Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sex and Authority: An Illustration

I'm sorry, but I can't pass this up. My dear brother in the faith, Rob, has instilled in me (something I regularly forget) the importance of expositing one's theories and assertions with examples. In my effort to specify this thesis -- that the two "camps" to the Lutheran Church's wrestling with same-sex relationships and ordination come at the question from fundamentally different worldviews and epistemologies -- this came up this morning and seemed a perfect device for illustrating the thesis.

I heard (former) Bishop Lowell Erdahl (late of the Saint Paul Area Synod) interviewed on public radio this morning (I don't know whether it was a local insert or a national feed). He was talking about the ELCA's upset over the same-sex issues. (Funny: No one is talking about the new "worship resource" -- Renewing Worship -- and all the power that the Presiding Bishop wants to centralize over its adoption or over the proposal to go into full fellowship -- including sharing eucharistic fellowship -- with the United Methodist Church. Go figure!) And in the process he made a most revealing statement.

The Bishop, toward the end of the interview, summarized in terms roughly these: "These [i.e., gay] people are just faithful people who want to be accepted into full participation in the Church." And I realized that he had crystallized what I have been trying to say in the past few posts. With all due respect for the Bishop, whom I regard as having doing some very good things, he has fallen into the modernist heresy, too. His statement provides a clear example of what I have been haranguing against in recent days. Here's what I mean.

According to the Bishop, and there was more in his comments to support this claim, we arrive at our own understandings of what it means to be "faithful" and then have the "right" to be accepted in the Church and to exercise that self-defined "faithfulness." So, if I am convinced, for example, that Jesus should not be called "God" or a member of the Holy Trinity, then so long as I am "faithful" to that principle, I should be allowed access to all levels of involvement in the Church. Similarly, if I decide that God MUST love all people and that he wouldn't "make" people in a way he didn't approve, then I must and can and should be loyal to that principle and fight for full "participation" in the Church -- which usually means two things: that I get the Church's formal approval -- read "blessing" -- on me or my preaching or my "lifestyle" and that I be granted admittance to the "hierarchy" -- usually defined as some sort of position of power (maybe because it has too often been used that way).

Now here's where I think the Bishop has it wrong. "Faithful" has, through the Church's history, been defined by the Church -- not by the individual. Yes, Luther said, "Here I stand," but he did so on the basis of a careful reading of Scripture and a very long tradition of patristic and post-patristic exposition and teaching. (Yes, contrary to the views of many Lutherans, Luther knew the Church Fathers -- and maybe Mothers -- and relied on their insights. He did not suggest jumping from Wittenberg to Jerusalem.) With respect to my examples, Councils of the Church have stated finally and authoritatively that "Jesus is Christ is God." In the man Jesus resided the fullness of humanity and the fullness of the Godhead. Consequently, to be faithful, one may and can not deny this and argue differently. By that analysis, virtually all the members of the Jesus Seminar -- including my one-time Bible teacher, Marc Borg -- are heretics. And by the standards of the Church through all times, so far as I can discern (and I acknowledge my limited knowledge of history), one's heresy bars one from participation in the life of the Church -- until one repents of one's sin and confesses the "faith" of the Church. Thus, to be faithful is to acknowledge, to confess, and to obey the teaching of the Church -- in the words of one Father, what the Church has everywhere and at all times believed. (Remind me to unpack that phrase; it can mean different things, and I don't mean to suggest that the Church does not develop or change her teaching.)

In parallel, the Church through her history has taught-- from the earliest times quite expressly -- that faithfulness involves eschewing all same-gender sexual contact. (I was surprised to come on very direct teaching from some of the great Fathers, Chrysostom among them, on precisely this point. It didn't need to be intuited; they said it.) That teaching has not changed through the vast bulk of the Church -- both in terms of years of existence and in terms of the numbers who subscribe it today. It is, then, to beg the entire analysis to say, with Bishop Erdahl, that [gay people in noncelibate, nonchaste same-sex/gender relationships] are "faithful." For by the very analysis of the Church through its entire history, those people, by very definition, NOT faithful.

I raise this only to note the difference in "orientation" (couldn't resist) between the so-called "traditionalists" and the so-called "progressives." The "traditionalists" -- among whom I count those of us who call ourselves "evangelical catholics" and "catholic evangelicals" -- believe that we draw our direction from the Scripture by way of the Great Tradition of the Church. That "Tradition" includes the teachings of the great theologians and spiritual leaders, the dogmatic definitions of the pre-schism Church, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit through humble discernment throughout the entire Church in times since the schism. So for us, "faithful" is a conclusion, not a beginning point.

It seems that the "progressives" look at it the other way around. For them, it seems to me, the definition of "faithful" is drawn out a different way. In some ways, it is a given. And then on that basis, the Church is called to adjust. I think that support for gay-lesbian relationships in the Church grew out of the developing social/secular approbation of those relationships (the sort of post-Stonewall adjustment in culture). Frankly, that is often the way developments begin to take place in the Church. Luther, e.g., was feeling some of the oats of the Renaissance and the access to sources long cloaked in darkness when he began first to exposit and then to translate the Bible. But the point is to decide who or what gets the presumption: Do we presume in favor of the Bible or in favor of culture? For the progressives, it seems, culture trumps. And so people are "faithful" on terms other than what the Church has taught -- in this case, apparently, faithful means wanting to be in the Church and, probably, loving Jesus. (And, of course, that can get us into the same circle where we are now. For how do we know Jesus except through the Church?)

Now, I have stated my thesis baldly and I don't want to be grossly misunderstood. I set matters out starkly in order to try to illustrate what I see as different "hermeneutical" approaches to theology (and ethics). I do not offer these comments as a judgment on gay people. (We are all under judgment for particular reasons and in particular ways, because not one of us fulfills the intention of God for his or her life. That is fundamental Christian teaching.)

I do not think that gay people are any more "faithless" than are the shysters, the crooks, the baalists at Enron, WorldCom, and all the other great example of massive fraud where the leadership paraded its "evangelical Christianity" on their sleeves and Hummers, even as they offered up the fortunes and futures of tens of thousands of employees and investors (not their own, mind you) to the false god, Mammon. In fact, too, the Bible has a more to say about economics than about sex -- and the entire Church catholic is less-than-faithful until it gets that message. Thus, as I have said before in this blog, I don't think sex is the biggest issue in our lives -- though it may be for some of the gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the Church. I do not mean to utter hate speech, although some who arrive at the same positions I espouse mean precisely that. To them I must say "anathema."

I do not mean to bar gay people -- whether in same-sex relationships or not -- from the eucharist. Were I to do so, I would remain in communion with very few of my closest friends! So please, as you read this, keep in mind that I take no joy, frankly, in writing this. I would much rather come to the other conclusion! But for the reasons I have been trying to state, I can't come down there.

And I do not even mean that the Church can, must, or should ignore sincere, long-standing, monogamous same-sex partnerships. With several, I do not believe it is within the Church's authority to "bless" those partnerships; but we ought to develop ways to support and encourage same-sex partners in the same way we provide social supports to so-called "straight" marriages.

But I think faithfulness, in whatever pathetic minor manifestation we can manage, requires that we humble ourselves before the Church -- Church conceived of through time (diachronic) and all over the globe (synchronic). That means subordinating our lives, our minds, our bodies, our loyalties to her teaching. For it is in the Church that we know salvation. Reinhard Huetter explicates, in Bound to Be Free this recognition which I consider critical to the life and well-being of the Church: "The formation of the biblical canon of Scripture and the emergence of the regula fidei [the rule of faith] and the creeds are reflections from early on of the necessity of the gospel's normative specification." (p. 51) I think that that is what is at stake in the current revels within Lutheranism and other denominations: the gospel's normative specification.


Andy said...

This confused me: "With several, I do not believe it is within the Church's authority to 'bless' those partnerships; but we ought to develop ways to support and encourage same-sex partners in the same way we provide social supports to so-called 'straight' marriages." It seems to go against most of what you had said previously about what you're willing to acknowledge as faithful.

I would agree with the statement I just quoted. The Church certainly doesn't have the authority to make up new rites. But I don't see how the part about supporting and encouraging same-sex partners fits in with your position on faithfulness.

With that as an open question, let me say that when I have talked about wanting to support gay and lesbian Christians and welcome them in the Church, the most I mean to do is to withhold judgment (evaluation even) of their sexual orientation and simply to see them as people (sinners if you insist) who are struggling with life just as I am and who are doing the best they can.

I don't know what Bishop Erdahl may have said on the topic beyond what you quoted, but I would find the statement that you quoted in harmony with what I've just said.

Camassia said...

I can think of two objections to your overall point here, both rather Mennonite (but hey, what did you expect?). One is the question of how much the church authorities represent the actions of the Spirit in the church. When I read someone like the Pontificator, and sometimes when I read you, it sounds like God speaks only to the authorities, and the rest of us just ought to obey. But to my limited knowledge, the writings and doctrinal decisions of a lot of the church leadership were in fact following, and developing a sort of post hoc rationale for, practices that already existed by communal habit. I realize this doesn't help gay people at this point, but it does complicate the question of "faithfulness" -- the congregation should be faithful to the teachings of the church, but then again, the teachers should be faithful to leadings of the congregants. I suppose if you had to supply a one-sentence explanation of why the church broke up 500 years ago it was that the leaders were no longer faithful enough to the followers.

The other question that comes to mind about this is of how much local variation there can be in these things. Back at my blog recently I quoted Telford's explanation of the different layers of authority: dogma (universal), doctrine (local community) and theology (individual). I have a hard time swallowing the sexuality teachings as dogma, on the same footing as the Incarnation and Resurrection and other core Christian teachings. It's true that heterosexual marriage has been the general practice in Christendom, but then Christendom had also been universally premodern, bringing certain assumptions (which predated Christianity) about the nature and structure of family.

All of this doesn't take away from your point that a lot of people on the pro-gay side of this seem to be approaching the question with an extreme lack of humility. But those are the reasons why this issue is not so settled in my mind.

Lee said...

Dwight - thanks for continuing this discussion in such a candid and civil way.

Here's a question I have - "evangelical catholics" like yourself, Braaten, Jenson, etc. have what seems to me to be a very "high" view of the authority of the church and tradition. But surely you would admit that there are cases where we have to judge that the tradition has gone wrong. I mean, Luther may not have been an Enlightenment individualist, but he still opposed the Pope and the entire institutional authority of the church based on his conclusions about what the Bible taught. Even though he was conversant with the Fathers, he still decided that his interpretation of them was right and the pope's, etc. was wrong.

I guess what I'm saying is the the Tradition and the magisterium (which we, as Lutherans, don't have anyway) can't be the final unassailable word, can it?

Also, I second Camassia's point about the "layers" of authority that we grant to dogma, doctrine, theology, etc. I'm not sure exactly where ethics fits in there, but we have learned to live with differing perspectives on lots of other ethical issues in the church: war, abortion, divorce, etc., so it seems that differing views on these matters needn't be church-dividing, even though one could make the case that they also are inextricably bound up with the Gospel. (Of course, some churches - like the Mennonites! - have taken their stand on some of these issues, effectively "excommunicating" those who don't agree. And part of me admires that kind of conviction. But I don't see mainline protestant churches doing that.)

Dwight P. said...

Yeah, I knew that I was being hazy on some things and leaving too many things unsaid. Since this is all sort off-the-cuff for me (not having systematized anything in my life, I think), I appreciate your patience and help in getting it more complete.

Let me deal with what is for me the easiest new question -- Melanchthon's polite challenge to justify my position on "supporting" gay/lesbian partnerships, without blessing them. (The language available is so unhelpful, but I am forbidden to use marriage, so I have to stumble around.)

I am realistic enough to know that whether or not the Church holds up same-sex relationships as good things in line with God's intention for creation (which is what I think a "blessing" does, and which is why I don't think the Church has the authority to do that), there are going to be gay people who will form committed, marriage-like relationships -- just as so-called "straight" people do when they live together "without the benefit of clergy." In neither case, of course, does the Church cheer, "Hooray!" But I think the Church must also recognize that if one is going to be involved in sex outside of marriage, then sex within a committed relationship (marriage-like)is far better, because closer to the God-willed nature of sexual relationships, than is the alternative of sleeping around (contrary to 99.9% of contemporary network television).

Given that reality, the church ought, with gay and straight people alike, minister to those people "where they are": welcome them into the congregation's life, as we do all sinners (including those of us who are married and are, like Jimmy Carter, guilty of all kinds of unfaithful activity against our spouses in all kinds of ways virtually every day); provide the kinds of support that encourages and enables them to stay faithful to one another (e.g., by being available to them when their relationship gets rocky or during financial crises); even, I think, baptize their children, if the couple have demonstrated their "faithfulness" in worship and the congregation's ministry (I can write a book on baptism!).

(When I accuse people in same-sex relationships of not being "faithful," I mean it in a general, but also limited, sense: They live in a way that is not in complete accord with the wishes of God. The Gospel, however, includes the power and call to live in accord with the wishes of God. It is, thus, not faithful to live in a same-sex relationship. But it is also not faithful to live in such a way as to dishonor one's parents or to cheat and steal or to practice violence. I'm not sure than any of us ought to claim the adjective "faithful" without major qualifications. I accuse the bishop of using the term in an inappropriate way: I do not reject the people who are thereby included in my criticism. Does that make any sense?)

We do that with people of all stripes -- including the capitalists who are over-charging interest, making way too much more than their employees, and the like. (Notice how I keep attacking economic things: That is the really great, unexamined baal.) In a situation even more directly related (because of the intersection of relationship and sex), the Church in most quarters "tolerates" the remarriage of divorced people, even though it is not supposed to "bless" the new marriages. (I know that this is a weak argument, because most Lutheran clerics, like most of the Roman Catholic brethren, bless serial marriages as though there were no issue. My wife and I, both divorced from other people, were married with the blessing of our congregation and pastor in Chicago -- at a Sunday morning mass, thank you. But we have always maintained that there is a kind of "taint" -- too strong a word -- on our marriage because of the demises of our first marriages.)

In doing what I suggest -- and no less a conservative/traditionalist, evangelical-catholic than Paul Hinlicky proposes something similar -- the Church is faithful to her identity as Church: not a bragging palace for the holy, but a hostel for sinners in need of the love of God, manifest in the ministry of the congregation. I think that compromise is a reality in the life of the Church -- not compromise on doctrine (with its liturgical manifestations being primary in this regard), but rather on its practical judgments about how to care for people.

Frankly, with gays or straights, if someone is living a life of obvious evil, we ought to bring the full force of the law down on his head. (That's a dream, of course, because discipline as such is dead in the Lutheran church.) Otherwise, we minister to people as we want to ministered to -- not from an antinomian posture, but rather from a gospel-based one.

Now, if I were asked whether part of the Church's ministry is to encourage gay people to "change," I'm going to entirely honest here: I think we lay out that issue -- and only if someone really wants to explore it do we take it any further. I personally DO NOT believe that most gay/lesbian people are so by "choice" or anything else. It is "in born" as we used to say. And no amount of aversion therapy will change it. And I bristle at all the news about "orientation changing."

Having said that, I realize that I pose an almost Catch-22 for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters -- for so I most sincerely count them: In a sense I condemn them to live under the cross. They are loved by God; of that I have no doubt. (Since I think "salvation" is a matter handled by God, I encourage people not to consider whether "gay people will go to heaven." I will, of course say that without the gay people I know, I don't know that heaven will be the heaven I hope for. But here I'm imposing my standards on God's will -- but I know that and I do that in only a tentative way! Even Jensonians have a sense of the ironic.)

If you read between the lines, I am trying to be orthodox Lutheran without being judgmental, because I have no interest in judging gay people.

OK, on to the big issue: And leave it to Camassia and Lee to get it right out there. No, comrades, I do not think that doctrine (loosely defined -- not necessarily the way that Telford uses it, Camassia) is static. Of course it changes -- or at least develops.

Let me begin this way: There's the adage that I like "Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living; Tradition is the living faith of the dead." I learned that from Pelikan; I don't know if it is original with him.

The fundamental mission of the Church, it seems to me, is to make the presence of Jesus Christ a palpable reality for people in every age. Part of what that means is to be true to the roots. The part is to be savvy to the context of the present. It is precisely the challenge of "theology" (again, not necessarily as Telford uses the word) to say in terms meaninglful today what the Church has said and insisted on throughout history.

Tradition, then, is a living thing. It is an animal of interpretation. It requires skill and art -- not craft or memorization. And that's where my powers of exposition break down.

That the Church develops "new" teaching is undeniable: The doctrine of the Trinity, the Two Natures of Christ, the propriety of the term "Theotokos," the aptness of Icons, the efficacy of the sacraments apart from the "unfitness" of the clergy -- all of these and thousands more are decrees by "the Church" that arose after the first century of the Church's existence because of various cultural issues, popular piety (mis)steps, and the like.

So, to 'fess up: Yes, the Church's teachings do most assuredly have to take account of the vox populi. The Church, after all, is not the Pope or the Pope-plus-Bishops or the Pope-plus-Patriarchs-plus-Bishops-plus-metropolitans, ad nauseam. The Church is the entire people of God, and the authority in and of the Church is that of Jesus Christ -- who is both Lord of and membered by the Church.

In fact, the lay people are critical to the doctrinal process. If for no other reason, since we live "closer to the ground" (metaphorically, not morally) than the hierarchy, we often pick up on the issues more quickly than the hierarchy. (Lamentably, probably the best example of that is the development of Marian piety -- which, to some extent, the Roman hierarchy simply gave in to IN MY HUMBLE OPINION.)

But we catholic-evangelicals also acknowledge that the Spirit bestows a special charism, a special gift, upon those who are ordained (different from the gifts she bestows on all Christians) for the guiding and discerning of doctrinal development. (This is really crude language: I hope none of my teachers is reading it!) We do, therefore, have a "high" doctrine of authority -- manifest, in part, by my claim that an ordained ministry is a "mark of the church," i.e., one of the things necessary for the church to be church. And it is necessary to give due derence to the magisterium -- which, contrary to what you say, Lee, we Lutherans must have if we are in any sense a cohesive entity: Rome is fortunate in having a locus or focus of authority -- viz., the Pope and his Bishops; we Lutherans try to do so through our dogmatics profs (or so we said in our dialog with the Episcopalians)-- and hence, have a much tougher time. If we had a few more Bill Lazareths as bishops, we Lutherans might begin to understand the issue better.

It is in the subtle, humble, and mutual subordination (what a fascinating word in this context, eh?) of both lay person and cleric to the Word of God (which itself is a "living thing") that constitutes the doctrinal process. In social science terms, there is a built in tension in the church between clergy and laity -- almost as though the clergy are charged to represent the tradition and the laity to press for "updating." That is healthy. In earlier blogs (to defend myself even more), I raised the issue of Peter's arguing for the place of Gentiles in the to-then Jewish Church: That betrays issues similar to the ones I'm raising here.

Now, I'm not bright or gifted enough to know how the Church goes about changing course. We can look to the past and see that, like the proverbial ship, it usually takes quite a bit of time to make a change in course. But the actual length is usually only knowable in retrospect -- after changes are made, when people can look at things and say, "can you believe we ever did things differently?" Such, I think, was the situation with respect to slavery -- ct. Paul's encouragement for slaves to be loyal to today's universal renunciation of slavery by Christians.

There are, to be sure, layers of "authority" and different levels of "bindingness" to those layers. Dogma are the agreed upon essentials of the Christian faith articulated while the Church was still united -- i.e., prior to 1054/1055, when the split between East and West was rendered official. The definitive statement of dogma is the Nicea-Constantinopolitan Creed. (I don't want to get into the relationships between/among Nicene Christianity and Monophysite and other non-Nicene forms of Christianity. I have my hands full with this issue.) Dogma is binding on all persons who claim the name "Christian." And there is nothing in the dogma of the Church about sex (except by implication: one God rules out a Goddess co-deity, e.g.)

Doctrine as the specification -- i.e., the making specific of the implications -- of dogma is binding, too. But because it is not promulgated at the universal level of the Church, I suppose it is less binding (if only because it may come out of Church homes with whom we do not share communion). Still, if the East and Rome and most "protestants" declare as a doctrine of their tradition that marriage is confined to one man and one woman, it is heresy to dispute that.

Theology, because it is by nature more speculative and tenative, is an exercise on the way to doctrine and has no binding authority.

So the question raised by Camassia, about how much "local option" is built into the system, I think I have to say that there is none at the level of dogma and doctrine, because they implicate the very nature of Gospel proclamation. (Also to be considered is the particular polity of the church group we're discussing. While there is plenty of evidence to contradit this, I think it fairly safe to say that Romans, Lutherans, Anglicans (more or less), Methodists, Presbyterians, and some "Anabaptists" have a fairly integrated ministerium, so local option is impractical. To specify: If my congregation wants to ordain a gay person, that involves the whole church, because we have a "clergy roster" at the denominational level. It would be counter to the nature of the ELCA to establish a separate "wing" of clergy who are not under national guidelines, who do not participate in pensions, who are not subject to calls from other congregations. And we see the working out of such a system in the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church: Despite their clerical structure, there are duly ordained priests who are not acknowledged as such by certain dioceses simply because they happen to be female priests instead of male. The local option is an insult to the women who are accepted for ordination and a slap at the "unity" of even the denomination, let alone the Church.

BUT, Lee and Camassia, the ordination of women, which I consider to be meet and right, is itself an example of a local option -- though not one acceptable to the Church catholic. "Protestants" of most stripes ordain women now, but the Romans and East categorically deny that such is possible in the Christian Church. Dogma, certainly, does not specify a clergy, let alone a male clergy. But at the level of doctrine, those two biggies (with a stronger-than-average-in-Christianity concern for authority) speak with one voice. The Lutheran Church took that voice very seriously before it changed its doctrine of ministry to include women -- which is why women were more readily accepted at Lutheran altars than they were at Episcopalian altars; Episcopalians seem to have a propensity to accomplish change in the wrong way.

"It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" -- with these words, the early Church acknowledged "changes" in its polity and doctrine (e.g., the inclusion of Gentiles in the Church). It is incumbent on the Church today to speak with similar humility and confidence.

I've gone up and down in this comment so frequently, that I'll be amazed if there are any paragraph breaks in the final edition. Does any of this clarify any of the points I'm trying to make, friends?

Andy said...

The other thing, which I would think goes without saying (but maybe not), is that the practice of same sex activity today is very different from what it was in the Greco-Roman world, so ancient Christian writings against homosexual behavior aren't necessarily directly applicable. I don't doubt that their statements were quite broad/universal in scope, ruling out all such activity, but what they were reacting to was the practice of the time. If you plucked them out of history and dropped them into today's world and explained modern same-sex relationships to them, they'd certainly feel the same way they did then, but again that's because they were shaped by their culture (as much as I am) even if they were reacting against it rather than going along with it.

Daniel S. said...

Dwight, as much as I'm enjoying these lengthy and appropriate dicussions, why not also take up some of the other BIGGIES being put up at the ELCA CWA. Renewing Worship, now in the guise of the book called: "Evangelical Lutheran Worship" (How about unpacking that title while we're at it. Sounds like we're running out of names, if you ask me) will be sent on to the Bishop's office for "liturgical review." All contents including musical settings of the Mass (all 10 of them!), hymn texts revisions, propers, calendar, rites for Marriage, healing, funeral, the new gender-neutralized psalter (with a new method of pointing the psalms) plus a whole lot more are on the renwing worship website. I think it far more important to deal with these issues than the realtively adiaphorical issue of sexuality (Yes, I put it in adiaphora. So there.).

Church structure, governance, and other things are also being discussed there. One could even sit and gripe about the inefficiency of the whole CWA. Do we really need to pass resolutions that say "the ELCA opposes hunger and racism" that do nothing more than make us feel good and put little of our resources into action? Why does the authority of our church rest on an every-three-year gathering of mostly untrained lay people?

Underneath all of this is the (only) elephant in the room: The ELCA has never figured out it's eclesiology. I doubt it ever will before it splits apart. We are such a young denomination and should be spending all of our energy on figuring out who we are before we even touch things like Communion with the Methodists.

Andy said...


I think your position on ministering to same-sex couples is pretty decent. Of course there was quite a hub-bub in Orlando about what this could be extended to mean, and I don't see any way to avoid the comparison with re-marriage.

Lee said...

Dwight, I guess I am still not clear on exactly what role you think the universal doctrinal teaching of the church plays and what degree of bindingness it has. You say that it is "heresy" to dispute a doctrine that is shared by Rome, the East, and Protestantism, but until, what, 30 years ago that could be said about women's ordination. Was it heresy before but not now? Obviously universal doctrine is not "trumps" against any proposed change. So how do we decide? As you point out, women's ordination is not acceptable to large swaths of Christendom, and I suspect we are all familiar with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and conservative Protestants making exactly the same kinds of arguments against w.o. as we hear against homosexual behavior.

Which should not be taken to mean that I think approving homosexual behavior is unproblematic. I suspect that at the very least I would want to say that the revisionists carry the burden of proof in overturning the tradition. Still, I am still fuzzy about what account of the tradition's authority would rule out homosexual sex but still permit things like women's ordination (or, for that matter, birth control).

p.s. I also would like to see some discussion of the new ELCA worship materials - I really haven't been following that closely at all. Plus, what do folks think of the fact that we are now in "interim eucharistic fellowship" with the Methodists? Is this a step forward for Christian unity, or a step backwards for any kind of Lutheran confessional distinctiveness?

Daniel S. said...

Now that the decisions have been made (today), where does that leave you now brother Dwight?