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Topics - Marshall_Hahn

Your Turn / Iowa "Heartbeat Bill" Passes
May 02, 2018, 01:01:15 PM
Early Wednesday morning, May 2, the Iowa legislature passed the "Heartbeat Bill", which would make it illegal to perform an abortion in Iowa if there is a detectable heartbeat.  It narrowly passed the Iowa House, following amendments to make exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities.  In March the legislature held a public hearing on the bill.  As Dean of the Iowa Mission District, I submitted the following comment:

As Dean of the Iowa Mission District of the NALC (North American Lutheran Church), I write on behalf of our church body and congregations in support of SF 359.  Attached is the document, "Word of Counsel on Sanctity of Nascent Life" outlining our commitment to upholding the sacredness of all human life in the womb.  From this document:

"Abortion dehumanizes and diminishes all who are involved. It affects the father, who has lost what it means to be a guardian to his family and who has lost the learning that comes from a relationship in which spirituality and sexuality are not divorced. It affects the mother, whose denial may break down if she later conceives and bears a child, or is later unable to conceive a child, or whose guilt may spiral into the bondage of shame as she seeks to keep her abortion a secret. At last, it affects the child, the blessed child, a living human presence who is denied the fullness of body that was intended for him in this life and in the age to come."


"We do not want a woman who is overwhelmed by the news of an unintended pregnancy to abort an innocent child, a child whose cries for life cannot yet be heard, a child who is of great value to God, regardless of the circumstances of the child's birth. Whatever the circumstances of the pregnancy, the termination of the life of their child will not make a mother's or father's life better."

The heartbeat of a child in utero is the only audible "cry" which such a child can produce, and it ought not be ignored.  We implore the legislature to listen to this "cry" and provide this very minimal protection to this most precious gift of life in the struggle to be born.  Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said, "The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members."  May we, as the people of the state of Iowa not be found wanting in such a measure.

Rev. Marshall Hahn, Dean, Iowa Mission District, NALC

The statement to which I referred may be accessed here:

Marshall Hahn

With the barrage of e-mails showing additional lies and subterfuge, FBI reports suggesting a "quid pro quo" offer from Clinton operatives, video of Clinton campaign workers boasting about breaking up Trump rallies and plans to commit voter fraud, have any Clinton supporters on this forum had second thoughts?

Marshall Hahn
Tsehay Tolessa, the widow of the Rev. Gudina Tumsa, died on Sunday, October 12.  Gudina was the General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus who was martyred by the communist government of Ethiopia, the Derg, in 1979.  At that time, Tsehay was also arrested, tortured and imprisoned for 10 years under the Derg.  After their overthrow she and her children returned to Ethiopia, where, with her daughters, she helped found the Gudina Tumsa Foundation which works to carry on Gudina's legacy of holistic ministry among the people in Ethiopia.

I had the privilege to meet Tsehay during my visit to Ethiopia in May.  For me, it was the highlight of the trip to meet this faithful witness of the Lord and pray with her.  Below is a link to an announcement of her death.

Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her.

Marshall Hahn
Luther College of Decorah, Iowa is in the midst of a search process for college president.  The Board of Regents was set to name Dr. Mark Hagerott as the new president until it was discovered that he was a (gasp!) Missouri Synod Lutheran.  Actually, he had told the Search Committee from the outset that he was a lay member of LCMS.  But questions raised in the community at Luther and Decorah prompted the Board to put off a decision until they could gather more information and "additional engagement."  At that point, Dr. Hagerott withdrew his name.  At one may find a series of articles following these events.  Dr. Hagerott's statement concerning his withdrawal can be read here:
In his statement, Dr. Hagerott notes:
But, as the presidential search matured, I realized a fundamental issue for Luther dating from 2009 had now emerged and became the only theme to be debated in the open press and one I did not anticipate:  a narrowing lens of theological affiliation.
He also raises some compelling questions:
And, this is why I am concerned for Luther going forward.  Was the debate in the press representative of the majority of Luther faculty, alumni, and students, or the voice of a small vocal minority? Is the experience of the past week the sign of things to come, the beginning of a narrow litmus test for future faculty, staff, for even Regents?  Might future Regents or staff be required to show decades of church affiliations which will be reviewed for the correctness of their theological stance on certain issues?  Will it be unacceptable for the next dean to be a Catholic? In the shadow of the historic 2009 ELCA vote on human sexuality, will Luther show tolerance for persons who hail from more conservative congregations in the ELCA, or for those groups which broke away?  Will donations from alumni from more conservative religious viewpoints still be welcome?

Certainly Luther has the right to establish whatever litmus test it believes proper for one who is to lead the college as president.  But it seems just a bit hypocritical for an institution which prides itself in its "inclusivity" and "diversity" to make that litmus test as narrow as this.  And it is patently unfair to Dr. Hagerott to decide what this litmus test shall be when the search process is near completion.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / Lutheran CORE censored
November 26, 2012, 12:52:03 PM
In the lastest Lutheran CORE newsletter, Pr. Steve Shipman, director of Lutheran CORE, has an article entitled, "How Big is the Tent?"  Your may read the whole thing here:  It is on page 5.

The article concerns the refusal of "L Magazine" to run any additional advertisements from Lutheran CORE.  "L" is the successor of "Lutheran Partners" which is distributed to ELCA rostered leaders.  After being invited by "L" to advertise and submitting two ads, Shipman was informed that they would no longer accept ads from CORE, because they were "anti-ELCA."  Shipman writes:
I asked who in the ELCA made that decision and on what grounds, because I wanted to address their concerns. When no answer came, I sent a second email asking, "Was the objection to something in the ad or to Lutheran CORE as an organization?" and "If Lutheran CORE has been declared to be anti-ELCA, on what basis was that decision made and who made it?"
He was informed that "L" is "pretty much independent of the ELCA" but has not been given any answer to his inquiries as to the basis for the decision to exclude CORE from the magazine.  Shipman adds:
The irony is not lost that Lutheran CORE—which advertised discipleship events using materials prepared by an ELCA pastor who is normally the primary leader of those events, including one event in an ELCA congregation with an ELCA synodical bishop participating on the panel—is not "empowering ELCA leaders for vital ministry," but the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which bought a full-page ad, evidently is doing so. We love Billy Graham, but how is a Southern Baptist empowering ELCA leaders more faithfully than other ELCA Lutherans?

I believe Pr. Shipman's questions are legitimate ones, and I, too, would like to hear what the basis is for this "censorship" of Lutheran CORE - a pan-Lutheran organization which includes pastors and congregations from NALC, LCMC, and the ELCA.  And lest anyone question my own legitimacy in bringing up this topic, I and the congregations I serve are members of Lutheran CORE.  And I fully support director Shipman's commitment in providing support for ELCA pastors and congregations to serve faithfully within the ELCA.  Despite charges to the contrary, I do not believe CORE has acted "anti ELCA", but has sought to help the ELCA members within CORE to be faithful even while dissenting from certain decisions the ELCA has made.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / Polygamy in the Bible
June 14, 2012, 11:29:38 AM
I recently ran across an article by Rev. Lionel Windsor, an Australian Anglican minister studying at Durham (great name for an Anglican minister, what?) on the topic of Polygamy.  The full article can be found here:
Since this has come up several times on this board, I thought it worthwhile to post it here.  I believe he does a good job of saying what I have attempted to argue concerning the Biblical view of polygamy.  See what you think. 
A portion is given below:

The problem, of course, is that the Bible–even the Old Testament–is not really a book of commandments and morality tales. The Bible does of course contain commandments, and lots of narratives. But hardly any of the narratives are about morally upright heroes who keep God's commandments. Most of the narratives are about God's actions and plans to save immoral human beings. Most of the human characters in Bible stories (even some of the most faithful ones) are morally dubious at best; in fact, many of their activities are downright sordid. You're not supposed to read these stories as direct examples for your own life; you're meant to read them to understand God's actions in the midst of a tragic human history.

It is true that the stories will also teach us something about God's moral order. But we don't usually discover this moral order simply by reading the stories as if they were straightforward examples to emulate today. Like many good stories, the Bible's stories can communicate deep moral truths without needing to resort to explicit commandments. Indeed, stories are often more morally powerful when there is no explicit moralising. Think of a movie like Schindler's List, a powerful story telling us about one of the darkest moments in Western history. Now imagine, at the end of the movie, as you've been hit with the human horror of the holocaust, just before the credits, a commandment comes up on the screen: "The director would like to point out (in case you missed it) that you should not be racist." Not only would this be unnecessary, it would destroy the power of the story.

Something similar happens when it comes to the Bible and polygamy.
Off the top of my head, here are some of the stories about polygamy in the Bible:

■The first polygamist, Lamech, calls a family conference so he can boast about his inordinate vengeful violence. He's clearly not a nice man (Gen 4:19-24).
■Jacob has two wives and two concubines, a situation which creates family heartbreak, envy and, ultimately, attempted murder (Gen 29-37).
■Gideon has many wives and many sons (Judges 8:30). This results in civil war and wholesale slaughter in Israel (Judges 9).
■David has a seemingly insatiable appetite for women. He has many wives (2 Sam 5:13), and in the end steals another man's wife and murders him (2 Sam 11-12). The resulting, big family was not a happy one: they ended up committing incestuous rape (2 Sam 13) and rebellion which almost destroyed David's kingdom (2 Sam 14ff).
■Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. They led his heart away from the Lord, and led to the break-up of his kingdom (1 Kings 11:3-4).
The stories tell the story all by themselves, don't they? Polygamy, according to the Bible, is a disaster.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / Fun with "Julia"
May 11, 2012, 12:16:15 PM
In case you do not know, "The Life of Julia" is the creation of the Obama campaign designed to show all the benefits of Obama's policies for the average Joe - er - Julia.  You can find it here:   

It is little more than a campaign puff piece.  But in the hands of the virtuoso blogger, Iowahawk, it is a work of art.  Enjoy!

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / Full Speed Ahead
September 10, 2011, 02:22:18 PM
When I saw the headline on the cover of the latest issue of The Lutheran, "ELCA Assembly:  Full Speed Ahead", I knew it rang a bell in more than a generalized fashion.  Sure enough, I happened upon an address given by Dr. David Yeago from February 2010 at the South Carolina Synod 'Day of Holy Conversation."  (The full text can be found here:
After describing what he terms the "impaired communion" within the ELCA itself created by the actions of the 2009 CWA, and wondering "whether it is possible to endure this impairment without breaking communion altogether, either by public splits or by large numbers of congregations and church going practically into a kind of "internal exile."", Dr. Yeago writes;

One way to mitigate this outcome would be for those who affirm the Assembly actions, who are the primary power-holders in the ELCA at large, to marginalize the traditionalists and wait them out. Confine respect for "bound conscience" to the congregational level; define it as meaning only that a congregation cannot be compelled to bless same-sex unions or call a pastor who is living in such a union. Make the revisionist position normative at every other level in our ecclesiastical pyramid, so that bishops and synods are denied any option but affirmation. Let instructional materials and denominational literature uniformly promote acceptance of same-sex unions. Proceed in this way, and some congregations and many lay people and pastors will leave; more will opt for grumbling in internal exile; over time many initially resistant congregations will go along with the prevailing winds; the composition of the pastorate will change to reflect these pressures; in a generation, a leaner but more united ELCA will be free to go full steam ahead as a fully "progressive" mainline denomination.

Rereading this paragraph, it seems apparent that the "primary power holders" have taken Dr. Yeago's description as a blueprint for action - and are, indeed, free to go "full speed ahead" as The Lutheran declares.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / LCMS Observations on ELCA 2011 CWA
September 08, 2011, 09:19:39 AM
Pastor Herbert Mueller, (VP of the LCMS?) the LCMS observer at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, has offered his observations of the assembly on the blog, "Witness, Mercy, Life Together" which can be found here:
While much of  it covers familiar ground, I found it of interest to read the observations observed by the observer.  Part of it reads thus:
What gave me a persistent melancholy feeling observing this Churchwide Assembly, however, is the sense that the ELCA is simply on a different course than the LCMS, particularly with regard to the authority of Scripture. In 2009 the ELCA, rejecting the prohibitions of God's Word, recognized "life-long monogamous same-gender relationships" and allowed non-celibate homosexual ministers to serve as pastors.

In essence, some members of the ELCA still hold the position that such homosexual activity is sinful.  Other members of the ELCA hold the position that such activity is acceptable to God.  Officially, both positions are allowed by the national body, but in effect, the latter position has become the norm. There was no sign at this assembly of any move to reconsider these actions.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / NALC/STS Relationship
May 10, 2011, 01:58:58 PM
The question was raised on the NALC Bishop thread as to what might be the effect on the STS if the new bishop of the NALC should happen to be a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity (Societas Trinitatis Sanctae - STS).  It is a good question, and as Pr. Wolfe mentions, really raises a larger question of the mutual influences NALC and STS may have upon one another.  This thread is an attempt to bring those questions here, so that the previous thread may focus on the possible bishop candidates for NALC.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / NALC Bishop
May 06, 2011, 03:53:57 PM
Speculation has been raised about the possible election of a new Presiding Bishop in one of the Lutheran bodies, even though that election would not occur until 2013.  There is, however, another Lutheran body which will have an election for Bishop this August.  The North American Lutheran Church will elect a bishop for the first, full four-year term.  Bishop Paull Spring was elected last August to an initial term of one year to lead the NALC in its first year of existence.  He made it clear, however, that he would not be a candidate for the 4-year term beginning in 2011.  So this will be a wide-open election.  It will also be a very important election as the one elected will be charged with guiding the NALC in its formative years.

I have not heard much discussion or speculation about this election, so I am inviting such speculation here.  Who do you believe would be a good candidate or candidates for Bishop of the NALC?  Would one of the former ELCA bishops who are in the NALC be the best choice due to their administrative experience?  Which one?  Or, since the NALC has emphasized the teaching role of the Bishop, would a theologian be the best choice?  If so, who?  Or are there others who should be considered?

I will be a delegate, along with representatives from each church I serve, at the Convocation in August, and this will probably be the most important decision we will make there, so I would appreciate your input - whether or not you are a member of the NALC.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / What Did Not Happen at the 2009 CWA
March 18, 2011, 12:25:41 PM
(Moving this note from "The thread for info on churches voting to leave the ELCA & all follow up" to begin a new thread, per Rev. Yakimow's suggestion:)

At the Conference of Bishops Academy on January 6, 2011, Dr. Walter Taylor was asked to give a presentation on the concerns of those "troubled by the use of the Bible in Churchwide 2009 documents and decisions."  He presented 11 points outlining "what did not happen" at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  (Pr. Tony Metz listed these on his blog, "The Bible Is God's Word - Lutheran Style."  I contacted Dr. Taylor to be sure these were accurate, and they are.)  His 11 points:

1. What did not happen:  adequate use of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.
2. What did not happen:  a clear, full statement of the biblical foundations for marriage.
3. What did not happen:  study and reflection - even refutation - of the texts on homosexuality that normally come into play.
4. What did not happen:  normal historical study of Acts 10:9-16.
5. What did not happen:  use of the Bible when trying to build a positive case for acceptance of same-sex relationships.
6. What did not happen:  an acceptable definition of the neighbor's need.
7. What did not happen:  adequate understanding of the Law.
8. What did not happen:  the need for a savior adequately stated.
9. What did not happen:  a positive biblical and theological understanding of being single.
10. What did not happen:  an attempt to resolve the hermeneutical issues.
11. What did not happen:  adequate foundation for bound conscience.

One more quotation from Dr. Taylor, which comes from an online article in 2008 which he wrote about the earlier draft, and which he repeats in his presentation at the Bishops Academy with regard to the 2009 decisions:

"By not engaging the debate regarding same-sex relationships, the document, I believe, has done a disservice to gay and lesbian people, as well as their family members and supporters.  The document gives the impression that there is no argument to be made, only assertions to be stated.  Thus any change to current practice that might be suggested will appear arbitrary and in conflict with the Bible.  If the task force has a biblical argument to state, I think it needs to state it - for the sake of the ELCA, but even more for the sake of the people whose lives are most immediately affected."

Now me - As serious as these omissions are (and they make the actions of the 2009 CWA fatally flawed, that is, they ought to be declared invalid) - just as serious is the lack of any response by the leadership of the ELCA to these concerns.  What will the Bishops do with these charges?  What efforts are being made to address these 11 points?  Noone in any leadership position in the ELCA is even acknowledging these as legitimate concerns.  It is both of these things - the serious theological, constitutional, confessional errors committed by the 2009 CWA and the absolute silence of the leadership of the ELCA in addressing these errors that are leading some, such as Dr. James Crumley, Jr. to question "whether the ELCA is still without question a faithful and confessing church" (in an address given January 9, 2010 at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, Lexington, SC) and driving congregations and pastors out of the ELCA.

Marshall Hahn

The Rev. Gemechis D. Buba has resigned as the Director of African National Ministries for the ELCA to accept the call to serve as Missions Director for the NALC according to this press release from the NALC -
This is not a big surprise to anyone who has been aware of the overwhelming opposition of the Union of Oromo Evangelical Churches to the decisions made by the ELCA at the 2009 CWA.  Pastor Buba served as president of the Oromo churches for three terms.
The questions that this resignation raises for the ELCA are:  "Who will replace Pastor Buba?"  "Is there anyone within the Oromo churches - or any other Africa immigrant church - who would be willing to take over this position?"  "Will there continue to be an African National Ministry in the ELCA?"  I believe all of these are open questions at this point.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / The "Conscience-Bound-Belief" Rule
November 11, 2010, 10:20:41 AM
John R. Stumme, the former Director for Studies of the ELCA's Church in Society program unit, has written a piece on "Journal of Lutheran Ethics" examining the use of "bound conscience" in the 2009 CWA Social Statement on Human Sexuality.  It devastates the entire concept as it is used.  I will need to study it a bit more, but on the first reading, one paragraph jumped out at me:

"17] In elevating its issue to one of "bound conscience" and yet downplaying it by linking it to the "less adamant" attitude, the social statement seems caught in a contradiction. It cannot have it both ways: If the question of same-gender sexual behavior is a matter of indifference, it does not bind the conscience; if it binds the conscience, it is not a matter of indifference."

He also shows how the social statement opens up a whole Pandora's box of "bound-conscience" beliefs which ought to be honored, based upon the clear reading of the statement's treatment of the concept.  And there is much more.  It can all be read at:

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / Resignations
July 22, 2010, 04:44:49 PM
The following is the letter of resignation I handed to our bishop resigning from the position of Secretary of our synod following our synod assembly:

June 24, 2010

Rev. Dr. Steven L. Ullestad
Bishop, Northeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA
201 20th Street SW, PO Box 804
Waverly, Iowa 50677-0804

Bishop Ullestad,

It is with a profound sense of sadness that I offer my resignation as Secretary of the Northeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA.

In our conversation last fall we discussed the difficult position in which I found myself following the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  As I explained, not only was I convinced that there was no Scriptural warrant for changing our teaching on human sexuality and our ministry standards with respect to homosexual behavior, I also could not reconcile myself with the fact that an argument from Scripture was not even offered within the documents approved by the assembly which authorized these changes.

I came to see the overriding issue to be more than a disagreement over how to treat homosexual relations in the church.  Instead, I came to understand the issue as a confessional one, which I attempted to outline in my statement, "The Confessional Crisis Created by the Decisions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly."  The primary issue I raised in that statement can be summarized as follows:
The decisions made at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly with respect to homosexual  relations and the rostering of those engaged in such relations were made without reference to a compelling argument from Scripture for doing so.  Instead, the lack of a consensus in the church on this issue was deemed to be sufficient for making these changes.  Deciding these issues which concern the ordering of our lives as sexual beings and the ordering of the public ministry of the church in a manner which is not based on a compelling argument from Scripture is contrary to our commitment as a confessional Lutheran body to the authority of Holy Scripture, and is in violation of our ELCA Constitution which binds us to that commitment to "the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life."  (ELCA Constitution, 2.03)

As a pastor of the church, I have taken a vow to uphold the authority of Scripture in my preaching and teaching, and to abide by the Constitution of the ELCA, with particular attention to the Confession of Faith upon which it is based.  As such, I have considered it my duty to oppose the actions taken at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  In our conversation last fall, I told you that as long as I served in a position of leadership in the synod, I would be seeking to overturn those actions. 

The resolutions I brought to the November Synod Council meeting were my attempts to act on that opposition.  I deliberately called upon the synod council to "repudiate" the actions of the Churchwide Assembly.  This was not a denial of the authority of the Churchwide Assembly, but rather, an appeal to a higher authority we are to uphold, namely, the Confession of Faith as contained within the Constitution of the ELCA.  The intention was to bring this debate to the whole church, and force the church to address the confessional issues involved.  I did not expect this to be a simple nor quick undertaking, nor did I realistically consider there to be much of a possibility for it to succeed.  But I was determined to try.  Meanwhile, I sought to use the language and concepts adopted by the Churchwide Assembly of "bound conscience" and "structured flexibility" to create a space within our synod in which the existing ministry standards could be maintained.

When those resolutions were rescinded at the January Synod Council meeting, and particularly when the ELCA Churchwide Council adopted the revisions to ministry policies without any mention of the concerns I had raised, it became clear that these efforts would prove futile.  Nevertheless, I was determined to continue to argue for them through the synod assembly.  But that was not to be, either. 

My greatest disappointment is not that my efforts have been rebuffed, but that the concerns I have raised have not been addressed.  I still stand by what I wrote in my statement last fall.  And nowhere have I received an answer to the issues I have raised.  Neither ELCA Secretary Swartling's rulings nor the decisions of the ELCA Churchwide Council dealt with the confessional, constitutional issues raised by the failure of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly to present – or even refer to - a compelling case from Scripture for the changes that have been adopted.  At the 2010 Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly, not one of the speakers who spoke in opposition to the resolutions I authored touched upon the primary issue that was at the heart of those proposals.

With the defeat of those resolutions at the synod assembly, I can see no further avenue to oppose the actions of the Churchwide Assembly within the Synod Council.  And I cannot, in good conscience, carry out policies which I believe to be in violation of the Confession of Faith I promised at my ordination to uphold.  It is for that reason that I am offering my resignation as Secretary of the Northeastern Iowa Synod.  I will fulfill my duties related to the 2010 Synod Assembly, and will be available to meet with whomever is appointed to replace me for the final year of my term if such would be helpful in any way.

I want to thank you for your partnership in this ministry.  Even though we have disagreed at times, and in some important ways, I have never doubted your integrity nor your honesty.  I also wish you to extend my thanks to the entire synod council, to Vice-President Susan Armstrong, Treasurer Larry Gregory, Assistant to the Bishop Linda Hudgins, and your entire staff for their helpfulness and support and for putting up with my often last-minute submissions.  It has been a privilege to serve the synod in this way for these last seven years.  Please know that I continue to keep you and your staff and the whole synod in my prayers, as I ask that you would keep me in your prayers as I continue to discern my relationship with the ELCA.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Marshall E. Hahn
Secretary, NE Iowa Synod, ELCA

   cc:     David Swartling, Secretary, ELCA
      Susan Armstrong, Vice-President, NE Iowa Synod
      Larry Gregory, Treasurer, NE Iowa Synod
      Linda Hudgins, Assistant to the Bishop, NE Iowa Synod
      Mary Jo Rathe, Vice-President Elect, NE Iowa Synod

In addition to my resignation, Pr. Gary Hatcher has also resigned as chair of the Candidacy Committee for our synod.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / NE Iowa Synod Council Resolutions
November 18, 2009, 12:54:27 PM
At the November 14 meeting of the NE Iowa synod council, two resolutions were adopted in response to the 2009 CWA.

The first one is presented below.  It passed on a vote of 10 to 5 with 1 abstention.


WHEREAS, The 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA has adopted 4 Recommendations on Ministry Policies (CA09.05.23; CA09.05.24; CA09.05.26; and CA09.05.27), and

WHEREAS, CA09.05.23 states "that in the implementation of any resolutions on ministry policies, the ELCA commit itself to bear one another's burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all", and

WHEREAS, CA09.05.27, in the 2nd "RESOLVED" states "that this church, because of its
commitment to respect the bound consciences of all, declare its intent to allow structured flexibility in decision-making regarding the approving or disapproving in candidacy and the extending or not extending of a call to rostered service of a person who is otherwise qualified and who is living or contemplates living in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship
", and

WHEREAS, the 5th "WHEREAS" introducing CA.09.05.27 states," other members, congregations, candidacy committees, and synods of the ELCA acknowledge those gifts and skills for ministry, but believe that this church must maintain an expectation of celibacy for any gay or lesbian person, whether or not that person is in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, and thus believe that this church cannot call or roster people in such relationships" and

WHEREAS, the use of "structured flexibility" is portrayed in the "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies" as presented to the Churchwide Assembly on lines 488 – 498 of the Pre-Assembly Report in the following manner: 
"To choose structured flexibility does not imply that same-gender-oriented people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships would be able to serve everywhere in this church.  The existing discernment processes for approval and call already assume that synods, bishops, candidacy committees, rostered leaders, and congregations will make decisions in keeping with their own conscience and convictions.  If structured flexibility were added to the process, this assumption would still protect any congregation, candidacy committee, synod, or bishop from having to violate bound conscience by approving, calling, commissioning, consecrating, or ordaining anyone in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship.   Similarly, a structured flexibility process would protect the decisions of a congregation, candidacy committee, synod, or bishop who concludes that mission would be served best by approving or calling a particular candidate or rostered leader who is in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship." (bold added), and

WHEREAS, it is evident from these portions of the materials adopted and presented at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly that the "all" whose "bound conscience" the actions of the assembly have committed the ELCA to honor include "synods", and that this "bound conscience" includes the ability to choose not to approve, call, commission, consecrate, or ordain someone in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, and

WHEREAS, the "bound conscience" of the Northeastern Iowa Synod can most clearly be determined by the actions taken at synod assembly, and

WHEREAS, actions of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly in 2004 (SA04.06.9), 2005 (SA05.06.38), 2007 (SA07.06.33, SA07.06.36, SA07.06.38 & SA07.06.41), and 2009 (SA09.06.15 & SA09.06.18) have declared the position of the Northeastern Iowa Synod to be that "Marriage, an institution ordained by God, is the life-long union of one man and one woman for the creation of human life and for their mutual love and care... Sexual intercourse is part of the vocation of marriage and is misused in any other context" (SA04.06.9); have opposed any changes in the church's teaching concerning marriage and sexuality (SA04.06.9, SA09.06.15); and have opposed any changes in the ELCA's standards for pastors and other rostered leaders as expressed in the 1990 documents "Vision and Expectations" and "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline" (SA05.06.38, SA07.06.36, SA07.06.38, SA07.06.41 & SA09.06.18); therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council, recognizing the past actions of the Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly as evidence of the Northeastern Iowa Synod's strongly-held views with respect to the approving, calling, commissioning, consecrating, or ordaining of one in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship, determines that the standards for rostered ministry as outlined in the 1990 documents, "Vision and Expectations" and "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline" shall remain in effect for the Northeastern Iowa Synod, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council encourage the Northeastern Iowa Synod Candidacy Committee and the Office of Bishop of the Northeastern Iowa Synod to continue to abide by such standards for rostered ministry in the Northeastern Iowa Synod during the period leading up to the 2010 Synod Assembly, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Northeastern Iowa Synod Council recommends the following Continuing Resolution to the 2010 Synod Assembly of the Northeastern Iowa Synod:

S14.02 A10   In addition to the standards for ordained ministers in the current "Vision and Expectations" as adopted by the ELCA Church Council, this synod shall continue to maintain this expectation from "Vision & Expectations" (1990) in its candidacy process and in its standards for pastors and other rostered leaders:

Ordained ministers, whether married or single, are expected to uphold an understanding of marriage in their public ministry as well as in private life that is biblically informed and consistent with the teachings of this synod. The expectations of this synod regarding the sexual conduct of its ordained ministers are grounded in the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that ordained ministers are to live in such a way as to honor this gift. Ordained ministers are expected to reject sexual promiscuity, the manipulation of others for purposes of sexual gratification, and all attempts of sexual seduction and sexual harassment, including taking physical or emotional advantage of others. Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / On to Fishers
August 26, 2009, 06:45:43 PM
Having done my share of grieving, replaying, remonstrating, decompressing, venting, "sharing", comforting, praying, and sleeping following the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, I am ready to begin looking forward.

So, in an effort to beat everyone else to it, I am starting this thread on the Lutheran CORE meeting coming up at Fishers, Indiana on September 25 & 26. 
Are you planning to attend?  Who will be coming with you?
What questions do you have about this meeting? 
What hopes do you have for this meeting?
What advice would you give to those who are planning it?

I realize that greater minds than mine are busy working on all of these questions, but I think it may be worthwhile getting some input from the grassroots.  Some of the ideas expressed here may prove to be valuable.  (Well, and some may not, but that can be helpful, too, to get those out of the way!)  And we will not have much time together.  It would be good to make some preliminary plans along the way, be prepared to use our time there productively.

I will start by saying that I have made plans to attend, and I will be accompanied by a young couple who have been involved in the adult study group that looked at the Task Force recommendations.  They have three grade-school children, he is on the church council, and she is the Sunday School choir director.  They represent the overwhelming majority of people in the parish I serve.  (I say this because we have had two congregational votes on these matters in the last 4 years.)  They come with a deep concern about what the church has done, and the desire to respond in some way.

I have many ideas about what I would like to see happen at Fishers, but I will let others express their thoughts first.  I will just say that, while at Minneapolis, I met many people who were looking for some way to respond in a faithful, united way to the decisions made by the ELCA.  From Wednesday afternoon on, I became more and more hopeful about what may come out of our meeting at Fishers and the long-term results of our gathering together.  What do you think?

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / ELCA Pre-Assembly Stuff
August 06, 2009, 10:18:22 PM
I received my Pre-Assembly stuff for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly a few days ago, and began reading through it.  (I do actually try to read as much of it as I can - reports and all.  I even find the financial pages enlightening.)  I am wondering if there is any interest among the other voting members in the forum of discussing what you are finding.  With several hundred pages of material - and more to come - I would appreciate other input as to what you have found of interest and explanations to the more arcane material.  And perhaps there are some others who would be interested in what is in the materials, who knows?  Some people actually enjoy this kind of stuff - those who bring a beer and pizza to watch C-SPAN!  I will start.

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the Report of the Church Periodical - The Lutheran.  Most of these reports are pretty bland, to say the least, but this one was almost shockingly blunt.  For example, it says, "Despite the positive cash flow of the past four years, the long-term health, even survival, of The Lutheran magazine remains in question."  I recall a Forum Letter article of a few years past on the declining circulation of the Lutheran - I think it was 300,00 at that time.  The report states that it is now at 269,500, and their break-even analysis says the tipping point would be at 220,000.  Editor Lehmann (I assume he is the primary author of this report - although the Chair, Carol  A. McDivitt is also named at the end) does not pull any punches as to the travails of the magazine over the last 20 years, attributing the decline not only to demographics, and the general decline in magazine readership, but also to the reputation the magazine developed for editorial liberalism and staff elitism.  If 80% of solving a problem is being unafraid of looking at the causes honestly, there may be some hope for The Lutheran.

Anyway, that is one of the first things that caught my eye.  Any others?

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / Benne's Letter on Freedom of Choice Act
December 02, 2008, 02:57:41 PM
Dr. Robert Benne, Director of the Roanoke College Center for Religion and Society, has written the following letter to ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson and VA Synod Bishop James Mauney.  He has given me permission to copy it to this forum for discussion.  I think it is worth considering as this is one of the "changes" that the new administration is likely to propose.

Thanksgiving, 2008

Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Bishop James Mauney, Bishop of the Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in   

Dear Bishop Hanson and Bishop Mauney:

I have been much disturbed in recent days about two looming possibilities:  one, that President-elect Obama and the newly elected Congress might soon pass the Freedom of Choice Act, which, as I understand it, would wipe out all the restraints on abortion that have been enacted at the federal and state levels in the last 35 years.  It would allow abortions for whomever, whenever, wherever, however, and for whatever reason.  Such legislation would permit unlimited killing, since terminating nascent human life at any stage is certainly killing.  Also, as it is currently written, the legislation would have no conscience clause.  Doctors and hospitals that have qualms about such killing would either have to perform such acts against their conscience or get out of their respective callings.  Further, public monies would be used to support abortion at home and abroad.

The second looming possibility is that, as far as I can tell, this Church, this "public church," will likely remain silent amid the controversy that the enactment of the Freedom of Choice Act will cause.  While the ELCA in its many expressions has been a consistent advocate for the amelioration of life, it has not been a consistent advocate for the protection of nascent human life.  Why has there been near total silence during these many years since Roe vs. Wade when there could have been support for minimal restraints—parental notification, full information about the development of the fetus, abolishing "partial birth" abortion, etc.?  But, more importantly, what witness will this public church make when all those minimal restraints will likely be swept away and the doors opened for what I called "unlimited killing?"

Our social statement on abortion asserts:  "The strong Christian presumption is to preserve and protect life."  Our Advocacy Office in Washington trumpets its motto:  "Step Forward as a Public Church that witnesses boldly to God's love for all that God has created."  I assume that to "preserve and protect life" includes nascent life, just as "all that God has created" certainly includes nascent life in the womb, which all of us were at one time.

The broad American public supports the restraints that have been enacted over all these years.  The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life reports that 75% of the American public (including the non-religious) support legislation against "partial birth abortion."  73% support parental notification.  Though a small majority continues to believe that abortion should remain legal in most cases, even that majority wants clear restraints on abortion.  If one focuses on Christians who go to church regularly, the support for restraint—and even making abortion illegal—goes up dramatically.  So, if the Freedom of Choice Act is enacted, it will trample on the values of large majorities, as well as the laws they have enacted.  There will be great social unrest, even violence.  Indeed, the culture wars will be fired up immensely.

But Christian leaders like yourselves do not look to the polls to make public arguments.  We as Christians drink from our own wells.  Those wells are deep; the early Christian churches demarcated themselves from pagan society by refusing to abort and to expose their children.  They even took in those who were cast off to die.

Christian teaching throughout the ages has been consistent in viewing nascent life as God-given and therefore sacred.  It has taken seriously Psalm 139:13—"You knit me together in my mother's womb."  It was only in the early 70s that the churches "lost their bearings" and plunged into support for unrestrained abortion.  I confess that I too "lost my bearings" at that time.  But most churches—including the ELCA—recovered their respect for life; I did after I saw the consequences of that Supreme Court decision in 1973.  Even so, I do not consider myself an absolutist on these matters, though I do "presume to preserve and protect life."

Regardless what has happened in the past, I exhort you to take an active role in the defense of nascent life in what may be the most sustained and dramatic legislative assault on "what God has created" that we will see in our lifetimes.


Robert Benne
Director of the Roanoke College Center for Religion and Society

So far, Dr. Benne has not received a reply to the letter, other than an acknowledgment of its receipt.  However, he has received a response from Drew Genzler, the new director of LOGA, the Washington DC Lutheran Advocacy Office, to the effect that LOGA would not support FOCA, and that he plans to attend the "Lutherans for Life"conference this weekend and would put this issue on their agenda.  This is encouraging news.  As Benne points out in his letter, it is impossible to see how the ELCA could do anything but oppose FOCA given the "presumption to preserve and protect life" as stated in our social statement on abortion.

Marshall Hahn
Your Turn / Diocese of Pittsburgh to vote on leaving TEC
November 02, 2007, 02:35:02 PM
The Diocese of Pittsburgh is expected to vote today on whether or not to begin the process of leaving The Episcopal Church.  You can read the details here:
A couple excerpts from the article outline the debate:

"Resolution 1, which is expected to pass easily, would allow the diocese to define itself as a 'constituent member' of the Anglican Communion and disaffiliate from the American church, realigning with another province after a second vote at next year's convention."

"Resolution 2 seeks to change the language of the diocese's constitution to reflect that it 'accedes to, recognizes and adopts the Constitution and Canons of [the] Church, and acknowledges its authority accordingly.'

It is not expected to pass."

Since this is the diocese of Bishop Duncan, the leader of the "Network" bishops, what takes place in Pittsburgh will have a great deal of effect elsewhere in the TEC.  For the readers here, and, in particular, the ELCA participants, I would encourage you to join with me in praying for our full communion partners in the TEC as these events unfold.    May God guide them in the decisions they make.

Marshall Hahn
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