Friday, October 26, 2007

Coveting stuff...

Ever wonder what denomination you would be in if you weren't in the denomination that you're in now? I do. It's mostly when the polity stuff (read acceptance of homosexuals) of the ELCA starts wearing me down that I entertain this notion. I ask myself "If the ELCA implodes because of fill-in-the-blank, where would I go?"

As you can tell from my previous posts, I'm a liturgical Lutheran. This means that all of the Reformed denominations are out. I could go to the Orthodox church (everybody else seems to) but the Orthodox church is too, well, eastern for my western sensibilities. I'm sure I could learn to love the Orthodox church but there is too much western Christianity in me to make the switch. That leaves the Episcopal(Anglican) church or the Catholic church. Regarding the Episcopal church: talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire! Nope, can't do that. My constitution is not strong enough. This leaves the Catholic church. Since I am a liturgical Lutheran, I'm a cousin once (or would it be twice) removed from Rome. The Catholic liturgy is nice (for those churches who don't do funny "contemporary" Eucharist). The music is a little weak in the Catholic church but I could probably get over that deficiency. All in all I might be able to be Catholic.
And I think about this almost every day since I pass by a Catholic church on my drive home from work and there is one a block away from my home that I jog by three days a week.

But just when I think that I could, in pinch, cross the Tiber, I read something that just poisons the waterhole. To wit.

Apparently "commingling with Protestants" is a sin of the same order as homosexality or masturbation. That's rich.

As good ol' Charlie Brown liked to say "Good Grief!"


  1. I would be Episcopal if the Lutheran church did not exist. To me, the Roman church has a triple whammy of errors: its hatred of gay and lesbian people, its insistence on celibacy for priests, and its denial of women to the priesthood. Oh, and don't get me started on the hierarchy crap.

    - Dash

  2. Well, I was ready to comment until I say Dash's reply. Sister, you need to check your facts: The Roman Catholic communion doesn't "hate" gay and lesbian people any more than any other communion that is struggling with how to interpret the scriptures on the issue. (That was simply unfair.) Furthermore, it doesn't insist on celibacy for all its priests -- there are lots of married formerly Lutheran pastors who are now priests and there are scads of Eastern rite priests who have wives.

    But it's not like Lutheranism does have those problems -- and others -- in spades. No organization is without hierarchy; the question is how open about it is the organization. Because of its ambivalence about "hierarchy," Lutheranism -- at least of the ELCA variety -- invests sacred order in popular pastors or bishops. Why, e.g., are some bishops still called "bishop" long after their tenures ended, while others are called "pastor"?

    When you go off on hierarchy, don't forget this: It was hierarchy of the Roman sort that allowed them to say with authority that the Joint Decree on Justification is established doctrine among Roman Catholics. There are several million Lutherans (led by such theologians as Wolfhart Pannenberg) who deny that it settles anything. No wonder Rome has trouble with us: No one has authority to speak for the millions of self-important (not to mention -righteous) Lutherans who know better than anyone else about everything else. (Herding cats comes to mind.)

    As for the article you cited, AC, don't judge an entire communion based on a couple of lunatics. The priest is an example of a kind of crusading mentality that I have seen exhibited in all traditions. And as for the Chancellor of the Diocese who found "no foul" in the priest's actions, well he is (as some of us have known for decades) wrong about almost everything.

    This is a congregation behaving badly and a diocese not stepping in to assert the authority of love of neighbor. But in the Minneapolis Synod, we have congregations that blatantly violate explicit rules of the Church, with repercussions for all kinds of well-meaning faithful brothers and sisters, and the Bishop doesn't lift an eyebrow.

    When the ELCA implodes, there will be some successor body (among numerous others) that will succeed in claiming your loyalty. You don't have to swim, jump ship, or whatever.

    (As for whether Episcopalians have it any better: Give them five years and talk to me then.)

    OK, I'm sorry to beat around the bush, but I hope you get my point.

  3. brother Dwight, don't worry about my rant. Just comment as you would have regardless of what I say.


  4. Dwight,

    I guess I should have been less glib and more precise with my critique (glibness being the bane of blogs and one of the reasons that I don't fire "off-the-cuff" posts). Anyway, I agree with you about hierarchy. Of either organization. I can't speak to your assertion of ELCA populism since I'm not up on internal ELCA gossip. I do, however, see a vocal minority moving the ELCA farther than it's members want to move. (But who's fault is that? The vocal minority or it's corollary the silent (lazy?) majority)?

    This bifurcated Lutheran position on hierarchy is, I agree, annoying. But, frankly, so is the magisterium. It's the magisterium insular mentality that I should have pointed out in my posting about the priest at Holy Family. And the Chancellors position on this just proves my point: "No problems here, move along, move along". Don't we see this over and over again? I know I do. I wonder if Rome really wants us back or wants to lord her more catholic theology over us and have us say "uncle" . As you've mentioned before, saying "come home" is not ecumenism that is likely to work very well.

    As for the Catholic hierarchy: I would agree that it doesn't "hate" gays but if it's love they have a funny way of showing it. I use to have a problem with celibacy but I don't much now: It's the requirement of being a Catholic priest. On the other hand, disallowing women to the priesthood is a little harder for me to accept. But none of these is the issue. The issue is that, with a few exceptions, the Catholic church seems to push those very Christians who it should most want to be in good relations with away. This priest may be an outlier but is by no means unique. It's un-Christian and unnecessary. I guess that was my point.

    As for jumping ship: I have no intention of doing so. The more I study Lutheran theology the more I like its "via media" position between Catholicism and Protestantism. It suits me just fine. And the music is better.

  5. why not ask a gay catholic if they don't feel rejected, despised, betrayed distained and even hated by the catholic church...

  6. I find this whole discussion so troubling that I'm afraid I cannot comment - though I'd sure like to (but then I'd have to go to confession).



  7. I've settled down a (little) bit now.

    Dash, your first comment was offensive to me, as it should have been to any Christian. I feel as if I've just watched you slap your mother.

    So much for that grace that Lutherans are supposed to be known for ...

    I love you dearly, Dash - but this was very clearly out of counds - and in very poor taste, to boot.


  8. "why not ask a gay catholic if they don't feel rejected, despised, betrayed distained and even hated by the catholic church..."

    Why not ask a gay catholic why they think the church should be all about how they feel.

    The Church is waht the Church is - regardless of how it makes us feel.

    'nuff said.

  9. "The Church is waht the Church is - regardless of how it makes us feel."

    That's too blindly obedient for me. Where the church is wrong, it needs to change. There has to be a balance, and there has to be growth. To say that we just have to accept the church for what it is and not demand justice is not going far enough.

    This is a very old argument, and I accept that you and I are in totally different places from each other on this point. I don't have a problem leaving it at that.


  10. "That's too blindly obedient for me."

    Well, it's not about you - or me, either. It's about Christ, who was obedient even unto death on a cross. Bonhoeffer said it too - "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." (Bonhoeffer also wasn't worried about the injustice of non-inclusive language!)

    Obedience equals death - and this death means death to ourselves - which is exactly what a life in Christ calls us to.
    Bonhoeffer got this - we just don't like it.

    "Where the church is wrong, it needs to change."

    I agree to a point. Where it is wrong, it does need to change. But we need to be big enough to realize that in some instances it's not the church that's wrong - it's us. The church doesn't need to change just because it does not agree with ME and what I think and what I like and how I am best affirmed. When I think that this is the sort of change the church needs, then this is my first clue that it's me who needs to change. And this change means a change to a life of faith and repentance.

    "To say that we just have to accept the church for what it is and not demand justice is not going far enough."

    Justice is not ours to demand...check yesterday's Gospel.

    Just my 2 additional cents.


  11. I have to agree with steve m:
    "if it's love they have a funny way of showing it" and anonymous, who wrote, "why not ask a gay catholic if they don't feel rejected, despised, betrayed distained and even hated by the catholic church..." It puzzles me me that often those who are the most noisy and vociferous about this issue have never experienced it first-hand. If you have things to say about gay people, to gay people!

    C -
    As far as Christian obedience goes, people said similar things during the time of slavery.

    Interesting that you quote Bonhoeffer, who engaged in some pretty radical disobedience for the sake of the Gospel.

    When he said "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die" I don't think he was thinking of Matthew Shepard.

  12. Bonhoeffer was obedient to the call of Christ, and worried less about the laws of the country he was living in.

    There is a difference - a big difference.

    Christ's obedience remains the model for all Christians - whether we like it or not.

  13. By the way - I see little relevance to Matthew Shepherd here. Matthew's tragic death had nothing to do at all with obedience to Christ. It only had to do with hate.