Concern: Is the ELCA endorsing a religious group that worships Isis (an ancient Egyptian goddess)?
Response: No. For the past five years Ebenezer Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in San Francisco, California, has sponsored an annual “Faith and Feminism” conference. The three-day program for the 2011 conference includes keynote lectures by three feminist scholars, open conversation, singing and opportunities for individual activities, including spiritual exercises such as walking a labyrinth, yoga, prayer and meditation.
Like many other conferences, this series has featured women from diverse traditions, perspectives and experiences. Loreon Vigne is participating in this year’s conference by offering guided meditation as an optional activity at the end of the first day of the conference. Vigne is the leader of a “retreat center, temple, and animal sanctuary” in Geyserville, California, called “Isis Oasis.” Several online blog postings have implied that Vigne’s participation in this conference constitutes endorsement of her religious beliefs by the congregation or by the ELCA. However, this implication misrepresents her participation.
The ELCA states in its governing documents that it participates in God’s mission by “develop[ing] relationships with communities of other faiths for dialogue and common action” and “lift[ing] its voice in concord and work in concert with forces for good, to serve humanity, cooperating with church and other groups participating in activities that promote justice, relieve misery, and reconcile the estranged.” (ELCA Constitution 4.03.f, g)
In this light some ELCA congregations, like Ebenezer Lutheran, have committed to reaching out to women, their families and friends who have been estranged from the Christian church because of experiences of sexism, sexual harassment or gender-related violence. Sponsoring events that acknowledge the reality of these injustices and address these concerns is one effective strategy for developing relationships and working together for the common good in society. Moreover, this engagement offers distinctive opportunities for an authentic Christian witness for those who have experienced ministry distorted by the sins and injustices of sexism. When this engagement includes individuals of other faiths, it does not constitute an endorsement of their entire teaching and practice, much less a capitulation to their beliefs. This engagement is a witness of the Christian faith.
In the ELCA, oversight of congregations, their pastors and other rostered leaders is entrusted to synods. Ebenezer Lutheran Church is a congregation of the Sierra Pacific Synod. Questions or concerns about oversight of this congregation can be directed to the synod at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions or concerns about Ebenezer Lutheran’s overall mission and ministry can be directed to Pastor Stacy Boorn at email@example.com.