Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The News from Lake Wobegon

So what's up in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan region, you may ask?  It happens that we know.  These are just some of the headlines in the current edition of the local Forum:
  • Semi hits four cows on Clay County road
  • Valley folks take on region's eating challenges
  • Experts say mild weather to linger
  • ND hospital makes changes after babies switched
  • Lutherans forget divine grace
Well, they all look interesting, don't they?  So let's run 'em down.  Good news is that the semi driver was not injured, although the cows were killed.  The eating challenges in question have nothing (directly) to do with poverty, but rather with the ability of a human being to consume a three pound cheeseburger or a 12-egg omelette.  The babies were switched back in September, and the mistake was discovered within and hour.  Still, it's a scary thing, and the story never actually specifies which procedures have since changed.  For shame, Williston Mercy in Bismarck. The weather does look nice so far, but we're sobered by the national Weather Service fellow, who when asked about spring flooding answered, "Anything at this point is simply literally a guess."

As for the Lutherans, it seems that First and Hope, both in Fargo, have decided to hold back their benevolence from the ELCA.  Readers will surely not be surprised to learn that the reason is, in a word, gays.  No news there.

What did catch us off guard was that we learned it from an open letter to the congregation councils, linked up top, by the Rev. Arthur W. Johnson, a retired pastor and former member of First.  He's pretty unhappy, too.  Specifically, he says

What courage you have exhibited to so strongly condemn another’s behavior and commitments[!] I would like to know if you consulted the faithful members of your congregations who are GLBT and included their judgments in your resolutions and if you invited your congregations to vote.

Since you seem so clear and firm on the issue of homosexuality and your Bible’s condemnation of such, what pronouncement are each of your councils preparing for this month? The Christian Bible makes a goodly list: the rich, divorced, women, slavery, enemies, war, imprisoned, foreigners and of course children (Psalm 137:9) to name only a few topics to cut your moral teeth on.

The letter isn't exactly Ciceronian in its rhetoric.  Johnson's "goodly list" is a kind of tired trope by now, and we aren't sure there is a Bible that isn't the Christian Bible.  And when he says, further on that, that left-handed children were killed in the Middle Ages for being "born sinister," he's just wrong.  But cavils aside, we appreciate Johnson's passion, and his willingness to speak publicly about to what must be painfully divided congregations.

We are struck by the possibility, raised by Johnson, that the decision to hold back benevolence was made by the congregation councils, without a vote by the membership.  Can this possibly be the case?  If so, it seems to us a bit hubristic.  Lutheran polity clearly puts major financial decisions -- not to mention decisions about how a congregation shall be aligned with its denomination -- in the hands of the Congregational Meeting.

We don't know the facts, although First has posted an online statement of its own, um, sexual position, which begins by saying that it was adopted "by the unanimous consent of the 24-person council ... with the unanimous support of the Pastoral Staff."  It adds that "this unity has probably become as important as the statement itself."  Well, probably so, and we don't doubt the results of congregational vote.  But did one occur?  Readers in the know are encouraged to tell us.

So that's the news from you-know-where.  Oh, and Gov. Tim "Hawkeye" Pawlenty shot a buck, but was thereafter unable to find the wounded animal, leaving it to limp and bleed its way through the snowy woods and eventually succumb to predators or die a slow death from infection.  Obviously a candidate for the Dick Cheney Sportmanship Award.


Anonymous said...

Parents of a friend of mine go to First. They are two of the biggest givers in the congregation. They have told the pastor, since the council has decided to withhold benevolence, then they will send their contribution directly to the ELCA. Two can play at this game. bls

Father said...

It goes without saying that it should NEVER have come to this. Benevolence -- or "mission support giving" -- is a sort of sacred duty, and a critical marker of participation in the larger community. Cutting it off is not simply "voting with your wallet," but rather a symbolic rejection of the whole church. It's like sitting obstinately in your pew when everybody else goes up to the altar.

But it HAS come to this -- and indeed, it came to this years ago, at least in our synod, when (as I recall) a congregation in Westchester decided it couldn't maintain a mission partnership with a Bronx congregation because of the pastor's sexual identity. And yes, that's an accusation.

And since it has come to this, I guess individuals need to fight fire with fire. But it breaks my heart.

mark said...

I expect, that with Mercutio, many of us are about to throw in the cards saying, "a plague on both your houses!"