Tag Archives: God

30TH YEAR FOR INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE AND COMMUNITY CONVOCATION By WTS Prof. Nathan C. P. Frambach

The “Inclusive Language—Inclusive Community” Convocation was held at Wartburg Seminary earlier this Fall. Presenters were Professors Nathan Frambach and Thomas Schattauer, and final year M. Div. students Rebecca Goche and Chris Lee.  This is the 30th such convocation held annually in the Fall at Wartburg as the church continues to grow, ever expanding the meaning of inclusivity. Professor Frambach’s opening comments begin below.

This convocation is about our life together as persons in community who use language as a—if not the–primary means of expressing ourselves, both to one another and in our praise of God. Language reflects and forms human perceptions and actions. In worship, the language we employ has the comparable impact on our perception and understanding of God.

This community long ago adopted inclusive and expansive language commitments, as stated in the Student and Community Life Handbook (p. 84). This policy reflects an institutional value, a commitment to providing leadership in the movement toward inclusiveness in church life and the church’s use of language. This convocation is an occasion for this community to discuss this commitment and the leadership that we will provide.

In preparing for this convocation and perusing my own inclusive/expansive language resource file, I came across material–task force minutes and notes, convocation literature, papers–from Wartburg as well as from my own tenure in a seminary community as a student. I left Trinity and Columbus well over 20 years ago and we were working on this then. Will we still be working on it 20 years hence? When I first encountered, or was encountered by a commitment to inclusive and expansive language in my seminary community, it was disorienting, difficult and challenging. But I was open to it, or I was opened to it, and gradually I lived and practiced my way to somewhat naturally using language in a more inclusive and expansive manner. It is now a non-negotiable for me. For instance, using “he” to refer to God, while acceptable in some circles, is finally unacceptable because it is fundamentally inadequate. Most significant is how my perception and understanding of God has been broadened, deepened, and enriched. The impact of inclusive and expansive language on me has been such that without it, I suspect my conception of God would be genuinely impoverished.

Finally, this I will claim: The call to be a Godbearer, to convey the gospel, to be a messenger of Jesus Christ, contains within it the call to give up the right to use language in a way that people experience as excluding them. I will own that statement, but it is not my claim. It is a direct quote from a paper entitled “Pastoral Ministry: All Things to All People,” written by an esteemed colleague almost thirty (30) years ago. We’ve been working on this for quite some time. The mantle is passed to each new generation of those called to share and serve the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s our watch, God’s people, and continue this work we must.

SOME THOUGHTS ON INCLUSIVE AND EXPANSIVE LANGUAGE By WTS Prof. Thomas Schattauer

The use of inclusive and expansive language in chapel and classroom reflects our effort within this community to speak about ourselves in a way that includes all genders, races, ethnicities, and varying abilities and also to speak about God truthfully, as God has no sex or gender identity.

Here’s how I prefer to think about such a practice. It is not about following or enforcing a set of rules. Rather, it is an encouragement to some common habits of speech that show the wideness of God’s mercy, the depth and breadth of God’s generosity in Jesus Christ for each and every one. For me, it is also important that we demonstrate that generosity in the ways we encourage one another as we learn these habits.

Some examples of these habits of speech within the common practice of the Wartburg community—

  • Avoid the use of third person masculine pronouns for God.
    • God does not have sex/gender.
  • Expand the images and words we use to address and speak about God beyond masculine images and words.
    • The Bible gives us examples.
  • Say and print “the assembly stands” and “the assembly is seated,” instead of “please stand” and “please sit,” or even “please stand if you are able.”
    • Such instruction describes what we are doing together, not what any particular person is being instructed to do; it also avoids calling attention to ability or disability.
  • When dividing the assembly by pitch range for singing, say or print “high voices” and “low voices,” rather than “men” and “women.”
    • Such instruction is descriptive, more accurate, and avoids reinforcing a binary understanding of sex/gender identity.

This is a topic for continued conversation and learning.

DISCUSSION SUMMARY OF “INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE, INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY” CONVOCATION compiled by Kirsten Lee, Second Year M. Div.

Students, faculty, staff, and guests gathered in Von Schwartz Refectory this fall for the first convocation of the WTS 2016-2017 academic year, focusing on “Inclusive Language, Inclusive Community.” Hosted by Professor Nathan Frambach, Professor Thomas Schattauer spoke, and students Becky Goche and Chris Lee also shared personal experiences, all of which are included in this edition of The Persistent Voice.  Those who gathered discussed the following questions through many table conversations, and additional conversation was had via Zoom for off-site learners.  Second Year M. A. student Kathryn Kvamme gathered the discussion notes from each question.

Begin by allowing time for each person to share “where you are at” with regard to using inclusive and expansive language. What commitments do you bring to the conversation? Identify motivations for using inclusive and expansive language.

  • We recognize this is a theological issue.  Who is God? How does the image we use to describe God influence how we see God and think about God?
  • We recognize that this is an ‘old’ topic and while we have made progress there is still much growth that still needs to occur. At the same time, we realize that this is a new topic for some, one that may be confusing and even alarming.  Numerous examples were shared on how we can be more inclusive with our language and the challenges in doing so.  For example, repeating ‘rise if you are able’ serves as a reminder for some of something they know they cannot do. Another example was shared about a young girl who questioned “If Jesus tells his disciples to be fishers of men, does Jesus want women to follow him?”   Lastly, a question was raised of how we handle the often used “Father” language.
  • There is a commitment at WTS to bring more awareness to using inclusive language in our daily language.  We also commit to helping people become more aware, without coercion, as we educate, explore, struggle and rejoice together.

How can we best carry out our collective calling and commitment to live together in mutually respectful communities where all persons are honored? What specifically can we do? What is challenging to you in this calling and commitment?

  • There is a need to listen to the less dominant voices present in our communities so that a greater variety of voices are heard and considered.   Intentional, careful listening is necessary in order to hear everyone’s voices.
  • Inclusive language goes beyond the topic of gender.  Just as people are more than their gender, so too ought our conversations be broader and deeper.
  • Creativity and patience are necessary in having these discussions.  We practice respect and create safe learning environments to have these discussions. We strive to listen with open minds and hearts while being secure in our non-negotiable points.

The following questions were also offered for the table conversations, but due to time constraints, discussion was limited. Nevertheless, these are important questions to keep in mind as we continue to develop the practice of inclusive language.

Invite each person to share an expansive image of God that has been and/or is meaningful and important in your journey of faith.

How can we provide leadership that helps congregations embrace the practice of consistently using inclusive and expansive language in all aspects of our life together? Furthermore, how can we help re-frame predominant (and often stereotypical) views on what is “normal” to include all persons in the body of Christ, regardless of ability or any other “isms”?

As we go out into our communities away from Wartburg, these questions can act as springboards for future thought and dialogue.  We pray and ask God to guide us as we go about our work, joyfully spreading the Good News.

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE FROM BEING IN THE ARMY By Marlow Carrels, Final Year M. Div., Captain, U.S. Army

For many this claim might be problematic, but for me it is true that the Army places no gender in one’s title. Now do not misconstrue my meaning here, yes the Army presents different restrooms, maternity clothes, and there are some occupations that are still “male only” (though that battle wages). Instead I am speaking of your title, your name, your identity. Upon entering the Army I stood in a little room surrounded by others and we all raised our right hands and took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. After that day we were no longer individuals, punks, hicks, popular kids, brains, geeks, freaks, music nerds, or kids from the wrong side of the tracks. Instead we were very much a body that went by one name; we were an Army of O.N.E. We were an Army of Officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and Enlisted personnel. But we were, all of us, soldiers first and foremost.

From that day forward we were no longer male or female, instead we were very much a body that went by one name. We never got our gender back in our titles, because it didn’t matter. For my entire career I have been a soldier, a warrior, a hero, a Sargeant, a Sar’int, a Cadet, an Officer, a Lieutenant, a Captain. Members of the Army have no gender when they are spoken to, when they are praised, when they are admonished. They are called their rank or their specialty. Their place in our ranks has nothing to do with their gender, but how well they do their job. Granted, I say all of this as an Army Officer who is male, Caucasian, and straight, who may not be fully privy to what many female service members experience. Challenges remain. Although much progress has been made since the days of exclusion or segregation because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, people still face discrimination and sexual abuse. I speak here of inclusive language and its potential for working together.

With this in mind I look to God and cannot think of gender. The Officer Corps has no gender; the NCO Corps has no gender; the Lower Enlisted has no gender. Your gender does not matter to the Big Green Machine, nor does gender matter when we speak of the Godhead. The Godhead simply is. The Godhead, the Great I Am, the infinitely named and edified calls us to become one. When we are baptized we are baptized into the Body of Christ and our titles are not to be gendered. We are simply Christian, baptized, sinners, and saints, ministers of Christ. Called by the Holy Spirit, we come, regardless of our names, our titles, our very self-identity, and bow down before the God who cradles our lives.

 

FOUR WARTBURG SEMINARY GRADUATES PUBLISH BOOKS

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Steward of Stories: Reflecting on Tensions in Daily Discipleship by JoAnn A. Post

JoAnn Post has been a Lutheran pastor and writer for three decades. She attended Wartburg College and Wartburg Theological Seminary before serving diverse congregations and settings. Her ministry has been committed to strong preaching and worship leadership, pastoral care, and community outreach. (See more about JoAnn and Steward of Stories at http://wipfandstock.com/author/view/detail/id/57509/)

As shared in her introduction JoAnn was dubbed “Steward of Stories” by her husband in recognition of how both strangers and friends entrusted her with their stories. The stories, many written while JoAnn underwent cancer treatments, presents meaningful reflection and insights into the rich and paradoxical world of a pastor. The thoughtful discussion questions at the end of each chapter encourage dialogue on the important topics brought to life in the stories shared in the book.

 


 

 Cover-_LauraNotes on the Journey: Living with Sarcoma & Hope by Laura A. Koppenhoefer

This book is a compellation of Laura’s “posts” from the Carepage.com journaling               she has done through the first years of her illness, a rare cancer diagnosis – “sarcoma”– changed   a lot in her life. Originally thinking that she was writing to inform the congregation she co-pastored of her treatment,          she found that she learned through writing as well. Insights are found in everyday things – gardens and baking and re-discovering knitting and quilting –        and the extreme circumstances of her medical care, the challenges of facing disability, and severe pain starting at age 49. However, all are instances for discovering the Spirit at work in her life whether in times of lament or joy. The proceeds of this book are all going to fund sarcoma  research at the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. For more about Laura and the Living in Hope foundation, see http://www.livinginhopefoundation.org/

A reflection from Tammy Barthels, Final Year M.Div. Student:

As I finish reading Laura’s book, two entries stick with me. 1) “Be strong and of good courage, be neither afraid or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (p 332). And 2) “With thanks to …God – For your presence. Though I may feel lonely from time to time, I am never alone. For the gift of incredible people in my life – They are your hands and feet in the world” (p 333). Laura assures me, God assures me that God’s presence is always with us. God allows us to be lonely at times, but God never leaves as alone. God provides wonderful people in our lives to walk this journey with us.

 


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Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking by R.K. Kline and Daniel D. Maurer

Daniel D. Maurer was an ELCA pastor for 11 years, serving parishes in western North Dakota. He is now a freelance writer and writes under the “Dan the Story Man,” his non-fiction brand.  R.Kevin Kline is an ELCA pastor who has served in Kansas and Hawaii. Having recently moved back to the mainland and received approval as a mission developer, he plans to foster relationships with other organizations to raise awareness about the ongoing issues of justice in the LGBTQ community. Maurer and Kline collaborated on the book after realizing that Kevin’s story had the power to help others.

Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking breaks new ground in the problem of sex trafficking in that it also affects boys. Set in 1975, Kevin’s true story shows how a young boy can find himself in a difficult and unsustainable life. Yet even in darkness, there is a light of grace —Kevin found two friends during that summer of ’75. With them, he would come to see a loving God in ways that the world would only begin to see in more recent years. For more, see http://www.faraway-book.com/

A reflection from Tami Groth, Final Year Diaconal Ministry Student:

I first heard Rev. Kevin Kline speak in the Spring of 2013 when he spoke to students at Wartburg Seminary, and shared his story with us. I encourage others to both read the book, and if possible hear Kevin speak. His story is powerful and an important one for us to hear. I am thankful for Kevin’s courage and the authentic telling of his story.


 

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Sobriety A graphic novel by Daniel D Maurer. Illustrated by Spencer Amundson

Through rich illustration and narrative, Sobriety: A Graphic Novel offers an inside look into recovery from the perspectives of five Twelve Step group members, each with a unique set of additions, philosophies, struggles, and successes while working the Steps. Readers gain an intimate look at the challenges faced by those in recovery–and at the boundless power of working the Steps in helping people find strength in one another as they reach for a clean-and-sober life. For more, see http://www.danthestoryman.com/

LENTEN SERMON by Jon Brudvig, M.Div. Intern, Ellis, KS

Gospel Text, Mark 1:9-15

Our Lenten journey begins where Jesus began his march to the cross.

In the wilderness where the Spirit drove him immediately after his baptism, a place of isolation, loneliness and danger.

A season when we descend into the valley of the shadow of death to walk with Jesus to Golgotha, the place where he will be crucified.

A time when the Spirit also drives us into the wilderness areas of our lives to encounter “wild beasts” and the demonic powers of this world that seek to separate us from the love of God and one another.

A time when we reclaim the promises of our baptismal covenant by renouncing the forces of this world that oppose God,
when we lay our hearts bare before God.

When we cry out, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)

The wilderness can be a very scary place.
It’s a place busy and preoccupied people try to avoid.

Yet, perhaps each of us can recall a time when we found ourselves in the wilderness — alone, helpless, and frightened.

My own wilderness adventure happened some 15 years ago as I was making a cross-country trip across a beautiful stretch of interstate running through West Virginia.

As dusk approached I realized that I would not make it through the Appalachian Mountains before nightfall.  I needed to find a place to stay for the night.

To make matters worse, I set out on my cross-country trip without advance reservations. Not a wise move during Memorial Day weekend.

As you might imagine, the state park that I had hoped to spend the night in was full. Sensing my frustration, or perhaps realizing that the naïve “city-slicker” with a tent wasn’t going to find any place to stay for the night, the park ranger stopped me as I headed for the door and pointed at a dirt road at the far end of the campground and said:

“See that road over there. That’s the access road to Daniel Boone National Forest.  It’s federal land and I can’t stop you from camping there for the night.  Just drive in a ways, pull over, and pitch your tent for the night.  It’ll be okay.” I was out of options.

Heading into an unknown wilderness and pitching my tent for the night wouldn’t be so bad.  Would it?

Honestly, the wilderness can be a scary place.
Alone with my thoughts and my fears, the darkened and mysterious forest
came alive that night in a way I could not have imagined.

Every cracked twig, every sound of rustling leaves, and every distant howl
conjured up images of wild beasts making a beeline to my tent.

Hungry beasts that I imagined wanted to claim me as their nighttime snack.

And, as imaginations tend to do, mine ran wild that night visualizing one horrific
scenario after another that could happen to me in such an isolated and
desolate place.

The wilderness is a place many of us fear.

To be alone with only our thoughts, fears, and personal demons is terrifying.

Yet, like it or not, each one of us gathered here today has entered into the
wilderness of Lent. Answering Jesus’ invitation to “Follow me.”

Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus’ wilderness journey is a time of testing.
He is tempted by Satan.
He encounters wild beasts.
And he is ministered to by Angels.

We, too, are tested during the Wilderness of Lent.
A time of soul-searching, prayer, and confronting demons we try to avoid.
The “wild beasts” that we pretend don’t exist.
The inner demons we wish would just leave us alone.

On Ash Wednesday the Spirit drove us into the valley of death.
To dwell there, like Jesus before us, for 40 days in prayer and conversation
with God. Where Jesus beckons:

Deny yourself,

Take up your cross,

and follow me (MT 16:24).

An invitation to discipleship.

To journey with Jesus into the wilderness areas of our lives.
To confront the “wild beasts” and inner demons that lurk within.
To name and claim the pain of loneliness, self-loathing, broken
relationships and sin that afflicts us.

Demons of addiction, greed, jealousy.

Inflated egos, finger-pointing, and me-first thinking that belittles,
criticizes, and judges others instead of doing the hard work of naming and claiming the sin in our own lives.

Although we hesitate to follow Jesus into the wilderness areas of our lives,
the good news is that God is gracious and merciful.

It is precisely because Jesus became human, was baptized, and was tested in the wilderness, that God understands our sin, our brokenness, and the inner demons that deceive and torment us.

Jesus loves you enough to meet you in the wilderness areas of your life.

To leave the safety and security of the river bank and to wade out into the watery chaos of the Jordan to be baptized.
To claim you as God’s beloved child.
To be in relationship with you.
To enter into your reality so that you may be united with
Christ’s death in a baptism like his.

To suffer and die for you.
Abandoned, mocked, and executed on a tree of shame.

For the forgiveness of your sins.

The One who loves you enough to die for you, comes to you now in     the wilderness areas of your life.

In the Word of promise proclaimed.

At the table where sinners and saints alike gather to receive the body of Christ given for you and the blood of Christ shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.

Where the personal demons and wild beasts that torment you are
rendered powerless before God.

Where the crucified God embraces you with outstretched arms from the cross,in the midst of your pain, suffering, and brokenness,
enfolding you in his loving embrace, whispering:

“I tell you now, your sins are forgiven.”

Deny yourself.
Take up your cross.
And follow me… to the cross.

 

 

 

 

THE PERSISTENT VOICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT By Jean Peterson, WTS Archives Volunteer

I give my daily thanks for those special saints in my life, remembering mostly those living, but also those who have gone before us throughout all generations.

I gave thanks:
“For all the Saints who from their labors rest,
“For saints still living
By whom our lives are blest,
Alleluia!”

How grateful I am to those mentors who have encouraged, healed, and inspired me throughout my lifetime!   These include one who taught John Bowlby’s theory of Attachment. There was a time when I thought that my vulnerability was a cause for shame and rejection, but this professor taught that attachment relationships of trust with living mentors are a human universal need.

From several living mentors I respect highly, I have learned that they, too, have been influenced by other saints in their lives. From reading assignments and continued research into the lives of the earlier generations, I find that the “human universal” that emerges is that all of us, not only in the present, but throughout the years past, have had attachments to, or been influenced by other saints or mentors who have inspired, encouraged, or motivated us. Some of these were family members, but nearly all people name at least one or two non-family members – teachers, professors, or pastors—by whom they were influenced.   Wilhelm Loehe and Martin Luther also had mentors by whom their lives and service were guided.   Even the disciples of Jesus were greatly influenced by other living human beings (Jesus himself) in the direction of their lives.

Insight: Those who inspired those who came before us, those now living who have inspired us, and those whose lives we affect (knowingly or not) of generations still to come are all vessels of the Holy Spirit, reaching all the way back throughout all generations, to the Day of Pentecost, and forward until the end of Creation. This is the “Persistent Voice” of the Holy Spirit who works through trusted relationships and attachments with kin, mentors and contemporaries we have all encountered throughout our lives, who have carried the message of the Word of Scripture throughout all generations!

We may not know individually what seeds we have sown, but gratefully, the Holy Spirit still uses us to carry, and plant, the seeds of the Word and healing and caring and support to others.