Who speaks for you?

Publicado: diciembre 17, 2013 en Iglesia, Luteranismo, LUTHERAN CORE, Pastoral

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By Pastor Paul Ulring
Who speaks for you, for us? “Who speaks for whom?” is a good question for Lutherans in North America. The idea that a denomination “speaks” has evolved over time, it seems. Whether the source of this reality is our life alongside Roman Catholics who have a Pope and ecclesiology that provide such a role—or something else—might
be considered, even debated.

When Lutheran denominational groups were smaller and even more ethnic and geographical, it was a different thing, although I am not aware of many, if any, very prominent social statements from past eras. Perhaps there were. I will probably hear if there were.

Now that we have mega denominations with millions of members and thousands of congregations, is there really a Lutheran process that is possible? Is there really a singular Lutheran “voice” in these times? Beyond Confessions and doctrine and legitimate history, can “this church” really speak for itself, for its members?

The story of American Lutheranism is mostly one of smaller times. The structures and cultures of the churches were not mega, huge, diverse, in spite of some ecclesiastical differences.
The ELCA, for all of its quotas and organizational documents, did little about the church’s real culture and
the expectations that came with it. And in its huge diversity, there are many hearts, minds, and voices.
No one can or should speak for all. It’s problematic enough to make decisions that affect so many and so much diversity.

But the idea, and now functional reality, that a denomination might “speak” or have an official position
that represents ALL of its members is here. When the now-former ELCA Presiding Bishop apologized at the installation of the first gay ELCA bishop for the ELCA taking so long to adopt the ministry changes and allow pastors in same sex relationships to serve and be called, for whom was he speaking? Not me; you?

When a denomination issues social statements, do they speak for ALL who are members of that denomination? The idea has evolved that the church might guide and help its congregations and members by having teaching statements, developed by a variety of processes, including its seminary faculties and a process of research involving special commissions or committees. What began as teaching reports and statements have become, in the view of many, “this church’s” position and official belief. Is that true in reality? Some of us don’t think so.

We believe that there are many ELCA members who don’t believe what their church says is the official position, meaning a summary of what most of its members believe. A thousand people together voting do not speak for the whole church of four million or so members, regardless that a process or constitutional structure says they do. The ELCA has many members who don’t agree. The ELCA does not speak for them.

There are many people who still don’t know what has happened, not only about the ELCA’s 2009 decision and all that has come about since then, but so much more. They don’t know how “this church” has functionally changed its mind and view of Scripture and thousands of years of history. “This church” keeps speaking and acting—but does it speak for all, for you?

Some say that everyone who disagreed has left. Not so, not so at all. There are many who disagree but don’t know what to do with their disagreement. There are more who live so locally that they don’t know what has happened to “their church.” Times are changing culturally, and it’s even more critical that we realize “Who speaks for you?” is not just an intellectual issue.

There is very little recourse in place when “this church” moves forward and assumes the authority to do so. The process is not viable anymore. It may have never been. Dissent is muted; the assumption seems to be that it is gone. Is it? Does the ELCA hierarchy speak for you, for ALL?

Lutheran CORE intends to keep watch as best we can on this question. We intend to connect those who are left behind—and left out—and hoping they are not alone. They are not. We will try to speak for them.

Pr. Paul Ulring, moderator for Lutheran CORE

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