Opinion

The separation of church and sex

It will be interesting to see when the revised Lutheran hymnals come out with masculine pronouns in reference to God removed, as is in the works, whether congregational unhappiness is reflected in the Lutheran collection plate as it is with the Episcopalians.

Episcopal church officials last month announced a $3 million shortfall in the church’s 2004 $48 million budget. Parishes and dioceses are withholding funds to protest the ordination of a homosexual bishop.

And it’s going to get worse by the end of 2004, warned Canon David Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, the lead group protesting the Nov. 2 consecration of V. (for Vicky) Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, the first open homosexual ordained to such a position. And, yes, that’s what the V. stands for. It’s used in the Lutheran Commentator, a Minnesota publication that resists radical changes in the church, and was told use was deliberate “to show the ridiculous names that were bestowed upon him at his baptism.”

I double checked with the ecumenical office of the Episcopal church in New York which confirmed it.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopalians, which have formed an alliance, both allow homosexual pastors but only if celibate. Bishop Robinson is divorced (wife and daughters) and has a live-in male companion he refused to give up.

Both churches are faced with demands to allow non-celibate homosexual clergy and same-sex marriages.

The Lutheran hierarchy named a Task Force on Homosexuality to consider the matter and report back in 2005. But the Task Force, says the Lutheran Commentator, is loaded. It has eight members in favor, four wavering and two against.

The solution on partnered non-celibate clergy is expected to be a recommendation for local option, already a reality in ten states, including Washington. The Commentator objects to that because local option implies approval.

Further, says the Commentator, “feminist theology is on the rise” in the revision of the Lutheran hymnal. “Masculine pronouns in reference to God are being removed. Father is retained only in the Lord’s Prayer, Creed and Baptism. All else is up for grabs.”

Example: Hymn 549, “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven,” would be renamed “Praise, My Soul, the God of Heaven.” Here are some proposed changes in wording: “Praise him for his grace and favor” becomes “God be praised for grace and favor.” “Tenderly he shields and spares me” is now “Frail as summer’s flow’r we flourish.” “Angels help us to adore him” is rewritten to “Angels sing in adoration.” He, Him, His and King no longer appear in the hymn.

Personally, as a lifelong Lutheran, albeit with a poor attendance record, I won’t use the revised hymnal if adopted. I agree with the Commentator. If the word Father is erased, whose Son is Jesus?

When I asked my pastor about it at Our Saviour’s Lutheran, he said at this point nothing is decided conclusively, although he was taught in seminary to use inclusive language and there is a section of the church that is “very concerned about using inclusive language.”

That means, I presume, language that does not limit the identity of God as masculine. “It’s been an ongoing debate in the church for decades,” he said. “My understanding of God is that it is not a sexual meaning.”

As for church giving, while it isn’t down locally, it is nationally in a lot of synods, he said. “From what I have been told there is no one particular reason. The economy could be part of it.”

His congregation doesn’t like the controversy over the sexuality issue, he said. “They’re tired of talking about it.” Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the church appears determined to force acceptance of non-celibate homosexual pastors and same-sex marriages. We’d better talk about it or we could find ourselves with our own Bishop Robinson whether we want him or not.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, 98340.

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