Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why I'm Staying in the ELCA

I have been giving this a lot of thought and prayer over the past few weeks. And I am ready to give you the two reasons I have decided to stay in the ELCA. And I want to say this before leaving for the Lutheran CORE gathering in Indiana this weekend.

1. This is where God is calling me to be.
That pretty much says it. I have been asked how I can be so certain it is God calling me to this, or how I know God is calling me to really stay in the ELCA. My answer is very unsatisfactory to just about everyone except me. It is that if it isn't from God, then it won't work. And God will let me know. It may take awhile for it to sink in (after all, I am a stubborn German/Scot-Irish Lutheran from Tennessee). But that's ok. And if it is from God, then I will continue to know.
I see myself as a pastor, not a hired hand. I'm not supposed to run when the flock is under attack. And as a pastor, I am to preach repentance and warning, and the promise of forgiveness and renewal of life to all who turn to God in Christ Jesus. I don't see anything that happened at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly that makes that less imperative for the foreseeable future.

2. I love the ELCA.
I know, I'm not supposed to do that. The ELCA is "only" a denomination, a pretty flawed one at that (perhaps, yes, fatally so). I shouldn't make an idol out of a church body, which is after all a corporation. And I don't really have any realistic notion that the ELCA can be "reformed," "taken back," "renewed," or "reborn." And who do I think I am, that one pastor can really make any difference in the ELCA under the present circumstances? Especially, given the progress of original sin is ever ongoing, those circumstances will almost assuredly get worse going into the future?
Like above, this makes no sense. But to quote the old song (sung so wonderfully by Barbra Streisand in "Funny Girl"): "I'd rather be blue over you (ELCA) than happy with somebody else."

And with God, nothing is impossible. Even resurrection from the dead.

Now, this is not any kind of judgment on those who believe they must leave and build outside of the ELCA, either a new denomination or in another, different, Lutheran denomination. I can accept that they/you? are doing what God is calling to be done. Just by someone else.

Now, if this changes, I'll post it here. But don't hold your breath. This is feeling pretty set.

Here I stand. In the ELCA.
God, help me.


Wilbur said...

Thanks for your words Erma. I appreciate them because I find myself in the same place. I would also add that because of local history it would be irresponsible for me to do anything else at this time.

Wilbur said...

Erma, thanks for the comments. I appreciate them because that is where I am finding myself to be for the same reasons. I appreciate your honesty about possibilities. I also have the reason of local history. Given the history of the congregation where I serve I believe it would be irresponsible for me to do anything different at this point.

Melanchthon said...

God help you, indeed!

FWIW, I'm in the ELCA for now as well, although how long is an open question. Just got elected Conference Dean, just as I was getting ready to bolt! God certainly has a sense of humor.


Unlikely said...

Thanks for sharing,
It's funny to stroll through the blogosphere and find so many jumbled explanations for why one ought or ought not leave the ELCA.
Your words make some sense.
The longer I serve as a pastor the more I know that the local congregation is the base and future of the church. The ELCA is an association of congregations, but in the great scope of history it's the congregation, not the national church body, where the Living Word connects with God's people.
The great gift we can offer the church today is to keep focus on Jesus and his Word in our congregations were, as you say, God is calling us and placing us today. It makes no sense for the pastor to run today. Instead we need to stay faithful and engaged in the ministry of Word and Sacrament above all.

TeeJay said...

Was it not Luther who in deed said "I'd rather fight than switch!", though eventually left the Catholic hierarchy in the dust? I too, for rather mixed and similar reasons as you, have stayed in the ELCA. And I ask God each and everyday whether my choice is the right one.