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Flag mkeoffaith April 2, 2008 2:10 PM EDT
I thought I would post this, I would certainly love to hear other people's opinions and experiences.

So for the Second Sunday in Easter, I went to a friends church. I was surprised and shocked when after the Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness, the pastor pulls out a petition for an amendment to the California state constitution. He made sure to announce what the petition and amendment were for and that it would be in the narthex after service.  And he encouraged people to  look at it and sign it. I have never encountered anything so blatant in any church I have attended.  I know I have had several pastors speak out on political agendas in the context of social message, but this was way different

Do you think this is acceptable? Is the acceptability dependent on the subject matter of the petition?

Flag tawonda April 2, 2008 2:35 PM EDT
I am quite surprised that this sort of politicking would happen in a Lutheran church, not only on Sunday morning, but in the context of the service. That's awful; totally inappropriate.

Does your congregation have an ombudsman? (-person?) That's someone who relays people's concerns about the pastor or other aspects of congregational life to the pastor and/or the church council. In the absence of an ombudsman, I would take my concerns directly to the pastor or to the council. That is perfectly legitimate, and I think necessary in this case.

I'll tell you my take on politicking in the course of worship. I'm a lay minister, so every few Sundays I have the responsibility for praying the Prayers of the Church; I also preach on a quarterly basis. While I have some strong political opinions, and frankly am tempted at times to somehow insinuate my feelings into the service at these points in the simply isn't appropriate. Because it's not all about me. As one of my mentors pointed out, in crafting congregational prayers, the Prayers of the Church need to be phrased in a way that includes everyone...including people who don't agree with me on this or that topic.  For instance, I may think that the current administration is criminal and incompetent; but my job, standing up there on Sunday morning leading the people of God in worship, is not to give a political lecture in the guise of congregational prayer. What is appropriate is to pray for all leaders and citizens, that they may make decisions that are wise and just and merciful to the vulnerable. Anyone, even someone on the exact opposite end of the political continuum as I am, can sign on to that in all sincerity. And in the context of group worship we have to leave the details of that petition to God, in God's kairos.
Flag tawonda April 2, 2008 2:57 PM EDT
One of my online friends, who's clergy, blogged about the greater issue of how to deal with political diversity, and even political impropriety, within the church family. This may or may not be relevant to this particular discussion, but's a good, thoughtful read. … -communion
Flag dearwatson April 3, 2008 12:21 PM EDT
This is a timely post considering I just received both last and this month's issues of the ELCA's Lutheran magazine in one week.

The ELCA maintains an office to lobby in D.C. and the Sierra Pacific, SoCA, and Pacifica Synod share offices for the same purpose in CA and NV.  We are always being told during the announcements about the latest laws being pushed in the capital and there is both a quarterly and by election newsletter distributed to our congregations.  I recall one from last winter about what way they advocate on the many and wonderous props and voter initiatives.

One most often hears about political agendas during the prayers of the church in worship. It seems somewhat obvious if one just were to pick up a Celebrate! insert.  However, other things also 'intrude' into the prayers;  like local sports teams.  At seminary, it seemed to me that most of the prayers were often seen as a chance to bring up the latest community gossip in public.

Since it appears that the prominant pastors of large mega-churches can turn candidates into Christ-figures and say all sorts of hateful things along the lines of Cohn's theology from the pulpit these days,  I serously doubt having a pamphlet  in the Narthex jeopardizes anyone's 501c-3 status.

When these things happen,  sometimes it is best to be a grown-up about it.  When I get pissed off, I just go take one in the restroom and come back for communion.
Flag tawonda April 3, 2008 12:29 PM EDT
At seminary, it seemed to me that most of the prayers were often seen as a chance to bring up the latest community gossip in public.

And, see, in my training this was very much discouraged. (I have to give kudos to the pastor who provided the bulk of our "skills" training. If anyone in our six-degrees ELCA Lutherworld is acquainted with Andreas Teich -- he's an excellent teacher who makes a definite impression on our synod's lay ministry students.)
Flag mkeoffaith April 3, 2008 2:17 PM EDT
Wow Watson.  I'm kind of surprised by your response.  So basically what I'm hearing you say is that even though the intentions have been hijacked for political grandstanding or even to communicate community gossip, the correct course of action is to ignore it, not participate and then come back at a time when it's safer to participate?

I'm not sure I can run and hide in the toilet while the liturgy is being desecrated for someone's personal agenda and possibly malicious intent.
Flag tawonda April 3, 2008 3:03 PM EDT
I'm not all that  thrilled by the idea of denominational PACs. (I understand that the LCMS has one as well.) I wonder if this is a matter of "Me too," or "Please let us be relevant." I'd rather that if likeminded members of my denomination wanted to advocate on behalf of a cause (even a cause I support), they do so as an independent organization, or in concert with an ecumenical political action group (Bread For the World, for instance, in regard to hunger issues). I'm thinking about how I would feel if I knew that Higgins Road was advocating some politician or bill that I strongly disagreed with, ostensibly on my behalf as a member.

(I once had someone ask me, when I expressed this opinion, if I'd have thought this way about activism against the Nazi Party in 1930's Germany. My response was that I'd hope that people had the intelligence, objectivity and discernment skills to distinguish between the gravity of, say, the spectre of fascism and some HB-Number-Blah-Blah-Blah fer or agin' some cause du jour that no one will remember in five years.
Flag Mike2a April 3, 2008 5:08 PM EDT
I just find this wrong on so many levels.  As tawonda said, to do this in the context of the service, is wrong and inappropriate.  Also, while having a pamphlet in the Narthex may not jeopardize anyone's 501c-3 status, speaking about it publicly is getting real close to crossing the line.
Flag ConfessioAugustana April 3, 2008 9:16 PM EDT
Over two years ago, I made a decision to join a Church and did a lot of reading and asking questions. I felt the Episcopal Church would be the best fit for me and I attended my first service at a highly recommended Episcopal Church. I was surprised to see in the Narthex (did not know the term at the time) several tables with petitions to sign about global warming, save the whales, etc. - all causes I support but didn't expect to see them at the entrance to the Sanctuary. Of particular interest, was a quite vitriolic attack on Isreal and a denounciation of of "Zionist murderers".
During the Sermon, the Priest quickly asked for financial donations for individuals affected by Katrina. She launched into a personal attack on President Bush (who thankfully - my opinion- will return to Crawford, Texas in 01/09 ) and after the second time she mentioned his name from the Pulpit, I walked out.
The following Sunday, I attended a Lutheran ELCA Church and felt very comfortable and welcome.

Looking back on the Post about a merger with the Episcopal Church:
I read it again when I returned home that evening after work and wondered why I added a "barb" about TEC. I realized that I was still angry about the Service I attended over two years ago.

My opinion: The Founders of our Country we most correct in having a Separation between Church and State. Kudos to them !!
Flag ericksdahl April 3, 2008 11:31 PM EDT
I think that one has to be very careful about how politics are handled from the pulpit.  I know that in the black Christian tradition politics seem to be routinely a part of the pulpit message.  The message that is proclaimed is out of searching for justice for a people who had been oppressed much like the prophets of the Old Testament who would proclaim, “Woe unto you O (fill in the blank with the country who was oppressing the Israelites)… “  but I am not comfortable with this from my perspective.. a white middle class person who has not known oppression. 

I do get touchy with some of the PACs we support as a national church.  I can remember a few years ago when the ELCA Rural Desk was very vocal about what we needed in a farm program… and it was completely against what many of us as farmers including a Lutheran congressman, wanted and needed in a farm bill.  We were paying for a part of our church to help put us out of business… that was hard to swallow!

Several years ago that same congressman,a son of our congregation who had been in Congress for 20 something years, lost his race. One of the factors came from the church pulpits.  Many of the Baptist and other fundamentalist were telling their members that they had to vote for the Republican because no one who was a Democrat could be a Christian!  How dare they!!!!  A good Lutheran not be a Christian because he was Democrat? 

Now as some have mentioned what about Bonhoeffer and Hitler?  Yes I could get into politics from the pulpit if that were the case…
Those are my thoughts…
Grace & Peace!
Flag dearwatson April 6, 2008 7:05 PM EDT
No B'net thread is complete until the National Socialists get mentioned.

Once upon a time, when one attended church on a Sunday the preacher would touch upon difficult and touchy subjects from time to time. If one parishoner's complaint against a pastor because a subject which was part of the life of the community embarrased him or her and an innocuous comment related to that subject somehow offended this person, I would suggest that said person recognize that this is but a small part of ***corporate*** worship that I am certain does not spend an overwhelming amout of time dealing with topics that are the slightest bit political in any sense.

Short of events that are obviously offensive and damaging (such as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence holding their Hunky Jesus competition in the chancel on Easter) it is hard to think of how we can impose a sterility on Christian worship that voids the very real concerns of zealous and active members of the congregation. One either needs to address concerns to leadership or grow a thicker skin about speech that is disagreeable - even if it occurs within a community of choice and conscience rather than necessity and force.
Flag ConfessioAugustana April 6, 2008 8:34 PM EDT
Sarcasm belittles your attempts to be the resident intellectual.
Flag AFskypilot April 6, 2008 11:56 PM EDT
Frankly, if a pastor uses worship time to lobby for an amendment to the constitution, that congregation can be liable to lose its tax exemption.  If the state's attorney general gets wind of this, or if the IRS hears about it, watch out.

Dear Watson and Tawonda--the informatonal office that the ELCA or the LCMS have in Washington DC are not PAC's, they are basically informational offices to supply information on what the two Synods view about a given issue.  Sometimes they have opposite views (as in the case of homosexuality) but other times they are in agreement.  You can't even call these organizations lobby groups since they have to be careful to follow IRS rules.

But to encourage worshipers to sign a particular petition for amendment is clearly against the rules.
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