Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren, Obama, and the ELCA

“There is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population.” Thus said Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, one of California’s largest megachurches, and a major supporter of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in the state. Warren knows that small minorities, such as gays, generally have no clout. President-elect Barack Obama knows this also. Right wing Christians are much more numerous than gays, and, so, the olive branch is extended to Warren, who will deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration.
So, too, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), anti-gay conservatives are much more numerous than gays. This reality is reflected in the political calculation that is its “Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality” ( In this document, the ELCA stated that “Marriage is a structure of mutual promises between a man and woman blessed by God (Mark 10:7-9) and authorized in a legal arrangement required by the state.” (lines 1005 - 1007) The draft continues: “After many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships.” (lines 1116 - 1117) And, further, “This church recognizes the historic origin of the term “marriage” as a life-long and committed relationship between a woman and man, and does not wish to alter this understanding.” (lines 1151 - 1153).
Like Obama, the ELCA is bowing to the clout of the “consensus” of religious conservatives who definitely want is keep marriage “traditional.” If gays leave, the ELCA won’t be losing many people. It’s better to see them go, so thinks the ELCA, than to upset the “base.”
So, Mark 15:15 comes to life again. Obama and the ELCA “wishing to satisfy the crowd,” like Pilate, find it expedient to sacrifice the gays. However, one reason to be a Christian is the clear biblical witness that the “crowd” and leaders who pander to them are, in God’s view, often wrong. We hope, as Christians, that the “crowd” will not always hold sway. One way of lessening the impact of the “crowd” is for people of goodwill to identify publicly with people who are demeaned and ostracized. Lutherans Concerned/ North America (LC/NA) has introduced a new program, “Reconciling Lutherans” ( that invites all Lutherans to publicly witness to their call for a church and world that welcomes and includes all:
People of every age, class, color, and ethnic origin….
People of all sexual orientations and gender identities….
People who are single, married, divorced, separated, blessed or partnered….
People who are temporarily-able, disabled, or of differing abilities….
As the press release for “Reconciling Lutherans” points out: “Each name added to the list of “Reconciling Lutherans” will strengthen the call to the church for change. For too long, many Lutherans have presumed that there is simply not enough support for the church to proceed with changes in teaching and policy. By revealing the true depth and breadth of support for change, the “Reconciling Lutherans” roster will give courage to all members and leaders, bringing closer the day when all are truly welcome.”
Rick Warren heads up one of the world’s largest megachurches. If enough people show their solidarity with the gay minority, his “crowd” will have less power to discriminate.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Today is World AIDS Day

Below is the press release from Lutherans Concerned/North America concerning World AIDS Day, which is today. The release contains good advice, particularly, " lift prayers for those suffering from HIV and AIDS."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Today is World AIDS Day

From: "LC/NA Database"

Today is World AIDS Day, a day set aside to raise awareness of the disease. Though the state of affairs is undeniably better than it was 10 or 20 years ago, the situation is clearly not good. Across the globe there are between 30-36 million people living with HIV. The most recent annual toll was 2 million deaths. New cases of infection declined from 3 million to 2.7 million in the same period. The overall number of people living with HIV continues to rise as new infections add to the total, people live longer in treatment, and new infections outnumber deaths. The percentage of the population infected has stabilized since 2000.

Women account for half the people living with HIV. Young people, 15-24, account for 45% of new infections - 45%. There are an estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States; in 2001 that number was 1.0 million. In 2007, 22,000 people died from AIDS. In Canada , there are an estimated 73,000 people living with HIV; there were 49,000 in 2001. Around 500 died in 2007.

Executive Director Emily Eastwood suggests that "whether or not you are able to attend one of the many worship services to be held across the country, please set aside a few minutes of today to lift prayers for those suffering from HIV and AIDS; for the researchers who seek more effective treatment, a vaccine, and a cure; for doctors, caregivers, family members, and especially for those at highest risk, our young people and those in poverty. We have lost so many dear friends. Please take good care, get tested, and act for the health and safety of yourself and others."

Keep awareness of the disease, the simple but effective means to prevent being infected and prevent spreading it, its devastating effects on health and quality of living, and its death toll before everyone, but especially those who could place themselves more at risk than others. Among those are the young, who may make poor spur-of-the-moment decisions. It takes only one careless act to be infected by this life-altering and -threatening disease. There are no do-overs.
Show leadership. Get tested, even if you know there is no way you could have contracted the disease. Lead by example. At the next meeting of the ELCA Conference of Bishops, the Bishops will be tested, to demonstrate that AIDS prevention and remediation is everyone's concern and that there is no stigma to getting tested.

Make sure that correct information is provided, errors corrected immediately, so that those who live with the disease are not ostracized, demeaned, or shunned. People living with HIV need to be encouraged, loved, and uplifted for their courage. And, do not forget those closest to those living with HIV/AIDS, who can be driven down, debilitated, and hopeless in the face of the relentless onslaught of the disease and by the fear of loss.

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA