be contained in a normal “off the shelf” Greek word. The problem is, our current Aramaic versions of the New Testament are, in some ways, translations from the Greek. We don’t have pre-Luke/Matthew Aramaic versions of the gospels.

When doing a depth-etymology, it’s best to stick with the un-spun core-root meanings of the parts involved in the compound word.

Thus “designated-present-substance” is the best we can mine from the root words.

It unravels if we try to project it beyond the Greek into what Jesus may have said in his language–we end up with compound speculation.

But in hand, we have EPIOUSIA.

What do you think, based on what we have said, that it means?

I’ll take a stab at it:

Jesus saw provision as dynamic, and not as static. Everything we need comes out of the Father-substance (hence the Father prayer). Have a lunch box? Feed 5,000 people.

Need to pay taxes? Take the Krugerrand out of the fish’s mouth. The Father feeds and provides for us as he does the lilies and the birds.

Don’t store up treasures in barns. Rely on daily manna. Trust God for your abundance.

Get your provision from substance, don’t try to gather it from the circumstances around you.

The epiousion is the designated/marked substance from which our bread comes.

This is the abundance we are teaching a Robinwood Church. Not some form of American consumer greed.

The world is not a zero-sum game (more for you, less for me), it is an “open system.”

Give us of the designated substance our bread today. I know it’s not as “sexy” as Cranmer, but nothing in English is 🙂

What are your thoughts?

It’s not fashionable to believe in Hell.

But Jesus did, showing us a glimpse behind the curtains in his story about “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”  His teaching on the last judgement in Matthew 25 also gives us some clues, although it seems to run counter to our Protestant Evangelical teaching on Justification by Faith.

The Hebrews have Gehenna and Sheol. The Greeks had Hades, Tartarus, etc. (and they borrowed Gehenna from the Jews for good measure). The proto-Germanic folks had “Hjala” which ended up “Hell.”

Afterlife “geographies” come in two flavors: Rehab/Purification and Punishment. Both Sheol and Gehenna double dip a bit on these concepts. Roman Catholic Purgatory, of course, is the ultimate example of the former.

Much like our prison system, we can’t seem to decide which it should be–rehab or punishment.

It’s also unclear in the Old Testament whether just “bad people” or everyone went to Sheol at death. Some Jews believe that everyone goes there and after 11-12 months they end up in Olam Ha-Ba (The world to come).

Jews in the New Testament couldn’t agree about whether or not there was a Resurrection from the dead. Paul cleverly exploited this controversy to his advantage to get out of a courtroom scrape.

The Jews still can’t agree on the afterlife. We Christians share more with Muslims than we do with Jews when it comes to what heaven and hell are all about.

Most etymologies have a word for grave and then, by extension, a capital-G-eternal-Grave of the same name.

Major human instinct senses an afterlife of some kind; it doesn’t just come from what we read in the Bible. Think of the lengths the Egyptians went to prepare for the realm to come. We seem to come hard-wired to believe in it. Not believing in an afterlife is, overwhelmingly, the exception and not the rule for us humans.

Compare Ecclesiastes (3:19) and Daniel (12:2) and you will see that the Bible itself has quite a range of teaching on this topic.

What are your thoughts?

Is there a hell? Who goes there and why?

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What is salvation?

From what do we need saving?

Are those without self-consciousness of salvation any worse off for it?

Who isn’t saved?  Who is?

Are redemption, salvation, and deliverance the same things?

In many languages, the terms overlap and get confusing. In German, “Heil” and “Erloesung” don’t occupy the same shapes and territories as the English words.

Is it just a word for obituaries, grave stones, and fables?

From what do we need saving, redeeming, and deliverance?

What is the receipt–how do we know we have it?

I have pretty big opinions about this, but would rather hear yours first…

Do all faith systems teach more or less the same thing about salvation, or not?

Do you have to believe that the world is evil and we are wretches for salvation to mean anything?  Do some teachers overstate our depravity in order to create “salvation demand?”

If we are saved by grace, what is grace?

Can you have a faith system without teaching salvation in some form or another?

Does the “savior/redeemer” show up in pop culture because the church has forgotten how to talk about it? Think Keanu Reeves as Neo in the Matrix…

Have happiness, balance, appreciation, peace, effectiveness and other things replaced salvation as a human goal?

Do we need a Savior-Messiah if salvation is not a real and felt longing?

Sociologist Peter Gross from Switzerland suggests that Christianity could be stronger without stressing salvation. I disagree, but what do you think?

Is salvation, like “sin,” and “sacrifice,” a homeless word in our contemporary culture?

We had a house full of 18-25 year olds at our home last night. I am just trying to make sense of all this so that the Christian faith can actually have something to say to an entire generation that is taking a “pass” on church.

What are your thoughts?

I hang out with theologians and pastors a lot.

They often bandy about the term “The Gospel” as if it were a fixed commodity on which we all agree.

So what is this “Gospel?”

Gospel means “Good News.” But what Good News are we talking about?

Jesus, in Mark 1:15, kicked off his ministry by suggesting that the gospel was the fact that the Kingdom of God was near.

Conservative Evangelicals seem to imply that the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus died for us. If we say yes to this, we go to heaven. If we don’t, then…well…

It seems, in the New Testament, that there is a Gospel which Jesus preached, and then there is a Gospel that was preached about Jesus. The two come together a bit in John 3:16, but we wouldn’t want to reduce all of the Bible to one verse.

If we don’t preach the Gospel simply enough, we get lost in vague piety and religiosity.

If we preach it too simply (without any nuance) then we collapse the entire Word of God into a simple transactional contract that does not do justice to the depth of our relationship with God.

And then there is the matter of fact that the four “bios” of Jesus are called “Gospels.”

What is, for you: this “Gospel?”

Not a rhetorical question. Please have at it.

Biology has yet to experience her Newton; her Copernicus.

Biology has not yet come of age. It just doesn’t feel as if it has “arrived” yet.

Darwin will not enjoy his current “Mount Rushmore” status a few centuries from now. He’s just too wrong about some basic concepts. He’ll most likely end up like Galen (the important guy before they figured medicine out)

For a scientific theory (i.e. evolution) to be so controversial well over a century after its “unveiling” begs the question, “What’s wrong with it?” Darwin’s acolytes are still trying to convince us, and generation after generation, it’s not working.

The truth is, we don’t yet understand “life,” and most people are fully aware of the opaque mystery of the topic at hand. All proposed “definitions” of life are hopelessly arbitrary; in the end, life is pretty strange stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I need to lay my cards on the table–I trust the narrative of the Bible and am a committed follower of Jesus. But that’s not why I have trouble with Darwin and his neo-Darwinian offspring. If I had never seen a Bible, I still wouldn’t buy what they are selling.

It’s just too counter-intuitive.

I’m not the sharpest crayon out of the box, but I can tell stuff that happened randomly (i.e. potholes on the 405) from stuff that got designed (i.e. cool Swiss watches). Life seems way more like the latter than the former. Simple as that.

Many “progressive” Christians try to merge evolution and the Bible. They think they have “solved” the problem by saying, “I can believe in evolution and the Bible.” Problem is, no matter what you think of the Bible, spontaneous, undesigned evolution isn’t true. Why staple God onto a system that doesn’t need one?

First of all, “science” about the past is dicey. On a good day!

Truth is, the past doesn’t exist. You can’t go there. Even if you were Bill-Gates-rich, you couldn’t take me there tomorrow. And time travel will never happen because you can’t go somewhere that isn’t there.

The present is simply all we have. Joe’s Crab Shack here in Newport Beach has a sign: Free Crab Tomorrow. There never is a tomorrow. Only a today.

Science, by definition, is organized observation. We can only observe and measure the present, since that is all there is to see. Science must be “repeatable.” You can’t repeat an observation of something you can’t observe in the first place.

Science is a good thing and I am not anti-science. All truth is truth. But science has been running up against limits, in many areas of study, for several generations now. Science has entered a time of diminishing returns. It has never lived up to what we thought was its potential. It’s just created a lot of yucky chemicals we can’t seem to get rid of. Remember when nobel prizes in science were about cool things like beating polio and figuring out electricity? Nowadays the prize winners “achieve” something like figuring out some nuance in a light wavelength. Diminishing returns. Science is losing mojo.

Complex storytelling (scientific or otherwise) about the “past” is fraught with pitfalls. We always tend to read in what we want to see. I want to see a Creator, and I can easily find one; at least I’m honest about my motives–my opponents, on the other hand, pretend to be “objective.” Immanuel Kant described our minds as “waffle irons” which impose our patterns and views on the runny batter of reality “an sich.”

Pick the opposite pre-supposition to mine (i.e. no designer), and you can “find” that too. Your geometry system all depends on the postulates you pick beforehand; same goes for me.

This is why history is such an “odd” discipline. It is a detailed description of something that isn’t actually there. Add science to the mix, and it gets even stranger. History is written by the victors in life and all storytelling about the past is deeply influenced by our current biases. Our historical interpretation of the past far outweighs any actual evidence; we can write volumes and volumes on Greco-Roman society and we only have a few flimsy pages of actual primary sources from that era (Tacitus, Suetonius, etc.), and most of those earliest manuscripts date from almost a millennium after they were written.

Susan Sontag wrote a magnificent essay “On Photography” which talks, among other things, about how it gives us the illusion that we can know the past. Interesting how Darwin’s theory and photography developed (no pun intended) around the same time.

Before this gets too serious, click on this Friends episode that deals with evolution. It’s actually quite profound.

Let’s just come right out and say that all story-telling (including mine) about the past is deeply agenda-driven. This includes secular, mechanistic evolution theories.

We simply have no consensus, in the USA, as to the place of spiritual/supernatural discourse, if any, in the public marketplace. Big agendas are pushing big ideas, but we haven’t even agreed on how to chalk the lines on the football field.

Most of the reasoning on both sides is totally circular. Pre-define science as having no spiritual content, and voila!, you relegate talking about a Creator to the realm of “feelings” and “opinions,” claiming the turf of “fact” for your side. (Theologians do the same thing, BTW)

Who says science can’t entertain supernatural/spiritual/design components? Some grand scientific world congress that imposes this definition on the rest of us? Who gets to decide what science is? Only those who a priori exclude all spiritual content?

Science is nothing more and nothing less than an organized, inductive, collective search for truth by observation, publication, repetition, and consensus. Pre-defining the rules (most narrowly) to ensure your preferred outcome is no longer science.

Pre-defined in non-Designer mechanistic terms, science is no longer worthy of the name “science.” It no longer has the muscle to seek truthful answers to the (big) question: “What are we doing here?”

Getting back to biology–I simply don’t find the argument for evolution convincing.  Neither “mircro (within a species)” nor “macro” evolution.

You can separate out traits (dog breeding, agriculture, etc.), but these are artificially isolated trait groups. Put all the dogs in the world on one of the Hawaiian Islands and in a few generations they’d all look just like their proto-ancestors. There is remarkable consistency within a species.

It seems, from whatever incomplete evidence that we have, that species appear out of nowhere, enjoy a long period of “stasis” where virtually nothing happens, and they they go extinct. These mass “flowerings” of species seem to have happened in a handful of mega-waves over time.

And no one has ever convinced me that one species can become another one. Clearly, it didn’t happen gradually (lizards growing wings ever so slowly over millennia), and if it was a new-species mutation, then it wouldn’t have the right number of chromosomes to mate with anything else (why dogs and cats can’t mate with each other producing any offspring)–it would be a mule at best. And the chances of two identical (male and female) mutations who can mate and be the Adam and Eve of a new species? Please.

Let’s go back to the wings. It would take a bazillion years for wings to evolve to the point where an animal could actually fly (try designing a wing that will lift solid matter off the ground–go ahead). All during that time, the non-flying wings would be a serious liability in terms of survival. And during that bazillion years, the genetics of the animal would be screaming to the offspring not to change anything. Our genes are deeply conservative by temperament.

Real Darwinists have given up on the “gradual change” story and the neo-Darwinists don’t have anything to convince me that mutations (as opposed to gradual natural selection which they have given up) could produce new species. Apparently, species just start, go on for a long time, and die out (looking much the same as when they started).

And micro-evolution going on with humans today? If that were the case, then people in harsh environments (more improvements because of forced adaptation) would be superior to those who have spent thousands of years in “resort” climates. Let the racism begin…

I’m not saying that we’ll never figure this out. I just think that we are all (myself included) missing a really big insight; as big as Copernicus shifting the sun to the middle of the solar system.

I don’t have an answer for the “What are we doing here?” question. I believe God was and is deeply involved. Not because of some old, dusty dogma, but because I encounter supernatural reality on a regular basis, and this reality seems to have focus, personality, and intention. I can’t conceive of this Being having nothing to do with why we are here. And I am not alone. A majority of humans in every time and place (whatever their faith system) relate to what I have just written about spiritual things. They will continue to reject a spiritually-sanitized story about our origins.

Perhaps some truly fresh-thinking person reading this will set aside the tired Creation/Evolution debate and think a truly original thought about what life actually is and how some forms of life relate to other forms of life on earth.

Secular evolution theory, after generations of teaching, has never reached true consensus in our society. It never will. Which begs the question: What’s wrong with it?

Time for some new thinking.

Time for a Newton.

Time for a Copernicus.

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Come on a Spiritual Treasure Hunt

A HOUSE DIVIDED

The ELCA; Post-Assembly-Vote (hereafter referred to as “PAV”)
9.5 Theses (a mini tip-of-the hat to Martin Luther)

By David Housholder
Huntington Beach, California
http://www.RobinwoodChurch.com
http://www.ThornHeart.com
http://www.TheLightHouseCovenant.com

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

-Jesus (and Abraham Lincoln)

This is not a diatribe, nor is it a list of grievances. It is an unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly. Please join me in this exercise.

I bear no hard feelings on the vote or anger toward the denomination or my faith family of origin (the ELCA). It is what it is. Bless us all. Bless them all.

This essay is an answer for many of you who have asked me to pick up my fountain pen and help define the issues for your congregational use. From the beginning, I want to say, humbly, that although I am theologically (very) conservative and deeply committed to the renewal movements, I do not speak for either group, just for myself.

I am surprised by the decisiveness of the Assembly (many of us expected something fuzzier) and the ferocity of the reaction among conservatives. This changes the game.

Please hear me that I am not attacking anyone. I just believe that the truth is true and that seeking after it is a good thing.

There has been a sea change in the ELCA, “PAV.” (Post Assembly Vote)

THESIS ONE: The Really Big Picture

Trends on society’s view of human sexuality are not as clear as they seem.

I live in California. A bill to ban same sex marriage in this (very blue) state passed just this past year. This constitutional amendment passed, not in the church, but in the (arguably) most “liberal” state in the West.

It is impossible to predict the future, but the trend in California may be pointing in the direction of traditional marriage.

Everyone in the media predicted that gay marriage would survive the election. But then, most of the media is Anglo liberal white.

And most of the voters are not. Asians and Latinos came out to the polls in droves. They, and conservative Anglos, have about twice as many kids per family as liberal Anglos.

What will this demographic wave do to the assumed, liberal-sliding trends?

Gay marriage may well pass in some places and fail in others. But it is highly unlikely that there will ever be a broad consensus for it. There will always be a majority or large minority of conservatives that are simply never going to accommodate it.

Liberals just don’t reproduce in big numbers. Neither do gays and lesbians. The future is owned by those who have the most babies; look at the Islamification of today’s Europe for a striking example of birth rates producing political power.

People talk a lot about emergent/emerging Christianity. There are actually two emerging Christianities (please note that I am not talking about “postmodern theology” here, but rather about emerging demographic trends).

One “emerging Christianity” is a postwar liberal movement with roots in the 19th century social gospel, liberal German theology from that same era, and flavored with a shot of very resilient Marxism.

This faction has firm control over most mainline Protestant North American denominations, colleges, and seminaries.

Their piety is cool and understated. Public teaching/preaching voice is reflective and nuanced. It is detached from the immediate heart of the speaker and objective in tone. E.g.: “Let us then go forth brothers and sisters to renew our efforts to establish justice and peace throughout God’s creation. For the sake of the greater Gospel and the Christ who was crucified.” The Christ is an archetypal figure central to their worship and thinking. Personal conversion language, however, is avoided. Ask a liberal pastor how many people got saved in his/her church last year, and you will get a funny look.

The other emergent stream was born around campfires on the mission field and the songs of slavery. Its piety is “warm to hot,” expressive, potent, and unpredictable. There is a supernatural vibe to the body language and speech. It is a high-touch world of prayer and laying on of hands. It can be found in storefront churches full of immigrants in any major world city. I describe it in my book: Light Your Church on Fire Without Burning it Down (available on Booksurge.com and Amazon). Also, see Harvey Cox’ Fire from Heaven. Conversion is embraced and baptism is a full-bodied experience.

These two emergent streams, like two poles to a magnet, repel each other. In some ways, they gain identity by not being like the other, and see their own movement as an upgrade over and against the other. Mutually patronizing comments about the other are the rule, not the exception.

Sexuality has become the poster issue between these two groups. They take virtually 180 degree opposite views on the topic.

The fault line between these two emerging Christianities was so clear at the Church wide Assembly (hereafter: CWA). They lined up at opposite microphones and their “gut feelings” were simply in a different place with little emotional common ground. It was hard to watch. The immigrant Lutherans at the microphone looked like they were in shock.

The truth is, the old Protestant consensus has broken down. The CWA vote was the loudest rip in the North American Protestant fabric to date.

The old consensus between the two emerging streams ran like this:

The liberals (first stream) can control the apparatus and the seminaries and the renewal people (second stream) can control the Bible camps, missionary efforts, and most youth ministries. The non-negotiable lynchpin: Traditional Family Morality will be upheld by both groups, at least officially.

Without this lynchpin, the grand Protestant consensus, which we have had for at least a few generations, is unraveling. The grand freight train un-couples and cars coast in opposite directions on the same rails.

The liberal Protestant establishment is exhorting, begging, and even threatening (Episcopal-Anglican rift) the renewal-conservative people to stay. But without the lynchpin agreement, the core of the Protestant Covenant, they are not going to stay.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The Protestant consensus has been dissolved; with it will dissolve the grand coalition of North American Protestantism.

Grand coalitions take decades to build but can be unraveled in a week. Roosevelt and Reagan built formidable political “great coalitions” in the 20th Century. Neither exists today.

The liberals will retain control of the mainline denominations. But I doubt they realize the damage they have done in pushing through the sexuality vote. They could have won this vote long ago, but they understood what was holding the broad consensus together. They used to appreciate the fact that Traditional Family Morality on the books made for the possibility of a grand Protestant coalition.

Renewal/conservative folks will, PAV, be left with three options:

1) Stay and submit to a “new covenant” without a Traditional Family Morality contract. Those who stay will be playing a permanent “away game” from now on. I have already been shouted down, PAV, by liberals (and I was being irenic and peaceful) when I even dared mentioned that I am not OK with the new morality and won’t accept the new contract.

2) Leave the mainline world (as individuals or churches) and join the growing world of non-denominational Christianity.

3) Do something visionary and creative. This remains to be articulated and executed. Perhaps you will craft it!

More on this later. For now, suffice it to say that we conservative/renewal folks have been voted off the island.

THESIS TWO: Sex is Complicated

Human sexuality is way more complex than extremists of any political-theological stripe would concede.

There may be no more nuanced and complex animal behavior on planet earth than human sexuality.

Virtually no one sexual label fits even a handful of people, let alone a whole population group. Most humans have a unique individual sexuality based on tiramisu-like layers of experience, pre-disposition, feelings toward parents, early courtship successes and failures, and of course, hormonal levels.

Our sexuality is like a constantly morphing fingerprint, individual, but not fixed. I was at the Moulin Rouge in Paris and out came “sexy” women covered in feathers. They have been doing this for 100 years. Many, many men, for generations, have paid to watch this and obviously (I was looking around) enjoy it. I cannot think of anything less sexy than scantily dressed women in feathers. We are all different in our sexuality.

I am complex sexually, and so are you. And my sexuality continues to evolve the longer I am married. It becomes more focused on my wife of 28 years, over time, and to say that I was born the way I am now is silly. Of course my wife has had a huge effect on my sexuality. And on everything else about me, by the way. Had I been married to someone else, my sexuality would have evolved in a different direction.

Three phrases are common among gay and lesbian persons:

1) I was born this way.
2) I don’t ever remember being attracted to the opposite sex.
3) Why would I choose this path, given all the persecution of gays and lesbians?

The first phrase is a gross oversimplification of sexual behavior. No one is born with a totally developed sexuality any more than they are born with grammar and vocabulary. Our sexuality develops and changes well into middle age.

Besides, no one even remembers his or her first 2-3 years at all, let alone what they were thinking and doing, sexually, when they were born. I remember my first fuzzy sexual feelings (attraction for my best friend’s sister) around 6th grade. And even these thoughts were complex, the more I think about it. I am looking back at the past through a glass, darkly, at best.

The second phrase above, truth be told, is un-verifiable and can be politically self-serving. And no one can argue with it because no one can access your memories. And besides, memory is funny stuff. If you don’t believe that, spend some time listening to witnesses in a courtroom. “What actually happened” is vague, at best, with even the simplest events, let alone remembering the pedigree of our sexuality as it was forming.

And the third phrase borders on comical. The truth is, people choose crazy, destructive lifestyles all the time, for bizarre reasons. People give up jobs and marriages for beer! Why would I choose this? Who knows? People are very capable of doing whatever they feel like, regardless of the consequences for them, socially.

In conclusion, sound bites on sexuality, which most people accept without thinking, are philosophically wobbly at best. Hardly a foundation upon which you want to build a philosophical skyscraper.

But activists use such sound bites, all the time, to end critical debate and to put us, theological conservatives, on the defensive.

THESIS THREE: The Bible and Sexuality

Guidance on sexuality is trickier than it appears, if you use the Bible as your guide.

Much has been made over biblical authority in this debate on human sexuality.

For the record, I’ll lay my cards on the table. I believe in biblical inerrancy; it is not logically possible for you to be theologically to the “right” of me on this issue. That may put me to the right of many of you, theologically speaking, but please hear me out. Making a case for biblical inerrancy is the subject of another essay.

I just wrote the Galatians Bible study for Augsburg Fortress, which they published. The tension between law and Gospel in this Galatians is palpable (the big issue was circumcision).

The truth is, we all, liberal and conservative, pick and choose which rules we want to hold as still valid, in light of the cross:

-We don’t eat kosher
-Women go to church without hats on, and some wear their hair short
-We skateboard over the Sabbath rules
-We ignore the commands to keep festivals
-You are wearing blended fabrics right now, forbidden in the Bible

We still hold that the Ten Commandments are somehow really important, even though they are part of the Old Covenant.

We, according to Galatians, are to be led by the Spirit, not by the law.

So it doesn’t work, when we conservatives are trying to convince moderates and liberals, to quote the usual prohibitions against gay and lesbian sex in Leviticus and Romans (although Romans has a lot of bite to it and just sent a chill up my spine this evening). Besides, there’s a trap door at the end of the Romans passage (Romans 2) that should give us pause in using it at all against anyone else.

The only argument that “has legs” in circles outside of our own is the biblical argument from the Order of Creation. It’s an argument with which even the most secular common sense 15 year olds can resonate.

It goes like this:

1) God created the world and created humankind in his own image: male and female.
2) His first command to us (over and over actually) was “be fruitful and multiply.”
3) Adam and Eve were a reflection of himself and a prototype for life-giving sexuality.
4) Jesus and Paul affirmed this Order of Creation by saying that “a man shall leave his family and cleave unto his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” Jesus, implicitly, and Paul, explicitly, commanded the single life for those who can’t, won’t, or feel led not to carry out this traditional plan.
5) Jesus was a hardliner on marriage: “What God has joined together let no one put asunder.” He saw marriage as God’s plan.
6) Thus, this is God’s best plan for our sexuality, and we ought to raise our children to live out God’s best plan for their sexuality.
7) All of our leaders should, as best they can, teach and model this central creative impulse from the very heart of God. Being celibate and single (e.g. like Paul) is the other option.

This is taking the “Main Street” approach to the Bible and sexuality (God’s original plan), rather than getting lost on side streets.

The common sense nature argument, even if you never saw a Bible, resonates with this Bible ueber-theme. Any fifteen- year old can tell you what part goes where (sexually). Physiologically, it is beyond debate that one of the main biological goals of the sex act is to bring sperm and eggs together; as Dr. Strangelove would say: “It’s the whole idea!” Certain things don’t belong in certain places. Even we Protestants would have to give the Catholics some credit for seeing the importance of letting biology take its course in their allergy against birth control.

And economically, one of the biggest causes of crime and poverty in America is single parents raising children without a partner (although many do it heroically and well). Thus the importance of lifelong marriage between a man and a woman who generate the births in the first place.

Traditional Morality encourages having children, lifelong marriages to support and nurture the family, and long-term economic mutual aid between family members of many generations.

THESIS FOUR:

The two opposing views on this issue (human sexuality) are heartfelt and incompatible.

I use a Mac. Mac users are insufferable for their missionary zeal. I could digress…

In any case, a computer cannot have two operating systems; or at least, it shouldn’t.

The opposing views on sexuality are incompatible.

Either a full sexual relationship is limited to traditional marriage or it is not.

Conservative view: Although we live in a broken world and often fail to live up to it, the ideal should be for full human sexuality to be expressed within the boundaries of a life-long marriage between one man and one woman.

Liberal view: Human sexuality can be a great blessing between any two committed, consenting adults (some would add: in a life long committed relationship).

The problem is: the only “compromise” is to adopt the liberal view, and then it ceases to be a compromise.

Logically speaking, there is no compromise (either way) without collapsing the opposing view.

PAV ELCA Lutherans just shifted from the former (conservative) to the latter (liberal) view, very decisively. Mutual respect of bound conscience means nothing to the party left holding the short straw.

In fairness to them, this is how liberals have felt all along—that they have been holding the short straw. And they did.

I studied Philosophy as a Fulbright Scholar and just don’t see a way around this impasse.

This may be the most intractable social issue since slavery (where there was also no compromise possible—although many were attempted). Either it was OK to have slaves, or not.

In these kinds of issues, someone has to carry a short straw. For PAV traditional folks, it’s our turn (if we choose to stay in the denomination).

Even with the abortion issue (and I am actively and heavily involved in the pro-life movement) there are lots of places for constructive compromise with pro-choice folks (parental notification, 24-hour waiting, rape and incest, required counseling, no late term abortions, etc.). I have actually enjoyed conversations with activist pro-choice people, where the discussion went in a very constructive direction, because we could find some areas of agreement.

Now that hurdles have been removed for blessing same sex unions, our conservative view becomes irrelevant.

And what about us who believe that homosexual activity is always sinful, no matter how committed the partners are? Are we still allowed to say this, print this, and write books about it that Augsburg Fortress will publish?

Are we to give up on prayers for healing for those who want to be released from the gay and lesbian lifestyle? Can we have official booths at ELCA gatherings urging people to leave the lifestyle and staffed by those who have left the lifestyle (I have a dear friend in this camp)?

Is it a sin or not? If we no longer, unconditionally, say “yes,” then the answer is “no.” A community cannot be held together with two sets of rules on the big-ticket issues.

In the logical-philosophical world, there is such a thing as a winner-take-all game.

This would be one of them.

THESIS FIVE: How then shall we live?

Without basic unity in answering the question: “How then shall we live?” there is no longer one faith system, but two.

A faith system (“religion”) rests on twin pillars:

1) Love and community.
2) Teaching, purpose, and direction.

If we fail in one or both, then we have a multiplicity of faith systems, not a unity.

There have been a lot of appeals to love and for community to hold the ELCA together. But those appeals are ignoring number 2 above.

Granted, there will always be smaller disagreements in any community.

But the church offers an ideal lifestyle, an alternative to the prevailing culture, as an answer to the question: “How then shall we live?”

A big part of human lifestyle is sexuality, and what to do with it (and what not to do with it). Primary relationships are formed out of sexual relationships, and these bondings form families.

What constitutes the “goal” family we are “shooting for” simply is a big deal.

As noted above, there are philosophically coherent conservative and liberal views on sexuality.

As PAV Christians, we conservatives, it would seem, would now be required to teach the liberal view in all official capacities. Or at least to keep our mouths shut.

Simply put, our denomination no longer teaches the conservative view. So what happens to those of us who do?

A “religion” teaches a path for one’s life. A “calling,” if you will.

Some of that path is intended for all people (think: Ten Commandments).

Some of it is intended for individuals (e.g. “Go to med school.”)

Conservatives believe that human sexuality teaching belongs in the former, and liberals believe that its center of gravity can also be found in the latter (this is an over-simplification, but you get the idea).

We simply can’t teach both views at the same time.

Lutherans have called lesser-charged issues as “adiaphora” or things that don’t break fellowship.

To theological conservatives, human sexuality, and the Christian community which is literally formed out of it (bonding and birth), is simply not adiaphora. It is central to the lifestyle teaching of our churches. We conservatives have a clear answer to the family part of “How then shall we live?” and it’s not negotiable.

Simply put, we can’t as a denomination, shoot at two different targets at the same time. As Jesus says, we can’t serve two masters.

A faith system, much less a faith community, cannot survive without a basic shared ideal about how human life should be lived.

It’s all about life together. And life together has a shape.

We can’t hold up opposites as equal ideals and survive as a church.

THESIS SIX: Convergence and Divergence.

The ELCA is diverging, internally.

Perhaps you have flown over the Mississippi delta. There you have, not converging but diverging streams.

Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for embracing and a time to refrain from embracing.

There has been a saying: What belongs together stays together.

Perhaps the ELCA was born under a “bad star” (I don’t believe in astrology, so don’t send me letters) and there were constituencies in the ELCA that did not belong together in the first place.

The ELCA is a synod. You have heard of the Missouri Synod. Synod comes from two Greek words: “syn” (together) and “hodos” (path). We get symphony (sounds that go together well) and odometer (path measurer) from these two root words.

You can be together in love but moving in different directions. The PAV scenario will resemble the Mississippi delta. This is neither good nor bad. It is the way it is.

I have always advocated a “big tent” ELCA with room for everyone, conservatives and liberals. And everything in between. I have been a tireless advocate for people “staying in.”

Having a tent (which is a mobile shelter) only works if you are carrying the tent down the same trail or have it pitched at one spot.

If you go in different directions, even a big tent rips. I’m not sure if I can continue to hold my “big tent” views, although I’d like to. It may not be possible.

THESIS SEVEN: The Cost

The ELCA will pay a much higher cost for the CWA vote than liberals believe and/or hope.

Polls and statistics can be spun to back up almost any opinion.

But it’s clear to me that a large minority of clergy/leaders and a majority of lay people do not want the blessing of same sex unions or practicing gay/lesbian clergy in the ELCA. The vote will not alienate a fringe of the ELCA; it will alienate the core of the denomination.

Christians are an authority-following, codependent lot, and many who disagree with the new PAV scenario will just go along with things because they don’t want any conflict.

But for many of us, the PAV world is unacceptable.

Many churches are going to cut off unrestricted benevolence to the ELCA and its synods. Completely.

Pastors are in a difficult spot, because virtually none of their congregations are 100% made up of either faction. Many moderate and conservative pastors will lack the courage to lead, and the following will happen:

1) Hard line conservatives will leave their congregations immediately.
2) The leadership “buck” will be passed to councils or congregational meetings which will bring the fault line of the assembly to the middle of the congregation, resulting in intractable conflict for the reasons stated above. This will be distracting and counter productive at best.
3) The decline of the typical mainline congregation will be hastened by internal bickering.

The social and economic cost to the ELCA may be larger than anyone anticipated. The new center of the denomination may not hold.

THESIS EIGHT: The GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender—the order of the letters can be different) Agenda

This is not the end of the issue; it is the beginning of the implementation of the GLBT agenda.

Tolerance and blessing was the rallying cry of the movement that resulted in the CWA vote.

Where does it end?

It doesn’t.

This is just the beginning.

If sex can be “holy” and “blessed” with any consenting adults, why not a return to polygamy? Why not group marriage?

Why not bisexual pastors who are sexually practicing both ways? As long as all the partners are in lifelong committed relationships. Because, after all, they were “born bisexual” and have to be able to live that out…

Gay pride week at our seminary chapels and colleges, supported by your offering money?

There will be a new term appearing: Queer (and Queer Folk). You don’t have to look far on Google to see that Christian GLBT activists are thinking of imposing this term on the rest of us, with missionary zeal, as the next step. Do you really think that this activist term will not be used in written prayers this year in some ELCA congregations? Do you really think that synod assemblies are far behind? Have a look at an official ELCA congregation in San Francisco: http://www.HerChurch.org. Goddess rosaries, you can buy them at HerChurch on line now! “Maybe you’re gay” booths at the ELCA youth gathering? An office for GLBT affairs at ELCA headquarters in Chicago? If this sounds way “out there,” think about people a generation ago seeing the CWA vote we just had.

Once sex has been de-coupled from traditional marriage, the sky is the limit. Is this something in which you want to take part?

It starts with committed, life-long gay and lesbian relationships. But what is committed? And what is lifelong? Are we easier on gay divorce because it is less “real?” Where does it end?

Who will be in charge of the storytelling? Will the Stonewall story be elevated to the Selma bus story or even to that of the Pilgrims? Will we be able to push back?

The toboggan ride down the icy slope has begun. Do you want to ride it all the way down?

THESIS NINE: Breaking Fellowship

It is possible to love people and break directly supportive fellowship with them.

I keep getting told by liberals, even scolded by them, that this is not a big deal. That sexuality is not as important as Jesus or the Gospel.

Well, to me, it is a big deal. And no one else gets to vote on how I believe about that.

There are small things, which the Bible tells us to overlook, and then there are big things.

Human sexuality is one of a tiny handful of “big thing” issues in our culture right now.

There are lots of churches and denominations. And there are “whole other religions.” We can love them all without having to support or pay for them.

If part of the body of Christ moves in a 90-degree direction to the way you are headed (think “syn-hodos”), you can bless them, pray for them, but you don’t have to pay for them.

I can love Hindus and Mormons too. But I don’t have to send them money. Or pray that their message prevails. Not that our Lutheran brothers and sisters on the left are Hindus and Mormons. But to realign the faith system from forgiving sin to blessing sin is a structural change, not a cosmetic one.

New sound bite: Pray for them, but don’t pay for them.

Financial support for a PAV organization (the ELCA and its synods) that allows for the blessing of gay and lesbian unions/marriages and/or elevates practicing gay and lesbian people to exemplary leadership is optional, at best, for conservatives.

We can love them but we don’t have to support or subsidize this new direction.

Let the liberal wing of the church pay for its own decisions.

I’m not saying leave the denomination; that’s up to you. But money reinforces and rewards behavior. Time to stop sending it until we find a new way forward.

An entire redefinition of the human condition, sin, and atonement/blessing is a big deal to us. In fact, you could argue that to do so is to create a new religion. That, of course, is endlessly debatable.

Pray for them, but don’t pay for them.

THESIS 9.5: The Options

Two of the churchwide organizations, which conservative Lutherans ought not to abandon, are Luther Seminary and Augsburg Fortress Publishing. There are others, of course.

Both have sizeable Evangelical presence in their leadership. Their CEOs (Rick Bliese and Beth Lewis) are very comfortable among us and value us. These operations may not be spotless in their conservative-evangelical résumés, but they are very important to us and we ought to stay connected with them, if only for the sake of the many Evangelicals who are a big part of what they do.

When conservatives complained about the liberal bent of the notes in the Lutheran Study Bible, Augsburg Fortress apologized and changed the text! Rick Bliese, the president of Luther Seminary is a frequent worshiper at ELCA conservative/renewal congregations and is valued by their pastors.

There are some good options for conservative churches and leaders looking to find healthier associations:

1) The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Plusses: Bigger, broader group. Great global missions, LWR activity
Minuses: Limitations on women in leadership; seriously crabby factions

2) The Lighthouse Covenant (see Facebook Page)
Plusses: More outreach-focused and not as theologically athletic, broad appeal
Minuses: Not an actual denomination with full-service pensions, etc.

3) LCMC (some unofficial family ties to Word Alone)
Plusses: Full service. Thoroughly Lutheran. Done their homework.
Minuses: Some still have an axe to grind, some factional issues

4) ARC
Plusses: Super young demographic, and their spirituality is winsome and warm
Minuses: Association with old-school Charismatic movement hard for some, not hyper-Lutheran

5) CORE
Plusses: More confessional, “smartest” of the groups, very Lutheran
Minuses: Same as the plusses.

6) Additional Groups, including AFLC and AALC, etc.
They are sprouting up all over the place. Keep an eye out for them.

This is just my view; I don’t speak for others. I appreciate all of the groups, and my plusses and minuses are more anecdotal than anything else.

Let’s support one another. As Ben Franklin said: We can all hang together or we will all hang separately. Please start supporting them financially with redirected funds. You can adjust the “mix” as your relationships develop.

We all agree on a high view of the Bible and on traditional family morality. Let’s start with that.

And let’s be gracious with one another.

Some helps for your deliberations as a congregation:

1) Think both/and rather than either/or. Consider a good handful of groups to be a part of. Re-think the idea that you can only belong to one group.

2) Think “Copernican Revolution” and diversify your associations for the benefit of your congregation. Give benevolence money to those groups that most move your congregation forward and move the Kingdom forward.

3) Get good legal and business advice from someone who understands non-profits.

4) Consider redirecting benevolence money now. Think of ways of protecting money that goes to global missionaries, disaster relief, etc. Spread it around until it becomes clear to you which relationships feed your church and move the Kingdom forward most clearly.

A word (to you clergy) about your next call: You may be tempted to backpedal on your convictions because of potential disfavor by a bishop should you seek another call in the future.

Please consider spending some time in prayer on this and ask the Lord to remove any fear you might be feeling over this.

We clergy are a notoriously codependent group and we need to get past fear of what others think.

These are times that try our souls. I believe you will pass the test.

PRACTICAL STEPS FOR THE CONSERVATIVE/RENEWAL PASTOR/LEADER IN THE P.A.V WORLD:

1) Remember that you are on the right side of history. The Lord gets his way with creation (Isaiah 9:7, Psalm 110:1). Never, ever get discouraged. Elijah got discouraged at Mount Horeb, but the Lord encouraged him, told him to pull his socks up and go back to work.

2) Do not submit to intimidation on the part of officials or those who, as Paul said, “seemed to be in authority.” You have every right to hold your view. You have every right to speak it publicly in all official gatherings. Love everyone. Perfect love casts out all fear. There are already reliable reports of conservatives getting shouted down in discussion groups, PAV. Don’t let it get to you.

3) Remember that you did not create the disunity of which everyone is accusing us. The grand coalition, and its contract (based on an affirmation of Traditional Family Morality), held us together for generations. We did not dissolve it. The other side did. Intentionally.

4) Join the Lighthouse Covenant on Facebook (search: Lighthouse Covenant). Encourage all of your leaders and members to do so. Explore LCMS, LCMC, Lutheran CORE, and the Alliance of Renewal Churches (ARCusa.org). Many churches are broadening and diversifying their relational “portfolio.” No matter what anyone says, you can stay in or leave the ELCA and join any or all of these groups. My personal preference would be that you join all of these groups and see which relationships mature.

5) Refuse to be lulled into complacency. These issues are big issues. They are a big deal, to us. The other side does not get to vote on how big we think this is.

6) Do not fall for the “it’s no worse sin than any other” sound bite. The purpose of this phrase is to stop discussion and to devalue your opinion. Answer with “So you agree that it is a sin? Then why should we bless it?”

7) Do not let your church drift in the Sargasso Sea of theological weeds because of a few families with gay/lesbian family members. Love them. Love all of them. But teach what the Bible teaches. You can do both.

8) Do not fall for the “they were born this way” sound bite. Answer (and it will shock them) that your sexuality is not that simple and neither is anyone else’s.

9) Refuse the idea that “all young people” are going to be for gay/lesbian ordination and blessings in the future (so we may as well vote for it now). There are tons of conservative young people, especially among immigrants, who are going to make up a majority some day. The trends are ambiguous at best.

10) Don’t re-hash the ELCA debates in your congregation. Lead. Moses didn’t ask the Israelites to vote on whether or not to go back to Egypt. Be willing to lose people in order to remain faithful to the Bible. Love them, but let them go. Beg, borrow, or steal some spiritual backbone. Remember that you are at the helm, and the shepherd (Latin: Pastor) does not report to the sheep. Don’t let your church become a House Divided!

11) Don’t let anyone tell you that this issue is adiaphora (a side issue). It is one of the great issues of our day.

12) Pray for Mark Hanson, your local bishop, and the ELCA, without any bitterness or unforgiveness. Refuse to use bitter language if you are challenged by others. Operate out of love. Be firm in the truth as God gives us grace to understand it.

I am not going to tell you whether or not to leave the ELCA. I want to say very clearly and explicitly that this is not a call to do so. The Lord will tell you what to do. But whatever you do, remain committed to an unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly.

Pray for them, but don’t pay for them.

The truth is true.

You can lean on it.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God remains forever.

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