Faith journey

[Personal side note: I know I have posted a lot recently so hopefully I am not overwhelming you…it’s just that I have had lots on my heart to say.]

This last week has been a faith journey for me (times of trial have a way of leading people on these journeys).

For me this faith journey started (of course) last week when the ELCA Churchwide assembly began debating/discussing the sexuality issues.  But I don’t want to write another post about these issues (been there, done that).  Rather I want to share with you what has been going on inside of my heart during this past week…after all…this blog is titled “The HEART of a Pastor”.

Recently I had a conversation with a person who shared with me their heart about what happened at the ELCA CWA.  When this person called me and told me they were coming in, I did not expect a conversation about “the vote”, but when this person arrived…oh boy…I saw the heart of this person that I had not seen before.  They were almost apologetic but I kept telling them “We need more people like you to open their hearts and share what they are feeling about what is going on.  I appreciate seeing and hearing your passion and faith.”  This person was not happy about the outcome of “the vote” but need to tell someone…and they felt I was the only one they could talk to.  I wish that were no so.  I wish this person felt comfortable talking to others about their feelings and faith.  I told this person “I got a feeling that there are plenty others who probably feel the same as you.  So share your faith and don’t be afraid.”  I am not sure what this person will do, but hopefully this is just the beginning.

But in another way this “beginning” kind of scares me…

…part of me doesn’t feel ready to take on this task because I am still on this faith journey.  But another part of me knows that I need to be ready to guide and lead this congregation…and because that is the case I trust that God will guide me along this journey and give me what I need to lead Salem and Belmont Lutheran Churches through these tumultuous (wow…that is kind of a big word for me to use, but I like it) waters.

Yet another part of me is somewhat concerned what people here and beyond will do.  Will churches and people up and leave the ELCA?  Will Salem want to do that?  This is just one uncertainty that plagues me and one that I need to be ready to deal with.  I need to explore my heart and test my faith to see where it leads me.  I know the question will come up so I am in constant prayer…asking God for guidance and wisdom here.  “What is your plan for me and this church, oh  God?  Where are you leading us?  How are we to be faithful witnesses to the world during this tumultuous time in the Church?  But also…I don’t want this issue of homosexuality to distract us from the Gospel.  Grant me/us wisdom oh God.”

But I am thankful that this journey is happening before the busyness of the fall season hits.  School is not in session yet; Release Time and Confirmation classes don’t start for another couple weeks and Salem’s 125th anniversary is still a couple weeks away.  I can afford some down time to pray, reflect, talk with colleagues, write, read, pray, reflect, etc… And I got a feeling I will be doing plenty of this during the week and beyond.

I don’t understand why things happened last week the way they did, but I hope and pray it causes people to reflect, pray and engage their own personal faith journeys.  Maybe the Church needed this to spur people to action; to explore their relationship with God; to get people talking and thinking; to force people to explore their faith; to get into scripture more.  Whatever God is doing I trust that the mission of Christ will continue forward and that we will continue to be faithful witnesses.

Oh God, grant me strength and wisdom.


11 thoughts on “Faith journey

  1. There is plenty that goes on in the life of the church with which I disagree … I didn’t like the agreement with the Episcopalians and our new polity of episcopal succession. I think our ecumenical strategy is lacking and our advocacy ministry ineffective. I think our Presiding Bishop spends too much time sending letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about global issues, and not enough time writing to pastors about the ministry of Word and Sacrament. In all of this, there is plenty of waste and – at times – an agenda that looks eerily similar to the Democratic Party platform. All of this is problematic and sinful.

    Furthermore, the church fails to truly teach what it means to give up one’s life and follow Jesus to the cross of Calvary. The church (at times) seems more interested in institutional preservation than it does in gospel proclamation. Pastors and congregations horde what wealth they have rather than giving it away to the poor and needy. All of this is problematic and sinful.

    But I stay. Despite our sinful neglect of the Gospel, our maintenance of the status quo, and our failure to live as God’s people, I stay. I hope that you and your churches will stay, too. I hope that you will perhaps like me make a list of those things that you find objectionable in the life of the church and will see in that list things that are regrettable but not communion-breaking.

    • I totally hear what you are saying. When this person came in to talk to me I starting talking about all the good things that ELCA does. I also told them that if for example we do leave, no matter what denomination we would join there will be things we will disagree with. My point to them was that the ELCA can’t tell me what to believe. Despite what happened last week I am still going to preach the Gospel like I have always done…that is not going to change. We are still going to be a congregation that serves the community and welcomes the stranger…that is not going to change.

      My other point to this person was that I believe that the 600+ delegates that voted for this change do not accurately reflect the whole of the ELCA. My hope and prayer is that the silent majority will start to speak up. As Martin Luther was, we need to be reformers, but we can’t do that if we leave.

      • At least this is where I am at on my faith journey. But it is helpful to write about this as it helps me process what is going on in my head and heart.

      • At another time, on another day, I would like to take up the question of whether the Churchwide Assembly is truly representative of the ELCA (actually, the question of whether it is representative or not is not the point – the question should be whether the election of CWA voting members is a fair process, and if it is … why isn’t the supposed conservative majority of the ELCA electing like-minded folks to congregational and synod leadership, and as voting members to the CWA?). I hear this critique alot, yet am pretty sure that I don’t agree with it.

        But like I said … that’s the stuff for another day. Peace.

        • Agreed…another time, another day…we have other fish to fry now (but I do have a response to your question though).

  2. As a person who is always interested in thoughtful and well written, well reasoned expressions of opinion, I welcome your thoughts.

    Yes, how the delegates get to be delegates is a good question. One pastor I know said she volunteered to be a delegate, and she said it was a lot of work to be a delegate. Do people just volunteer depending on the convention not being when they have family vacation? Or because they believe strongly about a particular issue? As you said, why weren’t there, apparently, more conservative voters? Or, perhaps, the Holy Spirit guided the voting? Reports of the convention tell of lots of prayer about each situation.

    The delegate told me that some pastors said that their congregations had already made up their mind to leave, but this begs the questions: Why would you decide to leave before you know what the amendments are and before you know the outcome of the vote? Does that not ignore the work of the Holy Spirit? Are those pastors leading the leaving or the congregation? Did the congregation actually read the various documents?

    A congregation in our area left because of the episcopal succession thing. They found a pastor who left because of the same issues. But the leaving also means they left other things they have been sharing, such as a strong association with another church, the church camp, etc. I also wonder how this would affect church discipline if the pastor might have some “issues.” [Speaking only theoretically!!!] The pastor loses out on those things that are worldly, so that is stepping out in faith, for sure.

    • There is so much to respond to here that I will leave to another time. But I will say in response to where the conservative voters are that sometimes the loud, vocal minority can sometimes sound like they are the majority. If that silent majority is out there, then they need to speak up and make their voices heard instead of just silently complaining about the future of the church.

      But more importantly…all Christians (no matter what side of the isle you are on), need to remember that we are all children of God called to pray, listen, discern with one another and with all respect and love.

  3. Thank you for your always thoughtful posts. This whole summer has been a reflective one for me. I can appreciate that especially as a pastor this is an important place to be. May God guide and direct you and your parish.


  4. Eric, I know a lot of people were not surprised, but I was very surprised by this decision. I know there will now be a lot of conversations, prayers, and wrestling in many conversations, and with people. But maybe that’s a good thing. I do agree with a lot of what Chris said: we do care more about institutional preservation than about the gospel, and Word and Sacrament. I don’t think this decision means that we have “thrown out the Bible”, as one person said.

    That being said, I think of the lesbian woman who serves up the street from me. I don’t know her very well, but I have heard her preach, and she is an amazing preacher. She was installed irregularly a couple of years ago; the congregation wanted to call her, but our policy forbade it. I am beginning to be in conversation with a college friend from long ago who went to seminary at the same time I went to Japan. He was such a straight arrow Lutheran, Eric! And something happened while I was in Japan, there were murmurings (I didn’t hear everything); he left the seminary, discovered he was gay. After being out of touch with him for years and years, I heard him speak two years ago at the Mpls. Synod; he had been worshiping at a UCC church for many years, and recently came home to a Lutheran church (the one that has the lesbian pastor).

    What I’m trying to say, Eric, is that I am on a journey too. I take scripture seriously, but I’m also trying to take these people that God is putting in front of me seriously too.

    What I want most of all is to worship the God who does change lives, but to keep in respectful conversation with one another too.

    • Thank you, Diane, for sharing. It is good to see that others are on a journey and wrestling as well. Sometimes it feels like one is on their own out here on the prairies of SW MN.

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