Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 147: A Conversation with a Lutheran Pastor

Still cold, rainy and cloudy. Angel and I take a walk this morning.

While walking I was reflecting upon a constructive Facebook conversation I had with a college friend of mine. Steve is a Pastor of a Church which is in the process of voting to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

There is a schism there, after the ELCA leadership decided that it was okay to ordain Homosexual Pastors who are in a longtime, monogamous relationship. Many Congregations don't like that, and Steve wrote a post on Facebook yesterday about his Church's upcoming vote on whether they should leave the ELCA.

I have shed many doctrines in my spiritual walk. I am no longer a Lutheran. I depart with the notion of the "Atoning Sacrifice" of Jesus. Yet, I remain a Christian of sorts. The following is the dialogue between Pastor Steve and me. I put in a couple paragraph breaks for Steve's part of the conversation. I cleaned up a couple of my spelling errors; other mistakes I left in to leave the flavor of the written conversation. I did change some identities of people I write about.

Otherwise, the conversation is verbatim:

Allan Stellar: Pardon me for making a comment Steve. Feel free to erase this if this is none of my business... but....

The Lutheran church I grew up in split apart over the question of slavery in the 1860's. One group opposed to it; the other for slavery (black people aren't part of God's chosen people!). They ended up forming two churches in my little Minnesota town.

From the vantage point of 150 years, which church would you want to have belonged to?

Seems to me the Lutheran church is facing the same question now.

Pastor Steve: Al, if I refer you to an article on the subject, would you be willing to read it?

Allan: Of course... :)

Pastor Steve: Al - look at pages 36 and following in this pdf:

Allan: Made me feel like I was reading the Koran. This isn't my worldview anymore, so it isn't really instructive for me.

I don't buy the premise that homosexuality is a sin. I am much more bothered by deep sea drilling, species extinction, racism, homophobia and the like. These are things the bible doesn't mention, yet are quite evident of humans' disconnection from God.

Why do so many Christians limit morality to, mainly, varieties of sexual expression?

I think God wants us to grow. To think. To love. To nurture. To limit our desires beyond that of sharing the bed with another woman or man.

It'd be better to stay a part of the Church and take all this time and energy into putting solar panels on the roof.

But, as I said, this really isn't any of my business. Thanks!

Pastor Steve: Morality is certainly NOT limited to sex. Some people limit it that way because they do not want to look at the truth--the truth of the prophets Jeremiah, Amos, and the command of God at the beginning to care for the earth. In what way does what Joel writes make you think of the Koran? I don't understand that.

Allan: Why the Koran? Because the document (written by Joel) is no longer a part of my culture. Perhaps the metaphor is wrong, I have just as difficult of time reading the Bhagavad Gita. :)

I'm sure Joel is a fine human being and believes sincerely in his world view (as do you). And I love those prophets mentioned.

But no where in this document did I read about the persecution of gay people. I read a whole lot about why gay people should remain celibate (as if heteros pull that one off). But I don't see any Amos like condemnation of vilifying a valid, loving sexual expression within his discussion. And nothing about homophobia. Nothing about racism in his (weird) discussion of slavery.

Our morality is determined by much more than the Bible. And I would say that the word alone folks have a bit of their own culture infiltrating this discussion.

I think Jesus would accept homosexual relationships. And, as the document tries to say: that is what the Church is about.

Pastor Steve: Allan - I referred you to this document because you were making a comparison, in your original comment, between the church's conflicts over slavery and this issue about sexuality. I would not say everything in the way he does, but he does a good job, on page 37-38, dealing with the slavery issue.

As for the rest of it, when I teach I do not personally focus on the "7 scripture passages" that Joel focuses on. I have a simple thesis as regards the homosexuality issue that you can read at

If you want to read that and respond to that, that would be great.

I know we come from different world views and that makes the conversation difficult--but I wrote my thesis intentionally without reference to the Bible so I could perhaps talk with people who come from a variety of perspectives. As to the question of "sin" - all of us sin every day in every part of our lives, intentionally and not. Our despoiling of the environment--also a part of God's creation--is a HORRIBLE sin that needs to be addressed. I would argue however, that we DO have all the ammunition we need in regard to that in, for example Psalm 8. When we hurt God's creation we sin against God.

Allan: Oh, I went ahead and read the whole thing by Joel.

I don't have any major problems with what you wrote. You leave things sufficiently vague... :)


Pastor Steve: Vague? So you agree that we ought to lift up and honor heterosexual marriage above all other forms of sexual relationships?

Allan: I think we ought to lift up all loving relationships. I'm just happy you didn't call homosexuality a sin.

Pastor Steve: So you do disagree.

And, though I don't use the word "sin" there, the Greek and Hebrew meanings of "sin" - as I understand it, is a simple "missing of the mark" of God's intent. I don't use the word "sin" because it carries such a load of baggage, making some people seem worse than others, which they are not.

If you get a chance, read my note from Monday -

Homosexual relationships, because they miss the mark of God's intent, are sinful. That's why we don't lift them up and honor them. If they were part of God's intent we could honor them.

Even though I try to say things gently, you and I, and so many others, we do disagree. But because, as you say, you're outside the theistic Christian worldview, that won't make sense. For those of us who believe that ANYTHING outside of God's intent is sin, tainting everything I do, it's clear that homosexual relations fall into that category as well. If they did not, we could honor them just like heterosexual marriage.

Like Martin Luther, who was a terrible sinner and responsible for so much evil, I am bound to God's Word. I can do no other. But I WILL NOT hate or despise or try to destroy my homosexual brothers and sisters. We are not different in God's sight. We are ALL sinners in the need of God's grace. But some things we just cannot bless.

Allan: With all due respect Steve (and I fully see your humility in saying that you will not hate or despise your homosexual brothers and sisters). I get that...


This is an example of why I had to leave the church in order to be a Christian. No where does Jesus say that we should not bless, or support, loving relationships.

I would like you to tell the above paragraph to my friends Bill and Jack. Good people. Been in love for years. Kind. One an ER nurse who has saved many lives over the last 20 years. Jack works as a creative therapist. I could never tell them that their relationship "misses the mark" just because one of them doesn't have a vagina.

Or tell that to my college roommate, Chuck, who plays the organ for church and is active within the Gay movement within the Church.

"Being bound to God's word" sometimes leads to becoming an oppressor. Jesus had no problems with discarding law, in order to use his brain and promote love.

The Lutheran Church has been apart of promoting many awful things because of their love for the word alone. From Martin Luther's anti-Semitic remarks (which the Lutheran Church finally apologized for in the early 90's) to the Nazi Holocaust to, now, this schism which in my mind is the result of homophobia.

So I have to politely disagree.

Pastor Steve: Allan, I appreciate the conversation and your politeness. I understand, at least a bit, how offensive what I'm writing is. Because I believe God's purpose for sex is intimately connected with the blessing of new life, this is a key issue for me.

I need to politely disagree with your assessment of Jesus' attitude toward the law. Actually in terms of what we have from Jesus as regards sexual relations (mostly in Mt 19), it seems that he goes back to the "original intent" of Genesis 1 & 2 to build his case for lifelong marriage... I'm sorry you think of this as homophobic. For me, it's just that I can't turn my back on God's revealed Word, which, after all, is what brings to us the grace of Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection for the sake of the world. But I know that's not where you are either. Thanks for the conversation.

Allan: Thanks Steve... :)


Pastor Steve said...

Thank you, Al. One day at a time. As I said in a message, I remember with fondness our work together getting the MPIRG chapter going at Augsburg College. Peace to you in Jesus' name.

Allan Stellar said...


I remember those days with fondness too. I hope your church makes the decision that is best for your congregation.


Zeal said...

"I believe God's purpose for sex is intimately connected with the blessing of new life"

That's a very bold and dangerous hypothesis. Should my wife and my marriage be considered unholy or insignificant because we are choosing not to have children? Or if someone is unable to have a child due to disease or some other reason, that their sexual relationship is sin?

I plan to leave my mark and legacy on this world by transforming it through my actions and intellectual contributions, rather than by having children. Does that make my wife and my love less real? Shouldn't a homosexual relationship be given the same chance?

Allan Stellar said...

Excellent Zeal...