Church & World January 1994

GLENSIDE, PA (EP) – Raymond Bryan Dillard, professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania, died October 1 while working in the woods near his home. He was 49. Dillard’s teaching career spanned 24 years, all of it at Westminster. He was a gifted lecturer, and the author of many articles and several books. Dillard was a translator of the New International Version of the Bible. DETROIT, MI (EP) – Prosecutors in the assisted suicide case against Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian must explain how assisted suicide can be outlawed when abortion is legal, says Wayne County Circuit Judge Richard Kaufman. Kaufman cited a 1992 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which defended “choices central to personal dignity and autonomy” and “the right to define one’s own concept of existence.” A Jan. 6 trial date was set for Kevorkian, who has been charged with assisting in August 4 and Seplember 9 suicides.   German Conservative Calls for Reform in Evangelical Church TUBINGEN, Germany (EP) – A well-known German conservative evangelical theologian has called for a nationwide “emergency synod” of Protestants “faithful to the confessions.” In the quarterly Diakrisis, Peter Beyerhaus, professor of missions at the University of Tubingen, wrote that for pieists and Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Bible, it is a more and more pressing question whether remaining with in the regional churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) is justifiable. According to the German Protestant Press Service, Beyerhaus’ proposal calls for one more attempt at a conversation with EKD leadership to insist on effective reform and at the sme time the convocation of an emergency synod for the entire country. Beyerhaus said that earlier efforts to communicate with EKD representatives have had no effect. He cites a declaration on abortion by the regional church in Bavaria, election of a woman bishop in Hamburg, and appointment of two women he considered “radical feminists” to the leadership of the EKD’s new Women’s Studies Center as reasons for his concern about the situation within the evangelical church in Germany. Beyerhaus has been an outspoken critic of EKD leadership and the ecumenical movement. Editors’ Note: Dr. Peter Beyerhaus was featured in a book review written by Rev. Peter DeJong in the May ‘93 issue of The Outlook.   Pastor Fired From City Post Files Discrimination Suit SAN FRANSICO, CA (EP) – A San Fransico pastor who was fired from a government post because of his religious beliefs filed suit October 28 against the city mayor who terminated him. “This is a critically important case for reaffirming our country’s commitment to the First Amendment right to freedom of religion,” said James D. Struck, the Rutherford Institute attorney handling the case. According to the compliant filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, Eugene Lumpkin, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church in San Francisco, appeared on televised interview on August 20, 1993, in which the interviewer asked him about his religious beliefs on the issue of homosexuality. Lumpkin expressed his belief that homosexual activity is immoral and is condemned by the Bible. The complaint stated that San Francisco May Frank Jordan fired Lumpkin on August 23, 1993, on the basis of Lumpkin’s expression of his religious convictions. Jordan appointed Lumpkin to the paid position of Commissioner on the Human Rights Commission in August 1992. “There can be no doubt that Reverend Lumpkin was fired soley because of his expression of his religious beliefs in response to an interviewer’s theological question. Right up until the day he fired Reverend Lumpkin, Mayor Jordan defended Reverend Lumpkin’s record as a fair and impartial commissioner. Ultimately, however, the may capitulated to those who hold the narrow view that concepts like ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ do not apply to protect against religious discrimination,” said Struck. The complaint asks that Lumpkin be reinstated to his former position as commissioner and that Jordan be enjoined from engaging in unlawful discriminatory policies and practices.   MINNEAPOLIS, MN (EP) – Organizations which oppose abortion were banned from the annual state convention of the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) in mid-October. Jackie Schwietz, co-director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which had rented a booth at the convention each year for nearly two decades prior to the ban, said “Teachers have an obligation to present [controversial social] issues fairly and objectively. But the MEA’s close-minded pro-abortion stance tells us that Minnesota school children are in danger of being propaganized, rather than educated, on the issue of abortion.” Leaders of the teachers union voted to restrict convention exhibit space to organizations “who hold views consistent with MEA policy.” A statement released by the MEA defended its policy of admitting only one side of the abortion debate, saying the exclusionary policy had been established “in a democratic process.”   New ELCA Sexuality Report Endorses Homosexuality CHICAGO, IL (EP) – Human sexuality should be expressed only in loving, committed relationships-but not necessarily limited to heterosexual marriages, according to a report released by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The 21-page report, a first draft of a proposed social statement for the church, endorses homosexuality and suggests that marriage, though desirable, is optional for committed couples. The report presents the perspective of “those of us who are gay or lesbian Christians,” and calls on the church to “challenge stereotypes” of gays and lesbians, and to challenge the idea that all homosexual activity is contrary to God’s law. Biblical passages condemning homosexuality are addressed in the report, which dismisses them either by arguing that they refer only to abusive homosexual activity, or that they fail to take into account the modern concept of an immutable “sexual orientation.” Recognition of committed couples who live together without the benefit of marriage is urged. “It is the binding comminnent, not the license or ceremony, that lies at the heart of biblical understandings of marriage,” says the report. “In those circumstances where a legal marriage is not feasible, communities of faith may need to consider other ways of publicly affirming and communally supporting a loving, binding commitment between two people.” The report commits the church to support gay rights, opposes pornography, presents masturbation as something that is “generally appropriate and healthy,” and sees sex education, including information on condom use, as a moral imperative. The report, sent to 19,000 pastors and church leaders in late October, has drawn sharp criticism from the conservative ,ving ofthe 5.2 million-member denomination. The Rev. Thomas Parrish, president of the Great Commission Network, an organization of conservative Lutheran pastors, condemned the report’s “sloppy exegesis.” He said, “In the name of grace and understanding, this task force is not being biblical. They need a basic course in Bible study.” Parrish said conservative and evangelical pastors in the ELCA “feel betrayed once again by the leadership ofthe ELCA.” Task forces in the church, he said, are dominated by “the same people with ultra-liberal agendas.” He added, “Their hidden agenda is not to be honest biblically but to make the church acceptable to a very secular society. Instead of leading the way, the church merely becomes the final voice of approval for the secular agenda.” Parrish predicts a grim future for the church if the sexuality report is ratified. “Congregations will dwindle in size as members, embarrassed by our leadership, leave the Lutheran Church and seek out a more conservative denomination. This, unfortunately, will result in local congreg-dtions being split and hurt for generations. Worst of all, Lutheranism will be the butt of jokes for a secular society that knows better. It is one thing to be persecuted and made fun of for the faith. It is another thing to be mocked for stupidity.” The American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC), a Lutheran body made up of churches which resisted the merger that formed the ELCA, issued a statement condemning the report. Distribution of the report is “a grave disservice to all of us who bear the name Lutheran,” said Dr. Duane Lindberg, presiding pastor of the AALC. “This position cannot be justified biblically. On the basis of Scripture, the AALC regards homosexual desires and behavior as sinful and contrary to God’s intent for His children. We reject the contention that homosexuality is simply another form of sexuality equally valid with the God-given male-female pattern. Claiming that the Bible justifies homosexual relationships, as the ELCA report does, requires twisting Scripture to mean the opposite ofwhat it clearly says. Such claims harm all Lutherans and all Christians.” Lindberg said the AALC may benefit from the ELCA’s sexuality report. Within 24 hours of the report’s release, he said, his office received calls from 10 ELCA congregations and pastors seeking information about the AALC.   Virginia Supreme Court Overturns Voter Guide Ruling RICHMOND, VA (EP) – The Viriginia Supreme Court overturned an injunction against non-partisan voter guides distributed by Concerned Women for America of Virginia and The Family Foundation. The Nov. 1 ruling permits the conservative organizations ot continue publishing voter’s guides emphasizing moral and family issues. “This is a tremendous victory for the voters of Virginia,” said Beverly LaHaye, president of Concerned Women for America. “For years, CWA volunteer leaders have conducted conadidate surveys and forums, all without question from governmental authorities. With all the focus in recent years on the need for an informal and voting electorate, the Democratic Party should applaud efforts to increase citizen participation, not stifle it.” The Democratic Party in the state challenged the voter’s guides shortly before the election.   House Version of Defense Bill Endorses More Restrictions on Gays in Military WASHINGTON, D.C. (EP) – The House approved a $261 billion defense budget Nov. 15 that includes a more restrictive approach to the question of gays in the milistary than that endorsed by President Clinton. During the presidential campaign, Clinton promised to end the military’s restriction against homosexuals in the armed forces. Opposition from Congress and the military forced Clinto to abandon that promise, and to propose a “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy instead. Under the Clinton proposal, sexual orientation is not a barrier to service and the military will not aggressively ferret out homosexuality in its ranks, but military personnel known to be gay can be forced out. Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, drafted his own policy, which was adopted by the House and Senate. Nunn’s policy allows a future defense secretary to reinstate the policy of asking recruits about their sexual orientation. It also calls homosexuality an “unacceptable risk” to moral order and discipline in armed forces. And it makes no mention of the “don’t pursue” portion of the Clinton proposal. Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the military’s restriction Nov. 16, saying it is based only on “irrational prejudice.” Chief Judge Abner Mikva dismissed concerns about military morale, saying, “The Constitution does not allow government to subordinate a class of persons simply because others do not like them.” The three-judge panel ruled that the equal protection guarantee of the Constitution forbids removing members of the military because of their sexual orientation. The order forces the Naval Academy to graduate Joseph Steffan, and to commission him as a lieutenant. The court made its ruling based on the military’s previous policy on gays. It is unclear whether the government will appeal the decision, and what effect the ruling has on the new military policy.