Friday, May 10, 2013

Reader's Block?

Most people have heard of writer's block, I think. It is a bit famous. Wanting to write, but unable to. Ironically, much has been written about the condition of writer's block. A movie was constructed around the condition of a writer with writer's block, Stranger Than Fiction (starring Emma Thompson as the writer). 

I had never heard of "Reader's Block," however. It may be that I have invented the phrase, though I am sure not the problem.  In short, it is the loss of the ability to read for pleasure. Not the loss of the ability to understand the written word, or make sense of written sentences and paragraphs. No, this is the loss of being able to have any enjoyment in reading, and as a result just not reading, whether articles, short stories, books whether fiction or non-fiction, etc. For most people, for whom reading is merely a utilitarian sort of activity, this wouldn't be much of a loss. But for someone who has always enjoyed reading, counted it as a major activity done mostly for pleasure, this would be a huge loss.

I only came to realize gradually that this was my condition. I have always been a lover of reading and of books, ever since I can remember. The library or a book store were my favorite places to spend an hour (or two, or five!) since I learned to read. I have book shelves full of books, novels, poetry, history, theology, and more. But gradually, over the course of a few months, about three years ago, I realized that I was unable to read for pleasure.  Which meant that I was no longer reading. 

Gradually, I stopped going to bookstores. What was the point? I stopped reading magazines, and let my  subscriptions drop to both journals that I used in my work as well as those I read for fun. I started shoving books into corners, under furniture, and piled them up in shelves unread. I started any number of books, only to drop them after a few pages.

It was only after talking with a friend that I recognized what was happening, and that this was a form of depression.  Losing the ability to enjoy some activity that had always brought pleasure before is a marker of depression. I realized that this was something that would have to run its course, and that I couldn't force myself out of this condition by an act of will.

Over time this condition has slowly improved.  I have slowly regained the ability to read for fun. But as a side effect, while my reading has been slowly returning, my enjoyment and ability to write has hit the skids.  In short, I exchanged Reader's Block for Writer's Block.

Now, I am trying to regain my writing again. I am renewing this blog as a starting point.  Even if no one is still following me, or reading this blog (after all, it has been two years!), just following a schedule for writing something down may help me work my way out of this slump.

I'll take it slowly. Perhaps, at some point, I'll start to advertise this blog again.

And on the whole, if I only regain one pleasure, I would rather it be reading. After all, these days writers are a dime a dozen.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

10 Things About Me

Here are 10 facts about me that many people do not know. These aren't necessarily the most important things about me and my life, but they are facts that help others to understand who I am. And at the least, one or two will cause most people to scratch their heads and go, "It's a wonder she isn't stranger than she is!"

1. I bought my first Book of Concord at age 14.
What may be stranger is that I started to read it at that age, also. Of course, there is a story to this. A "son of the congregation" had completed his seminary education (at Concordia Seminary St. Louis) and received his first call, and was being ordained in his home congregation. My mother and I attended the service. During the course of this event, the one being ordained is asked about his allegiance to and intention to preach and teach in conformity with the writings contained in the Book of Concord, and then the various writings are named. The one that caught my attention was the Smalkald Articles. On the way home, I asked my mom, "What in the world are the Smalkald Articles?" Her answer was that they were one of the writings in the Book of Concord, that pastors were the only ones that bothered with reading those things. That just got my curiosity burning brighter. At home I looked up the cost of a Book of Concord in her Concordia Publishing House catalog (she ordered material for the congregation's Sunday School), and sent in my order for one B of C. When it arrived, I found out that it had the Small Catechism, a Large Catechism (news to me!) and myriad other writings. My dog-eared and heavily underlined copy accompanied me to seminary 14 years later, and still sits in my office.

2. I know how to tap dance.
Seriously. My parents enrolled me in dance lessons when I was 4, at Miss Jane's Dance Studio. I took tap, jazz, and ballet for 12 years (and studied modern at a later time, but that's a different subject). Tap dance is so much fun, and it is one of the few times where a child is encouraged to make noise, and a lot of it! And like riding a bycicle, you don't forget how to do a time step (my buck-and-wing is a little rusty, however). I even did a liturgical tap-dance while a student at LSTC, for the "Feast of Fools." There are witnesses who can attest to this. Fortunately, this predated Youtube and cell phones with video upload capabilities. My children are most grateful for this.

3. I love to sing.
I have enjoyed singing since I was little. I don't remember a time when I didn't enjoy singing. And I have what I call a "decent" voice. I especially like singing in church, singing hymns and liturgical music, singing in choirs. One of my favorite experiences came from when we lived in Nebraska, and several years I got to sing with the Axtell Community Choir for their yearly Messiah performance. I loved learning the choruses, and really came to appreciate what Handel had done in putting those beautiful words to music. I'm not trained; I've picked up bits of vocal technique along the way, by dibs and drabs. But from nursery rhymes to chant to Broadway show tunes, I enjoy trying it all. In fact, one hymn I want sung at my funeral is "What Wondrous Love is This" just for the last two verses. "To God and to the Lamb I will sing," and "And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, I'll sing on!"

4. I know a lot of songs.
This goes with the above. My husband says this, too, but a little stronger: "My wife knows all the words to all the songs." Well, no, I don't. Not all of them. But I do know a lot of words to a lot of songs. Credit Miss Jane. She used Broadway show tunes for a lot of her recitals, and I learned the words just by listening to the records over and over. Also, my parents had a lot of Mitch Miller records (which is how I learned all the words to "Nothin' Could be Finer than to Be in Carolina in the Mornin'!"). And as a native Tennessean, I (of course) know all the words to the following songs: The Tennessee Waltz, Rocky Top, Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel, Polly-Wally-Doodle, Dixie, On Top of Old Smokey, Wade in the Water, and We Shall Overcome. My mantra: So many songs. So little time.

5. I read through the Bible, beginning to end, in the 9th grade.
I was taking Latin that first year in high school, and the teacher would give extra credit for reading certain books. Most were history, though there were a few very long novels ("The Last Days of Pompeii" and "Quo Vadis") that were included. And the Bible. And he didn't want a "book report." If we wrote on a piece of paper, "I read (name of book)" and signed it, he counted it as extra credit. So, I read the Bible. Front to back, including the "begats" and all the laws about blood sacrifices in Leviticus. The start of a long, and mostly wonderful, relationship with this book (though I didn't anticipate that at the time).

6. My Mama and Daddy met in the basement of the National Funeral Home.
I really need to turn this into a short story someday. But my parents met in the bookkeeper's office of the National Funeral Home, after my father came back from WW II and my mother went to work there. And the bookkeeper's office was in the basement. And the Funeral Home was owned (at that time) by my grandfather and his brothers. Who were all named Charles. (But that's another story!)

7. My grandpa's brother's wife's youngest brother was my Daddy's best friend. (Mull that one over a bit. The relationships aren't incestuous, but sure sound like they ought to be, right? That sums up Southern families.)

8. I love the Old Testament, but it breaks your heart.
Broken promises, broken relationships, and starting over again even when every nerve in your body is saying "Mistake! Big mistake!" That's the Old Testament. Think about it.
But it is also all about Jesus Christ. Who also breaks your heart, but in a different way.

9. I was confirmed on the Palm Sunday after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, in Memphis Tennessee.
And yes, he was killed in Memphis, and I was confirmed at my church in Memphis. The National Guard was patrolling the city streets, and my godmother had to go through their checkpoints to get to our church. The events of that spring in my hometown took me years to sort out in my head. (Another story I need to write, some day.)

10. I was a member of the National Organization for Women while in college and through my early twenties.
I joined while in college cause I was a young woman in the South who wanted to work in journalism and get equal pay for equal work. (Like, duh!) I quit after deciding that I couldn't support NOW's stand on abortion rights. But I'm glad I was a member for a while. I gained a lot in self-confidence, and met some wonderful women. It was also the first time I met and got to know women who identified themselves as lesbian. In hearing their stories (especially regarding life in a Southern city known as the belt-buckle of the Bible belt) I learned a lot, both about them and about how churches do not always witness well to Christ.

There you have it, ten random facts. At some future date, one or two of these may merit a longer essay of its own.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Goodbye to All That

The movement from January into February brought an ending and a transition that should not go unnoticed or unremarked for those of us staying in the ELCA. What has ended is the former churchwide structure, which came to a formal close on January 31st, 2011. The announcement of a new "streamlined" structure was made last fall, along with the word that a number of positions would be eliminated with the consequent lay-off of individuals serving in those jobs. The fate of some of those individuals was known right away, in particular the former heads of divisions which would no longer exist. But the fate of many others was and is largely unknown, and is only being publicly revealed as some are bidding farewell in various publications of the churchwide units.

And so it was that as I read through my email this evening, I found this message from Pastor Robert G. Schaefer, Executive for Worship for the Worship and Liturgical Resources section of the churchwide structure, in the February edition of ELCA Worship News:

"Epiphany and Mission
"It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve as Executive for Worship and Liturgical Resources as part of the Office of the Presiding Bishop for two years. It is, therefore, with many mixed emotions that I am taking my leave at the end of January to serve as Lead Pastor of a congregation in Southwest Florida. My departure will coincide with the end of the Worship and Liturgical Resources section and former churchwide structure on January 31, 2011.

Praise and Thanksgiving
I am thankful for the opportunity to have, for a brief time, shared in assisting our presiding bishop in the oversight of worship in word and sacrament and this church's efforts to be an evangelizing church centered in the means of grace. I am deeply grateful for the remarkable worship staff I have served alongside and am awed by their understanding and grace during this time of difficult staff reductions. It has been a joy to travel across this church to promote the centrality of word and sacrament in God’s mission to the world. I have witnessed the many and rich ways worshipping assemblies bring the centrality of these means of grace to expression in local contexts. It has been a blessing to serve with Bishop Hanson and all the remarkably gifted and dedicated staff of the churchwide organization.

I leave now to return to my first love; stewarding the means of grace in a local worshipping assembly of this church. My pastoral ministry will be greatly enriched by my time in Chicago. I remain hopeful that as we continue to fine-tune the work of the worship team in the new Congregational and Synodical Mission (CSM) unit, that the centrality of word and sacrament, spoken of in our confessions, will continue to find clear expression in the organizational structure of the ELCA.

Blessings on the journey,

Pr. Robert G. Schaefer
Executive for Worship
Office of the Presiding Bishop"

As Lutherans we view church structure and governance as mostly matters of indifference (adiaphora), which is not the same thing as saying that we don't care how the earthly church chooses to order and govern itself. Rather, we recognize that structures come and go over the course of the centuries, and how the church orders itself can vary as long as the Gospel is rightly proclaimed and the sacraments rightly administered (the satis est of the Augsburg Confession). And being as the ELCA seems to "re-structure" itself with some frequency (so much so that I and others have difficulty in remembering just what the various parts of the churchwide structure are calling themselves now), it would be foolish to have any "feelings" for a structure now relegated to the dust-bin of ecclesiastical history, one that like those structures before it in the ELCA has been abandoned in the current dismal fiscal environment.

What we should not view with indifference is the exodus of men and women from their positions and jobs in the churchwide offices, as many of these positions have been eliminated and cut back. These brothers and sisters in Christ have worked for the ELCA, most of them behind the scenes, out of a sense of call and mission. It is an unfortunate but necessary fact of the times that personnel matters are dealt with privately; usually this privacy is a benefit to workers.

However, one distinct drawback is the inability, in such a time, to fully understand the scope of the layoffs at the churchwide level, or to name specific individuals in prayer as they go through this transition. Often one only learns after the fact that a position has been eliminated (or "consolidated") and that the individual that one had come to rely on is no longer there.

The ELCA has come under a huge amount of criticism in the past decade, and especially in the past two years. Some of the criticism has come from questions regarding the "essential" position of some of the projects that the ELCA has supported. For some critics, the recent downsizing has been overdue. However that may be true, the toll this latest restructuring is taking both on those who have had to leave and on those who are left behind in the churchwide offices cannot be ignored or made light of. In particular, as it becomes clearer in the year ahead what is left, and what has been preserved, going forward in the leaner ELCA churchwide structure, the question may need to be asked if the re-structuring truly serves the "right preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments" or not.

I note that Pastor Schaefer closes with that hope and prayer in his farewell message to those who attend to worship matters in this church. He writes: "I remain hopeful . . . that the centrality of word and sacrament, spoken of in our confessions, will continue to find clear expression in the organizational structure of the ELCA." I take this opportunity to thank Pastor Schaefer, and others who worked with him, for their attention to the centrality of word and sacrament in the portion of the Church of Jesus Christ known as the ELCA over the past few years. Without an advocate for worship within the structure, it is uncertain what lies in the future for such an emphasis and witness for Lutheran worship and liturgy. At the least, it will be more difficult to find people in the structure of the ELCA to whom we can address our concerns.

And let us continue to lift up in our prayers those who have not fared well in the re-structuring, those who are still trying to find jobs and positions, whether in or outside of the organizational church. May these servants of the church be surrounded by those who can support, comfort and strengthen them until they find the place to which God is leading them.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remembering Camelot

This January 20th is the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as President of the United States. I have, not surprisingly, already heard several reflections on this event. For one thing, Kennedy's Inaugural Address was a high-water mark for inaugural speeches; and certainly no president since has managed to leave such a mark on a nation, or a generation, as Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you. . ." challenge. For another, his youth and good looks captivated most of the nation. While Kennedy and the outgoing president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, were veterans of the same war, Eisenhower the former general was representative of the generation that had directed that war, while Kennedy, the former lieutenant and PT boat commander, represented the very young generation that had done much of the fighting and dying on the battlefield.

But the biggest reason for the bittersweet tinge to this anniversary is the brevity of Kennedy's presidency, ending in his assassination less than three years after he took office. I am among those who were just old enough in 1963 to remember where they were when hearing the news that the President had been shot. Little did any of us know that this was just the first assassination in what would be a decade of assassinations, violence, upheaval, and cultural change that would leave us a different people by its end.

John Kennedy and his wife and children were young, and beautiful, and graceful, and talented. I remember being taken with the fact that Caroline was almost the same age as me, and had a younger brother just like I did. A lot of the political arguments were over my head, and I was only vaguely aware of even some of the major events, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was caught up, as many were, in the legend of Camelot, and of the role John Kennedy played in an all-too-brief "golden age" where the best and the brightest came to Washington in response to asking what they could do for their country.

The full story is more complicated, of course, as most stories usually are. John Kennedy was a deeply complicated man, and not all that he seemed to be. There were the major health issues, which were many and much more serious than anyone in the public was allowed to know. There were the sexual matters, the "girlfriends" and liaisons that also involved potential national security conflicts of interest. There were the national issues that were seething and just about to break out in full force: the civil rights struggle, the deep poverty and hunger that existed in too many places in this nation, and a generational alienation that would come to a head over the matter of the draft and fighting a war in a far-off small nation in southeast Asia. There were also the international matters: not just Vietnam, but the building of the Berlin Wall, a hardening of the division of the world into supporters of Us and supporters of Them, and an American innocence regarding what policies we were really pursuing in much of the globe, and to what end.

We were all younger then. By the end of the sixties decade we would have seen other national leaders gunned down, our cities erupt in riots and go up in flames, and along with great strides for voting rights and equality an increasing fear that we were a nation hopelessly divided and prone to more and more violence. It is hard to imagine ever again being so hopeful, ever again so confident that we could make our hopes and dreams become a reality, no matter what the odds. On this fiftieth anniversary of that "forever young" President's swearing in, I wonder what kind of a torch is being passed to the generation of my children. I worry that what we are giving to them is a very different, and much darker, challenge than what was given to us.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Sign in Times of Terror

(I wrote this sermon for the First Sunday of Advent several years ago. I speak specifically about children who witness and suffer from abuse, but this also applies to anyone who is being abused by those using their power to keep others in line through fear and intimidation. Sadly, that also includes leaders in the church who believe the authority of their office is a mandate for using strong-arm tactics to bring others "in line." That is wrong, no matter what side of any theological division one is on.)

"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21: 25-28)

Maybe it’s the sound of a door slamming, the car door perhaps, or the door coming into the house. Maybe it’s the sound of footsteps, the unmistakable sound of anger conveyed in every step. Maybe it’s the slurring of the words, or the voices becoming shrill, or the thud of a fist hitting a table. Children know how to read the signs of danger, of violence that is quickly escalating out of control. They know that when the grownups fight, you don’t want to be caught out in the open. It is better to hide--in the back of the closet, under the bed--to close your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears. When things quiet down, then maybe it’ll be safe to come out in the open again.

Now this may not sound like the earthshattering signs that Jesus spoke of: the signs in the sun, moon and stars, distress among nations and the roaring of the sea. But what could be more earthshattering for a child than to hear the sounds of breaking glass, of blows being delivered again and again, of the shouts of anger mingled with the cries for help? What terror is as great as the terror of a child curled up on the floor, shaking under a blanket in the dark back corner of a closet? What betrayal is as deep as that of a child who has learned that a father or mother can be suddenly, unpredictably, filled with a rage that lashes out at everyone within striking distance? Children who live in a violent family know too much about the crucial need to “be alert at all times, praying for the strength to escape the things that will take place.” The children would tell Jesus that it isn’t safe to stand up and raise your heads when these things begin to happen; the only safe thing to do is to crawl under the bed, and stay there, and hope the angry grownups get tired and quit fighting before they find you.

Advent reminds us that all is not yet as it should be. For too many this world is a place of despair and terror. Too many find themselves caught in a descending cycle of anger and revenge. Scenes of manufactured violence fill our TV and movie screens, our gameboys and nintendos and computers. Bombings and shootings drive the ratings for news programs. At the same time as we decry the images that flood our culture, we slow down and crane our necks to see the fender bender at the side of the road. Our society prescribes anger management classes and interventions; adults who grew up in a violent household find to their own horror and despair that they are repeating the brutality that was once inflicted on them onto their own children. People who move to large cities learn never to make eye contact with strangers on the street, lest that incite someone to a violent confrontation. Thousands of public schools have metal detectors at their entrances, and armed guards patrolling the hallways. And parents everywhere worry how to protect sons and daughters from the random predator who targets the young.

The promises of Advent can’t be true just be for us grownups. They have to be true for the smallest and most defenseless among us. They have to be true for the children who are most at risk, in our world, yes, but even in our own community, within the families of people who are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends. There are children within this building this morning who hide under the bed from the rage of parents or other family members; there are adults sitting here who once were children filled with fear. When the anger and the rage are unleashed; when the nightmare becomes real; who or what could have the power to take us from darkness and despair to light and hope? Where is that righteous branch that God promised of old, who will execute justice and righteousness so that God’s little ones will live in safety?

Jesus calls us to stand up and raise our heads, and look for our redemption that is drawing near. But sometimes people can’t do that. Children certainly can’t, not when they are the targets of adult violence. Adults who have been battered, physically and spiritually, can’t do that either; their spirit has literally been beaten into the dust. Some of us may find that we are being called to stand up for others: to be the watchman, the whistle-blower, the strong defender, the place of refuge. Teachers, law enforcement officers, social workers, health care providers, foster parents--you may be that righteous branch that God sends into the lives of those who are at risk.

But Advent calls us to a hope even greater than that. It is filled with the hope and the promise that God remembers, God sees, God cares. God has claimed every square inch of this world for his kingdom, and the Son of Man will bring justice and righteousness to all who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, not the least of whom are the children who hide from the terrors of the night. Ultimately, the one who stands up in the face of the signs of earth and heaven being shaken is none other than Jesus Christ himself. He is indeed our hope, our righteousness, our peace and our safety. He will set his children free.

Friday, October 15, 2010

No More Suicides

I am not a stranger to the tragedy of suicide. As a pastor I have dealt with a number of deaths by suicide, ministering to the family and friends left to deal with all of the grief and unanswerable questions when a loved one ends his or her life. I have also dealt with suicide on a much more personal basis. Both of my parents ended their own lives, as major depression robbed them of the ability to see beyond the pain and left them with the belief that death was a better choice than life. I and others in my family have walked the walk of suicide survivors, asking the questions that have no answers, living with thoughts and emotions that accuse one's self in the middle of the night.

Suicide is always tragic. This is only magnified when the one taking such a step is a young person. The suicide of a child is devastating to parents and siblings. And beyond that, it is unbearable that those who are at the very beginning of life, with so much ahead of them, can be so devastated by the darkness of depression and hopelessness that they turn to self-destruction. Suicide in those cases physically kills the one who commits it, but spiritually and psychically kills those around him or her. The suicide of a young person leaves devastation in the whole community, and the wounds often never really heal.

In recent weeks there has been an outbreak of suicide of young people, picked up in the news media. And two things appear to link all of these together: those committing suicide were gay, or were involved with some level of homosexual relationship; and they were the object of bullying in one form or another. The bullying and shame they experienced were primary causes in why they turned to ending their lives. Their deaths have left their families and communities reeling. Others are speaking out, trying to reach out to other young people, in particular, and to anyone dealing with issues of their sexuality and orientation, that suicide is not the answer and their lives will get better, in spite of what they may be experiencing in the present.

All of us need to speak up, and out, in this time. Those who are recognizable leaders in the GLBT community are doing this, and their perspective and experience are a crucial witness to those so much younger. But those of us in the religious community, and in particular those who are in the traditionalist-orthodox Christian community, also need to raise our voices. The Body of Christ is not about breaking those who are slender reeds, or extinguishing dimly burning wicks, but about bringing the promise of life and grace to those who are weak and heavy laden with burdens too overwhelming to bear.

We also need to condemn the evil, wicked spirit that incites others to bully those who are vulnerable in the matter of their sexuality. That is a spirit that feeds on the darkness that lurks in all of us, that finds pleasure in making life a misery, that goads us to seek out victims who can be driven into despair and destruction. There is no place for that kind of shameful, bullying destruction of human spirits and human lives among the people of God, among those marked with the cross of Christ. We must all rise up and reject and condemn that kind of action. And we need to do it now, before another life is lost, before another child is driven to believe that the only solution to their pain is to die.

Wherever we stand on the issues regarding sexual behavior and same-gender relationships in our culture and in the church, this is a crisis that we all can respond to with the same measure of conviction. Whatever it takes, whatever we have to do, however we need to move out from our comfort zones in matters of sexuality, we must find ways to stop the bullying, and to show the love of God for all his children in how we treat young people who identify themselves as gay or lesbian.

Pray for those who are looking to choose death. Pray for those who are struggling with their sexual orientation, or with how to tell those closest to them that they are gay. And pray for guidance on how to better be "little Christs" to young people in those times. We need to talk about this. Silence is not a helpful tool in these times.
No more suicides. How can we work together to provide a future with hope?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Confession for Remaining Traditionalists in the ELCA

I have been very critical of the services conducted in San Francisco and in St. Paul for the reception of those previously ordained by the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. The center of my criticism has been on changes made in the liturgies (outside of the Rite of Reception itself) that remove all language such as "Lord" and "King", changes the wording of the Eucharistic dialog (the sursum corda) and Eucharistic prayer, offers "alternative" wordings for the Lord's Prayer in order to address the prayer to "our Mother", and the questionable use of some hymns. One of the liturgical elements that has upset me the most has been the wording of the confession that has come at the beginning of these services.

I have (and do) accuse these confessions as being written to confess the sins of others, rather than the sins of those gathered in those worship settings. In particular, I have written elsewhere that these confessions are more in the way of accusations against those such as myself, those who reject the 2009 CWA decisions and who continue to uphold the traditional Christian interpretation that same-gender sexual acts are sinful even when they are restricted to monogamous relationships. I am particularly concerned with the words of the confession used at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco, the site of the first such service that was held by the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA.

But I am also able to give self-critique. I am indeed guilty of sin, and have need for confession. Through the long course of these matters being debated and disputed in the ELCA, I have at times spoken and written immoderately; and I have also learned much from others, including those whose views I oppose.

It is in that spirit that I offer this, a rite of confession for those of us remaining traditionalists, those of us still in the ELCA who continue to oppose last year's churchwide assembly decisions and the implementation of them that is occuring now. This is a sincere effort on my part to begin a process of being honest about my own sins, failures, and transgressions committed, especially against those who have been and still are a persecuted group in our society: those whose sexual orientation is other than clearly heterosexual. I owe a debt to the writers of the confession used at St. Mark's, as I have taken their framework and words and re-worked them. So here I offer my contribution to the ongoing debate in this churchbody:

A Confession for Remaining Traditionalists.

Pause for reflection and confession.

In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friends in Christ, as we gather, we seek to speak the truth of the difficulties we have witnessed in our church.
Our church of the reformation has been too long captive to bias and misinformation.
We have not remembered the life giving words of our own Confessions.

We have not respected the gift of sexuality, nor the joy, delight and vulnerability sexual intimacy creates between husband and wife.

We have not honored faithful and loving promises, marriages, and the gift and responsibility of children.

We have not reached out to those struggling with their sexual orientation with the life-giving assurance that nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

We have not acted quickly enough for some who have died and have not made it to this day.

We have not accorded all families with the dignity and respect they deserve.
We have not spoken up.

We have betrayed fellow members of the body of Christ because of cultural prejudice.
We have misused Scripture as a tool that we could manipulate and emend at will.
We have forced celibacy upon some, without supporting all in their vocation to faithful chastity whether single or married.
We have too often condemned the sinfulness of homosexual acts while remaining silent on the sinfulness of heterosexual acts: intercourse outside of the marriage bond; conception of children outside of marriage and the abandonment of such children by one or both parents, especially by abortion; and multiple divorces and remarriages.
We have ignored violent words and acts committed against our brothers and sisters who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

We have encouraged silence and complicity.

We have promoted invisibility and dishonesty.

We have hardened our hearts with bitterness and despair.

Our actions have destroyed faith and have led people away from the gospel's call to repentence as the kingdom of God draws near.

(A bell is rung. A shofar is blown. Silence is kept.)

(Absolution is proclaimed in the words of the prophet Isaiah. Water is poured into the font.)

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, he who formed you: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.

Do not fear, for I am with you; I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters,... Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise. I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Through Christ, God has indeed done a new thing and is continually doing a new thing through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Shower us with your Holy Spirit. Renew our lives, and our life as your people, with your forgiveness, grace and love.


(This was the rite of confession and absolution used at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, in the service of Reception to the ELCA Roster, found here: I post it here in order to give credit to the source of my own work.)