Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Follow Now the Spirit's Lead

Sister church, forever changing,
follow now the Spirit's lead...

Much has happened in the 3 months since the ELCA Churchwide Assembly's decision officially to open the vocation of ordained ministry to openly partnered gay and lesbian individuals.

The latest news in the direction of implementing the Churchwide decisions was that the ELCA has waived the customary five-year waiting period for those who were removed as pastors because of the former policies excluding openly partnered gay and lesbians to apply for re-entry to the official ranks of the ELCA ordained.

In response, several congregations are removing themselves from the ELCA to form their own organization of Lutheran churches. They feel, however, that the ELCA has left them by abandoning traditional interpretation of Scripture, doctrine, and church tradition, and not the other way around. Either way, a time of parting beckons, and it is something to be recognized and, in my opinion, mourned.

My prayer for those who wish to split from the ELCA to form their own denomination, or who wish to redirect their funding away from a national church that does a lot of good in this country and worldwide, is that they go with God, not to defame the gay and lesbian faithful, but to live more fully into their understanding of God's direction for them. My heart for them is one of love and benediction, even though I do not agree wholeheartedly with their stances and methods of interpretation.

To that end, I composed this hymn last week, after learning of their deisre to form their own, "freestanding" synod. I have shared it with their leadership along with my prayers for their following of the Spirit's lead.

My hope is that this hymn speaks to you in some way as well.

Sister Church, Forever Changing

Text: Chris Wogaman

Sister church, forever changing,
follow now the Spirit's lead.
Always living, never ceasing,
open wide to God's own need.

When a time of parting becokons,
follow that which calls you out.
Christ's the body, we're the members,
calling to a world of doubt.

In a world of many dangers,
many terrors, many fears,
our ideas sometimes comfort,
sometimes cause a thousand tears.

God's commandments give us guidance,
Jesus' teachings light the way,
Spirit's leading levels temples
we construct to halt God's sway.

By God's grace we'll live together,
in the fields that Christ has sown,
through his body, blood, and toil,
heaven not for us alone.

Glory be to God our Father,
Praise be unto Christ the son,
Equal blessing to the Spirit,
show us, Lord, your race to run. Amen.

©2009 Chris Wogaman


  1. Besutiful words, thoughtful meaning -- now to see if we, the followers of Jesus, can live the words! I became a Lutheran at age 18 in the 1960s after growing up in a fundamentalist denomination that based many of its doctrines on "proof texts" from the Bible. I loved the critical interpretation of scripture I saw in the Lutheran tradition. And I'm encouraged to see this scholarly thinking re-emerge. I've been told that Lutherans have "head knowledge" rather than "heart knowledge" of Christianity; my reply is that neither can thrive without the other.

  2. Thanks, Pauline. I pray that your view of interpretation be the one we Lutherans follow. I never realized how much Melanchthon laid the foundation for the heart knowledge you mention--and thus put the heart at the center of lutheran theology. This is what attracted me to Lutheranism from a background of somewhat lukewarm Methodism & agnosticism--a deeply pastoral understanding of the human condition.

  3. That was beautiful! I am finding it difficult to be as kind as you are in this time of turmoil in my own church. Some want to leave the ELCA and I do is heart-breaking to be in the midst of it all.

  4. Thank you, Audrey, for your kind words and honest reflection. I pray for your own church, as for our wider church, to have some revelation of the fullness of the Body of Christ that we find in communion, and that the Spirit come down and help that out a little. God knows, it is too much to do on our own.