It has been a long time since I graced the pages of this blog with any sort of insight. Several issues factored into my lack of sharing, but none so weighted as the controversies surrounding the fracture of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The theological debates and arguments surrounding social justice and matters of conscience brought about by the ELCA’s adoption of several policies regarding human sexuality simply wore me out.
Being a confessional Lutheran pastor serving a body in such conflict is difficult enough. Being that such conflict is brought about through the process of the ELCA leadership abandoning two thousand years of tradition, while discounting biblical authority, I found little energy left for blogging. I never wanted to fill my blog with debates surrounding such issues, but those were the issues crowding my mind, my life and ministry. Even as I have tried to write this post, I have deleted remarks, edited comments over and over, and even spent long periods staring at a blank screen wondering how I should address my silence of the past year. Simply put, as long as I was struggling to reconcile my call to pastoral office with the fact I served a body adrift in a sea of theological uncertainty, I had no energy to devote to this blog.
It wasn’t until our South Carolina Synod assembly last year that I realized the body I served as pastor, the ELCA, had headed off in a direction moving away from biblical authority and confessional witness with no plans of ever looking back. The traditional and confessional voice is no longer a part of the proclamation of the ELCA in so much as defined and practiced by the church catholic. As I sat in the convention hall, all I could think about was how out of place I felt and just how unwelcome my voice was when it came time to stand up for the gospel and traditional expression of the Christian faith. Outside of a few friends and colleagues who served on our steering committee calling for reform, I was alone in the crowd and longing for the Church. The question running through my mind; “How could I have strayed so far from home and how can I find my way back?” Following the assembly, I began a journey of serious discernment.
In the months following, I met with my bishop, with other pastors, and also bishops and pastors of other Lutheran bodies. As has been my practice since 2009, I also attended the Lutheran CORE convocation and theological conference. In September of 2009 at Fishers, Indiana, I witnessed the effects of overwhelming grief of those lost in a church committing grievous error. August of 2010 at Columbus, Ohio, the sound of the first note in worship pierced my heart and I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit saying “Welcome home David.” This past August, in the same church nave, with the same gathering and at the first note of the same organ, I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit ask, “Where have you been David?” In that moment, I realized I had indeed come home. Even as my ELCA was adrift on shifting sand, there was still a place for me to stand upon the solid ground of the gospel and worship God almighty. There was still a place where I could confess Holy Scripture as God’s inspired Word and the source and norm for my faith, life and proclamation…..and actually mean it. At this convocation, there was no mistaking the fact that God was calling me to help grow his Church and continue making disciples by serving the North American Lutheran Church.
So now here I am, still a confessional Lutheran, still proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, still presiding at God’s table. I have; however, found it necessary to move on. The congregation I served and dearly loved (and still do by the way) was not in the same place as its pastor. Simply put, given all the circumstances it was time for me to follow Christ to a new place. I now serve our Lord in a wonderful congregation in North Carolina, one who took a similar stand on the same issues of faithfulness. Here in Salisbury, pastor and people have abandon our small boat, left our nets behind and have embarked upon the greatest fishing journey of our lives. With new excitement for the gospel and rekindled passion for mission, we are growing together in Christ, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry and loving our neighbor as Christ first loved us.
So now it is time to once again pick up the pen as it were, and share with those who read this blog the stories and experiences of pastor and people as we continue as workers in God’s vineyard. It will be slow going at first, I need to learn to carve out time to reflect and to write. I look forward to sharing our story and reading your comments. But most of all, I give thanks and praise to God our Father, Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit who leads us and guides us through this and every day.
Grace to you and peace!