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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Team ELCA strikes chord, provides benefit

Readers stirred up about decline, giving, kindness, law, poverty, bishops

Go Team ELCA
I really liked Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton’s concept of “Team ELCA”. The article — save one point — was excellent. I belong to the ELCA because of what I get out of it. I hope that I’m not selfish, because I get from the ELCA a tradition of values in which I can raise my family with the support of the other Team ELCA members. I get theological insight, music, friends, coffee, macaroni salad, and on and on. I get a lot out of it, and I can do more for others with Team ELCA than I could ever do all by myself. If I didn’t, I would play on another team.

Phil Reitan
Decorah, Iowa

 

All things must pass
I agree with the editor that there are things more important than church structure, whether that be a congregation, synod, assembly or the ELCA hierarchy (June, page 4). Parts of the church structure have been in decline since the 1960s and may one day die entirely. But what goes beyond that structure is what really matters and will no doubt survive beyond the closing of any and all church buildings and congregations. How the gospel message is transmitted into the world at large is what really counts.

The Rev. M. Laurel Gray
El Cajon, Calif.

 

Think it through
Five years have passed, and it’s time to stop already. I’m tired of people stating with such certainty that the reason giving has gone down in the ELCA since 2009 is because of the decision on gay clergy. What these people don’t realize is that while it’s true that a certain percentage of people have left because we decided one way, at least the same percentage of people would have left had we decided the other. Then how would they frame the decrease in giving?

Keith E. Gatling
Syracuse, N.Y.

 

Be kind
As a “new” Lutheran (six years) who was attracted to the ELCA and my congregation by their progressive principles and foundational kindness, I was startled by Peter W. Marty’s remarks about some of the folks who have left the church (June, page 3). He depicted Larry and Cheryl as theological midgets who couldn’t stand the word serendipity; he made snide comments about Shawn and the self-help thrust in his life. Particularly demeaning was the rhetorical query whether Rick, a nature-loving parishioner, “would favor an oak or maple tree for his confession and absolution of sin.” Marty would do better to avoid belittling others.

Barbara Reid
Seattle

 

Law and gospel
Once again Marty shows that neither he nor this denomination is in any way, shape or form Lutheran (May, page 3). Instead of discussing “The Ten Words” as the law, which serves as a curb, a guide and principally a mirror, he denigrates obedience to them (which sinners can never fully achieve). Funny how Jesus told those whom he healed to “go and sin no more.” God does command us to do things we cannot do. That’s why God fulfilled the law himself for us (the gospel).

Drew Kornreich
Los Alamos, N.M.

 

Not political
John A. Nunes made a good beginning in his discussion of “the proper place of religion” (June, page 14). Poverty is the result of many causes — one of which is not increasing a horrible minimum wage to millions of hardworking Americans. In my state, North Carolina, and 23 others millions of the very poor cannot receive health care on a regular basis because the state legislature refused to expand Medicaid to the very poor. These are not political issues. They are people issues, and Jesus and the prophets taught and showed us how we are to treat others.

John Weinbach
Burlington, N.C.

 

Politicized gospel
The recent visit by ELCA bishops to Congress (May, page 4) reminds all yet again of church leaders’ devotion to a politicized, self-absorbed gospel. Peter advises Christ’s followers to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Confident believers answer by boldly confessing Christ crucified and raised from the dead. But our bishops’ hope centers on convincing lawmakers to spend other people’s money on the ELCA’s lofty causes. Cheap grace indeed.

Cliff Hadley
Huron, S.D.

 

What a witness
The personal stories of Deb Karch and Bob Mitchell were deeply moving and profoundly instructive (May, page 16). What is particularly striking is that they did more than provide insight and information, they gave witness to the transformative power of grace and the impact of a church that is not merely an institution but a living community of the Spirit rooted in Jesus. They embody a needed ministry that, as Karch puts it, calls the church to “Christ-like conversation about mental illness.”

The Rev. Donald G. Luck
Columbus, Ohio

 

Jobs at risk
Industry has spent millions of dollars to eliminate air pollution, but to end the use of fossil fuels right now would be devastating (April, page 3). There are eight power plants in western North Dakota employing hundreds of people. They earn their living from lignite coal and coal-powered generating plants and a coal gasification plant that actually takes the sulfur, carbon and nine more byproducts out of the coal and markets it. Power cooperatives are working as quickly as possible to find new ways of cleaning up the air.

Charles A. Galloway
Ryder, N.D.


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