Friday, February 26, 2010

Of Ildiko Rigney, Eleanor Rigby, and the ELCA

Ildiko Rigney (not to be confused with Eleanor Rigby of Beatles fame -- Ah, look at all the lonely people) is a fine pastoral colleague in a neighboring town. Her congregation and the one I serve are both members of the Victoria Conference of the Southwestern Texas Synod, ELCA. Ildiko hails from Croatia and I admire her very much for what she has come through and how she has managed to negotiate the shark infested waters of the American church, hazardous duty for a native born, yet alone someone from an entirely different culture.

A day or so ago, I received an e-mail from Ildiko, sent out to all Victoria Conference pastors, asking for help wording the "Resolved" portion of a resolution for our upcomming Synod Assembly in May. The resolution was asking the ELCA Church Council to rescind the recent decisions around the rostering of homosexual persons in committed partnered relationships. Just great. Here we go again. Round 2,000,012. I'm beginning to feel like I'm in one of those cartoon fights where the characters go around and around in an indistinct tornado, and every once in a while some characters head or body will emerge only to be pulled right back in. Enough already!

Needless to say (so then why Am I saying it?), I deleted the e-mail without further thought. But my dog woke me up at 4:30 am this morning and I couldn't get back to sleep and my mind began racing. Someone's got to make the first gesture... Someone's got to make the first move... Why, me, Lord? Why me? OK, OK, why not me? So I fired back the following e-mail:

I inadvertently deleted your e-mail asking for help with the wording of your resolution for Synod Assembly. If you are still in need of help, please forward another copy of the resolution to me and I will see what I can do to be of service.

I am offering to do this not because I agree with you, but because you are in need of help, help that I can provide, and you are my sister in Christ and I respect your bound conscience.

By the same token I would ask you to reconsider the submission of this resolution (although, sadly I suspect your not the only one with this idea). How can we know if last years Churchwide decisions aren't God's will for the ELCA? We haven't even lived with them for a year yet. All we have seen are the knee-jerk reactions of those who oppose these decisions. Should they be rescinded are these folks coming back? I seriously doubt it. Perhaps some who are still wavering may be persuaded to stay, perhaps. But what I can guarantee will happen is an equal number of knee jerk reactions from people on the other side of the political and theological spectrum, and more long years of debate, unrest, divisions, and turmoil. More years of fiddling while God's Church burns. Enough. Please, enough. This has to stop somewhere. We need to heal. How can we stand with Jesus on behalf of the poor, oppressed, and societally marginalized when we keep knee jerking and kicking ourselves in the shins?

A wise rabbi, a respected member of the Sanhedrin, when confronted with the preaching and healing of Peter and John, counseled waiting to see where this Jesus thing was going. If it was not of God it would die out on its own; but, if it was of God, there was nothing they could do to stop it. He further warned that if it was of God, they may even be found to be fighting against the will of God. Luke records the incident in Acts 5:34-39.

I appeal to you, when even our best, most respected and knowledgeable biblical scholars cannot agree, how can we know what is God 's will? All my little brain can figure is that we must simply live with the decisions made (they are what they are -- love them or hate them), and see what happens. Do we really want to be found fighting against the will of God? Please reconsider submitting your resolution for the sake of the Church and for the sake of the demoralized psyche and bound conscience of this poor old brother in Christ who is tired of watching us shred each other to bits, while there is so much ministry and healing that we are called to do.

Peace by the power of the Cross...

Its a first step. A tiny one granted, but a first step, nonetheless. Perhaps if we all took first steps, maybe they would lead to second ones and third ones, and maybe just maybe we might be able to walk together with our Lord.

Eleanor Rigby (not to be confused with Ildiko Rigney)... All the lonely people,where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Memo to the ELCA from Jesus, CEO of the Church Catholic, Lord and Savior of all Creation: All the lonely people belong to me. How can you welcome them, befriend them, and walk with them if you are so busy kicking yourselves in the shins? For the sake of Eleanor Rigby and all the lonely people of my Creation, kindly knock it off.

I am the Unlikely Pastor. Welcome to my world.

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