Monday, May 23, 2005

Convictions and Hopes

Here are some paragraphs I am rough drafting for necessary paperwork. Give me some feedback, since I won't send them for a while.

Core convictions and sense of call:
Purely by the grace of the Triune God, the universe and all creatures were created - including me. Purely by grace, I have been saved, sinner though I am, through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. I have received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through no merit of my own. My Savior has called me, saying "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand," and "Come, follow me, and I will make you fish for people." That call is itself grace, the gift of the Holy Spirit. The effect of that call in me is faith. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of faith is love for God and my neighbor.
My call to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments is not higher or holier than the call to each Christian to live in faith and to live out faith, but it is a sacred calling, a pearl of great price, a deep responsibility and a source of great joy. My call to the pastoral ministry is, in large part, the office through which I obey God's Great Commandment and Great Commission.

Hopes for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
I am an adopted son of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, drawn by the uncompromising emphasis on salvation by grace through faith in Christ, as revealed in Scripture (All glory to God alone!). Mindy and I were welcomed into our first Lutheran church with open arms and authentic warmth, and integrated into the life of the congregation. At the same time, the Lutheran professors and students at Princeton were an accessible, welcoming enclave within the larger body of the seminary. What I found there was a theological, spiritual, relational home within the church catholic - one that is, in Bishop Hanson's words, "faithful yet changing": faithful to the word of God as seen through the lens of the Book of Concord; open to the world, open to the wider church, open to learning from different cultures, open to faithful change in response to a changing world. That is, perhaps, a charism that the ELCA provides the world - the courage to be both faithful to Christ and open to meeting Christ in our neighbors, as different from us as they may be. I hope we the ELCA can turn around our membership slide and grow by focusing on the essential: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our neighbors.

By the way, I realize I never finished the "Becoming Lutheran" biographical series. I guess one other question I had yet to answer was, Why not remain in the Evangelical Covenant Church? Perhaps the name of this blog says a lot: though an orthodox catholic protestant Christian, I lean toward the progressive side of theology, politics, etc., that does not mesh well with the Covenant Church. When I entered seminary, I got the unspoken message from Covenant leadership that my ecumenical choice of seminary - Princeton - was not well received. In my first year at PTS, one of my professors was a former Covenant pastor who, when he pursued a doctorate in preaching at PTS, found that he had no place in the denomination (and became a Methodist). Other students at PTS were also transitioning out of the Covenant Church to more welcoming (for ecumenically minded pastors) denominations. I struggled with this for a while, but decided that it was not worth the struggle to fit back into the Covenant Church as a Lutheran in Covenant clothing - especially with the Lutheran Church welcoming us in.

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