09 April 2010

Can a Bishop Do Evil?

Jack Stanton, the Episcopal Bishop of Dallas, felt compelled to publish a book a few years ago in response to Jack Spong, the heretic Bishop of Newark. The title of this book was "Can a Bishop Be Wrong?" The very fact that this question must be asked has to do with the peculiar ecclesiology of the Episcopal Church.

As a Lutheran, my answer to that question is pretty straightforward. Bishops are human. As such, they are in bondage to sin just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us, I suspect that most of the time they sin because of our fallen human nature, and sometimes they sin because they willfully choose to follow something other than Christ. Just like the rest of us.

For the latter category, I nominate the recent actions of Pastor Duane Pederson, ELCA Bishop of the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin.

Down in Eau Claire, one of the largest cities in the Synod, there are about a half-dozen ELCA congregations. Members of five of those congregations were very upset with the ELCA sexuality decisions of last summer. But, rather than start a fight within their local congregations, they decided to leave. Together, 60 members of the five congregations have formed a new mission church and affiliated with LCMC.

I have been working with these folks. They are hurt, they are lost. They feel betrayed by the church and yet God has comforted them as he has gathered them together as Faith Lutheran Mission Church.

They meet on Sunday evenings in LCMS church building(!). A number of us from the area have been serving as preachers for this congregation. Two of the individuals who were asked by the congregation to preach for them are rostered pastors of the ELCA who served in the Northwest Synod.

Now I thought it was the duty and privilege of a Christian pastor to reach out to the lost and hurting and preach the Good News. Bishop Pederson apparently disagrees. He has sent a letter to those two pastors declaring the folks at Faith Lutheran Mission Church to be schismatics. He has forbidden the pastors who serve “under” him to preach there.

I am tempted to go to a couple of meetings that I know that Bishop Pederson will be appearing at (I won't) and asked him this question: Jesus says you cannot serve two masters. Based on the facts I have just related above, and the fact that you have forbidden your pastors to preach the Good News to people in your synod who are lost,

when did you stop serving the Gospel and start serving the institution? And, as a follow-up, do you lose any sleep over that change in loyalties?

Shellfish: ELCT voices a big 'no' to same-sex marriages

Shrimp, who has quoted me before, has some comments on the ELCA - Tanzania story too.

Shellfish: ELCT voices a big 'no' to same-sex marriages

Lewis Carroll rules!

This headline did not surprise me:

ELCA Head Affirms Commitment to Centrality of Scripture.

In the article, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson says, "we share a commitment to proclaim to the whole world the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, to serve our neighbor, and to build a world of justice and peace."

The problem with the ELCA's proclamation was neatly summed up by H. Richard Niebuhr 50 years before the ELCA was born: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The ELCA uses words like salvation, evangelical, Law and Gospel, even sin. But the normative theologian seems to be a Lewis Carroll character
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'
They were sitting on the wall. They have had a great fall. I do not think they will be put together again.

So sad.

Pseudoscientific myopia

Perhaps the most common problem in our society today is myopia. We can see those things, ideas and beliefs that we hold close quite clearly, but we are unable to see things at a distance.

Consider the case of Sandi Siefker of Rock Island, Illinois. Sandy attended the Tea Party Express when it visited the Quad cities of Illinois and Iowa. Now please know, I am agnostic regarding the Tea Party as a movement. I am thrilled to see more people involved in politics and concerned about issues that I think are potentially devastating for our country, but whether this will be translated anything... well, I'm agnostic. Ms. Siefker, however, is quite clear that this is an act of evil.
Sandi Siefker of Rock Island attended the rally, but not in support of the Tea Party's message. She stood quietly on the edge of the gathering with a sign that read "Tea Klux Klan, Modern Day KKK."

"I'm pleasantly surprised," Ms. Siefker said. "There's no hoods or capes, but I know they are racists."

Ms. Siefker said these protests didn't occur when America had a white president. She said she believes much of the Tea Party fervor started when a black president took over the Oval Office.
Given that Pres. Obama is our first black president, and given that there have been street demonstrations, many of them much more violent than anything the tea party is even accused of by even the most ranting lunatic critics, it seems to me that Ms. Siefker is suffering from a case of political myopia. Because she "knows" ... she KNOWS ... that these people are racists, apart from any evidence, she cannot see the lack of evidence that she is right as possibly evidence that she is wrong.

This same sort of myopia occurs on the subject though Wobal Glarming. Consider former VP Gore, quoted here, making it clear that today's weather is a result of climate change:

Gore, the self-anointed climate change alarmist-in-chief, told supporters on a March 15 conference call that severe weather in certain regions of the country could be attributed to carbon in the atmosphere--including the recent rash of rainy weather. "The odds have shifted toward much larger downpours," Gore said. "And we have seen that happen in the Northeast, we've seen it happen in the Northwest--in both of those regions are among those that scientists have predicted for a long time would begin to experience much larger downpours."

And contrast that with this report from the Hill:
A top Obama administration scientist on Monday struck back at climate skeptics who claim that record snowstorms this winter have undercut evidence of global warming. “It is important that people recognize that weather is not the same thing as climate,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In other words, we know that wobal glarming exists, we know that human beings cause it, and therefore if today's weather fits our expectations, it is proof; if it does not, it is not proof.Scientific myopia prevents them from seeing that the lack of evidence-or contrary evidence-is proof that they could be wrong.

One more example. As I commented, I recently spent some time on avowedly liberal blog. (I don't know why. I did let myself get drawn into a p***ing match that was ultimately pointless. It is hard to discuss Scripture with someone who doesn't believe that some of the most important books the New Testament are. in fact, inspired.)

One of the frequent commentators to the blog has made it very clear that while we cannot know the source and origin of human sexual orientations, the experience of homosexual and bisexual persons, while not normative for the rest of us, is normative for them. (My phrasing, but trying to be fair.) But it is simply impossible but that could be the case when dealing with someone who claims to have recovered from homosexual attractions. She writes:
Richard Cohen cites anecdotal evidence, ie his own marriage, as scientific proof that gayness can be cured. I’m sorry, but a case study of 1 is hardly scientific proof. It only proves that he is either bisexual or lying to himself and others.
I will stipulate that a case study of one is not scientific proof, there is certainly more than one case. But, rather than accept the possibility, that someone can in fact be changed in their sexual orientations, and the experiential testimony of someone who says it happened to them, the preconceived notions amount to "proof" that he is "bisexual or lying".

Myopia rules.

06 April 2010

Racist Tea?

I wish I could find a picture, but last week I saw a news report on a Tea Party, and, as God is my witness, there was a protester in the crowd carrying a sign that read:

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised!

It has been de rigueur in the MSM to call the Tea Partier's "racist."

But really, why would a racist quote the original rap song?

03 April 2010

Constitutional Principles

Did you hear about the congressman who said that if there was a criminal out there, we had to lock him up, so that the people would be safe, even if it meant that we would accidentally lock up a bunch of innocent guys? He was challenged on that, and said, "I don't worry too much about the constitution."

Me either, but it is the same set of liberties that are at risk when a congressman says this:

What I find particularly hopeful about the opportunity to overturn the Health care reform that Congress just passed is that even the liberal Seattle Times is troubled by it's constitutional impact.

We think McKenna [the Washington Attorney General who has joined in the suit against the bill] has a good case, and one the progressives who condemn him ought to appreciate. These critics are so often right about the dangers of corporate power, and particularly the rapacity of insurance companies.

But if it's federal power, and it's for a social purpose, and Barack Obama is presiding over it, they set their judgment aside. They accept a 2,000-page bill on its label only. They accept its promise, almost surely vacant, of cost savings. They overlook the deals cut with the insurance and pharmaceutical interests. They shrug off the "cornhusker kickback." And to those who invoke the Constitution, they become shrill.

This page supported Obama, and we still like him. But we also support checks and balances on federal power, and review of this law by the Supreme Court.

If this passes muster with the Supreme Court, the states will lose all power over their own affairs. Under a more conservative congressional regime, Washington and Oregon can say goodbye to death with dignity laws, and a lot of other things.

31 March 2010

When Resources are scarce ...

What is the best way to distribute them?

Some of us believe that a free market, appropriately regulated, is the best, if still imperfect, mechanism.

One of the "problems" with the market system is that it does create disparities between "haves" and "have nots." I would suggest that this is, in many cases, simply an outcome of a meritocracy. If A has a skill and a work ethic that gets her a job where she gets gold plated health insurance coverage, and B is dependent on charity or government programs for coverage, and therefore receives coverage that is less appealing, then the natural response would be for B to seek to change her circumstances to have the same advantages as A.

(The "progressive" solution is to take the "haves" and "have nots" and equalize them all as "have littles.")

Many who distrust the market believe that the government should be the "neutral" arbitrator of scarce resources, because it is "impartial." Two recent stories belie that suggestion. First, the Chicago Tribune reports

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city's premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan's office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan's tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley's office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune.

Select congressional leadership staffers -- some of whom wrote the health insurance act -- are not governed by new rules governing millions of Americans and the rest of their colleagues on how they buy insurance -- and the special exemption has the Hill hopping mad.

Come 2014, all 100 U.S. senators, all 435 representatives in the House and every one of their personal aides will have to go to the newly formed state exchanges for health insurance -- just like everyone else in the country who isn't covered by their employer.

But select congressional leadership staffers -- some of whom wrote the health insurance act -- won't. And neither will White House staffers and Cabinet members -- nor the president himself. They will be allowed to keep their current plans, which are offered to all other federal employees.

And now many congressional aides who like their current health insurance policies and will be forced to switch are asking: Why?

They want to know: If an exchange is good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for the people who wrote the plan? Why isn't it good enough for the president and his Cabinet?

The answer to these questions is actually very simple. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Best and Worse Covers of Bohemian Rhapsody

And I really liked Suzi McNiel on Rock Star .......

30 March 2010


Wow. The guy who threatened to kill Republican Whip Eric Cantor (incidentally, the highest ranking Jew in the US Government)

donated money to the Democratic Party!

How big a deal is this?

Zero. Nada. Not significant at all.

Political parties have no control over what nut cases donate to them. But if the shoe were on the other foot, you can bet it would be a big deal in the MSM.

All Across the Multi-verse

I have written on the religious nature of multiverse theories here, but Captain Thin has a really great take on the phenomena that, using multiverse theory, proves the existence of God:
If, indeed, infinitely possible universes must arise in the multiverse, then surely there must have already arisen (in the infinite past) universes where “gods” began to exist. And surely, in the infinite possibilities of the past, some of these gods must have discovered a way to not only control their own universes, but further to leave the confines of those universe and enter consciously into the multiverse. Moreover, in the infinite past, one of these gods now observing the multiverse must inevitably take control of the multiverse itself. And at that point, the multiverse would cease to be infinite; it would become a machine, operating under the orders of one particular entity.
Read the whole argument here.

29 March 2010

Life Lessons

At John's funeral (he was 90+) a few years ago, Lee (c. 70) stood up to tell this story:

When I was about 16, I was walking through town one day. I saw John working on his truck, so I asked what he was doing. He told me he was rebuilding the transmission, and asked if I could help. "Sure,"He replied. We worked for a couple hours and got the whole thing put back together. We got in the truck and started up, and John put the truck in first gear. He eased his foot off the clutch... and the truck lurched backwards 4 feet!

John shut off the truck, looked at me and said, "Let that be a lesson to you, Lee. Whenever you test out a transmission, always look behind you first."

Lee finished the story, "I have no idea what that means, but I've never forgotten it, and I've tried to live my life by it."

A true story. All of which serves as an entrée to this video clip.

When did schism become a bad thing?

I am still involved in what is now being called the reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America. It is now working out that there are three major parties involved in this. First, there is the ELCA, or, as I like to call it,The GBLC (Great Big Lutheran Church. And I have been calling it that from well before the current difficulties; the moniker was never intended to stand for anything else.)

Last summer, the GBLC made some decisions regarding the authority of Scripture in matters of sexuality that have very much upset many people. As a result of that, some of those people are looking to leave that church body. One of the groups some of them are looking to lead that departure is Lutheran CORE, and LCORE is forming something they are calling the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). It will come into existence later this year.

Others of us have been upset with the GBLC for some time. I personally think they departed from Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in 1999 when they adopted the historic episcopate from the Episcopal Church. Those of us who are of that mind formed LCMC in 2001.

There is no real battle between the NALC and LCMC folks, because we have very different understandings of what the church is and how it functions best. The big fight is between the ELCA - who doesn't want to lose any property - and those who are trying to depart to one of these two groups. There are numerous sources for tracking this; one of the best is here.

With that as background, my comment:

One of the charges being leveled against those wanting to leave the ELCA, and against me and others who are trying to help them, is that we are the dreaded "schismatics!"

Consider this:
  • In Exodus 14:21, as Pharaoh's army arrives to kill the Israelites by the Red Sea, it says that, "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." (ESV)
  • When Jesus was baptized, it says "And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove." (Mark 1:10 ESV)
  • When Jesus was crucified, "... the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two." (Luke 23:45 ESV) ( The same wording appears in Mark 15:38 and Matthew 27:51 to describe the same event.)
Each of those italicized words above is the same Greek word: schism. In each of these cases, schism is used to describe God at work. So when did schism become a bad thing?

Those who are convinced that this reconfiguration is a "schism" that they must oppose might do well to heed the advice of the Pharisee, Gamaliel: "I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" Acts 5:38-39 ESV

26 March 2010

I'm back

I have been facebooking for the last 10 months or so. But there are some things that I want to say that do not fit the 4 line format. So in case anyone reads this, I may be here for a while.

I was wandering around in another forum. It was an avowedly "progressive" religious forum, and I was defending a traditionalist point of view.

One of the funniest things about that experience was this: I do not think I ever identified myself as a pastor. They were discussing the association I belong to (and quoting from a Google group I run) so I chimed in to offer facts instead of speculation. Someone learned / knew that I was a pastor and commented on that. Later, another person, who willingly described herself as a medical doctor, complained that I was playing the authority card. I noticed a couple of other things.

First, they really did not want to discuss anything; they wanted an echo chamber.

Second, they were perfectly willing to Google me, look up everything they could about me, and use that as a basis for conversation and attack. But when I tried to Google them, to try and understand their point of view, I realized that ...

Third, of all the people on the list who were making comments, some of them quite nasty, only the blog owner (who has a book to sell) and the conservative / traditionalists were using their real names. Everybody else, including all the "progressives" were using pseudonyms or first names only.

To me, it is a question of integrity as much as courage. If you are going to put it out there, especially if it is unpleasant to someone, own it. Otherwise you are just ...