Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A New Vision for Marriage?

The February 2007 issue of The Journal of Lutheran Ethics focuses on human sexuality. Laurie A. Jungling joins other Lutheran theologians and ethicists who are finding resources in the Lutheran tradition (such as Jacqueline Bussie's "Scarred Epistemologies: What a Theology of the Cross has to Say About the Gay Marriage Ban") to support same-sex marriage. In her article, "A 'New' Vision for Marriage as Vocation in the Lutheran Tradition," Jungling argues:
During this time of discernment for the Lutheran church as it attempts to define and understand the various social and sexual relationships from which Christians follow their vocational call, Lutherans need to consider alternatives to form-based definitions of marriage and sexuality. Instead, a better criterion is the call itself – the call to serve life with and for the neighbor – as the fundamental criterion for defining marriage. Definitions and understandings of marriage that use "appropriate to form" as the primary criterion in defining marriage not only exclude certain relationships from being a legitimate support to society for little reason other than physical form and its humanly constructed meanings, but they also construct a social order that is often hierarchical, exclusionary, and oppressive to those who do not fit certain forms.
For awhile now, I have been convinced that the theological debate over same-sex marriage needs to engage more robustly questions of theological anthropology (in particular, what it means to be created imago dei). A couple of years ago, I came across this article in the Christian Century that is helpful in this regard: "An Argument for Gay Marriage" written by Eugene Rogers from an Orthodox perspective in which he takes on the "complementarity" argument against same-sex couples held by Karl Barth and others.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

Yesterday I attended the installation of the Rev. Elizbaeth A. Eaton as the Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She was elected to this office on December 2, 2006, the first woman to be elected bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod and the first in Region 6 (which includes six synods covering Ohio, the lower peninsula of Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky). Her election brings the total of female bishops in the ELCA to nine (out of sixty-five), two of whom were elected last year. This is a hopeful sign that the "stained glass ceiling" is beginning to crack, but there is much to suggest that women still have a way to go to achieve equity with their male colleagues in ministry.

The installation was poignant for its historical signficance, but in my case, it was also poignant for its personal significance. In the fall of 1980, Liz arrived at my home congregation, All Saints Lutheran Church in Worthington, Ohio, to be our intern (she ended up being called as assistant pastor and stayed another 10 years)! I was a member of her high school youth group that year and she became an important mentor for me, eventually serving as the sponsor at my ordination. Until I met her, I didn't even know that women could be pastors. She has been a model for me and my pastoral ministry in many ways. It was an honor to be at her service and to have been among those asked to participate in the service (I read the second lesson). [Note: The picture of us above is from her 25th Ordination Anniversary Celebration this past June, at Messiah Lutheran in Ashtabula. For pictures from the installation, click here].

I know that the Northeastern Ohio Synod will be led ably by Bishop Eaton, who will bring energy, compassion, wisdom, a love for the whole church, and a clear passion for sharing the good news and speaking out for the poor and marginalized to her new office (not to mention a killer sense of humor). Godspeed to you, Liz, and the people of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, as you begin your new call and ministry!

Faith as a Way of Life--A Vision for Pastoral Leadership

One of the neat things about the blogosphere is that you never know who you will "meet" on it. Christian Scharen, a fellow Lutheran theologian and pastor, posted a response to my first post. He is the director of the Faith as a Way of Life Project, an initiative of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He is also in the process of revising a book on this topic, entitled "Faith as Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership" (Eerdmans Publishing Company, due out in fall 2007).

Here is what he says about the project and book (and those who know me will see why I am excited about it):

The Christian faith is a coherent vision for a way of life in response to Jesus' invitation to “follow me.” The life of faith lived in response to Jesus’ invitation--and the leadership called to guide and foster faithful lives—follows a basic pattern. That pattern is one of gathering and scattering; gathered into the life of God in Christ the life of God in Christ through the power of the Spirit and scattered for the sake of witness and service in daily life. In an era when many churches focus almost exclusively on gathering, the reassertion of this pattern has very real power.

Yet simply pointing to this pattern isn’t enough. It needs to be further said that the new way of life this pattern implies finds its intellectual and moral content in God's action for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is, faith is a shorthand way of saying the creedal orthodoxy of the Christian faith--the beliefs summarized at the climax of Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts of the Apostles 2:38 “God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” The story of Jesus Christ as gospel is the faith we confess and that faith, rather than some conglomeration of vague beliefs, is the shaping force orienting Christian faith.

Yet our way of life is not simply an interconnected set of beliefs, either. We must go one step further to finally get the necessary picture. The Christian faith as belief gives shape to a life lived daily in and for the sake of God’s reconciling work in the world. Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, who wrote the proposal for the FWL Project, argues that “the core task of pastoral leadership today—and a signal mark of its excellence—is the task of shaping persons and communities for living faith as a way of life in the world.” Christian discipleship, and the life of the Christian ministry that serves such discipleship, is, as Volf so plainly states, a way of life not for its own sake, as if sectarian purity were the goal, but for the sake of the world. Christian ministry is deeply concerned with connecting faith to the daily lives of

Pastors will be able to impart this vision of faith only if they themselves are compelled by it and if their parishioners find that the model helps them make sense of life as a whole. One of the most pressing needs of pastoral ministry is therefore to develop, sustain, and legitimize reflection on Christian faith not simply as a set of propositions to believe, commandments to obey, or rituals to perform but as an orienting force that impacts every aspect of daily life."