Fallout from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's draft of a report on human sexuality continues to afflict the denomination. The Lutheran, official magazine of the ELCA, has published an editorial describing the controversial church document as "mortally wounded" yet valuable as a tool for discussion. In another development, Karen Bloomquist, who served as chief staff person in the drafting the statement, was asked to end her particiaption in the project effective November 15; she "reluctantly agreed," according to church officials.
In the Lutheran's December issue editor Edgar R. Trexler contends that distribution of the study document amiuntd to a "disaster." He also criticizes the document's content, saying parts of it suggest that the task force that wrote it "had an agenda." But he concludes: "Even through the proposed statement as written is mortally wounded, the study process should proceed. This culture needs a word from the chruch and the church needs to ascertain its mind."
Trexler said the furor over the document--its release prompted thousands of phone calls to church headquarters--resulted in part of from the fact that "sensationalized" stories about it reached the newstands before local pastors and people in the pews had a chance to read it. Pointing to the statement's section on homosexuality as hinting that that task force "had an agends," he urged that it should not have taken a position challenging the "love the sinner but hate the sin" approach to homosexuals while encouraging attitudes of toleration, or even affirmation, of same-sex relationships.
Meanwhile, attacks that some hav e labeled "unjust and abusive" have been leved against Bloomquist. In withdrawimg from the project, Bloominquist said, "I did not want to divert the ELCA's attention from the important deliberative procees around this statement. THis change will also enable me to focus attention on other important areas of studies work in Division for Church in Society." Although Bloomquist will no longer be associated with further study and possible revisions of the sexuality paper, she will remain the division director of studies.
Charles Miller, executive director of the Division for Church in Society, which prepared the document, pointed to "fears and anxieties" about the paper as prompting the criticisms of Bloomquist. "Dr. Bloomquist and I agre that deliberating on the subject of sexuality is a great struggle for the church today," commented Miller. "In the ELCA that is evidenced in the fears and anxities evoked by the release of the first draft of the human sexuality statement and the too-close identification of one person with the statement's development." The 21-page first draft, four years in the making, is the work of a 17-member task force from across the denomination; its release was preceded by a 50-page study guide, as well as churchwide hearings.
SBC seminary: No to conference on women
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisille, Kentucky, has canceled plans to cosponsor a conference on women in the church slated for March, citing indications that the conference would be slanted in a "radical direction." Until the decision to back out, Southern was on of five Louisville-area seminaries that had agreed to sponsor the event, which will include workshops and plenary sessions on the theological, ministerial, educational and social-justice aspects of women in the church.
Albert Mohler, newly elected president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Associated Baptist Press, "The scope and nature of the program wasa slanted in a very radical direction and was not at all sensitive to the concerns of evanfelicals." Added Mohler, who was appointed after the initial decision to participate in the event: "Evangelical can discuss the ordination of women to the ministry in contexts that are both sensitive and appropriate. In this case, the conference met neither of those requirements."
Scheduled as the conference's two keynote speakers are Letty Russell of Yale Divinity School, who has championed the rights of women, gays and lesbians in the church, and Mercy Oduyoye of Ghana, a well-known advocate of women's rights and longtime activist in the World Council of Churches.
The role of women is one of the most divisive issues in the 15-million-member Southern Baptist Convention--particularly the ordaining of women, which Mohler and many other conservations in the denomination oppose.
Katherine Johnson of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, chairwoman of the event's planning committee, said the conferencwe "is not a conference that assumes women should be ordained." She noted that one of the sponsoring seminaries is St. Meinrad School of Theology, a Roman Catholic institution planted firmly in the Catholic tradition of an all-male priesthood.
School-activist is target of harassment
A Catholic feminist scholar known for her outspoken views against abortion has twice been the target of harassment at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches. When Ann Maloney arrived at her office in a campus classroom building on October 13, she found her chairs, carpet, bookcase and even class notes drenched in ketchup. The words "woman killer" had beem scratched on her desk. Janitors worked several hours to clean up the office. A day later the professor returned to her office and found her desk again covered with ketchup. And on her desk were 20 coat hangers, symbols of illegal abortion.
"I really feel threatened and frightened," sai Maloney, who has taught feminist philosophy and ethics of religion at the Catholic women's college for seven years. She sais her opposition to abortion is well known on campus.
Maloney attracted national publicity last year at the Democratic National Convention when she was knocked down while carrying a sign that said, "Stop Abortion Now." She received a death threat after refusing to vote for Bill Clinton at the convention.
"I try to promote a rational dialogue about abortion in an above-board way," Maloney said. She is vice-president of Feminists for Life and often speaks on abortion, as she did recently at Grace United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. Marilou Eldred, academic dean at St. Catherine's, called the incident unusual for the college anout the threat it poses to academic freedom.
Furthermore. . .
Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, has condemned the abusive treatment experiecened by Patriarch Abuna Paulos, head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, while visiting the U.S. "The National Council of Churches unequivocally condemns the violent disrespectful acts aimed at the patriarch," Campbell stated. Paulos, touring this country to seek aid from churches in helping to rebuild war-ton Ethiopia, has been met with disorderly, sometimes violent protests at each stop on his tour.
On October 10 in New York, the patriarch and several archbishops traveling with him were pelted with eggs and stones. On October 14 in Washington, some 100 protesters gathered to chant shout slogans against the patriarch during a lunch at the College of Preachers on the grounds of the Episcopal Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, better known as the National Cathedral. In her statement Campbell declared that the NCC is "an ardent defender of free speech and the right of all people to engage in peaceful protest. These are essential elements of a free society." She added, however, that the "use of violence in the name of free speech is always appalinh and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. It is especially appalling that such an incident occurred at the Interchurch Center, which standsd as a symbol of the quest for unity and peace."
* Lenoard Sweet, president of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, has been named senior pastor of the 4,000-member St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. St. Luke's is the largest United Methodist congregation in Indiana and one of the largest churches in the nation's second-largest Protestant denomination. Sweet has been presient of United since 1985. At St. Luke's he succeeds Carver McGriff, pastor of the church since 1967.…