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Topics - racin_jason

In our Men's Bible Study this week, as we have been plowing through Hebrews, we discussed Hebrews 10:35: Do not, therefore, abandon that boldness of yours; it brings a great reward . Our Bible Study consists of mostly Lutheran laymen, as well as a sprinkling of a few from other traditions, including a retired pastor from the Vineyard movement. The question came up "Do we get rewarded for extra works" (you know, Jewel-in-the-crown type of stuff). The Vineyard pastor, who I have a great deal of respect for and who I consider a friend, said "yes, we do get rewards for extra-efforts". And referred to Paul and the Book of Revelation as well as the Parable of Talents" 

I countered that this was not a Lutheran teaching, even though there are undeniably passages in the Bible that seem to indicate salvation as a reward and even degrees. Instead, we are more shaped by the parable of the laborers in the vineyard who receive the same wage regardless of hours worked. We agreed to disagree.

But later in the morning he sent me this link, saying "See? Lutherans believe it too".

It's from a WELS pastor. When I did more research online, I could find a few other WELS pastors who taught this. But no ELCA or LCMS sites.

I find the notion of degrees in heaven repellent from a law/gospel point of view. It seems to me we are trading one set of laws for a new set of rewards that work withing a framework of the law, rather than the transformational, unconditional good news of the gospel. But hey, that's me.

Can anyone here speak to this little situation here? Either their personal thoughts on the teaching or where the teaching stands in the tradition of Lutheran theology? 

This seems to me an important teaching, and I am surprised there is not much out there on it. 
Your Turn / Stole without an Alb?
October 29, 2019, 01:55:34 PM
It has been out there for many years, but I don't recall this being discussed here: in the ELCA (at least) the practice of wearing a stole without an alb has greatly increased.

So the pastor comes out and leads the liturgy donning a suit and simply drapes his/her stole over the shoulders. Or over a t-shirt. Whatever.

I've heard one bishop in the ELCA bother speak out against the practice to deaf ears, apparently. Other ELCA bishops are embracing the practice wholeheartedly and we all know what that means: copious copying in congregations.

So yes, there are bigger problems facing the church than what we can hope is a temporary fashion trend. But am I the only one who is bugged by this practice? I mean, hey, it's one thing to be on a canoe trip with the youth and put the stole on for a service of Holy Communion. But on a regular Sunday morning, I say pick a lane and stick to it: Either alb AND stole OR just plain clothes.

Can anyone here give an argument against the practice? Or for it?

Meanwhile I will sit here curmudgeonly hoping I live long enough to see the trend reverse itself.

Since the triennial churchwide assembly in Milwaukee, there has been a lot of discussion at a congregational-level concerning the memorial that was passed declaring the ELCA a "sanctuary church body".

There is widespread confusion because though the declaration has zero authority over what individual congregations can or cannot do concerning immigrants and refugees, the headlines are causing those who support the rule of law in the nation to react and consider leaving the ELCA.

Fox News published a piece that did the ELCA no favors, having no one speak from the ELCA. You can watch that here

I'm curious if other pastors are having problems with this declaration similar to what I'm seeing in my conference and synod.

Here is the ELCA press release
​CHICAGO — The 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted Aug. 7 to approve a memorial that affirms the denomination's long-standing commitment to migrants and refugees and declares the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) a sanctuary church body. The ELCA is the first North American denomination to declare itself a sanctuary church body. 

As a sanctuary church, the ELCA publicly declares that walking alongside immigrants and refugees is a matter of faith. This declaration does not call for any person, congregation or synod to engage in illegal activity.

The ELCA has developed talking points to address what it means for this church to become a sanctuary denomination. In defining what this means for its congregations, the ELCA states that a sanctuary church will look different in the different contexts across the ELCA. The church cannot mandate or direct ELCA congregations and ministries to respond in certain ways.

The 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed the strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO). Through the strategy, the ELCA invites its churches to become "welcoming congregations," which means to commit to spiritually and physically accompanying migrants in their communities, pray for migrant children and families, and advocate for a just and humane immigration system. More than 100 congregations and five synods across the ELCA identify as sanctuary. 
Sundays and Seasons is the online worship resource for ELCA churches, provided by Augsburg-Fortress, the official publishing house of the ELCA. Sundays and Seasons has grown in popularity as congregations have shifted from pre-printed bulletins from Augsburg Publishing to online resources. Most of what they provide is good enough, occasionally there are odd references or turns of phrase in the prayers which have been noted on this forum. The explanations of each scripture reading are usually pretty good. They sum-up the lection succinctly and innocuously, which is what I want as a parish pastor.

But here's the one for Baptism of Our Lord, the explanation for the Gospel reading Mark 1:4-11

Mark's gospel reports the story of Jesus' baptism with some irony: the one on whom the Spirit descends is himself the one who will baptize others with the Holy Spirit

O Henry's "Gift of the Magi" uses irony. With this explanation of Mark, I fail to see the irony. I find it fitting that the spirit descends on the one who will baptize others with the Holy Spirit, not ironic. But we live in an ironic age, where there is a mad scramble to find irony in everything, even where there is none.

Though this is hardly a cause for an uprising of villagers to grab the torches and pitchforks, I do wonder about the editing process at Sundays and Seasons. Here is an example why. 
This is a thread for people to share how the Reformation is being observed on this, the 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses, events happening in congregations, districts and synods, as well as any presence and/or participation from those in the Roman Catholic Church etc.

My hope is this thread will help us gain a snapshot of what is happening across the country. 
There's a steady output of "Christianity is dying in America" from mainstream media. I'm not sure what our fascination is with the phenomenon, but here's another one from the Washington Post, penned by David Millard Haskell, a professor of religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo Ontario. He shares the results of his study of views of clergy within liberal and conservative congregations in Canada.

Haskell argues the crux of the issue is where you stand on the question of whether or not "it is very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians". Conservatives agree with that statement, liberals do not.

The study as reported strikes me as simplistic. We can find other research that shows conservative churches are shrinking too, that mainline churches are only ahead in a trend all are seeing. But there's no question that rarely, at any level of the ELCA, from individuals to congregations to clergy, to synod offices to churchwide, does anyone use language about encouraging non-Christians to become Christians.

If we did use that language, in what ways would it change the way we do ministry?     
As we approach the year 2017 and the 500th anniversary of the reformation, what are churches doing pertaining to Lutheran identity? How can we equip our congregants to be better-versed in a Lutheran understanding of Christianity next year? Please share your ideas here.
Your Turn / A Church Torn Apart
October 03, 2015, 07:26:49 PM
Now that the local newspapers are covering the story, it appears fair game to highlight what has happened at North Heights Lutheran Church located in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

A congregation that once had multiple campuses, a budget over 8 million a year and averaged thousands at worship a Sunday is in freefall. Though Lutheran in name, the church has long had ties to the charismatic movement. I am not sure when the church left the ELCA, possibly in the 1990's.

Here is the article:

The article fails to address how the church got into the "interim" period to begin with, but that's another conversation.

A blog from those who are discontent with the current leadership is here:

Of interest to me is the apparent lack of support from any greater church body. As we see Lutheran churches leave the ELCA and affiliating with bodies spare in hierarchy, things can and do go smoothly until there's a transition. In the case of North Heights, it is left without (m)any outside sources to rely on in how to deal with a struggling interim pastor who may (or may not) have expressed interest in removing "interim" from her job title. If it this is true, she should resign immediately....but who from outside the church is in any position to suggest this? 

The chickens are coming home to roost in a once-vital congregation and it isn't pretty.
Your Turn / ELCA Establishes a Credit Union Too.
July 09, 2015, 05:06:49 PM
The ELCA has been approved to have a credit union.

Of the things the ELCA could start, a bank is innocuous enough, I suppose. Unfortunately the report doesn't explain why, just that one is happening along with a quote from the Presiding Bishop commending its establishment. Things I hoped the article would explain: Whose idea was this? From what church expression did this come? A result of legislation? What is the point, anyway?

In related news, the LCMS accomplished this feat months before the ELCA did, in January of 2015.
There was a discussion on this website for this too, but it didn't get very far.

Two Lutheran denominations start Credit Unions within a year of one another. We've got a trend. What gives?
"...stop turning my father's house into a marketplace..."?
Your Turn / How to Say Goodbye to a Congregation
June 25, 2014, 06:56:02 PM
Recently I announced my resignation from the church I've served for over 10 years, having accepted a new call at a congregation located a four hour drive away.

"Saying Goodbye" by Edward White of the Alban Institute has been a helpful book, but I would like to draw from the wisdom of this group. This is only the second time I have left a call having been ordained 17 years.

Any tips, insight, or anecdotes about pastors saying goodbye to congregations?
Augsburg-Fortress published a book on an important and timely subject, that of virtue ethics.

Ever since seminary, where I was informed virtue ethics is problematic for classic Lutheranism, I've wondered about it, drawn in by Stanley Hauerwas. In ministry I've waded into these waters a bit in my preaching and teaching, aware of the tension. Now Dr. Joel D. Biermann of Concordia Seminary has written a book (did Concordia Publishing want no part of it?).

Is anyone else here compelled or repelled by this topic?
A blogger posted a video of a panel discussion from the National Council of Families in Churches.

The question posed was based on an affiliation of musicians who call themselves "Reformed Rappers". They are Reformed in their theology, NOT convicts seeking to live a better way of life.

Though their raps are sound in content and doctrine, is the style of their music acceptable?, they are asked. The panel is made up of mostly baby boomers, those who have lived through a variety of changes in music styles, both in church and in culture. Yet the answer is a resounding "NO".

Reasons include:
+Correct theological content is not enough: delivery matters (the old saw "It isn't just what you say but how you say it")
+Rap draws attention to the rapper, not to God.
+"Do not be conformed, but be transformed..." , Christian rap is a "cowardly" way to confront the world.
+Toby Mac tried rapping once and he looked stupid.

Would any Lutheran panel articulate objections such as these? Martin Luther's many musings on the value of music immunize us in from such knee-jerk assertions. Perhaps the fact that we are an international denomination not born in the USA also gives us some perspective on other traditions of music.

As polemical and heated our discussions of contemporary worship can be, I have never heard arguments from advocates of traditional forms of worship make arguments as ham-fisted as these. 

Disclaimer: I have never heard of the National Council of Families in Churches, nor do I listen to much rap music (Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions..." and the Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique" being the exemptions).

See the video at the link below (at the bottom of the page) it is entertaining to watch, in the watching a train-wreck sense.

Here is a subsequent apology, albeit from the one who was posed the question:
Recently I heard about Fivetwo, a self-described network for "sacramental church leaders" who are focused on seeking the lost. I want to be charitable to the cause, but I also wonder if we Lutherans aren't all (supposed to be) sacramental church leaders who are focused on the lost to some degree or another.   

The name comes from Jesus' feeding of the 5,000 (Five loaves, Two fishes). The board consists of LCMS leaders involved in church planting. It is based in Texas (Kieschnick and Shiner Bock country).     

Yet the website is lean on specifics. Is this an alternative proposal to local circuit meetings? Is there anything afoot here that the LCMS headquarters might be troubled by?  It appears curiously un-political as opposed to many other LCMS entities. Is this little more than a safe haven for those who like having guitars in worship?  Is this for ELCA people like myself?

FiveTwo. What's the deal?
There is not a lot on the internet about the English District (ED). They have their own website, they have a "Our History" page which discusses events in the 1800's but then stops at the year 1911, oddly mentioning little from the last 100 years.  The ED website make zero effort to explain how the English District is the same or different than the rest of the LCMS today. The wikipedia entry is also sparse.

As one who admires the rigor of the Lutheran witness of the LCMS, but has concerns over certain (sorry to day it) cannibalistic tendencies that emerge from some quarters, the English District occupies an intriguing place on the Lutheran continuum, a space which one could say is growing with the emergence of LCMC and NALC. 

In order to shed light rather than heat, I offer up quite a few questions about the English District:   

Giving and Growth: In measurable terms such as giving and growth, does the English District look any different than the rest of the LCMS on a per church or per worshiper basis?

Seminex: One would suspect that the English District would have lost more churches to what became the AELC than the rest of the LCMS.  Was this the case? 

Training and Discipline: Does a seminarian have to declare "ED status" upon enrollment? Do they take a different track in terms of screening? Can a pastor switch into or from the English District? Does that happen very often?  Does the English District have its own disciplinary body consisting of only English District pastors?  Or because of their unique non-geographic status, do they use other existing district's disciplinary bodies, depending on location? 

Collegiality Do ED pastors hang out with other LCMS pastors? When they get together, how do they "rib" one-another? How often is there contempt between the two groups?

The Future: Is the future of the English District look bright or dim? Has it outlived its usefulness? Has anyone attempted to take steps toward dissolving the English District? Or would any steps in that direction be construed as right-wing attempt to divide and conquer?

Here on this forum, I can not recall any pastor or lay person ever self-identifying as English District. The ED is rarely even mentioned in these parts. I can read online and understand a little bit about how the English District came to be, what is difficult to gauge is what the English District's present and future looks like.
The Maundy Thursday practice of observing a Seder meal has been around for decades (how long? 40 years?). It is an understandable evolution in the Triduum, given Thursday's paltry attendance figures compared to Good Friday and Easter. A service rumored to have footwashings followed by communion will never be a big draw. "Hey, let's do a Seder meal", comes the predictable cry. The meal offers additional heft to the evening.....which is at least part of the reason Seder meals are offered on Maundy Thursday in Lutheran church basements all over the country.

In my ministry, I've been reluctant to establish the practice in the churches I've served.  The benefit of people gaining a deeper understanding of Jewish practices and snuffing out old Marcion is outweighed by questions I have about a bunch of Christians getting together to observe a Jewish tradition. This year I am deviating from that position slightly, we are welcoming a rabbinical student in his senior year to lead and teach a Seder Meal.

In preparation for the event I found a short article on the ELCA website, "Are there Seder meals in a Christian context?" It is a caution to those who are considering Seder meals.

Two questions are posed:
+In trying to imitate what might have happened are we restricting the newness and radical nature of the Eucharistic celebration?

+Do we think that the closer we get to what really happened the closer we will be to truly understanding the Eucharist?


We do not know how the Seder meal was celebrated at the time of Jesus nor do we know if the Last Supper was a Passover meal at all


.... we simply have no written accounts of the Seder meal from the first century. In fact, the earliest written accounts of the Seder meal date from the medieval period; they witness to a Seder meal which had developed and changed significantly from the meal celebrated in the first decades of the first century of the Common Era when the Temple was still the center of Jewish ritual and religious life. Following the order of these Seder meals does not in any away get us closer to what the meal might have been for Jesus.

While I agree with the basic point of the article, I wonder if casting doubt on entire question of first century Seder meals is warranted. Isn't it generally understood that the Last Supper took place during a Seder meal, though we do so while acknowledging the Gospel of John's unique timeline? Isn't the Torah clear on how Jews should observe the Passover? Doesn't scripture trump the fact we have no written account before Medieval times?  These are questions the article caused me to ask.

Of course, there is no author of these thoughts listed, and the link for further guidance on Jewish-Lutheran takes us to the standard "Page not found".

Pastor Lindus said this transition comes at a time when the financial performance of the seminary has lagged expectations. Prior to President Bliese's resignation, the seminary started to take positive measures to ensure its financial health

Dr. Bliese led through a time of major turnover of faculty due to retirements, somewhere in the vicinity of 2/3rds of the entire faculty. The seminary faculty is much younger and more diverse than it was when he took over.

Odd though, the press release doesn't say why or where he is going nor even a quote from Dr. Bliese.
Mike Aus, former pastor, goes on MSNBC and is interviewed about his becoming an atheist.

The man isn't currently on the ELCA roster, but some google searches list someone by the same name as a pastor in an ELCA in Baton Rouge.

His migration was informed by darwinism as well as the new-wave atheists Dawkins et al. Apparently he remained a pastor while quietly harboring athiestic notions.

No idea if/how he is related to the late great George Aus of professor of systematic theology at (what is now called) Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.

Troubling. Sad.
I've purchased the Lutheranism 101 materials for use in our congregation beginning in January.

Having read the book and coursebook, I found the material to be nicely laid-out and sound in content.

Being an ELCA pastor serving an ELCA church, there are a few sections that will require some delineation between an ELCA understanding vs. what is being presented in the materials, but this will be a surmountable challenge.
Though there are many resources available to draw from, especially What remains unclear is exactly how a class session is structured and how many chapters can be covered in an hour.

I've exchanged emails with an employee at CPH. He's been helpful, but was not able to answer my specific questions beyond hazarding a guess.

Questions I have:
1) How long might it take for a congregation to do the entire course?

2) How many chapters can be done in an hour?

3) What is a good structure for a given session.

4) Have any other ELCA pastors used Lutheranism 101? What, if any, ELCA vs. LCMS issues did you encounter in using the materials beyond the obvious Chapter 14 on women in the church?   
Your Turn / George Erdner hits the bigtime.
July 24, 2011, 01:47:56 PM
It isn't often that ALPB contributors rise above obscurity, so when it does happen, it's cause for celebration.

George Erdner can play guitar, discuss Lutheran theology and ELCA politics, and he's also an actor.

Here's our very own George in a commercial for Stride 2.0 gum.

It airs on the Cartoon Network.
The following link is about a religion, tarvuism. The videos are slick productions and very funny.

I have no clue who made this or why. It underscores the adage that if you don't believe in something, you'll believe in anything.

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