I sent Bp. Girlinghouse a note on our behalf. I said we are grieving and mourning at a distance. We pray God would give them strength, peace and courage for the hard work for the coming days.
We will be sending a disaster gift as authorized by our synod council tomorrow. Designate gifts for your synod to pass on to the disaster response. Thanks.
A Pastoral Letter to our Rostered Leaders from Bishop Aitken
May 15, 2013
Grace to you and Peace in our Risen Lord,
I write to you as a follow up to my May 14 Northeastern Minnesota website’s on- line article. In the spirit of pastoral encouragement with regard to the decisions this week in Minnesota regarding civil marriage for our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers, I offer these thoughts:
Love Like Jesus! Care for each other!
“Love like Jesus” is not merely some kind of slogan, nor even just a last year’s emphasis in our Synod – but in fact the ancient mark of what it means to be a Christian since the day our Lord began calling disciples. To be a disciple of Jesus means to watch him at work, follow his lead and live like him, who proclaimed ‘love God and love your neighbor’ as a twin command. While there are differences among us as Lutherans and other Christians concerning how to deal with loving, faithful, monogamous same-gender couples, all Christians want to love like our Lord as we live into the future. There will be various ways to live out that love command. We have learned to live in a big tent and we can continue to do this.
We stand ready to talk things through with you here in the Synod Office about how you might navigate through the issues of the new law permitting civil marriage of same-gendered people beginning August 1st, 2013. As I said in my online piece, decisions to recognize support and hold publically accountable same-gender relationships is entrusted to congregations. What that means in practical terms, is that there will need to be conversations between pastors and church councils if a request come to the pastor to officiate at a ceremony of a same-gendered couple. That will mean work – but it is good work. Pastors are not “free agents” to officiate secretly somewhere. Transparency and respectful conversation is the key here. The conscience of the pastor needs to be respected as well as everyone else in these discussions.
Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust During conversations about this issue it would be good to look again at our Social Statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (you can get it online at the ELCA website or our website, http://www.nemnsynod.org) pages 18-21. Our Social Statement neither endorses nor forbids same sex marriage but “commits itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publically accountable lifelong monogamous, same-gender relationships.” It acknowledges the diversity in our congregations regarding same-sex relationships, recognizes the historic tradition of marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, and goes on to say (page 18) “On the basis of conscience-bound faith, some are convinced that the scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and committed relationships that we experience today. They believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same-gender relationships are lived out with lifelong and monogamous commitments that are held to the same rigorous standards, sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual marriage. The surround such couples and their lifelong commitments with prayer to live in ways that glorify God, find strength for the challenges that will be faced, and serve others. They believe same-gender couples should avail themselves of social and legal support for themselves, their children, and other dependents and seek the highest legal accountability available for their relationships.”
Ordained ministers in congregations have authority to marry as part of their calls, when authorized by state law, but church wide policy does not determine whom a pastor may marry. The decisions of how to recognize support, and hold publically accountable same-gender relationships is entrusted to congregations. The decision should be addressed prayerfully in the context of the congregation’s ministry, rather than by the action of a bishop or Synod Council. Consultation among congregational leaders and the synod bishop is appropriate. No Rite or Liturgy for the blessing of unions or marriage os same-gender couples exists in the ELCA but celebrations of such relationships can be drawn from those who have done them well in the past, emphasizing always, the life-long intents embedded in our decisions as a church
I offer a great resource to you: Talking Together as Christians About Tough Social Issues, from our ELCA available for downloading at http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Moral-Deliberation.aspx This resource is the one I offered at our Bishop’s convocation on Moral Deliberation in March. It has been used effectively by many! It has integrity because it urges humility and respect for all involved. . I urge you to avoid the knee-jerk reaction of jumping to some kind of vote on a proposed policy. Live gracefully and faithfully, just as you do with all issues that arise in your congregation. If you want to talk things through – I’m here for you, give me a call.
God has called us to be light in the world God has given us, not in some imaginary one. Take courage. Jesus was the most down-to-earth person ever, living out God’s love for all right where he lived. We are joined to him and his work of reconciliation. Just a week ago at our Synod Assembly we lifted up the theme verse from 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation.” Now is the time to believe it and live the tremendous promise meant by this for the sake of the world.
+Bishop Thomas M. Aitken
I think this is the final version of the new law….it was helpful for me to read. Many have asked questions the law itself answers.
I was interviewed on yesterday’s WCCO radio show regarding the new law on same sex civil marriage.
If you download the podcast….the time is at about 27.30 minutes in. If you don’t know how to do that it will be that many minutes before you will hear the interview.
Here is the final report of the ELCA Communal Discernment Task Force. Exhibit I Part 2 with Appendices
Stewardship of our congregation’s life requires regular attention to areas that are not so exciting, but help our communities of faith steward the Gospel effectively. So if you are looking for places to do some routine maintenance so that your community of faith keeps moving along here are a few with links to get more help. These are simple steps that will help….
Finances – If you have not taken time to look at your financial controls and procedures. I encourage you to do so. Here is a helpful link for your Finance Committee or Treasurer to use to get this work moving forward.
“Church Renewal Requires Property Renewal” – This was the name of an article on property that showed up in a blog I follow. We often spend too much energy on buildings in our missional planning, but the author makes some fine points. I will add one, if you have prints on your walls that have faded from the color twenty years ago to a mild green version, please find new versions of the print to put in the frame. Young families and guests will notice the faded artwork and wonder if the congregation is fading away as well. Christ in Cottonwood is a great example of new art serving the mission of their congregation. I know I am overly aware of art since I am married to an artist, but the mix of art and design at Christ in Cottonwood says this congregation is alive and in touch with people of this time.
Constitutional Hygiene – I know it is as much fun as having your teeth cleaned, but there is a reason you have your teeth cleaned and a reason constitutions should be updated. Contact Pr. Andrea on our staff if you need help or call the office (507-637-3904) to connect with a member of the Policies and Procedure Committee of your synod council. Here is a link to help you get started from the ELCA page. The link also shares other information that might help you in your planning as well.