Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You might be a Lutheran if...

(Sneak peak at October's newsletter column).

October is the month that Lutherans remember the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed the Wittenberg door On October 24 and 25, our worship space will be decorated with the color red as a sign of God’s Holy Spirit at work in the Church. We’ll sing traditional Lutheran hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is our God” and remember that we don’t have to buy indulgences to earn our way into heaven.

When I was in New Orleans at the ELCA Youth Gathering with some of our high schoolers, I saw t-shirts with the word “ymbali.” I was really confused. Is this Greek? Swahili? I finally asked somebody. It’s an acronym: You Might Be a Lutheran If… The back of the shirt had funny lines that were mostly variations on jokes about casseroles and boring organ hymns.

We are not defined by our food or our music, but by our theology. This emphasis on God’s grace crosses so many boundaries.

Lutherans can be described as evangelical, catholic, and reforming.
Lutherans are evangelical, proclaiming Good News of God's love. Martin Luther's prophetic action brought him to a door. Our evangelism at brings us out of these doors. We end our service every week with “Go in peace, serve the lord.”

Lutherans are catholic, meaning universal. We realize we don’t have a monopoly on God’s grace, but are a part of the Church that transcends time and space.

Lutherans are reforming. We are called to wrestle with issues that cause us discomfort and to welcome those who are unfamiliar. We carry on beautiful traditions and create new ones. Let the Holy Spirit guide us in our transformation into a Beloved Community that lives into its name—Amazing Grace.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


(This is a response from a retired pastor who attends Amazing Grace. He gave me permission to post this here. "Popcorn with Pastor Paul" was the name we gave to a congregational conversation about the recent changes in the ELCA).

It was billed as “Popcorn with Pastor Paul.” What brought the large group of somewhat anxious people together was neither popcorn nor Pastor Paul (though he deserves enormous credit for getting us together and structuring the communication procedures). The attraction was the subject matter. The 11th Biennial Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) had just decided to allow for the blessing of same-gender relationships and the rostering of those in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships.

We have learned again that voting often creates more confusion than it resolves, especially when it comes to hot moral or theological issues. And the vote in Minneapolis was unbelievably close. Beyond ELCA, observers are saying that this particular issue may be the biggest threat to the unity of Christians in 150 years (slavery).

The “popcorn people” shared their reactions to this ELCA move with respect and enthusiasm although it was evident to this observer that we all have a lot to learn about what the Bible teaches and what modern science is showing us about the nature of homosexuality.

Jesus knew he would not be around when many thorny issues come up so he said he would ask the Father to send the Spirit to help us. Some of us think we know the answers already. Actually, we know very little for certain, especially the part God plays in all of this and what God wants us to do with it.

The purity laws of the Old Testament are not of much use to us here unless we want to enforce ALL of them. The Gospels do not mention homosexuality at all and nowhere is it addressed as a loving, committed relationship. Instead of anticipating and addressing the complications we would face 2,000 years later, Jesus left us with this: “A new commandment I give to you—that you love one another.” Martin Buber translated the second half of the great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as a person like yourself.” Now the question becomes not “what does the ELCA want us to do?” but “what does it mean to love my gay neighbor.”

Charles Prewitt, DMin

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A New Day for the ELCA

“Built on a rock, the Church shall stand,
even when steeples are falling.”

I was reminded of those words by Danish pastor Nikolai Grundtvig during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly last month in Minneapolis. I was there for a young rostered leaders gathering held in conjunction with the Assembly. It was a stormy time in several ways. A tornado hit the convention center and damaged the steeple at nearby Central Lutheran Church. The assembly itself was rather stormy--our Church had been discussing a new and more inclusive social statement on human sexuality.

After the pouring rain, the sun came out as soon as the social statement passed. Later in the week, resolutions were passed changing the current policy prohibiting pastors and rostered leaders who are in committed, loving, monogamous same-gender relationships. As before, no congregation is ever going to be forced to call any pastor. It’s always a congregational decision.
Also, in a beautiful display of Christian unity, the ELCA voted to work together with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on a Lutheran Malaria Initiative. A full communion agreement with the United Methodist Church was passed. This is a helpful reminder for us that we Lutherans don’t have a monopoly of God’s grace.

This is a difficult time to be the Church, but it is also a hopeful and exciting time. My heart aches with those hurt by these decisions. My heart also aches with all those people who have been excluded and ignored by the ELCA over the years. I imagine some of you are surprised, uncertain, and maybe disappointed by this. Others are relived, confident and joyous. Others are apathetic and ready to move on to more pressing issues.
Wherever you stand, I invite you into conversation. On Wednesday, September 2 at 7 p.m., we will have “Popcorn with Pastor Paul,” a time of conversation at Amazing Grace about what’s happening in the ELCA.

I feel blessed to be part of the ELCA. I appreciate our denomination’s commitments to liturgy, ecumenism, and education. I don’t always agree with everything about our church body, but that is part of the beauty of Christian community. Everybody gets to be uncomfortable some of the time. Let’s keep on being Church.

(This was my September newsletter column).