**Updated to correct typos**
If you read my blogpost titled "Pffft", you know that I said the ELCA CWA decision to declare itself "a sanctuary church body" was basically an exercise in puffery. In our church's polity, no congregation is bound by one of these statements (called "memorials"). And without binding authority, it basically just ends up being an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back for being the right sort of Christian.
But that was before FoxNews chimed in.
Now, a little background. A parishioner had come up to me in the narthex Sunday morning. I wasn't aware of the FoxNews piece, and I do not know if he was. But he was upset by the decision. I reiterated my position saying it means "nothing". He responded, "oh, it means EVERYTHING." Now he didn't convince me that it was EVERYTHING, but I certainly was convicted. It didn't mean NOTHING. It meant something.
On Sunday morning, a FoxNews panel chided the ELCA for its decision to declare itself a "a sanctuary church body". The panel was one sided, no one from the ELCA was represented, there was obviously no understanding of ELCA polity and there were often points that were just wrong. I'm not going to offer all the correction. That's not the point. But I wondered, since when does FoxNews give a hoot about the ELCA?
By yesterday evening, I was seeing posts circulated by earnest pastors trying to explain what this all meant. That Lutherans have a long history with refugees. Etc. Etc. Etc. By this afternoon, I saw a local colleague had done the same to his congregation and posted it on Facebook. In it, he makes very reasoned arguments in a warm pastoral tone and goes through the memorial line by line. But why was he having to do it at all?
And then the SOMETHING came to be realized. It's no surprise to anyone that the illegal immigration debate looms large in the USA. I don't have to go down the list of recent stories that are related to immigration. But, of course, one of the stories is the ongoing resistance of entire cities to assist ICE in the enforcement of immigration law. These cities are known as sanctuary cities. By now you are thinking "Lance, didn't you notice that?" And, of course, I did. But that is not the something. The SOMETHING is that the ELCA had come together on one of the most highly charged national debates and in those three words "sanctuary church body" declared "THIS is the side we are on!" No nuance. No calls for seeing both sides to an issue. No respect for varying opinions out in the congregation. Just BOOM.
Gosh. Even in the days of the sexuality debates of 2009, the church presented all the sides and said, "okay, yes, we have many differences on these issues, but they don't have to be church dividing." (they were, of course, and the body count from that decision was enormous) Nevertheless, that was decade ago, nuance mattered. Apparently it doesn't any longer. For the progressive ELCA being "woke" matters. Being on the "right side of history" matters.
I keep wondering what it must be like to be Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. She was re-elected for another 6 year term on the first ballot. That almost never happens. She seems even-keeled, kind of nerdy and certainly not interested in the church as cultural warrior. Even her first election seemed to promise a calmer ELCA, an ELCA less interested in devouring its own tail. Six short years later and she has her little church body is getting ravaged on FoxNews. It's not a job I would want. She's going to hear it, too. There's a lot of Trump supporters in those Lutheran heavy states that won him the election. They are going to be heard. But wokeness has a terrible side effect, it makes you deaf.