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Topics - Keith Falk

A philosophy professor friend of mine is working on his next manuscript, and is seeking some insight into the differences and similarities of Original Sin and Ancestral Sin.  Those are the categories he is currently working with, at any rate.  What are some insights you have?  And, just as importantly, what primary sources would you suggest he read?
Your Turn / Grief and Our Times
September 27, 2020, 05:07:39 PM
It has now been almost 16 months since I was last a parish pastor.  Currently I am working for a hospice in the Twin Cities, wearing two different hats: hospice chaplain and bereavement care.  In the former, I am primarily to provide spiritual care for patients, and to families of the patient as needed. In the latter, I send out mailings and make follow-up calls throughout the 13 months after the death of a loved one to families.

Personally, I have experienced quite a bit of grief the past 16 months. I grieved the loss of no longer serving a congregation and moving away from friends. I grieved losses in my personal life. I grieved leaving my CPE program to take the job with the hospice - and I grieved 6 weeks later when I was informed my job was moving from full-time to .6 time. I have grieved with every job application that goes unanswered, every interview which leads nowhere, every time I see yet again that the state of Minnesota has not processed unemployment paperwork and I am left wondering how I will afford life.

I share that, not for the sake of pity, but to demonstrate I am well acquainted with grief - both personally, and professionally. Grief is, at its core, a response to loss. It comes in a variety of ways and a variety of times to people. We tend to think of grief and grieving only as it relates to death. Death is the ultimate loss - but it is far from the only loss we experience in life. In fact, if we consider our times in light of grief, perhaps the world around us will be a bit more comprehensible.

Why are the reactions to, well, just about anything, so intense right now? Civic unrest and political vitriol (or, in our small corner of the world, the ALPB Online Forum behavior the past 6 months) are running high and more intensely than ever before.  Why?  An answer - grief.

We, as individuals, as households, as workplaces, as congregations, as municipalities, and so on... we are grieving. We are experiencing a massive loss, and we do not know how to handle it. We have lost a sense of health, safety, and security. We have lost the experience of dining out, going to the movies, or attending a ball game in the way we knew. We have lost our worshiping communities as we knew them. We have lost the ability to visit our loved ones in care facilities and hospitals. And, with all of those losses, named and unnamed, we have no sense of when things will be back to normal or what normal looks like now. 

Most of us, if not all of us, know someone who experienced the sudden death of a loved one, or some other sudden, significant loss. The more unexpected, the greater the impact.  A 90 year old dying after being diagnosed with lung cancer six months ago does not carry the same impact as a 14 year old dying because he was struck by car riding his bicycle home from school. That is not to say that there should be no grief for the 90 year old's death, but rather that the impact of the loss differs according to circumstance.  What does that mean for us?  It means that we should consider our neighbor's behavior in light of grief.  S/he is going through a massive loss, with no end as yet in sight. It also means we should consider our own gut reactions in light of grief.  Is the way I am first inclined to respond to a given situation now the same way I would have responded to the same situation last year at this time?

It doesn't really matter if you are for masks and restrictions or against them. It doesn't matter if you are going to vote for Biden or Trump. It doesn't matter if you have a Black Lives Matter bumper sticker or a Blue Lives Matter bumper sticker. You are grieving, as is your neighbor, so "let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander but put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph 4:31-32).

TL;DR: Everyone is grieving because of COVID-19 and its effects, contributing to all of the unrest and unease we feel which magnifies our responses to the world around us, so be kind to yourself, be kind to your neighbor, and forgive as you have been forgiven.
Your Turn / The Idol of Health
March 26, 2020, 11:59:54 AM
From Pr. Morris's post in another thread(s):

"My beef isn't with the choice itself, but with the "Of course". Local officials have told churches not to meet in various places and at various times all around the world and throughout history. Sometimes those motives are good, right, and salutary. Sometimes not so much. Sometimes love demands we comply. Sometimes not so much. My concern is that the primary hinge for this decision not be one solely of risk/health. When churches meet illegally (think the early church facing Roman persecution, or Shusaku Endo's Silence and the persecution in 17th-century Japan) - pastors are asking their members to risk their lives and perhaps even the lives of their whole village to gather. No one could say it is the healthy choice to gather, and you could argue they are unlovingly risking others' lives as well. Should they simply cease to meet because of love or risk? Given that I believe Health is one of our largest 21st century idols, I am concerned how quickly churches have closed as soon as Health is invoked. I could go on at length on that topic, but no one signed up for that"

I want to sign up for that!  What do you (either Pr. Morris specifically, or anyone else) think of Health as being an idol - and, in particular, "one of our largest 21st century idols"?
Your Turn / Sowing seeds of doubt
June 13, 2018, 10:01:42 PM
A recurring theme lately has been doubt.  This certainty of the importance of doubt in the life of the believer flies in the very face of the Reformation (and thus, Lutheranism).  One of the core principles of the Reformation is a pastoral concern - how do I know I am saved?  Do I point to my works, my giving (indulgences, etc), or something else?  Never!  Instead I look to Christ, the author and perfecter of faith.  I need not doubt my standing before God, because I have been clothed with the very righteousness of Christ Himself, baptized into His death and resurrection.

Does this mean that I am damned by my doubt?  No - because the Holy Spirit cries out with my own spirit, "Abba! Father!" when I have nowhere to turn, and when I do not know what words to offer, the Holy Spirit intercedes for me with groanings. 

However, just because I am not damned by doubt does not mean that I should seek it out; and, more importantly, PASTORS SHOULD NOT DO THINGS TO INTRODUCE DOUBT.  From the beginning when the serpent asks, "Did God really say...?" and ever onward, the introduction of doubt into the life of God's people has been an evil.   

My point?  If you are introducing doubt into the life of believers, you need to put on the brakes and do serious self-examination.
Your Turn / Reforming Catholic Confession
September 15, 2017, 10:36:19 AM
A "Reforming Catholic Confession" (to which Brian referenced in another thread) has been put out into the world.  It has a number of noteworthy signatures, including from the Lutheran world Robert Kolb, Erik Herrmann, Gil Meilaender, Paul Hinlicky, and Mark Mattes.

A few questions for consideration...

Is something like this useful?  How so (or not)?

Do you agree with the content?  If so, would you sign?

Does this show what Peter Speckhard and others have been arguing for quite a while around these parts... the divide in Protestantism is no longer one of denomination, but of theological spectrum (conservative to liberal, though I loathe those categories for theology)?
What are some of the best practices you and/or your congregation and/or your community has to help those who call or stop in needing help with rent/gas/utility bills, etc?
Your Turn / Hermeneutics
December 23, 2016, 12:43:21 PM
I figured I'd just start a new thread on the issue of Hermeneutics.  Gan Aimn and Tom Pearson had started things off over here...

As it happens, I'm enrolled in a Hermeneutics class taught by Dr. Voelz.  Reading and writing phase is now; on-campus work will be in January.  I'm interested in seeing where this all goes.
The full article is here.

The summary:  Daniel Emery Price had an affair with a member of his congregation (Trinity Church NWA).  He is also not ordained, but claims the Lutheran tradition (the congregation's website quotes Walther's Law & Gospel, for example).  He has also stepped into the lead role for the para-church organization that developed when Tullian Tchividjian's own affair came to light.  Tchividjian's organization either disbanded and a new one started, or else was re-branded - I'm not sure which.  The article states that Daniel Emery Price not only had an affair, but blackmailed the victim - and notes that Price broke Arkansas law by having the affair, citing relevant parts of the Arkansas law.

So.  This seems to not just be a pebble, but a boulder with wide ranging waves likely to come; and this seems to be a LCMS connected issue in light of the pastors who participate in the Christ Hold Fast organization and conference.

I suppose my questions are - is this a good thing, to write this article?  Will it have an effect on those LCMS pastors who are active in Christ Hold Fast?  Or is this not really a big deal because neither the congregation nor pastor in question are LCMS (they are independent Lutheran, I guess)?
Your Turn / The "T" of LGBT
May 01, 2015, 08:07:12 PM
SomeoneWrites had suggested a new thread be started since the discussion of trans issues was derailing another thread.  I went ahead and started it... and I'll throw something out there from a theological perspective for your consideration.

Lutherans - even (and perhaps, especially) conservative Lutherans - should find ways to work with the T community.

We recognize the brokenness of creation; all of creation is hopelessly broken due to Sin.  This brokenness manifests itself in a variety of ways, from natural disasters to stillborn children.  Note that we do not necessarily ascribe individual sinS to have caused these things, but we recognize that even creation is subject to living in the state of Sin (Romans 8).

A child is born without a limb.  We replace the limb - we recognize that this isn't the way it's supposed to be.  A child is born with Down's Syndrome; we love the child and cherish the child and bring her up with all of the care and concern we would for any other child, but we recognize that this isn't the way it's supposed to be.  An adolescent is diagnosed with depression (or schizophrenia or any other of a variety of mental illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain) and we prescribe medications to mediate the imbalance because we recognize that this isn't the way it's supposed to be.

The solutions are imperfect; and it may well be that we don't have solutions at all (like for the extra chromosomes of Trisomy 21, the most common form of Down's)... but when we see that the brokenness of creation has manifested itself in particular ways, we strive to find ways to work to make that person's life closer to how it should be - arguably even as something as simple as providing glasses/contacts/Lasik surgery does this.

So, we have someone who says, "I am not how I am supposed to be".  How do we (the church) respond?  We do not tell the depressed person to suck it up (actually, sadly, we do, but let's pretend we are good at dealing with mental illness); we do not tell the person with defective eyesight to squint more; we do not tell the person born without a leg to go without an artificial limb.  We recognize the brokenness of creation and seek to make life better for that individual.

I think the argument could be made that we - recognizing that the T isn't how they are supposed to be - should try to find ways to work with that person to help them try to bring into alignment their gender issues.

Note: I am not necessarily convinced by this argument; but I do think it is worth thinking through beyond an "eww" or "ick" because the starting point for T is so different from the LGB and the starting point for T fits in with a classic understanding of sin and the brokenness of creation.

A rather helpful link is here

Basically, the news recently broke that the Dean of Nashotah House - after consulting with the Board of the House - decided to extend an invitation to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church to preach at a worship.  Many on the blogosphere read a lot into the fact that two prominent members of the Anglican Church of North America - the splinter group, analogous in some respects to the NALC - who serve on the Board of the House were NOT at the meeting due to other obligations.  It is a big deal because the TEC is in the middle of lawsuits and other things with some members of the Board. 

Bishop Iker (of the Ft. Worth Diocese) resigned his post on the board.  Others from the ACNA are decrying the decision. 

The article (link above) explains how the invitation came about - three students requested that the Presiding Bishop come, so she could see what is happening at Nashotah House.  Those students had been discouraged by the PB from attending there and she has evidently made some less-than-supportive remarks about that particular seminary.

It's an interesting story to follow, and given some of the parallels along with the inter-mingling of ACNA and NALC folks, worth paying attention to as more details develop.
Your Turn / NALC/CORE Convocation - an ALPB Gathering?
August 03, 2012, 04:12:22 PM
Any interest in finding a date/time/place for ALPB folks in Minneapolis to gather over the course of the CORE/NALC events?
From a group that I think is analogous to CORE:

It is their update on the proceedings, including how the pro-LGBT group disrupted the General Conference (sound familiar?)

And, for the sake of balance, here is a report from the pro-LGBT side about the closing of the General Conference to visitors due to the protest:
Dan Skogen is the owner and primary (only?) author of the blog, Exposing the ELCA

A recent post included a link to a letter Mr. Skogen's attorney has sent to Bishop Ullestad of the NE-Iowa Synod demanding a letter of apology, as well as a verbal apology delivered in the presence of the congregation at which Bishop Ullestad is alleged to have said that Mr. Skogen flunked out of seminary.

Given the tone of his website, I am not surprised that Mr. Skogen publicly posted the letter to Bishop Ullestad, but I do think the threat of a lawsuit is a fairly large step in the whole aftermath of CWA09. 

And yes, this could have gone under the aftermath/follow-up thread, I thought this was a particularly unusual development and worth its own mention. 
Having quite a go 'round on the Lutheran CORE FB page and the question came up as to whether or not the LCMS permits men who are homosexual who have committed to chastity to serve as pastors.  I tried to find out via the website, but can't find it (could easily be I'm not looking in the right place).  Can anyone direct me to anything official that says one way or the other, if such a statement does exist?

I am not looking to debate whether or not it SHOULD be; just whether or not it is.
Posted to by Andrew C Bulhak on 20 June 1995, found in alt.postmodern. HOW TO SPEAK AND WRITE POSTMODERN by Stephen Katz, Associate Professor, Sociology, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada Postmodernism has been the buzzword in academia for the last decade. Books, journal articles, conference themes and university courses have resounded to the debates about postmodernism that focus on the uniqueness of our times, where computerization, the global economy and the media have irrevocably transformed all forms of social engagement.  As a professor of sociology who teaches about culture, I include myself in this environment. Indeed, I have a great interest in postmodernism both as an intellectual movement and as a practical problem.  In my experience there seems to be a gulf between those who see the postmodern turn as a neo-conservative reupholstering of the same old corporate trappings, and those who see it as a long overdue break with modernist doctrines in education, aesthetics and politics.  Of course there are all kinds of positions in between, depending upon how one sorts out the optimum route into the next millennium. However, I think the real gulf is not so much positional as linguistic. Posture can be as important as politics when it comes to the intelligentsia. In other words, it may be less important whether or not you like postmodernism than whether or not you can speak and write postmodernism.  Perhaps you would like to join in conversation with your local mandarins of cultural theory and all-purpose deep thinking, but you don't know what to say.  Or, when you do contribute something you consider relevant, even insightful, you get ignored or looked at with pity.  Here is a quick guide, then, to speaking and writing postmodern.
First, you need to remember that plainly expressed language is out of the question.  It is too realist, modernist and obvious. Postmodern language requires that one uses play, parody and indeterminacy as critical techniques to point this out.  Often this is quite a difficult requirement, so obscurity is a well-acknowledged substitute.  For example, let's imagine you want to say something like, ``We should listen to the views of people outside of Western society in order to learn about the cultural biases that affect us''.  This is honest but dull.  Take the word ``views''. Postmodernspeak would change that to ``voices'', or better, ``vocalities'', or even better, ``multivocalities''.  Add an adjective like ``intertextual'', and you're covered.  ``People outside'' is also too plain.  How about ``postcolonial others''?  To speak postmodern properly one must master a bevy of biases besides the familiar racism, sexism, ageism, etc.   For example, phallogocentricism (male-centredness combined with rationalistic forms of binary logic).  Finally ``affect us'' sounds like plaid pajamas.  Use more obscure verbs and phrases, like ``mediate our identities''.  So, the final statement should say, ``We should listen to the intertextual, multivocalities of postcolonial others outside of Western culture in order to learn about the phallogocentric biases that mediate our identities''.  Now you're talking postmodern!
Sometimes you might be in a hurry and won't have the time to muster even the minimum number of postmodern synonyms and neologisms needed to avoid public disgrace.  Remember, saying the wrong thing is acceptable if you say it the right way.  This brings me to a second important strategy in speaking postmodern, which is to use as many suffixes, prefixes, hyphens, slashes, underlinings and anything else your computer (an absolute must to write postmodern) can dish out. You can make a quick reference chart to avoid time delays.  Make three columns.  In column A put your prefixes; post-, hyper-, pre-, de-, dis-, re-, ex-, and counter-.  In column B go your suffixes and related endings; -ism, -itis, -iality, -ation, -itivity, and -tricity.  In column C add a series of well-respected names that make for impressive adjectives or schools of thought, for example, Barthes (Barthesian), Foucault (Foucauldian, Foucauldianism), Derrida (Derridean, Derrideanism).
Now for the test.  You want to say or write something like, ``Contemporary buildings are alienating''.  This is a good thought, but, of course, a non-starter. You wouldn't even get offered a second round of crackers and cheese at a conference reception with such a line.  In fact, after saying this, you might get asked to stay and clean up the crackers and cheese after the reception.  Go to your three columns.  First, the prefix.  Pre- is useful, as is post-, or several prefixes at once is terrific.  Rather than ``contemporary building''", be creative.  ``The Pre/post/spatialities of counter-architectural hyper-contemporaneity'' is promising.  You would have to drop the weak and dated term ``alienating'' with some well suffixed words from column B.  How about ``antisociality'', or be more postmodern and introduce ambiguity with the linked phrase, ``antisociality/seductivity''.   Now, go to column C and grab a few names whose work everyone will agree is important and hardly anyone has had the time or the inclination to read. Continental European theorists are best when in doubt.  I recommend the sociologist Jean Baudrillard since he has written a great deal of difficult material about postmodern space. Don't forget to make some mention of gender.  Finally, add a few smoothing out words to tie the whole garbled mess together and don't forget to pack in the hyphens, slashes and parentheses.  What do you get?  ``Pre/post/spacialities of counter-architectural hyper-contemporaneity (re)commits us to an ambivalent recurrentiality of antisociality/seductivity, one enunciated in a de/gendered-Baudrillardian discourse of granulated subjectivity''. You should be able to hear a postindustrial pin drop on the retrocultural floor.
At some point someone may actually ask you what you're talking about.  This risk faces all those who would speak postmodern and must be carefully avoided.  You must always give the questioner the impression that they have missed the point, and so send another verbose salvo of postmodernspeak in their direction as a ``simplification'' or ``clarification'' of your original statement.  If that doesn't work, you might be left with the terribly modernist thought of, ``I don't know''.  Don't worry, just say, ``The instability of your question leaves me with several contradictorily layered responses whose interconnectivity cannot express the logocentric coherency you seek.  I can only say that reality is more uneven and its (mis)representations more untrustworthy than we have time here to explore''.  Any more questions?  No, then pass the cheese and crackers.
Your Turn / Austin's Christmas Column
December 17, 2011, 10:37:03 PM

We published it (with Charles' permission) in the local paper while I was in Versailles, and I forgot to check enough in advance to get it in papers down here.  Read it... and, before anyone objects, I am using the exact same topic title Charles used when it was posted in '07.
Your Turn / NALC and ELCA BOP relationship severed
November 22, 2011, 04:33:26 PM
The NALC's letter to congregations and pastors is here.

And this is the NALC's web page about the transition, including an Oct 2011 dated letter to the BOP from Bishop Bradosky, as well as the letter I linked to above.

I am surprised - if only because of the speed/timing.  This means there are only 3 weeks until NALC congregations need to have folks enrolled and up and going.
Your Turn / Bound Conscience Redux - JLE
November 08, 2010, 06:33:11 PM
First, I think we should acknowledge that editing is tough work, and that the Rev. Kaari Reierson did a fine job.  Her position is one of the many which were eliminated in the recent ELCA re-structuring.

The most recent edition of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics has several essays on bound conscience.  I haven't read through them yet... but it's in the plans.  I hope a thread reflecting on the essays will be helpful.
Your Turn / Ex Officio - Constituion
September 23, 2010, 10:11:01 PM
Just checking on this one; when the pastor shall be ex officio president of the congregation and church council... that means the pastor is the president of the congregation, correct?  Presides at the congregational meetings, council meetings, etc?
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