Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas from the Lutheran Confessions

From the blog of William Weedon, via CyberBrethren, a Lutheran Blog.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary – Apostles’ Creed

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. — Nicene Creed

But it is also necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten of the substance of His Father before all ages; and He is man, born of the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ: one, however, not by the conversion of divinity into flesh but by the assumption of the humanity into God; one another, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. — Athanasian Creed

Our Churches teach that the Word, that is the Son of God, assumed the human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So there are two natures – the divine and the human – inseparably joined in one person. There is one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary… – Augsburg Confession

The human nature is assumed by the Word into the unity of His person. — Apology to the Augsburg Confession

The Son became man in this manner: He was conceived, without the cooperation of man, by the Holy Spirit, and was born of the pure, holy, [and ever] Virgin Mary. — Smalcald Articles

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord… – Small Catechism

We see how completely He has poured forth Himself and withheld nothing from us. – Large Catechism

So we believe, teach, and confess that Mary conceived and bore not merely a man and no more, but God’s true Son. Therefore she is rightly called and truly is “the mother of God.” – Formula of Concord

On account of the personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the most blessed Virgin, did not bear a mere man. But, as the angel Gabriel testifies, she bore a man who is truly the Son of the most high God. He showed His divine majesty even in His mother’s womb, because He was born of a virgin without violating her virginity. Therefore, she is truly the mother of God and yet has remained a virgin. – Formula of Concord

Consider this majesty, to which Christ has been exalted according to His humanity. He did not first receive it when He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He received it when He was conceived in His mother’s womb and became man, and the divine and human natures were personally united with each other. – Formula of Concord

He employed this mode of presence when He left the closed grave and came through the closed doors, in the bread and wine in the Supper, and as people believe, when He was born in His mother. – Formula of Concord

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Birth of Jesus Foretold, Luke

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed [2] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” [3] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” [4]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born [5] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant [6] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. ESV on line

Isn't that just the lovliest passage? This Advent season our whole church is listening to Handel's Messiah. We have personal devotional booklets, Wednesday and Thursday services at which the music is played, and small groups like my Monday book group, are pausing their usual order to focus on this wonderful story.

Yesterday a group from the Visual Arts Ministry drove to Akron, Ohio to visit the new museum just opened about 2 years ago, and to see "Familiar Faces:
Chuck Close in Ohio Collections." I've seen a lot of art shows in the last 50 years, but nothing quite like this. His style is photorealism based on a grid system and he uses all media--etchings, linoleium block, paper pulp, photography, finger prints in ink, lithograph, silkscreen, etc. Close works with faces, which is odd, because he has a disability that prevents him from recognizing faces, prosopagnosia, and since 1988 he has been confined to a wheelchair with very limited mobility, using a braced arm to hold his brush.

Close's disabilities require him to break down the whole into manageable parts. Handel's vision is somewhat like that. And any separate part of the Messiah is lovely. Together they are magnificient. On the way to Akron, we listed to the entire first part of Handel's Messiah. It was a glorious sunny day--a wonderful trip. On the way back to Columbus, we listened to a disc of different Handel selections.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are you ashamed of your roots?

This may be the all time favorite e-Christmas card going around. It's from 2004, but never gets old. One of the lists from my high school (Bill L.) sent it this year. It comes from Ashland University here in Ohio, and I think may be one of the best PR tools a school could have. Great links, easy to read web-page.

But checking those links, it's really difficult to find that Ashland was the only college supported by the Brethren Church after the big break in the 1880s which split the German Baptist Brethren. When I have mentioned to fellow Ohioans that Church of the Brethren and Brethren Church are "sister" denominations (just try to get a librarian to straighten out the subject headings) and that Grace Brethren is the child and niece, they don't believe me. Well, it's true. That tiny group of anabaptists has had numerous splits, often dividing over minor issues, just like other denominations. But the big one was in the 1880s, a division three ways. To this day, they do little together, not even "good works." They did celebrate their 300th anniversary together in 2008 (founded in 1708 in Germany).

Back in the 90s when I was doing some research on Brethren roots for a publication project, I travelled to Ashland, because the library has great resources for all members of the German Baptist groups. Sometimes in genealogy searches you find some folks you'd rather not claim, but I know of nothing that Ashland needs to hide about its Brethren founding and roots. Yes, it was a family fight, but lots of churches did that. You'd have to know about Ashlands religious founding before coming to their excellent website, because I went through various links and clicked in pretty far, and found nothing obvious. There seem to be some active Christian groups on campus, but I didn't find anything related to the Brethren Church (Ashland).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do we think we're better than Jesus?

From Pastor Brad, Albertville, Alabama:

"Most of us like to get along with others. We want everyone to be our friend. We exert a great deal of energy being politically correct, choosing our words carefully so as not to offend, and generally avoiding conflict as if it were the mother of all sins. We are artists as pacifying and befriending others, often in harmful ways.

As Christians, we know that it is our duty to proclaim the gospel. We also know that, if we speak the gospel, it is going to bring conflict. If we present the gospel to an unbeliever, some nasty things are bound to come up in that conversation:

1. We actually believe that if the other person does not repent and believe in Jesus that they will die and go to hell.

2. We actually believe that they deserve hell.

3. We do not think that they are good people. We believe them to be wicked.

That's just to name a few of the potential deal-breakers if we are honest about what we believe. Jesus said things like this all the time. The Bible clearly teaches that man is sinful and that apart from the risen Savior, there is no hope at all. The Bible is clear about the reality of hell and it is equally clear that those who reject Jesus Christ deserve to go there. We know that. We believe that."

There's more. . .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What ever happend to. . .

Jesus went to all the effort to bring the Good News, even to his own death, and never gets a word in the annual report.

Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio has revised his mission statement (I AM the way, the truth, and the life) to "Creating a better world by serving people in need" moving from what He did to what We do. Hunger. Housing. Healing. Hope. But no Jesus.

Can be seen at Well, never mind--I couldn't find the Annual Report on the web site. I'm working from a paper copy--maybe it will be there later. It is 90% a list of donors--seems like a big expense in a time of shortage.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Churches help the government redistribute the wealth

When I mention my concern about "faith based initiatives" (i.e. churches) taking money from the government to 1) run the church's programs, or 2) run the government's program, I get little or no support--except from non-Christians who also seem to see it as inappropriate, although for different reasons. I just can't imagine (what would Jesus do) our Lord and Savior suggesting that his disciples petition the Roman government for money to feed the poor, offer a cup of water, and bind up the wounds.

Folks, we're going to be in big trouble when the President moves off health care and starts fulfilling his campaign promises to shut us down if we don't have nondiscriminatory hiring (other faiths, GLBT) or offer a sermon on marriage and it's declared "hate speech." This can be done by any number of "czars" or congressional threats by pulling the tax exempt status (one senator has already suggested that because of the Catholic Bishops' opposition to abortion in the recently passed House health care bill), stopping expansion of building programs through zoning, denying church supported nursing homes Medicare and Medicaid, disallowing church schools certain government services, removing a license for adoption or fostering programs if they have requirements that married couples be male and female, etc., etc., or (and it's coming) recognizing the moral and legal rights of animals as equal to humans.

But let's take a look at one "peace and justice" quasi-Christian group, which includes our own ELCA:
    "Jesus said that the poor would always be with us—but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to bring them broadband. A coalition of Christian churches and the Islamic Society of North America has launched a new campaign to bring broadband to everyone in the US so that "our poorest communities, our rural areas, our public libraries, our public schools, and community centers" benefit from the communications revolution that the Internet hath wrought.

    The "Bring Betty Broadband" campaign casts the broadband debate in moral terms. It's about the "right to disseminate and receive information," it's a "right that helps to define ourselves as human beings and political actors," and it's absolutely essential for everyone in a modern society.

    In addition, in the modern economy, just distribution of access to communication and information is essential to promote economic justice," says the group. "Increasingly in the United States, the fundamental right to communicate is meaningless without high speed Internet access."

    The joint effort is part of a media reform project called "So We Might See," and it's spearheaded by the United Church of Christ (which organizes a lot of these "justice" groups). It has also been endorsed by the National Council of Churches, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, the United Methodists, the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), the Lutherans (ELCA), and the Islamic Society of North America."
I wonder how much of the truth of the gospel is going to be sent via high speed Internet if Main line Christians are cooperating with Muslims on the project? If the government provides the internet access, it can also decide on the content, just as it does for radio and TV. Castro has shut down bloggers; so has Chavez; so has China.

Now through these various clutches of faith groups which spend more time writing grants and having meetings than telling people about the way to salvation, we've got racial justice, environmental justice, media justice, peace and justice, battered women's justice, social justice, justice for women, etc. etc. Justice, the biblical word, is nearly synonymous with "righteousness." God is eternally righteous and the source of all righteousness which can only be understood in his revelation. God's righteousness was revealed in the 10 commandments and the life and death of his Son Jesus. We are declared righteous for Jesus' sake--it's not our own and never will be. Nor will we ever achieve Biblical justice for others by redistribution of goods and services through taxation. And it's definitely not "good works" that follows from faith.

Think about it. Isn't it mind boggling, that many of the Christians in this group who believe that broadband is a "right," don't even believe in the right to life of an unborn child, or the right to medical care for the inconveniently sick and elderly.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Can we trust the Bible?

I think I've spotted what might be ELCA's problem. Have you looked through (Akaloo) Questions for life: Matthew's View? It's Augsburg Fortress published in cooperation with Presbyterian Church USA (2006) and the cover says it's for grades 9-12. Akaloo means "follow." I don't know if UALC is using the series; checking the internet, I see many churches use this series for Sunday school. I found a "loose" copy of Matthew at church, and assume our young people are using it. In glancing through it I thought the "point counter-point" quotables were beyond strange--using Norman Mailer and Dr. Seuss to make a point about safe sex . . .and quotes from American Pie. (The adults who wrote it might "get it" but do 9th graders?) However, this statement on p. 6 of the introduction really stopped me in my tracks and explains a lot about why ELCA has lost its way not only on sex, but other topics, since the Akaloo series includes many age groups:
    "We can't determine for sure what Jesus actually said, may have said, or wanted to say. The gospels are written three, four, even six decades after the events happened. And the four gospels themselves often differ in the details. So we read the story to discover what is says for me, us, and all people of all time.. ."
That's not much to hang a sexuality statement on, let alone a faith.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Peace and Justice Christians--Do they ever get to talk about Jesus?

"The Pittsburgh interfaith impact network, which comprises more than 30 faith-based organizations, promised to hold them [senators, city council reps] accountable on issues such as health care, immigration reform, racial profiling, neighborhood blight and public transportation.

For two hours at Epiphany Catholic Church in Uptown, PIIN members outlined problems and plans for reform, then called upon officials or, in some cases, their surrogates, to answer a series of yes or no questions.

Among the promises, representatives for Sens. Bob Casey Jr. and Arlen Specter said they would support legislation that protects immigrant workers from abuse regardless of whether they were born in the United States.

Allegheny County Council President Rich Fitzgerald said he would continue to support plans to make shopping malls more accessible to public transit riders. A representative for County Executive Dan Onorato said he would make eradicating blight a priority.

And Pittsburgh police Chief Nathan Harper said he will work to implement a policy that would bar officers from targeting people based solely on race. He also agreed to create a "cultural diversity training program" that would be mandatory for each officer and said he wants the force to better represent the diversity of the community it serves."

Read more:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A pile of stones

If you've been a member of UALC since the days of Pastor Luther Strommen, you might remember a pile of stones in front of the sanctuary. Here's a trip down memory lane.

We came to UALC as baby Christians. That's when the Pastor came to the home of visitors with a team of parishioners. My husband used to say, Pastor Strommen has a 3 point sermon: Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord.

Steve Puffenberger explains: Pastor Strommen had received a call to go to another church, something he struggled deeply with. He presented the prospect of his leaving to staff, council and ultimately the congregation, with the challenge that if he stayed there would be a new commitment to following Jesus. The congregation agreed. The moment was commemorated by the building of a pile of stones that sat on the shelf beneath the cross (in the old sanctuary). In the year that followed some of the most remarkable ministries began happening. The Don Abdon seminar resulted in the "so preach teach and live" mission statement. William Vaswig brought the beginnings of healing prayer. There were other programs on evangelism born. The "New Day," as it was called, was pivotal in the spiritual lives of many.

Listen and pray.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not to be offensive, but. . .

We're being encouraged to save on our utilities at our three locations. Years ago I was taught that constantly turning lights on and off didn't really save electricity. However, there's another reason not to turn out the lights at Lytham Road Ladies Rooms. At least during busy times like Sunday Morning, Thursday morning, weddings, funerals, etc. It turns off the ventilation. 'Nuf said?

But if that's not enough. The rooms have no windows, so they are pitch black when you enter. The ladies room in the back of the church is off a windowless hallway where some conscientious Christian has also turned out the lights. That's not very welcoming for visitors. And dangerous.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Get out now--nothing is going to change

I grew up in the Church of the Brethren, as did my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents (in 1888 there were several splits, but you get the idea). The church dates its beginning to 1708 when a group decided after much prayer and Bible study that they needed to re-baptize themselves--thus Anabaptist. It is one of the historic peace churches with strong ties to the Mennonites (and a lot of intermarriage). Each year it has an Annual Conference to discuss the business of being a church--a very tiny church, I might add. I attended one in 1949 with my grandparents in Ocean Grove, and one in Dayton in 1974. Some people go every year to see old friends. I think there are about 50,000 members--so it's not hard to run into someone you know. At the Newsletter of the Brethren Rival Fellowship (now 50 years old) a group that has attempted to return the group to its Biblical Anabaptist Pietist roots, I noticed this report on the 2009 Annual Conference.
    1. The 223rd recorded Annual Conference was held in San Diego, California, on June 26-30, 2009, with attendance at an unusual low of just slightly under 2,100 in attendance.

    2. The theme was, “The Old Has Gone, The New Has Come, All This Is From God.” It was based on 2 Corinthians 5, on becoming new creatures in Christ.

    3. While the theme emphasized the new things in Christ, the Conference spent most of its time dealing with what is becoming an increasingly old issue at Annual Conference–namely homosexuality.

    4. Last year’s Standing Committee had formed a statement of Confession and Commitment in response to the repeated requests that came to the Program and Arrangements Committee from BMC (Brethren Mennonite Council­a pro gay organization) to have a display area among the exhibits. This request has consistently been denied.

    5. The Standing Committee Statement essentially affirmed the 1983 decision on human sexuality and acknowledged the tension that exists in the denomination over this issue. The statement cautioned against the meanness that has been expressed at some levels and said this kind of activity must stop.

    6. This year a new item of business was received from the Northern Indiana District that raised the question, “Whether it is the will of the church that this language on same-sex covenantal relationships [in the 1983 Annual Conference decision] will continue to guide our journey together?” . . .
I think we know what the result of this struggle with the advocates from the LGBT group will be. I’m not sure why every denomination tries to reinvent the wheel on this. A tiny percentage of the group advocates for acceptence of their unbiblical life style; a larger group doesn't want to be mean or judgemental (because that would be unbiblical) and supports them; the majority waffle and wait (which is also unbiblical since there is an outline on how to handle this) and finally leave a weakened, gutted denomination. The solution might be to get out now so you can move ahead with the Lord’s work. Their sexuality statement goes back to 1983, and when I went back and looked at some of the archives, even 26 years ago teen-agers at the youth conferences were being told same sex attraction was OK and they should be working for “justice” for the gay community.

The ELCA task force statement to recognize and bless homosexual unions goes back to 1989, but only because ELCA was birthed in 1988 through a merger of two of the largest synods, the Lutheran Church in America, and the American Lutheran Church. The individual statements on sexuality from those groups probably predate 1989.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mix and match any number

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has been sparing over its sexuality statement for 20 years (1989 the task force was formed), and in August 2009 the liberals won--by a tiny margin. The English in the document is so obscure you'd never get out of Writing 101 if you tried this at the college level. Now hundreds of Lutheran churches are leaving as soon as they can secure their buildings and pensions and work out the business relationships with new umbrella organizations through which they can continues missions, teaching and publication. As I have often pointed out to my clueless (and holier than thou) friends, it wasn't going to end with gay marriage, or ordaining gay pastors in "loving committed relationships." Polygamists and man-boy love advocates were waiting in line for us to lower the bar.

So I hate to say "I told you so," but I will. Obama's nominee Chai R. Feldblum, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Council, is a lesbian who believes any number, any mix and match, makes a family and a household. Read her story at

Obama has flip flopped on so many issues, his backing off of marriage between a man and woman is no surprise.
    Feldblum's advocacy of the homosexual lifestyle is quite startling, given the fact that she teaches at a Catholic law school. As a matter of fact, she is seen in this video arguing not only that the government has a duty to promote homosexuality but also proclaiming, "Gay sex is morally good."

    Since President Obama nominated Feldblum on September 15, his outreach to the homosexual community has rapidly accelerated. His keynote speech to the Human Rights Campaign on October 11 contained all the positions advocated by his EEOC nominee: "You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman."

    Obama's declaration "to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act" reflects Feldblum's commitment to employ the power of government to encourage the growth of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender social units, thus presenting a direct challenge to traditional marriage."
My only question is what is this woman doing at a Catholic school? A question we soon won't be able to ask because it is hate speech to believe what God said in Genesis 1-2. Hate speech legislation isn't about protecting minorities from violence--that happens most in their own communities--it's about shutting up and outlawing anything you don't want to hear, including the truth.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The flu scare

Our church has installed a hand sanitizer outside the sanctuary and fellowship hall (where the X-Alt service meets). Also, bottles of hand sanitizer were available as we went up for communion, and each server used it.

But the soap in the Ladies Room is pink and the counter top is white--and horribly stained from the pink soap. Part of encouraging people to wash their hands is to have a well kept environment and attractive wash room. About a year ago I suggested that we purchase white soap, but nothing happened. I'll have to find out what channels or committees were used to get those hand sanitizers installed.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Blake Haxton begins at OSU

Blake Haxton's story is amazing. In the spring his legs were amputated to save him from necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria); he was not expected to live. Although the Haxtons were not members of UALC, many days our whole community was praying for him and his family because teens in our community knew him through sports. His father has a journal at The Caring Bridge, and on Sept. 23 reported that Blake had entered OSU as a Freshman. The faith of the family has been an inspiration to all.

Interview with Blake's Dad.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lutherans Leaving ELCA

Alternative church fellowship for Lutherans to be formed as 1,200 gather in Indianapolis, Sept. 25-26 for Lutheran CORE convocation. The turn out and interest has been so great, the registration is closed and they've moved it to a larger church.

My first impression at this web site is that I hope they can soon hire a professional web designer. But the information is good.

My church, UALC in Columbus (3 locations),
    "Our future is not in the ELCA. Moving toward wherever our future will be is a fairly lengthy but a critically important process, and one that will be given all the time it needs. . . No funds whatsoever have been given to the ELCA since July. . . We will spend our effort and our energy where they matter most, on people, for Jesus' sake." Senior Pastor Paul Ulring, report to the Congregation, Cornerstone, Sept. 20-26, 2009
There are a number of other options in addition to CORE for ELCA congregations planning to distance themselves from their misguided synod which has been wandering in the wilderness for about 10 years.
  • Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (this probably isn't an option for UALC since 7 of the 9 services are informal/contemporary or too loud for me to attend (drums, electric guitars, etc.)
  • The Lighthouse Covenant (Ulring is one of the founding members)
  • LCMC Word Alone (UALC is a member)
  • ARC Alliance of Renewal Churches
  • AFLC and AALC Association of Free Lutheran Congregations and **American Association of Lutheran Churches

**Twelve ALC congregations chose not to enter into the ELCA merger and prior to the merger, on November 7, 1987, formed their own Lutheran church body, The American Association of Lutheran Churches (The AALC). The pastors and congregations held firmly that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and they saw the ELCA moving further away from that foundation. From 1987 to 2009, The AALC has grown from 12 congregations to 78 congregations and formed their own seminary, American Lutheran Theological Seminary (ALTS), which is now located on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. (from the AALC web site)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Be changed by God’s Word. Don’t let the Word be changed

“To all believers, not just Lutherans, and to all not-yet believers in Jesus Christ: Have ears to hear!

It is very important for you to hear today that Jesus died for you to save you from your sin through repentance, forgiveness and new life, which are true freedom in Him.

That is the message and the calling for the church. That is not up for a vote. . . God’s Word is not up for a vote and, remember, He always gets the last word because He alone is eternal.”

Word alone newsletter, in response to the vote to accept homosexual behavior

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wenger on European Christians

Earlier this month I blogged about my new book (110 years old) Six months in Bible Lands by A. D. Wenger. Wengers are in my family tree, but I think he's a different branch. I've finished it now, and thoroughly enjoyed reliving the many places we visited this spring on our "Steps of Paul" tour. However, his trip is 14 months, so he sees many places and visits many different Christian churches, missionaries, and particularly Mennonites, when he can find them. Modern Jews and Arabs of Israel probably think Christian pilgrims make too much of "holy" sites (although we bring many tourist dollars), and miss the modern day political and social problems. However, an Iowan doesn't go to D.C. to see samples of corn, so I think it's quite logical to look for Biblical clues about archaeological sites in Israel, Turkey, Egypt and Italy. Wenger's book isn't exactly a travelogue, but more a 550 page evangelism tract. Nothing misses his magnifying glass of a premillenialist, American Mennonite evangelist who was on the cusp of many changes in his church and American society.

He provides some details both about Mennonites and Lutherans, or "evangelicals." After noting the various Mennonites he visited in Germany and Switzerland, he writes:
    "But how did we get to Germany and the adjoining countries from which we came to America? . . . According to history, many centuries before Christ the descendants of Japheth, the third son of Noah, reached central Europe. For many generations they had been pushing westward from their primitive home, thousands of miles away in Asia, to these favored lands (Germany) and had forgotten the God of their old father Noah and turned to be a horde of degraded savages clothed in the skins of animals. They worshipped wooden and metal images, hand-made gods, and offered up human sacrifices. We are not the descendants of the Jews, but of these Gentile barbarians. The early missionaries bore the Gospel of salvation westward and northward from the Holy Land until it reached our forefathers several centuries ago. . . Ever since as early as 150 AD when the Roman Church already began to grow corrupt, there have existed bodies of Christians independent of that church. . . in one continued line such as Marconite Christians, Paulician Christians, Catheroi Christians, Waldensian Christians and Mennonite Christians. . . The faith of the ancient Waldenses was not changed, but because of the prominence of the able minister, Menno Simon [former Catholic priest baptized by and united to Waldenses] others gave them the name Mennonists and later Mennonites. . .

    [Gives history of William Penn inviting Mennonites from Germany, Holland and Switzerland to settle in Pennsylvania, the first arriving in 1683] In our minds let us step back 200 years and take the position of our brethren ancestors in Europe. Three things stare us in the face, severe persecution, recantation of faith or flight to America. We choose the later. We are hundreds of miles from the sea. There are no railway trains to carry us to the vessel, none even in the world. By means of vehicles, horseback or on foot, we pass through many dangers and reach the shore. No great steamship awaits to carry us in safety in a week to Philadelphia or New York. We must take only the ru'e sail crafts of the time and be tossed for months on the merciless waves. At last we set our feet upon a strange land [notes problems with Indians]. . . Many clung to their faith and laid down their lives for Jesus that He might take them up to better realms. Others were too weak to stand the test of their faith. The longing eyes of some never reached our fruitful land. They rest in their deep graves until the sea shall give up its dead. Now, from five to eight generations on both shores await the Resurrection. Others continued to follow the little band that settled at Germantown. They are still coming to our most favored land, especially from Russia. . . The pressure by the European governments to bear arms and to violate other principles of the gospel of Christ has been greater than in our country, hence some of the most faithful and conscientious ones continue to come to enjoy our religious freedom.
He goes on to note how small the European congregations are now, with the two groups separated by a vast ocean are almost completely independent of each other. He is quite distressed at the higher criticism that has taken over many of the European Mennonites, and how the Germans see nothing wrong with vineyards that will turn to alcohol, and their pridefulness in their beautiful farms and livestock.

In almost every country he visits he notes the condition and fashion of women, always mentioning how much better American women live, because in so many societies women were little more than pack animals, and still wearing the family's wealth on their heads or clothing. He compares the deformed, tiny feet of the wealthy Chinese women to the stays in the corsets of high fashion western women deforming internal organs.
    The laboring classes [of Germany] are hard workers, especially the women. You can see them doing all kinds of slavish work, even hauling on the road with ox teams. Nothing appears too hard for the weaker sex. . . On the road I saw an old lady tottering beneath a heavy basket while beside her walked a large, strong man with his hands in his pockets. . . Women are not held in high esteem and as man's equal, especially in rural districts. While her position seems a little degraded and lower than in our country, it is not nearly as low as in Asiatic countries. Men take respectable places and women are pushed aside. . . The Germans are noted for their kindness and hospitality. . . When you retire for the night and again when you meet in the morning you must shake hands with every member of the family. Really I think there is not a friendlier people to be found or a people more ready to do you a favor than the Germans are. . .
He tells the story of Katrina, a child care worker and teacher of young children in Gelsheim. Here he puts in a plug for religious education outside the home, something not popular in many American Christian groups.
    "Her mission is to live for the good of others and for the Lord whom she loves. She appears to be a pious and heavenly-minded soul, fond of prayer and the Scriptures. . . She is a Lutheran, or rather Evangelical [notes she attends a pietist group movement]. . . She calls it "Kleine Kinder Schule." Though a school teacher, yet in one sense she is a farmer, for she allows many others to go to the field by keeping the children. While the parents and the larger children are engaged in household duties and in working in the fields she is taking care of the little ones of the village [50]. . . She entertains them with may beautiful pictures, especially Bible pictures; and with dolls, all kinds of toys, hobby horses, swings, trowels to play in the sand, lines to play driving the horse and apparatus to play post man and many other games. Katrina well knows that children are almost always busy at something. . . who knows how much these plastic minds are shaped and moulded for time and eternity by her teaching and influence. . . I am told 200 such sisters work in the province of Wurtemburg alone. Their work is highly necessary, especially in summer, when the women all work in the fields, and besides the children generally get better training under the care of a Sister than they would get at home. . .
Except for the part about each child having a spiritual spark that needed to be ignited, he could be a disciple of Friedrich Froebel, the German who started the kindergarten idea which was imported to the United States.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's time

For years our huge, evangelical congregation in suburban Columbus with 3 locations and 9 services on Sunday and many ministries has been told we would leave if this happened. Let’s see if promises are kept. In April 2008 I wrote about the "Social Statement on Human Sexuality" at Digging for the Pony.
    This ELCA draft does violence to our English language--verbal abuse, noun abuse, adverb abuse and adjective abuse, to say nothing of abusing our Christian faith. It is Scripture twisting and gymnastics! This draft criticizes "Lutheran historical teachings concerning homosexuality" with no footnotes (Book of Concord? Luther? Lutheran Brethren? Missouri-Synod Lutheran? Wisconsin Synod? the old ALC?). It does not analyze or reference any teaching, research or biblical criticism by known Christian homosexuals, theologians or Lutheran pastors who promote ordination and marriage for gays. It does find space to comment on and condemn children's clothing, playground bullying, consumerism, date rape, dangers of the internet, early sex education, grandparents raising grandchildren and inappropriate touching of female pastors. If you throw in the kitchen sink maybe no one will notice there is no Biblical foundation?
I checked the website today, and found out the temperature in Columbus is 63, but didn't see anything about this issue. Nor did I really expect to. ELCA (our synod) has been spiritually wandering in the wilderness and losing members ever since it was created in 1988 out of a liberal and a moderate synod whose ethnic differences had blurred over the years.
    From Episcopal Life online: The 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on August 21 approved opening the ministry of the church to pastors and other professional workers living in committed same-gender relationships.

    The resolution passed by a vote of 559 to 451 and overturns previous church policy that prohibited participation of gays and lesbians in church ministries unless they were celibate.

    Discussions about human sexuality have dominated the August 17-23 assembly in Minneapolis, the chief legislative authority of the 4.6 million-member denomination. More than half, or about 1,045, of the 2,000 participants are voting members at the gathering, themed "God's work. Our hands."

    The assembly also approved a resolution committing the church to find ways for congregations that choose to do so to "recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships." It did not use the word "marriage." It also approved, by a vote of 771-230, a resolution committing the church to respect the differences of opinions on the matter and honor the "bound consciences" of those who disagree.
In 2008 I concluded with, "I don't know what our congregation (UALC) is waiting for--it took this sexuality task force seven years to write a mish-mash and hodge podge and submit it to the people of God as a serious work. Every paragraph looks like the sentences were drawn from a hat of former reports and pasted to a page. It is an insult to our common sense and a travesty of our faith. It's time to go. It really is. These people will not back down; they'll just wear us out."

Monday, August 03, 2009

Six months in Bible lands

Yesterday I bought a "bag of books" for one dollar at the Women's Club book sale here in Lakeside, Ohio. There wasn't much left when I got there and I just picked some up randomly. When I got home and went through the bag I found some real treasures, including a first edition of Edna St. Vincent Millay's letters. However, I also found a delightful book with a very long title,
    Six Months in Bible Lands and Around the World in Fourteen Months; observations and notes of travel in England, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Constantinople, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, India, Ceylon, China and Japan. With fifty illustrations. Moral, practical and religious subjects are treated in harmony with the Bible. Wenger, A. D. Joseph B. Steiner, Mennonite Publisher, Doylestown, PA. 1902.

    Book Description from an internet used book site: Hard Cover. Book Condition: Good. Dark green cover, some light spots. cover slightly frayed at spine ends and corners. clean and tight. 550 pp. $14.00 (what the dealer wanted, plus shipping)
Wengers are in my family tree, so I first looked up Amos Daniel Wenger, and learned through a genealogy that he is a descendant of Christian Wenger, not Hans and Hannah Wenger, my guys. But they all arrived in the U.S. around the same time, the 1730s. Also in looking through internet genealogies, I learned that his wife of one year had died in 1898 and in January 1899 he began this around-the-world trip, returning in 1900, to recover from his grief. This is not mentioned in the passages I've read. He later married his second wife with whom he had 8 children all of whom either became ministers, missionaries or spouses of same. He edited his notes with research about the areas, and published the book in 1902.

He says in the introduction that no orthodox Mennonite had ever written a travel book of this type and it would fill a place in the church literature. Often I have a problem with the flowery purple prose of 100 years ago, but he is a delightful, easy read, and sounds like he went on our trips of the last few years. Before he even gets out of the U.S. he lets us know on page 3 that foolish claims of materialism and the worldly culture are claiming even Mennonites. He stopped in Brooklyn to visit an Amish-Mennonite family--or a used-to-be in the faith--in their too well funished home with costly furniture and adornments.
    "The widowed mother is from an humble Amish Mennonite family in Pennsylvania. Like too many thoughtless young men and women, she arranged her conjugal relations first and the church relations received an after consideration. Now she finds herself a member of a denomination too proud and avaricious to give her a pew in her nearest church-house."
So he went off with the family some distance to find a church that was within their reach, although the son, a well-off lawyer, has his membership at the nearest place of worship and rents a pew there. Wenger has little use for magnificient buildings and would prefer to see the money go to feed the poor. More about that when he gets to Europe!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hellfire in the modern church?

"Some people say they are tired of hellfire and damnation sermons." Then [paraphrase of the late Keith Green] he said, "Let me ask you a question: When was the last time you heard any?" Comment at Darrell Bock blog.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission

Maybe they could establish a mission in the United States. Map.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Gender issues in the ESV

Our church, UALC, has been using the NIV for many years, but I've noticed a number of people, including at least 2 of our pastors, have moved to the English Standard Version, which is essentially a word for word translation, as opposed to phrase for phrase or a paraphrase. Looking through the website for the ESV, I noticed this on "gender issues."
    Gender Issues

    In the area of gender language, the goal of the ESV is to render literally what is in the original.

    For example, “anyone” replaces “any man” where there is no word corresponding to “man” in the original languages, and “people” rather than “men” is regularly used where the original languages refer to both men and women. But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew.

    Similarly, the English word “brothers” (translating the Greek word adelphoi) is retained as an important familial form of address between fellow-Jews and fellow-Christians in the first century. A recurring note is included to indicate that the term “brothers” (adelphoi) was often used in Greek to refer to both men and women, and to indicate the specific instances in the text where this is the case.

    In addition, the English word “sons” (translating the Greek word huioi) is retained in specific instances because of its meaning as a legal term in the adoption and inheritance laws of first-century Rome. As used by the apostle Paul, this term refers to the status of all Christians, both men and women, who, having been adopted into God’s family, now enjoy all the privileges, obligations, and inheritance rights of God’s children.

    The inclusive use of the generic “he” has also regularly been retained, because this is consistent with similar usage in the original languages and because an essentially literal translation would be impossible without it.

    Similarly, where God and man are compared or contrasted in the original, the ESV retains the generic use of “man” as the clearest way to express the contrast within the framework of essentially literal translation.

    In each case the objective has been transparency to the original text, allowing the reader to understand the original on its own terms rather than on the terms of our present-day culture.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Poor and the Christian Church

As I've noted here numerous times, I'm really uncomfortable with Christian churches taking money from the government to meet their God-given commitments to those less fortunate, while shelving God's command to preach the Gospel because that's not allowed with USDA food distribution grants or the HUD housing rehab or the HHS neighborhood clinic. "Peace and Justice" Christians, whether liberal or conservative, Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox, need to open the Old Testament--to the Book of Job. The story of Job is a non-Israelite story. Scholars don't agree on how old the story is, or where it came from, but a casual reading shows that Job was considered a righteous and moral man by his peers and himself, a man devoted to God. Job in his own words described his close fellowship with God, his wonderful family, his blessings of wealth, and his respected position in the community (this sounds like the "health and wealth" gospel you find on Christian TV). Then disaster takes it ALL away. We see that Job is an adherent of an ancient patriarchial religion, common among many desert people--he avoids adultery, including carnal lust, even the smallest thought that would contaminate his mind; he doesn't lie or deceive and was never unfair; he was fair even to his slaves; he was a man of great charity, helping the widow and fatherless orphans; he didn't worship idols and knew that silver and gold could be idols; he didn't gloat when his enemies failed; he didn't hate the foreigner and practiced hospitality; he hadn't obtained his land by robbery; no one ever charged him with being hypocrite. He "wore righteousness as a garment."

So if this is the sum total of what Jesus came to preach, he was a few centuries late--the people already knew all this. What constituted righteousness was well known, common knowledge, just as today. So Christians need to make sure that their own "righteousness" is more than that, it must include the Gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the USDA summer lunch and snack program forbids distributing printed Bible tracts, or says you can't sing songs about Jesus or that you can't console a pregnant mother with life giving testimony about your own situation, then DON'T TAKE THE MONEY! Don't pay your church staff to go after and manage these grants. It's a deal with the Devil.

President Obama promised us in his 2008 campaign that he was going to strip religion from these programs--and even in the old days of "a thousand points of light," (Bush I slogan) Christians were restricted about what they could do or say in order to receive government grants. But we've already seen how President Obama co-opted the Catholic church in their own building on their own grounds dangling before them the prestige of having the President stand at their podium. He won't be any less harsh to Lutherans running lunch programs in neutral community buildings in Hilliard and on the Hilltop.

Government programs are rarely "temporary" and almost never go away. They just get bigger because so many staff government jobs are dependent on them. They spawn entire marketing and printing projects, distribution channels, factories to process food, conferences and workshops to keep employees informed of changes in the law (with travel to interesting cities like Las Vegas and New Orleans), warehouses and storage equipment, soup kitchens, special healthy snack creation, and all manner of cross fertilization of other projects, especially environmental, the current craze. What started 65 years ago when my grandparents were farming in Illinois and Iowa to use up agricultural surpluses to help the farmers after WWII, has run amok creating a dependency among the poor and the distributers alike. And I use the word "poor" loosely here--to qualify for food assistance, the family of 4 can earn $41,299 and add $6,959 for each additional family member.
    "Ohio Foodbanks began in 1985 to develop the federally funded Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) within the state of Ohio. Working in conjunction with the Department of Education and then the Ohio Department of Agriculture and finally with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services the Ohio Foodbanks struggled through many years of programmatic development, burdensome federal bureaucratic processes, repeated threats of cuts to the TEFAP food sources, and the constant recognition that even in the best of times, the food was generally in insufficient amounts to meet the growing needs of the hungry Ohioans." So now they are a line item in the state budget guaranteeing a permanent income stream. OASHF

    • 87% of pantries, 70% of kitchens, and 36% of shelters are run by faith-based agencies affiliated with churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious organizations.
    • At the agency level, 80% of agencies with at least one pantry, kitchen, or shelter and 69% of all agencies including those only with other types of programs are faith-based. Toledo NW Ohio Food Bank, 2006"
Cross posted at Collecting My Thoughts.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Making room on the shelves

for Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. A two volume commentary published by Fortress will have to go. I blogged about it here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Strong verses for tough times

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29: 11

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. John 10:27-28

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Do not fear what you are about to suffer...Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

I found this list in a Concordia confirmation certificate pack, but just as they are good for the long haul, the are also good for the next day or week, which is about as far as we want to go right now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Support Lutheran CORE

Lutheran CORE is a coalition of individuals, congregations and reform movements in the ELCA. Lutheran CORE seeks to be a voice for the solid, faithful core that is the majority of ELCA members, pastors, and congregations.

You may give online at or send gifts to:

Lutheran CORE
c/o WordAlone Network
2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220
New Brighton, MN 55112-2202

Please make checks payable to the WordAlone Network and indicate that your gift is for Lutheran CORE on the memo line.
    "Over the past three years Lutheran CORE has worked for the reform of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Our chief goal has been to serve as a voice for the Word of God within the ELCA. We have sought to maintain the Christian doctrine of marriage and the normative use of the Biblical names for the persons of the Holy Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Within the ELCA we have sought to uphold both Biblical authority and Lutheran identity. To effect these reforms, we have used the constitutional structures of the ELCA — synod assemblies, churchwide assemblies, and the election processes for synodical and churchwide leaders. . .

    The commitment of the ELCA to its Trinitarian heritage continues to weaken, as evinced by the increasing avoidance of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our church’s liturgical and educational publications. The ongoing debate over marriage and sexuality seems never-ending. We see indications of a weakening Lutheran identity within our church." Additional information at the April 2009 Newsletter.
You may be yawning at this point if you are not a Lutheran, however, the same issues are happening in your denomination whether Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Congregational. In fact, your church has possibly already been sunk by the world, the flesh and the devil working in concert (it takes three) with tiny committees who have usurped your authority and taken the people in the pews hostage.

I've blogged before about the bizarre twisting of language and theology in the ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality. Be sure to read the article on p. 10 of the above newsletter by Paul Hinlicky: "I Think I Want A Divorce from ELCA." There are some marriages that cannot be fixed, and the ELCA has been flagrantly unfaithful to her bridgegroom Jesus Christ, afraid to even mention his name, and is out and about on the streets whoring. She needs to be cut off from her source of funding to end the prostitution.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Noise--the asbestos and allergies of the future

Interesting note in one of my husband's architectural journals, "Schools of the 21st Century," Supplement to Architectural Record, Jan. 2009.
    "But one thing that is universally true [in designing buildings for children] is that the senses of a child are nearly always more acute than those of an adult. Poor air quality, bad lighting, extraneous noise, and rooms that are too hot or cold are enormously distracting, especially if one is struggling to learn." Welcome, p. 11

I don't see any Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) on the list of top 20 songs used as "torture," but I've left services, or even the building, so if I were confined to a stroller, or baby holder, it would be uncomfortable.
    Music as a means of torture became commonplace in 1989, during the effort by US troops to force Panama president, Manuel Norriega to surrender. The brutal practice was also a regular part of interrogation tactics authorized by then commander in Iraq, Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez in a September 14, 2003 memorandum.

    Since then, music torture has become the norm in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in particular, where it is blasted at high volume over PA systems to create fear, disorient detainees, prolong capture shock, induce sleep deprivation – and to drown out screams. Link
Some Christians worry CCM lowers standards (actually lots of public domain, traditional old timey hymns have terrible theology); I worry about it raising decibels. Architects can't do much after the building is occupied. The music speakers at our X-Alt services blast the fragile and developing and elderly ears alike. I think parents who bring babies and young children into those services, carefully watching for peanut allergies, carrying hand sanitizer, and checking for ear infections, will some day realize they created hearing impairment and auditory processing disorders--especially if universal health care is expected to supply hearing aids to 30-40 year olds. The boomers barely notice, they are already hearing impaired from rock concerts and want the music cranked; the gen-x-ers have never known anything else and think we're just old fuddy-duddy fun spoilers. Those of us in our 60s, 70s, and 80s, are more sensitive to it than the younger people. Someone needs to show those pastors and parents (and musicians) an ear chart.

And I guess it will be me!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rip and Read

Now when I hear news stories like this, it means so much more--we were in the Holy Land in March. "Pope Benedict XVI prayed at Christianity's holiest site on Friday as he wrapped up a Holy Land tour in which he pleaded for Palestinians and stirred criticism he lacked remorse over the Holocaust. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, . . "

The problem was the young woman reading the news on the radio pronouced Sepulchre as ska-PAL-ter. Yes, Church of the Holy skaPALter. Reminds me of when he first became Pope and there were people who didn't know how to read Roman Numerals. Poor guy was all over the place--13th, 14th, 17th.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Prayer; does it make any difference?

Reading the first chapter, I am reminded that "doubt" and "questioning" are cherished values among many Christians--liberals, evangelicals and fundamentalists. I like Philip Yancey's writing--he's an editor of Christianity Today. In His Image that he wrote with Brand is one of the most wonderful titles I've ever read. But he is so tortured with doubts and questions from minutiae to mountains from his early upbringing in a fundamentalist church, that I really have to slog through his, "is it this," "is it that," "dare I be dogmatic, and make a final judgement" style. I'm reading his book on prayer because I'm in a group, and . . . well, I like the group.

For example, in Chapter One he grabs me immediately with the first sentence--"I chose the wrong time to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. I went in November of 2002 just as the city was reconstructing itself to prepare . . . " You see, I was there in 2006 and it seemed it was reconstructing itself for the G-8--in fact, our tour had been cancelled for fear of problems and the take over of our hotel, so we were reassigned to another group of six--we called ourselves the G-6. Yancey goes on to tell of a chain of events that led to a prayer of last resort. Even as I'm reading I'm thinking, "How dumb is this American--jogging in a construction zone, in the dark, in a city controlled by the Russian mafia, during the Chechen rebellion, in a country where it's not safe to go to the hospital?" In desperation, after doing a string of really stupid, unsafe things, including taking aspirin and sleeping after a head injury, he struggled to an Internet cafe where he figured out the Cyrillic alphabet before the time runs out so he can send an e-mail to friends. . . "We need help. Please pray."

Do you know what the footnote on that page says? "Everything healed fine. And the request for prayer had one very practical benefit. The wife of my dentist, who was on the prayer team and received the message, immediately reserved an appointment for me so that the day after my return from Russia I had a root canal procedure!"

Here's a famous Christian author, beginning a book with an incredible story of answered prayer, and he makes the whole thing sound like a happy coincidence in the dentist office! I haven't finished the book, so maybe he has a follow-up somewhere else in the book.

That's what bothers me about doubting, questioning, faithless (in prayer, in service, in politics) Christians. It's not that God can't handle the doubts, just read the Psalms or Job, but it sure doesn't do much for those bystanders watching and listening who have no faith at all to read about those who have faith and still question how God is going to get them through the messes they create.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's time for UALC to leave ELCA

They just don't get it--either what the Bible says, or what the people are saying. The excuses just keep coming. If we're "clearning the rolls," then why aren't we bringing in new members? If there is an economic slump, what about all the good years we've had this decade? The homosexuality position is totally unbiblical but it is built on many other unbiblical beliefs that have come out of the seminaries in the last 50 years. Rev. C.J. Conner at The Christian Post.
    "Since 2001, the ELCA reports a loss of 400,078 members. In 2007, on any given Sunday, only 28.9% of ELCA’s 4,709,956 members attend services. This is a steady annual drop in Church attendance, and leads many to theorize that the trends suggest the loss is far higher than the ELCA is able to quantify.

    John Brooks, ELCA communications director says that all of these things have nothing to do with the protracted debate in the ELCA on homosexuality. He points to the economic recession that engulfs all of America right now. He also maintains that the loss of membership recorded for the last 7 years is due to congregations “clearing their rolls of inactive members” and is relatively equivalent to membership losses experienced across the mainline churches.

    Brooks echoes the sentiments represented in a recent Public Religion Research survey of Mainline Pastors, including ELCA pastors. 46% of those surveyed do not believe that the mainline churches are declining because they are becoming theologically liberal. In fact, 47% thinks that the decline has been caused by a loss of courage among the churches to take prophetic stands for justice.

    Mark Hanson, presiding Bishop of the ELCA, has consistently and strongly urged his clergy to take prophetic stands on social justice issues. At the same time, he has asked his members not to let the ELCA’s position on homosexuality to detract from all the good work the denomination does. “The issue of homosexuality in this Church is not all that we are,” he says.

    But to many in his flock it seems the conflict has consumed the church, has depleted valuable resources, tarnished the ELCA name, and has overtaken the Christian priority of bringing people to Christ. For them, the ELCA has indeed become too liberal. Many of the polite and gracious people of the ELCA, primarily of quiet and reserved Scandinavian background, are more apt to vote with their feet and pocketbooks than to engage a fight with denominational polity."

Thursday, May 07, 2009

National Day of Prayer

Hymns and praise choruses--the difference

A Funny Little Story About Hymns and Praise Songs~
By: Author Unknown
Seen at Maiden in the House of God

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the farmer. "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns."

"Praise choruses?" asked the wife. "What are those?"

"Oh, they're okay. They're sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.

The farmer said, "Well it's like this ... If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you,

'Martha, Martha, Martha,Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA,the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows,the white cows, the black and white cows,the COWS, COWS,COWS are in the corn,are in the corn, are in the corn,in the CORN, CORN, CORN, COOOOORRRRRNNNNN,'

then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus."

~As luck would have it, the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian from the city church attended the small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the young man, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs."

"Hymns?" asked the wife. "What are those?"

"They're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.

The young man said, "Well it's like this ... If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you,

'Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God's sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.'

Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, and change keys on the last verse, well that would be a hymn."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Great lead in for discussion--Jesus my Stepping Stone

Here we are in the North American church—conservative or liberal, evangelical or mainline, Protestant or Catholic, emergent or otherwise—cranking along just fine, thank you. So we’re busy downsizing, becoming culturally relevant, reaching out, drawing in, making disciples, managing the machinery, utilizing biblical principles, celebrating recovery, user-friendly, techno savvy, finding the purposeful life, practicing peace with justice, utilizing spiritual disciplines, growing in self-esteem, reinventing ourselves as effective ecclesiastical entrepreneurs, and, in general, feeling ever so much better about our achievements.

Notice anything missing in this pretty picture? Jesus Christ! p. 9

"Where the gospel is not taken for granted, it is often a means to an end, like personal or social transformation, love and service to our neighbors, and other things that in themselves are marvelous effects of the gospel. However, the Good News concerning Christ is not a stepping-stone to something greater and more relevant. Whether we realize it or not, there is nothing in the universe more relevant to us as guilty image-bearers of God than the news that he has found a way to be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). It is “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16), not only for the beginning, but for the middle and end as well—the only thing that creates the kind of new world to which our new obedience corresponds as a reasonable response." p. 22

Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2008. Foreward, p. 9, Ch. 1, p. 22.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Christians call home NOW

Today I was poking around in Internet Archive (digitized media of all type) and just plugged in "Christian" and visual media, and got about 500 hits. For "Islam" and media I got over 8,000. This is media of any kind--from old missionary movies to modern alternative rock concerts by Christians with a message, to audio of sermons from the 60s. Unfortunately, the one I pulled up (among the Christian group) was a very overweight, blond preacher in orange shorts, brown t-shirt, navy bandana around his forehead, wandering around a stage. I won't even give you his name--he should be ashamed. His appearance was so distracting, I didn't stick around to hear the message, could've been a put-on, put-down of Christianity--but from the whoops and hollars from the audience, the "kids" loved it. In the Islam section I found a very nicely done film on God and creation--the Koranic view combined with current science. Flipping through the thumb-nails in the Islam section, I'd say they are serious. I don't know how many techies my church employs, but there are a lot of them, plus volunteers. Someone needs to begin uploading our sermons and Sunday school instruction.

I often wonder how Paul did it. 20,000 miles and 38 years. He managed to convert people FROM their pagan culture to the Christian faith, without partaking in the orgies, pagan worship, lasciviousness, the art, the music or the philosophy which in the Roman world must have been overpowering. Except for one who said,
    For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Cor. 2:2

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This is not a call to have more babies

It's too late for that. It's a call to evangelize the Muslim

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Now we know, don't we?

On January 22, the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama issued a statement: "While [abortion] is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make."

Uh, you mean like in the 1850s the pro-slavery politicians and the white abolitionists could have said, "we are united in our determination to reduce slavery, but we support owners in their choices. . ."

or in the 1950s the civil rights supporters and Klan could have said, "we are united in our desire to reduce lynchings."

We got what 51% of the voters requested--the most pro-abortion politician ever in the United States. Did you help?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Still blogging about the Holy Land

At my regular blog I'm up to about Thursday, March 12, on our Holy Land Cruise. I did such a poor job of completing our Italy trip of 2008 account, I swore I'd do a better job with this one, but the further away we get, the harder it is to remember what we were doing. We have all our photos, but after awhile the stones and churches and mosaics start to look alike.

With Rod and Judi on the MV Cristal. We're in a couples group together at UALC.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

We’re praying for Fargo

Our youngest associate pastor, Eric Waters, announced at Thursday night Bible Study that he’d appreciate our prayers for Fargo, where he formerly was the pastor of the First Lutheran church. He and his wife just had their 5th child, Jonathon, so he was a bit sleep deprived, but smiling. According to the AP report, the people of Fargo went to church today and then went back to creating sandbags for dikes.
    Weary residents of this sandbagged city came together in churches Sunday, counting their blessings that the Red River finally stopped rising and praying the levees would hold back its wrath. A brief levee break that swamped a school provided a warning of the kind of threat that still hangs over them in the days ahead.

    Church services that are a staple of life on Sunday mornings in Fargo took on greater significance as people gathered after a week of round-the clock sandbagging. They sang hymns and held hands, asking together for divine help in avoiding disaster.
"Pastor Eric Waters was born and raised in Syracuse, New York. After coming to faith at Dartmouth College, he attended Yale Divinity School and graduated in 1999. Waters has served parishes in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, and Fargo, North Dakota, and is currently Associate Pastor at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. He received his Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Preaching from Luther Seminary in 2008." from

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lutherans baffled by God's plans for sex?

I've read through the press release of the Task Force and am clueless. But if this is any evidence, it's time for all believing Lutheran churches to leave ELCA when approving gay sex becomes a matter of loving and respecting your neighbor as God commands. We don't get to vote on the sanctity, purpose or mission of marriage--that was settled a few thousands years ago.

ELCA NEWS SERVICE, March 20, 2009

Lutheran Theologians Respond to ELCA Task Force Documents 09-069-MRC

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Three theologians of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) responded unfavorably to content in two documents released by the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality.

The task force released Feb. 19 a proposed social statement on human sexuality and a report recommending a process to consider changes to ministry policies that could make it possible for Lutherans in committed same-gender relationships to serve as
ELCA associates in ministry, deaconesses, diaconal ministers and ordained ministers. Recommendations for both documents will be considered at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the church's chief legislative body, Aug. 17-23 in Minneapolis.

According to the Rev. Carl E. Braaten, the ELCA is at a crossroads. Braaten, Sun City West, Ariz., is co-founder and director of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. He's also professor emeritus of systematic theology, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, one of eight ELCA seminaries.

The social statement "professes not to know the difference between right and wrong on crucial matters of human sexuality," he said. The task force has made "a proposal to the church that takes one side of a controversial issue on which it does not expect that a consensus will emerge soon or ever."

If the ELCA assembly is to adopt the social statement and approve the task force's recommendation, Braaten said, "That would constitute a radical departure from the overwhelming consensus that has prevailed in historic Christianity through 20 centuries." He said many pastors and congregations will choose not to leave the ELCA but "remain and protest as a confessing movement."

According to Dr. Robert D. Benne, the social statement avoids making "normative judgments about homosexual conduct by neglecting the testimony of the Bible and the Christian moral tradition on that issue." Benne is professor emeritus and director of the Center for Religion and Society, Roanoke College, Salem, Va. Roanoke is one of 28 colleges and universities of the ELCA.

"I believe it is incontestable that the Scriptures and the moral teaching of the Christian church throughout the ages -- and presently that of the ecumenical church -- proscribe homosexual relations of any sort," Benne said.

"I am not satisfied with appeals to sincerity and tolerance, especially since I think Christian teaching is clear. And I am certainly not satisfied with those appeals when the recommendations of the task force lead to no teachings at all on the subject, but yet lead to sharp changes in practice," he said.

"There definitely is a sense in which we can live with our differences when it comes to public policy," Benne said. "But the sexuality issues under discussion have to do with the teaching and practice of the church. They strike much closer to the core of Christian life and teaching -- what does it mean to love the neighbor in sexual matters?"

The Rev. Paul R. Hinlicky, Roanoke's Tice Professor in Lutheran Studies, said he's contemplating a "divorce." "Not from my wife of 35 years, but from my denomination." He wrote for The Lutheran Forum that the ELCA "has come up with a different plan for a new future," putting "our covenant itself to a vote in

"The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman," said Hinlicky. But they appear in the proposed social statement "as memories of the way we used to be." He noted that some in the larger Christian community conclude that marriage is "also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships."

"The real voice of the people of God across the world and through the ages seems to matter not at all," said Hinlicky, "any more than Holy Scripture as parsed by the Lutheran Confessions. Surely, this church's congregations, if given an honest and secret ballot would overwhelmingly reject the manipulation of language and meaning involved in calling marriage anything other than that relation in Scripture and Confession."
- - -

The task force's report and recommendation on ministry policies and social statement are available at on the ELCA Web site.

Robert Benne's comments are available at

Carl Braaten's comments are at
    My criticisms included the following assertions:
    1) it confused law and gospel;
    2) it reversed the order of creation and redemption;
    3) it wrongly represented Lutheran ethics of sex as deriving from Christology and the doctrine of justification;
    4) it was antinomian;
    5) it did not deal with the Law of God and the Ten Commandments;
    6) it did not exegete the biblical passages that deal with sexuality, and in particular homosexuality;
    7) it avoided the use of the proper name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
    8) it drew only upon Lutheran sources, displaying a sectarian attitude that ignores the teachings of the Great Tradition;
    9) it disregarded the Lutheran view of homosexual acts as sinful.
    10) I ended my critique by saying that the social statement of the Task Force is “not only deeply flawed from a Lutheran theological perspective, it is also so poorly written that I believe there is very little in it to salvage.”
Paul Hinlicky's comments are at
on the Internet.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

Friday, February 27, 2009

People Magazine in Haiti

My husband recently returned from a short term mission trip in Haiti. The poverty and lack of infrastructure are astounding--no electricity, no running water, no police force, no garbage control or pick up, but because this was his third trip, it's not as shocking as the first time. Mid-week he picked up a People Magazine one of the members of the team had brought along. It's not a magazine we read--he sees it occasionally at the doctor or dentist office. He said he started to leaf through it, then in disgust put it down. What a terrible depiction of our culture--the mindless consumerism, the groveling over entertainers, the glorification of unmarried motherhood. Whose culture is poor?

To read about Haitian culture, see our Pam Mann's Creole Crusts, Lenten Devotions. At the UALC website. You can download it or pick a copy up at any of the church locations. Imagine having your personal items stolen, and then confronting the thief when you see her wearing your clothes, only to be told you should be thankful not more was taken! As a Christian, just where is your treasure?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

God's economy

This probably isn't that. Our church (UALC) after a lot of prayer bought a big chunk of land in a developing, but undeveloped area, of northwest Columbus called Mill Run. We had multiple services on Sunday at our Upper Arlington Lytham Road location (6 I think), the parking lots were crowded, supposedly the experts told us that visitors stop coming when you are 3/4 full on a Sunday, so the solution seemed to be to move further away from our 40 year old suburban location which couldn't expand. The almost 32 acres cost $2.5 million. We were sold the idea of having two campuses--but one church, and that's what we voted for--then. Every step of the way was covered in prayer and endless meetings. We even had outdoor services on the empty land, sitting on blankets and lawn chairs trying to visualize God's plan. We occupied the new building on New Year's Eve 2000 with a mortgage of $11 million, and it was virtually filled from the first day.

There has been some refinancing along the way, and other evangelical churches have been growing in the meanwhile which cuts into our "customer" base. Also, the new building has been a huge draw for young families, who love the music and programming for kids, but . . . support? During the boom times they had so many obligations, new homes, cars, vacations, etc., and now in lean times, things are just tough and some have lost their jobs. We had a huge fund raising effort to prepay the morgage about 3 years ago bringing it from $7.8 million to $1.6 million currently. We added a third campus in a well maintained urban church in a declining neighborhood which provided service opportunities--after a lot of prayer for direction. But that multi-campus, one church, idea? That has recently been abandoned, and increasingly we are moving to separate "communities." And the "extra" land--that's a problem, too. Now we are being asked to consider selling the remaining undeveloped 16 acres (which considerably enhances the park, condos and nursing home neighbors just by being pristine, semi-wooded and undeveloped).

I'm sure I'm not the only one asking this question: Who and where is the God who told us to buy the land in 1991 and 1992? Were the church leaders mistaken then? Are they mistaken now? Who is the God we prayed to during the Jublilee in 2006? The God we were praising when the people responded and so much of the debt was retired. And as an afterthought. Where are the investors who want this land when so many stores are empty in the shopping center next door?

This I know about God, for sure. He's not creating any more land for us to take care of.

Friday, February 13, 2009

These things (Acts 5:32)

"The Church does not exist to entertain the masses. She is unequal to competitition with the theater. The Church does not exist to educate the masses; she must be interested in education, but this is not her supreme vocation. The Church exists to witness to "these things," the risen Christ, the crucified Christ, the enthroned Christ, the living and working Christ. The world does not want the Church. The Church cannot save the world. The world wants the things that the Church testifies of."

G. Campbell Morgan, Westminster Pulpit, v. 2, Ch. 21, p. 173 "Witnesses."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Do you know your gifts?

This Barna Update on Christians who understand or know their gifts is interesting. Our church a few years back used the Network program by Bruce Bugbee. I scored high in Wisdom and Prophecy and Administration (really didn't understand that one, but suspect is the librarian thing since that's what I did for a career). This part of the Barna Update was interesting:
    The survey also found that many people who say they have heard of spiritual gifts were not necessarily describing the same gifts outlined in the Bible. Among the gifts claimed that are not among those deemed to be spiritual gifts in the passages of scripture that teach about gifts (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7-13, 1 Peter 4:10-11) were a sense of humor, singing, health, life, happiness, patience, a job, a house, compromise, premonition, creativity, and clairvoyance.

    In total, one-fifth of all the gifts cited by respondents (21%) were attributes that do not fit the biblical lists of gifts given by God.

Televangelism empire in financial trouble

Story at One News Now.
    Once one of the nation's most popular televangelists, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller is watching his life's work crumble.

    His son and recent successor, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, has abruptly resigned as senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral. The shimmering, glass-walled megachurch is home to the "Hour of Power" broadcast, an evangelism staple that's been on the air for more than three decades.

    The church is in financial turmoil: It plans to sell more than $65 million worth of its Orange County property to pay off debt. Revenue dropped by nearly $5 million last year, according to a recent letter from the elder Schuller to elite donors. In the letter, Schuller Sr. implored the Eagle's Club members - who supply 30 percent of the church's revenue - for donations and hinted that the show might go off the air without their support.

    "The final months of 2008 were devastating for our ministry," the 82-year-old pastor wrote. Link.
Churches need to be built on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Not the personality of the pastor.

Story from OC Register on ouster of Schuller's son in October.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

When editing scripture makes no sense

If you read the passage 1 John 4:9-12, the passage makes perfect sense, because it is the Gospel
    9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
However, if you leave out verses 9-10, the cross and the atonement, then 11-12 (edited down) don't mean a lot. There's no clue in the edited version about what God did to show his love (so loved us). Here's how this passage appears in a parent newsletter from our church
    "Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other . . . If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us."
By clipping and editing, the writers of the newsletter have turned this passage on its head, putting a works spin on it, the exact opposite of its meaning. Essentially they say, anyone without Jesus is OK with God, just as long as they are loving. But is that what this passage says?

This isn't a children's newsletter, it is a parents' newsletter. Parents bringing their children to a Christian church should be able to cope with what Paul calls "the stumbling block of the cross," or "the scandal of the cross," or "the offense of the cross." (Galatians 5:11). The cross is the center of the Christian religion. It was offensive and absurd to the Jews Paul was referring to, and unfortunately, many who go by the name of Christian today still find it offensive, or at least try to hide it in the closet, lest someone else find it so. Jesus didn't go to the cross because he was a great moral teacher or led protests against the Roman government or tried to free slaves or instituted a local healing program for his followers. It was because of our sin, and this was God's solution for it.

The name and source of the newsletter is theParentLink, from Erie Christian Fellowship in Erie, PA