Does the Church have a sense of humor?
Can we laugh at ourselves?
Our congregation had a tough time with the ELCA. We were kicked out, in fact.
Problem is—we are still Lutherans in our hearts. As badly as we were treated, we still hope the Church can recognize that the kindness it preaches is not always practiced. Longed-for change is happening unrecognized right under leaders’ noses. Failure to recognize and value the laity are often the reasons.
I took this page down for while. I want peace. Recently (2015) a reader asked me to make it more accessible. She thought our cartoons made some good points. So I am returning them to the menu, but I’m adding this commentary. We publish them to help our Church look at itself and how its actions often go against its stated mission—all the easier when Christians never take a hard look at what goes on in the name of God.
I drew most of these cartoons. I was in college in the early 70s—back when the Church had yet to recognize that it was excluding the skills of half its membership. In other words, women were not yet recognized as capable of doing much more than supporting men in ministry. Changing that took just shy of two millennia!
I come from a family of preachers. Had I been male, I might have gone the clergy route. I chose journalism instead with an eye for church journalism. No regrets. I like being a writer and artist. I’m not a clergy wannabe, by any means.
I worked first for the Catholic Register newspaper system. Then I worked for a small town daily owned and operated by a Methodist minister. A third church job had me working with The Lutheran magazine. Later, I free-lanced with every division in the Lutheran Church in America and also with many offices of the American Baptist Churches. I’ve also worked with missionary organizations of an evangelical nature.
Journalists are trained to look for truth—to ask serious questions. Back in the late 70s, still pretty young, I was asked to attend a press conference sponsored by the Gallup Poll. They had just released some findings about the Church. It opened my eyes. No one at the press conference was asking any questions that challenged the speakers—and there was plenty to question. I, too, felt the pressure in the room to conform. I am not proud of it. I learned an important lesson: There seems to be no such thing as church journalism. Church journalists are usually public relations agents, apologists. Church leaders live in a bubble. Laity or clergy, who might dare challenge anything, are metaphorically frisked for sharp objects before engaging with those in the bubble. Hmmm! That image might make a good cartoon!
This is odd. Jesus seemed to love critical questions. He took every challenge as an opportunity to reach and teach.
As a frustrated journalist, I turned to “political cartooning.”
The points all come from our congregation’s encounter with self-defined Lutheran hierarchy. We can tell a story to back up every drawing.
At the last Synod Assembly our congregation was allowed to attend (with no voice or vote), our bishop made a news-making gesture—photo op and all. She issued an officia apology o the Mennonite owners of the facilities they routinely rent once a year. She apologized for the centuries-old rift between Lutherans and Anabaptists. That’s all it takes in the Church to recognize wrong—a few centuries! My great (x20) grandchildren have something to look forward to as they travel through space on their way to church some Sunday morning! (Ahh! Another potential cartoon image!)
Please know that we hope these observations point the Church in a stronger, kinder, more compassionate, more inclusive, empowering and serving direction. Recognizing shortcomings can prompt change! We see some wrong. We feel a responsibility to speak. Remember, our denomination refuses us representation!
We are still Lutherans. We still believe in love and forgiveness. We’d love to work with other Lutherans again some day (in something short of a few hundred years!).
ABOVE: Plant it. Water it. Watch it grow. was a slogan adopted by SEPA Synod a year or so after they closed our church and locked our doors.
Church leaders look for long-term pastors for congregations. It is considered a sign of stability. However, our visits to 80 congregations revealed that the number of long-term ministers is very low. The few we encountered were older pastors nearing retirement. Interim, bridge, and mission pastorates are common. They come and go at the pleasure of the bishop. Part-time and minimal-time pastorates are also common. So we wonder, in these fast-changing times, Why is the settled pastor still the desired model? The answer may be that the rules of ordination favor longer term calls—something lay people making the calls often know nothing about. Call rules favor pastors. Pastors can leave with 30 days notice (or less). When congregations seek change they must enter a process that requires a two-thirds vote and nowadays often prompts a long interim period. Lay leaders may be looking out for their congregation, seeking improvements. The pastor may be well liked. Loyalties will surface. Conflict is likely. And so many small congregations continue to fail while they wait out long-term pastorates that just aren’t working. Term calls are entirely constitutional and give congregations protection, but they are discouraged. Turbulent and precarious as small church ministry is today, the desire for church leaders to place settled pastors—even when they are clearly a bad fit—is a puzzle.
The nature of power is changing in the church!
This cartoon was published before Pope Francis, when the Vatican was in conflict with American nuns.
SEPA Synod sued our congregation and named two of our members individually. Two-fold purpose: intimidation (against us and as a warning to any other potential challenger) and access to individual member’s assets on top of the congregation’s!