Saturday, February 10, 2007

We proclaim Christ more boldly

Today I am grateful for the conclusion to my pastor’s trial. [See trial update at]

I thank the hearing committee for their careful work and their thoughtful and thought provoking decision. They have clarified the situation and laid the core issue in the hands of the whole of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. They recommend that the judicial appeal process or the churchwide assembly correct what they see as "at least bad policy, and may very well violate the constitution and bylaws of this church."

I thank Bishop Warren for his pastoral concern in this matter. In the face of a highly politicised issue, he has pressed for accountability in ministry. I truly believe that he works for the wholeness and unity of our synod and the greater church. He stands as an example to the opponents of homosexuals in ministry of how to confront faithfully a brother in Christ.

I am also a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Atlanta, GA. I am proud to call Pastor Brad Schmeling my pastor and equally proud to call the congregation of St. John’s my church home. We, too, are working for the wholeness and unity of the church. With humility before Christ, we seek to speak truth with our brothers and sisters, to confront what we veiw as harmful policy and to not let the sun go down on our anger.

Together we have witnessed an amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

This outpouring of which I speak is not that the hearing has effectively challenged problematic church policy against recognizing the calling of gay ministers who are faithfully partnered.

This outpouring of which I speak is not that the ELCA as a whole body will be engaged to discern God's will on this issue. We will be speaking truth to one another and listening all the more.

This outpouring of which I speak is not the prayer and support of thousands for Bradley and our congregation as we faced this trial. We pray that God's word will be spoken and that we will have the courage to listen and be changed.

This outpouring is not our immediate hope of urgent justice that has been denied to too many for too long , but is an outpouring that began a long time ago.

No. The outpouring of which I speak began when our Lord Jesus took the cup, and having given thanks, he gave it to us, saying,
“Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin.” Mt 26:27b-28

By faith, our congregation takes this cup. We do not trust in our own ability. But only at Christ’s bidding, we hold forth that this covenant is extended to all, especially to those who have been called sinners, to those who have been estranged from church and sacrament, to those who have been shamed for their sexual self-understanding.

At St. John's, we have seen the bad fruit that comes of legalistic readings of the Bible. We have witnessed the loss of faith, despair, suicide, abuse, violence, and utter abandonment to sin. This happens in the lives of both gay and straight people. Biblicism directed against homosexuals does not lead to faith; rather, by its devastating fruit, it is sin with grave and eternal consequences.

When we participate in our Lord’s supper through the ministry of one such as Pastor Brad, we proclaim Christ more boldly. The old ways have died, and we are born anew in the Holy Spirit.

At St. John's, we bear witness to the positive fruit that comes when faith is restored. We have seen the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that leads us to seek Christ presence among the faithful, to love the neighbor and welcome the stranger, and to leave behind the empty and destructive works of the flesh. Come and see.

We trust that the Holy Spirit comes with the power to heal, guide and sanctify the entire church.

We pray for the wholeness and unity of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

We know that the world watches us to see how we live out the gospel together.

My personal prayer for those who faithfully disagree with St. John’s is that you not give up on us or dismiss us out of hand. We are your brothers and your sisters. Follow the example of Bishop Warren; confront us in love in accordance with Scripture. But do not give up on us. Do not let the sun go down on another brother or sister. Otherwise, we shall both be handed over to Satan. Rather, let us confess our brokenness and our need for reconciliation.

May the Spirit empower us to speak truth to one another wherever we each may stand. And as one whole body, may we proclaim Christ more boldly. Amen.

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