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Process letter #2

April 2, 1999

Below is the text of a letter sent to the ELCA Church Council signed by 25 prominent ELCA leaders. The letter addresses concerns about the process used to discuss CCM. For the record, Church Council took neither of the actions suggested in the letter.

April 2, 1999

Dear Member of the ELCA Church Council,

In 1517, deeply concerned about the sale of indulgences, as well as thespiritual health of his parishioners, Luther wrote the 95 Theses. Luther's commitment to fair and open deliberation about this then-controversial subject was particularly evident in Thesis 90, where he wrote, "To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church, and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy."

We believe, as did Luther, that fair, open, honest, and thorough discussion of controversial issues is an absolute necessity for the health and well-being of the ELCA and its members. Now, more than ever, when the ELCA is facing perhaps the most controversial vote in its history, it is imperative that all processes and forums pertaining to that vote be absolutely fair and unbiased and devoid of any hint of coercion or suppression of dissent. A commitment to such fairness is indicative of respect for the ability and responsibility of ELCA members to think, learn, and deliberate on issues of theological substance. We are deeply dismayed that despite your commendable resolution of November, 1998, (CC98.11.70), in so many official venues throughout the ELCA, only those voices which support CCM are being heard. Without open, honest, "equal-time" discussion of both pro and con positions, such a controversial proposal as CCM, whether it passes or fails, could destroy both the trust and commitment of church members to their church and its leadership.

We are asking you to do two things at your April meeting, in order to insure that all ELCA members are given ample opportunity to think critically and reflect theologically on whether or not to support CCM:

  1. Pass a resolution directing that equal time be given to both pro and con presentations and positions on CCM in all ELCA forums, written and oral, between now and August. This would include all local synod assemblies, all synodical meetings of delegates to Denver, the pages of The Lutheran and Lutheran Partners, the agenda of the Churchwide Assembly at Denver, and any written material distributed by local synods or the national church to ELCA members.
  2. Pass a resolution specifically requesting that bishops of the ELCA, in the spirit of fairness and open inquiry, promise to hold themselves and their local synods accountable to this directive, for the sake of the spiritual health and well-being of the ELCA and all its members.

Deep faith commitments underlie people's positions on both sides of this very controversial issue. These days, when faith is subjected to corrosive cultural forces, and loyalty to one's church is often disdained as foolishness or naiveté, it is crucial that we in the Church do everything we can to respect, protect, and nourish the faith commitments of parishioners, despite the differences of opinion which may result. We ask that you use your legislative authority to ensure a fair and open process by enacting the two resolutions above, out of respect for the faith commitments and loyalty of all members of the ELCA.

Sincerely,

Rev. Charles Biegner, Jr., Resurrection Lutheran Church, Buffalo, New York

Rev. John F. Bradosky, Senior Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Huntington Beach, California

Rev. Durwood Buchheim, retired Professor of Homiletics, Wartburg Seminary, former District President of the Iowa District of The American Lutheran Church

Rev. George W. Evans, Jr., Redeemer Lutheran Church, McLean, Virginia

Rev. Dr. George Forell, Emeritus Professor of Church History, University of Iowa

Dr. Mary Jane Haemig, Assistant Professor of Religion, Pacific Lutheran University

Rev. Wesley Hamlin, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Jamestown, New York

Rev. Dr. Kurt Hendel, Professor of Reformation History, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Rev. Dr. Gordon Huffman, Professor of Christian Missions, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio

Rev. Elliott Hull, Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Walla Walla, Washington

Dr. Cynthia Jurisson, Associate Professor of American Church History, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Rev. L. Wayne Kendrick, Peace Lutheran Church, El Paso, Texas

Rev. Dr. Keith Killinger, Golgatha Lutheran Church, Chicago, Illinois, and Adjunct Professor of Reformation History, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Rev. Michael H. Lubas, Reformation Lutheran Church, Rochester, New York

Rev. Edward K. Perry, former bishop of the Upstate New York Synod of the ELCA

Rev. Dr. Ted Peters, Professor of Systematic Theology, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary/Graduate Theological Unioni, Ediotr of dialog

Rev. Dr. Jay Rochelle, St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Rev. Dr. Jose D. Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Director of the Hispanic Ministry Program, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Rev. Dr. Paul Rorem, Professor of Medieval Church History, Princeton Theological Seminary, Editor of Lutheran Quarterly

Rev. Joyce D. Sandberg, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Waverly, Iowa

Rev. Kenneth Sauer, former bishop of the Southern Ohio Synod, ELCA

Rev. John Strand, Zion Lutheran Church, Kent, Washington

Rev. Kathleen M. Sukke, Arden Hills, Minnesota

Rev. Virgil F. Thompson, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Spokane, Washington