23 August 2009

Glad Someone Else Mentioned This

Earlier today, Anglican Centrist asked a question that I've been wondering about myself and will paraphrase here: where's the media tumult over the recent decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Churchwide Assembly "to open the ministry of the church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships"?

Don't get me wrong. I'm from the heart of Lutheran country and have a great love and respect for the ELCA; I'm happy that so far they at least seem to have been partly spared the kind of oversimplified, conflict-emphasizing mass media attention the Episcopal Church was subject to last month. Of course, that doesn't mean things are going to be any easier within their Church, so I hope you'll join me in keeping the ELCA (and the Episcopal Church) in your thoughts and/or prayers during what's sure to be a difficult time for both.

Getting back to the question, though, here's my thinking:

(1) I get the impression this decision has a smaller international impact than ours does. I'm not a demographer of religion, but I believe the Anglican Communion is larger and (perhaps more relevantly) more culturally heterogeneous than the Lutheran World Federation. There may be ecclesial reasons as well. Am I on the right track, anyone who actually knows something about this? I'm woefully ignorant of global Lutheranism.

(2) I wonder if perhaps since the Episcopal coverage hits so much closer to home for me, I'm only perceiving the Lutheran coverage to be more muted. Note that, like me, Anglican Centrist seems to have started out this general line of thinking when noticing the lack of coverage in the New York Times (I don't read the print version but do get a daily headlines email from which this story has been persistently absent). But The Times may not be a very good proxy given the Episcopal Church's ties to New York. Do any trained media-types have suggestions for a more systematic comparison? I'm guessing it would be necessary to give it some time; of course there's currently more coverage out there of something that happened in mid-July than of something that happened Friday.

What am I leaving out? This is obviously a complex and difficult question to answer well.


Brian said...

Hey Kyle, just came across your blog.

I also get the NY Times headlines email digest, and it actually did include a link to an article which ran on Friday about the ELCA vote "to allow non-celibate homosexuals to serve as clergy." I also saw more than one article in the Washington Post this week reporting this news. So while the impact this will make may be less than the Episcopal Church's decision, it is still getting a fair amount of coverage.

I can't really add anything about the status of the World Lutheran Federation vs. the Anglican Communion, though I did find one blog commenter who writes that "the Lutherans pose yet a different model with a 'world federation' which is not even a 'communion' in the sense of the Anglican communion. There is thus less accountability among the various churches, though some of the global south churches have made very clear that even the 'federation' relationship is in some jeopardy if the ELCA goes off the rails."

Kyle Matthew Oliver said...

Alright, well I stand corrected on the NYT claim. Thanks for all the info, Brian.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question. As a Lutheran (non-practicing) former Theology student who is now a media type and happens to be gay, I'll give you my opinion.

This decision has absolutely no affect on the worldwide Lutheran communion. Lutherans are the largest protestant communion, with about 70 million members. But Lutheranism is broken apart into many different and independent churches, usually by geography and/or heritage. In the US, the two large Lutheran churches are ELCA (Scandinavian) and LC-MS (German).

I think the reason it wasn't that big of a deal is because ELCA already allowed celibate gay clergy. It's not that big of a leap to allowing gay clergy in monogamous relationships.

Another reason may be that American Lutheranism has already split into conservative/liberal factions. LC-MS (my former church) used to be much more progressive. But, after conservatives took power in the 70's, the church took a much more hardline conservative approach. Conservatives tended to drift toward LC-MS and liberals drifted toward ELCA.

And, as far as the media hype goes, well the news media loves drama and sensationalism. As far as I can tell, and I'm not an insider anymore, there's not a whole lot of drama associated with this move on the part of ELCA.

That's my two cents worth, for what it's worth.