19 October 2009

Living Together In Disagreement

We are now nearly two months removed from the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Life together continues, even amidst disagreement. But it's interesting how the ELCA's decision to move forward on allowing monogamously partnered gay and lesbian people to serve in rostered ministry pops up in the most interesting places. Saturday night, at the Iowa State -Baylor football game, I was working in the Lutheran Campus Ministry concessions booth when an obviously intoxicated student found out we were the ELCA campus ministry. He was a member of Beta Sigma Psi, the Lutheran fraternity, and amidst the slurred descriptions of how happy he was to find us, he blurted out, "We're not hating on gays here, are we?" After assuring him that the concession stand wasn't the place to "hate on gays," and that, in fact, our campus ministry is an open and affirming ministry, he heaved a sigh of relief and staggered off to find his friends. Or throw up on something. I'm not sure which. *grin*

It just shows how you never, ever know who's watching or what people are thinking about the church. Tonight we'll join the Presbyterian, United Methodist and Roman Catholic campus ministries and the Atheist & Agnostic Association for a conversation about dating at a local coffee shop. You wonder - who might be watching, and what might they think about the church if they overhear us in conversation, disagreeing but not hating on each other? On the one hand, the church doesn't engage in these types of conversations as an evangelism tool, but I can't help but hope someone might be impressed enough to come see what else is happening in a place where we can live in disagreement respectfully.

This morning, the ELCA News Service shared a story of two pastors trying to figure out how to live in our church together. It's worth the read. And have a great day, everyone.

Grace & peace,

Photo credits: AP Photo/Dawn VIllella


  1. Disagreeing openly and in love is so much healthier than any other way, isn't it?

    I hope my fellow Presbys represent tonight!

  2. Scott,
    You are indeed right. There are many more people watching how the ELCA is dealing with change than we realize.
    But I couldn't help but wonder something about the student's question. Keep in mind, I am taking into consideration that he was likely intoxicated. But being that he was a member of the Lutheran fraternity (Honestly I did not know there was such a thing.) is it fair to assume he was Lutheran? If so then his question seems to suggest that he sees the ELCA as being divided into two camps those who "hate on the gays" and those who don't.
    Where does such an understanding come from?? Those of us in the traditionalist camp have tried to explain that it's not about hating people or not being inclusive of a class of people. I will say this to fellow pastors who disagree with me on this (Not you) and they will act like they understand where I am coming from and respect that, but then I will read a sermon of their's where they essentially say that the traditionalists just need a little more time. That we poor traditionalists just need to come to a more enlightened and evolved understanding of the issue.
    I am trying to be patient with the ELCA. I am looking for a way that people who disagree on this issue (and I should point out that for traditionalists it's about much more than sex)can co-exist in the ELCA, but I don't see how that can be when the traditionalists are simply seen as those who "hate on gays" or those who just need to be enlightened. And understand I fully acknowledge that the traditionalists have done a great deal of damage when it comes to moving forward and creating an environment where we can co-exist in the ELCA.

    God bless,

  3. Scott,

    I am a campus minister at St. Ben's/St.John's in Minn. Are you guys using some pre-written curriculum for your "inter-faith" dating dialogue? That sounds intriguing. We've been looking for ways to bring in all of the different faith-groups on campus (the campus ministry is officially Catholic since the universities are Catholic.)

    God is Love,


  4. Steve - I'm sure it was mostly the alcohol talking in this particular student's case. Yes, he was Lutheran, but from what I know I'd bet he's Lutheran in the same way I'm Swedish: aware of it, but completely unable to articulate what it actually means and why it's important.

    I've been frustrated with that element of the ELCA, too, because I know we're talking about how we read Scripture and interpret the Law. I'm still convinced these things need not be church-dividing, but I'm aware that there are absolutists on the pro-GLBT side who are as committed to wiping out dissent as the most strident CORE folks (not to disrespect CORE, but only the 'lunatic fringe' on both sides).

    I think what's required is the ongoing work of folks like you and me who can stand in the middle and work at this without demonizing each other. That's why I found the ELCA news release this morning so heartening. It was proof that people of divergent viewpoints can see that the other is a child of God and worthy of respect and compassion.

    I hope we can find a way to live together and truly honor the recommendations that were adopted at CWA. It seems the healthiest path to me, to acknowledge that we are not of one mind on this issue, but we are committed to the ministry of this church and to proclaiming the good news of the God in whom we all are called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified. Thanks for the post.

  5. Before you get too excited, let me just point out that the ELCA news service abused Erma Wolf and her reputation in this story. It was unfair to her in ways that are numerous, but she has graciously stated that you can't control the way the media covers you. How true. Even the ELCA media. Erma is on the Steering Committee of Lutheran CORE and a friend of mine.

    So, essentially by using this news release (I realize unwittingly), you are proving Steve's argument here.