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ELCA Youth Gathering

Dangerous rumors. Director’s Blog, June, 2012

Posted on June 8, 2012 by Heidi Hagstrom

I wasn’t going to give time to the rumors that are flying around the church about two pastors who will speak at the Gathering because it gives those spreading such salacious information more press. However, I’ve had to write to enough people who have reached out to us wanting clarification that I thought it would be more efficient to post information to my blog.

 As far as I can tell, anxieties have been raised because of allegations that the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber and the Rev. Andrena Ingram, two people who will speak in the Superdome, are bad role models and examples for youth because of the “things they’ve done” in the past and in their congregations. If past actions were the criteria for allowing anyone to proclaim the gospel, I am guessing 98 percent of our clergy, and the rest of us, wouldn’t be eligible.

 Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber and Pastor Andrena Ingram are two out of several speakers who will be contributing to a carefully crafted, multi-dimensional program designed to inform/form faith in adolescents, focusing on Ephesians 2:11-20. Pastor Nadia has been asked to speak about the radical hospitality that Jesus offers to all people. She will do so by sharing her own story of God’s grace lifting her out of the cycle of addiction and calling her to serve the church as a pastor.

 The focus for the first night of the Gathering is to establish the corporate identity of those gathered as a community of people marked by God’s grace, a community into which all are welcome. Pastor Nadia will offer a message of God’s redemption for all people through the lens of God’s saving power in her own life. She will tell ELCA youth about her own experience of God visible in the life she once took for granted, and how, as a forgiven and loved child of God, she now shares her story of the power of God’s grace and mercy with the people she meets each day. Pastor Nadia’s call from God reaches into the gutters and alleys where most would choose not to go. She speaks with the strong conviction of her faith and a refreshing directness in her desire to tell the life-saving story of her Savior, Jesus. Her story is one of hope for what God has done, is doing and will continue to do in the world unfolding around us each day, with the reminder that the message of God in Jesus Christ is for all people, both the saint and the sinner.

 On Saturday night, serendipitously while world leaders gather in Washington, D.C., for the International AIDS Conference, Pastor Andrena Ingram will tell the story of her personal experience as an HIV-positive individual who chose to not let her HIV status define her life but instead challenged herself to become all that God dreamed for her life.  She will share the message of God’s incredible grace in her own life while at the same time confidently standing on the bedrock of God’s mission of justice for all the people of the world. Pastor Andrena will be the voice that reminds us to speak truth into the world in which we live each day. We will be challenged to look past the color of skin, gender, and the name of a disease, which still carries with it much stigma, to see the incredible image of God brought before each of us in the people we meet each day. Over the years, Pastor Ingram has reached many people in places and situations that are “the road not taken” by most of the church’s focus and attention. And for those concerned, Pastor Ingram WILL NOT be passing out condoms at the Gathering, which is the rumor that seems to have most people alarmed.

 There are many components to the Gathering, each of which is deep enough to stand on its own, but I realize that the mass events get the most attention and cause the most anxiety for some people. I take very seriously the fact that when someone speaks to young people in a venue like the Superdome they assume their church is speaking to them. There is no opportunity for response or dialogue in that venue, so it is our commitment to shape the remarks from the stage around the biblical text and theme we are focusing on each night and not a particular issue. The ELCA Youth Gathering is not a legislative event of the church. Its mission is to support adolescent faith formation. I have always understood the Gathering to be a tool that congregations can choose to use as they fulfill the promises they made when baptizing children, which is that they will rear those children in the faith.


68 Responses to 'Dangerous rumors. Director’s Blog, June, 2012'

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  1. Melinda said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 9:17 am


  2. JAdamK said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I have heard Pastor Andrena speak in person before and my concern is not the activities of her past but her ATTITUDE surrounding those activities – when she spoke – now this was several years ago- she spoke without a hint of remorse, without connecting God to her redemption, and that being a pastor was almost a bummer because she had to give up her crazy life style. As she retold some of her past, there was little talk of that addiction and recovery must have been pretty close to hell, and it was only the power, love, and redemption that God offers through Christ that got her through it, instead it was more like listening to the 40 year man who was his High school’s star quarterback – the glory days. Again, it’s not what is in a Christians past that defines them, instead it’s where God was along the journey that defines them. She also made a reference that the book of Revelation was so crazy and out there it must have been written by someone that was high. Not a message I need my students hearing! I am prepared to have further conversation with my students to “counter act” some of her testimonies.

  3. Connie Malafarina said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I think it’s awesome that these 2 pastors are speaking at the Youth Gathering. As a therapist/clinical supervisor who works with mental health and addiction, it’s important for our youth to cultivate understanding of the vast diversity in our society. They are people just like you and I. I know the youth from our congregation will find this a unique experience.

  4. Debi Dandridge said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Amen! Amen! Amen!
    Thank You!

  5. on June 9th, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Fortunately I have not heard “the rumors,” but based on this blog entry, I can guess what some of the rumors might be. It makes me heartsick to think that members of the ELCA do not seem to understand the power and wonder of God’s grace, and what God does in our lives. King David was a murderer. St. Paul persecuted the church, and stood by while St. Stephen was stoned to death (I guess that makes him an accessory to murder.) Would THEY have been welcomed to speak at the gathering, or would they have been condemned as “poor role models?”

  6. Taryn Rodriguez-Boette said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Dear Director;

    Good for you and all the organizers of the Youth Gathering. God’s works also happens outside white middle class communities. This is a reality check for the critics – we need to empower the youth to recognized that God is EVERYWHERE! God bless you always!

  7. William Kees said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 11:52 am

    We are a church that welcomes all people. Thank you leaders of the Gathering.

  8. Deb Grupe said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I grew up with pastors who were all middle-class white men. I was told that I couldn’t consider that calling because (horrors) I have an X chromosome. My pastoral role models were mostly great, but definitely limited by the culture of the time in the Lutheran church of which I was a part. I think it’s great that these pastors are speaking, and yes, that’s part of their role modeling. More importantly, though, women (and men)–some pastors, and some not–who have lives that demonstrate their understanding of God’s grace and the freedom we have in Christ to be all that we are called to be as redeemed children of God, and agents of God’s grace and mercy, are going to be addressing our youth. Kudos to the Gathering team for your choices. I’m looking forward to hearing the speakers! Just finished reading Leymah Gbowee’s book, will be looking for another Shane Claiborne book to read prior to the Gathering. I’m impressed with the lineup. Thanks for your hard work!

  9. Ann Bohlman said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you so much for your courage to allow two “admitted sinners” speak to our youth. As a therapist who works with youth and families, a clinical supervisor in a non-profit agency who works with runaway and homeless youth, and as the church’s youth leader, I am constantly trying to tell youth about redemption and forgiveness. Our youth NEED to hear that walking this walk is not easy or clean but at any moment, we can look to the Lord for grace — even if we are in the gutter, high, HIV positive, etc. As for JAdamK’s comments, I understand his concern, but we have the possiblity of such an amazing teaching moment — even if Pastor Andrena preaches the exact same message that JAdamK heard. We cannot expect, nor should we expect, that we can shield our kids from the world and contrary, messy messages. As youth leaders, it’s our call to walk right into the middle of that messyness and help the kids hear God’s voice.

  10. Ann Bohlman said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    BTW – that’s a pic of my hubby. He’s a handsome man, but I don’t want you thinking that I look like a 52 year old man. 😉

  11. Pastor Janice Altenburger said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Thank you for inviting these two pastors to speak to our youth and share their stories of redemption. I think that there are many young people who need to hear such stories so that they do not despair and lose faith and hope.

  12. unell hobbs said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    My daughter was lucky enough to attend the last two gatherings. It was wonderful for her to hear people speak who had lived in the world she was living in. Not a world were everyone had made the good choices. A world were the bad choices had been made and really bad things happen to them. I think that kids CAN learn from other peoples bad choices. They relate to humor and sarcasm which to some people my seem like you are glorifying the active but they can see through to the pain that was caused. The gathering is such a positive experience and I know my child grow from attending.

  13. unell hobbs said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 7:47 pm


  14. on June 9th, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    My anti spam word was “grace” and that was ironic in itself.

    I have not heard the rumors, but I know the rumor pool, so I will say that GRACE was not the basis, but rather a sense that only those who choose to judge these two ELCA ROSTERED PASTORS, did not take the time to learn anything about them.

    While I know we live in a church where many people live by their moral code and at times the church overall is passed over.

    For those who do not know or have heard either story in detail, perhaps you NEED to hear them speak and what these two ROSTERED PASTORS and STRONG LEADERS have to say, before we let people judge them.

    We are “Citizens with the Saint”, so we need to know understand that not all of us get to the same point on our journey at the same time. None of us will usually know where others are when we meet them, unless we ask.

    When in NOLA, if you get a chance to meet either of these women, talk to them. Before you judge, get the facts.

  15. Mark said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 8:56 pm


    huh… hadn’t heard any rumors either. I know one of those colleagues pretty well, and the other by considerable reputation.

    It’s a risk putting folks up on stage; it’s a risk putting folks in a pulpit every Sunday. But you have to trust the Holy Spirit a lot with that. Plus the candidacy committees, seminary faculty, and call committees that supported and affirmed the gifts and calls of these two pastors, and the rest of us, along our way.

    That being said… Pastor Bolz-Webber has a much more consistent and lengthy public track record, with her constant writing, media exposure, and high-profile ministry. Pastor Ingram has a very powerful personal story, an indomitable will, and an edge and eye for justice in the Kingdom of God. But certainly her speaking & writing has been less on public display than her fellow colleague.

    It’s always tricky, especially at these events, to balance being a preacher vs. a public speaker. Both can say good things… but there are fundamental differences. One of the most pressing is how much a preacher ought to spend talking about themselves, vs. talking about the Gospel of Jesus (not that those are completely separate things). A public speaker, though, like Nick Vujicic, or some famous athlete, or a politician, or whoever… it begins with them and kinda’ ends with them, and that’s alright! But it’s not preaching.

    I hope these two preachers, and the others who will be there, get that balance right. I prayerfully expect that they will. :-)

  16. CBrekke said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    “We cannot expect, nor should we expect, that we can shield our kids from the world and contrary, messy messages. As youth leaders, it’s our call to walk right into the middle of that messyness and help the kids hear God’s voice.” amen Ann… That goes for pastors to!

  17. Lisa Daross said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Interesting that the “anti-spam word” I had to type was spirit. I don’t really know much of what’s going on; the link to this blog showed up on my Facebook newsfeed. And I don’t really want to know. What I want to say is this. Pastor Andrena is my friend, and she has a more wonderful spirit than the majority of people that I know. She is a true gift from God. She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes, and I know I have learned much about grace, love, equality, and courage from her. I have also heard her speak to young people, and she levels with them. She speaks to them as people, not as “children.” She expects that they can hear what she has to say without it being euphemised. She does not mince words or condescend to our youth. For that, she has my thanks. When I have heard her speak, yes, she tells it like it is – or was. She speaks from her own experience. But, she has always recognized God’s presence in her life and experiences. I just wanted anyone reading these comments to know that. Pastor Andrena is an amazing lady, and I love her very much.

    (I’m sure that Pastor Nadia is equally amazing, but I have not had the privilege of meeting her, so I can’t speak personally about her.)

  18. Pat Ligon said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    I have heard both speakers and what a gift that our youth will be able to hear the gospel of Jesus through their words.

  19. Pr. Sandi Olson Decker said,

    on June 9th, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Heidi, I want you on my Mutual Ministry committee! Praise to you for your well written response. Nadia, and Andrena will remind the youth, many of whom already live “with a past,” that God works in redemptive, powerful, transformative ways.

  20. on June 10th, 2012 at 4:20 am

    One word: Grace. Grace, faith and word define us and it is essential that our youth hear that message from leaders that are “outside the box” and who have experienced life in a different way. God bless you for confronting the rumors head on and handling them with respect and poise.

  21. Chad Fair said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 6:17 am

    I think it’s awesome those are two of the speakers for the gathering and am disgusted that some seem to have voiced displeasure. Yes they may have a dark past but the light of Christ now shines in them. That is the beauty of Christ. Kids will be faced with such problems and maybe some already are. We can’t cover our eyes or theirs and hope they are never effected. Ministers can be messy but Christ is present in the midst of it all. I can’t think of better speakers to jump start conversations that new to be had.

    Kudos to those who secured these gifted speakers. I am even more excited knowing they will be there.

  22. Pastor Paula Hepola-Anderson said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Thank you to the organizers for including two such beautiful Christian women leaders who understand and can express the Gospel of God’s unconditional love in Jesus our Lord. What a contrast with the current example of the deadliness of fallen human nature that is shown in the gossip and judgmentalism that made this discussion necessary.

  23. chris said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Thank you to Ann Bohlman. This echos exactly what I am feeling about this. I am very sad this has to become an issue and that there are “rumors” enough to warrant a blog post. How sad that the adult leaders feel they need to behave this way. I look forward to hearing all the speakers and digging deep with my youth into issues that are on their radar.

  24. Chelsea said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Jesus was considered by the religious authorities to be an “unfit” member of his religious group, who did inappropriate things and talked about them in inappropriate ways. I hope we are all able to appreciate the message and legacy of Jesus that these two fantastic and courageous women bring to the youth of our church.

  25. SnickerHaHa said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 11:57 am

    ‘Tis the reason I left the church… a*holes who think their crap doesn’t stink. Well, I got news for you and not the good kind. Yours does stink as does the kids who attend these gatherings. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts, 10 children will be conceived at this gathering. So much for innocents. It doesn’t exist.

  26. Analyse said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I heard Rev. Nadia Bolz-Webber last year at the Wild Goose Festival and as a current Seminarian I found her message really moving and inspiring. I know of Rev. Ingram’s story and am looking forward to hearing it for myself at the Gathering. It’s nice to know that those who have planned this event want to see stories of people who have struggled. That’s what life is. It’s a struggle and it’s truly an inspiration to hear from people who have come out of their own struggles stronger than before. Our youth need to hear from more people like Rev. Bolz-Webber and Rev. Ingram. I can’t wait to hear them at the Gathering!

  27. Randy Schatz said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Our youth group had the good fortune to stubble across Pastor Ingram while on a mission trip last summer. After worship and a lite lunch she sat down with our youth group for some small group time. Her message of grace and redemption was on point, and I believe it was exactly what teens living in a broken world need to hear. Her story embodies the word ‘grace’ in a way that I was never able to convey as a confirmation teacher. Listen close when she talks to the 30,000 teens…you might be able to hear a pin drop.

  28. on June 10th, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    I know Pastor Ingram personally. She was my own pastor for a brief time when I was studying in Philadelphia. Her story is incredibly inspirational and she is a wonderful servant of God. Thank you for standing firm in your decision to have her and Pastor Bolz-Weber speak. Both are these women are remarkable people with authentic, genuine stories of God’s love at work in their lives. Young people, especially, will be able to relate to their testimony. To those who would deny either of these people coming to the Gathering because their lives have been rocky at points, because of their tatooes or HIV status or any other such reason – this is why so many youth have NO interest in the church, because we make such ridiculous, inappropriate, closed-minded and hypocritical judgments about other people. Both these pastors do represent the ELCA and represent it well; those who judge, spread rumors, tell half-truths are not representing the ELCA well. Surely we believe in forgiveness, in redemption, in new life in Christ. That message does not come across when we judge others harshly without truly knowing who they are or what their witness to Jesus is. I hope the rumors and unkind remarks will cease. And I look forward to hearing the wonderful responses from the Gathering after our youth have heard all the speakers, including Pastor Ingram and Pastor Bolz-Weber.

  29. Michael Coffey said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    More honest humble people speaking to the all embracing nature of God and less “role model” athletes and celebrities and our youth will have far more chance to hear a real Gospel for their lives

  30. Kia Conrad said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    What? No condoms? I think it would be a helpful gesture. Lutheran teenagers have sex too; that’s where a significant number of Lutheran babies come from. I know from whence I speak.

  31. JNA said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Having grown up in the ELCA, I beleive it is wonderful these two pastors will be speaking to our youth. So many people call themselves CHRISTIAN, yet fail to live a Chist-like life of non-judgement. God works in ways we humans do not understand nor are we suppose to understand. Jesus was not “clean”… that is He ministered to the lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and to the numourous other people in the margins of society. I would like to beleive that today He would be sharing God’s love with the drug users, the gays, the trandgendered, those with HIV, alcoholics, mentally ill, the murderers, the homeless, and anyother group our mainstream “clean” Christians want to exclude.

    I no longer attend any chruch because of the “Good Christian” attitudes towards gays, lesbians and transgendered people. However, I have found Pastor Nadia’s site online and read her posted sermons regularly. Because of her sermons I have decided each person is to find their own relationship to the Creator/God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. Pastor Nadia has reminded me of Christ’s love for me and God’s GRACE. Perhaps one day I may return to church but for now I will read Pastor Nadia’s sermons.

  32. Rod Boriack said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Thank you, Heidi, for being calm and forthright in your comments and response. You point to the reality that none of the Gathering planning is reckless or without reflection on God’s Word and presence in today’s world.

    As others have said or implied, if it were not for the persistent and immeasurable love and mercy of God throughout human history, we would have no Old or New Testament biblical characters or “heroes” to look up to or learn from. And we’d have no present day ministers, leaders, mentors, or credible people of faith to speak to grace that is greater and more powerful than any human flaw, crime, sin, mistake, brokenness, or weakness.

    We all need to wipe the nervous sweat off our foreheads and say, “Thank God!” that God’s grace covers us, too.

  33. Marcia Simon said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I repect and admire the pastors who are speaking at the Superdome and the message they are going to bring. They will open minds in their speeches. Life is not lived in a bubble where everything is perfect. This is a wonderful environment to expose the youth to different life experiences. Sometimes passion is mistaken for “attitude”. Pastor Ingram is very passionate about her beliefs. I do not think that is “attitude.”
    Amen to the opening of minds in the real world!

  34. Sue Maser said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I just wanted to say that I have heard Pastor Ingram many times give praise, thanks and glory to God for seeing her through! She has been a wonderful inspiration and example to others and if my daughter were a few years younger, I would love for her to be able to attend the gathering and hear Pr Ingram!

  35. Jim Stevenson said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I had the pleasure to hear Nadia speak at a conference this past week. She is a highly intelligent and inspirational speaker. For an “old man” like me I had to have an open mind and look past the tattoos. I think she will inspire and motivate our youth. Great choice!

  36. on June 10th, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I am so saddened to hear there is a controversy about these two fine pastors. I know Pastor Ingram well – she was my pastor for a short time while I studied in Philadelphia. Her story is inspirational. She is a fine person, full of grace, and faith, and compassion. She is just the sort of person who should speak at the Youth Gathering – Pastor Bolz-Webber, too. Young people relate to real people who have been through real struggles and who live by real faith. That is what they will hear from both these women. Pastor Ingram and Pastor Bolz-Webber do represent the ELCA and represent it with integrity. Those who spread rumors and half-truths do not represent the ELCA in a good light. We are a church of forgiveness, of redemption, of new life in Christ. Thanks to everyone planning the Gathering for sticking to your decision to have Pastor Ingram and Pastor Bolz-Webber speak. It will be wonderful for our young people to hear their testimony.

  37. Pam Sall said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    How I wish I had women like these pastors 50 years ago when I was going to youth gatherings. It would have shown me much earlier on that the world was not as “nice”, “good” or whatever it took me so many years to stop being.

  38. Pastor Lance Henderson said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    James Carville, the political strategist for President Bill Clinton famously coined the phrase–“it’s the economy, stupid.” I’ll dispense with the name-calling, and paraphase, “it’s CWA 2009″.

    I stand awed by the transformation that our Lord Jesus Christ has made in the life of Pastor Nadia. I stand awed by the transformation that our Lord Jesus Christ has made in the life of Pastor Andrena. And I am not alone, as a matter of fact, as someone who has heard critique of these speakers, I’ve never heard one word about “who they were” or “what they have done” as a reason for any reticence regarding them as speaker.

    The reasons I have heard are: Pastor Andrena wrote on her blog recently that she passed out condoms using the words normally reserved for the distribution of communion–“this is my body, given for you.” Granted, not the most heinous of crimes, but many, many people would find it goofy. And many, many people would like a little more explanation with a little more theological nuance than was provided on her blog by what she meant by that. Mind you, I’d bet 99.99% of the ELCA’s membership would support her difficult and amazing ministry, but a big chunk would wonder “isn’t handing out condoms with the language of communion _____? (fill in the blank yourself–blasphemous, poor taste, etc). But that same chunk will bet dollars to donuts that whatever the topic assigned, Pastor Andrena will somehow tell this story to our youth, because it is titillating. Maybe she won’t.

    Pastor Nadia will give a riveting story, but she will also advocate for one understanding of homosexuality despite that our document “Human Sexuality:Gift & Trust” acknowledges that there are at least four views within our churchbody. And that is why some might question her speaking before the gathered youth of the ELCA–only that fourth view ever seems to be acknowledged.

    For many not directly involved in churchwide operations, there seems to be a rather one-sided view of the way to present the issues–Our presiding bishop is the keynote speaker at the LC/NA gathering, A strident advocate of a level of inclusion (read: marriage) for the LGBT community is one of the keynoters at the Youth Gathering. The list goes on. From what other viewpoints can see (I subscibe to viewpoint #2 of HSGT), it is just a matter of time before we smarten up and get with the program.

    I doubt this will be a popular post, but it is honest and spoken in love.

  39. Julie Hutson said,

    on June 10th, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    I would suggest to those offering such criticism that they go read…their…Bibles…and see where Jesus was.

  40. Rev Liv Larson Andrews said,

    on June 11th, 2012 at 1:02 am

    As a leader sending a child of HIV positive parents to this gathering, I am thrilled with these speaker choices. Nadia BW is funny, faithful and fascinating. Thanks, ELCA, for opening the door to a full encounter with grace and power. I am happy knowing who will speak to the children our congregation is helping send.

  41. Pastor Lance Henderson said,

    on June 11th, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Let me take another stab at that last paragraph…LOL

    For many of us not directly involved in the churchwide expression of the ELCA, there seems to be a rather one-sided view that issues are presented. Our presiding bishop just happens to be the keynote speaker at this year’s LC/NA conference. A strident advocate for the LGBT community just happens to be one of the keynoters at the Youth Gathering (despite the facts that advocacy represents one of the more extreme views of same-sex relationships and that we have absolutely NO teaching regarding the BT part of the LGBT). So from what some of us see, there is an perceived, ongoing unspoken commentary from the churchwide expression of the church that seems to say to many, “the conversation is over and we are waiting for you to smarten up/get with the program.”

  42. Cynthia J. Fazzini said,

    on June 11th, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Tell the whole truth behind the “rumors,” please. Many of the pastors I know are concerned about the blasphemous comparison Pr. Ingram made between using condoms and the Words of Institution. Surely she could have chosen a more appropriate metaphor!

  43. Spencer said,

    on June 11th, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I would not send my youth to see her speak. Her foul language is a terrible example for youth and her teaching is unbibilcal.

  44. John Walker said,

    on June 11th, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Question! Is a good role model defined as one who has never made a mistep (no matter how bad) or is it one who had learned from their experiences (no matter the origin) and has committed to teach others how to avoid these destructive situations and actions. As far as passing out condoms, grow up and realize our young people can get them free at any health dept. so why panic? Teach them not to need them before they would be needed!!

  45. Edward Laufer, Jr. said,

    on June 11th, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    To all of the detractors, I would recommend the words of Jesus to the crowd wanting to stone the woman accused of adultery (John 8:7). Or His admonitions in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37&38).

    Yes, the pastors in question have not lived exemplary lives in the past. Yes, they continue to refer to those lives when talking to youth. Yes, they say things which may sound ‘blasphemous’ or ‘un-Christian.’ Do they preach the Love and Grace of God in Christ Jesus? Do they show the amazing Power and At-one-ment of life in Jesus Christ? Once again, Jesus words from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 7:15-20; Luke 6:43-45) should lead us to a re-appraisal of our own lives and messages, as well as that of all persons entrusted with teaching our youth.

    I was raised in the Missouri Synod, attended Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and left the Lutheran Church for years because of the non-Biblical attitude of knowing exactly what and how God wants every person to speak about Him. After reading the entire Bible for many years, it has slowly dawned on me that God has spoken in many different ways (sometimes upsetting ways) about His love and plan for mankind. I now leave judgement up to Him, and only try to engage people in conversation when I don’t agree with something they say or do.

  46. Colin Robinson-Vokoun said,

    on June 11th, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Wow ~ talk about running the gamut of views and expressions on this.

    To all of you I would say, I would still sit next to you in a any house of worship, or offer and handshake on the street. To most of you I’d even extend a warm hug and hope it would be returned just as warmly. (A few of you would not be offered that hug, although I would still accept that you are entitled to your opinion, and we would have to agree to disagree.)

    I am no longer a member of any so-called “Christian” church or denomination. And it is because of the likes of the handful of you on this thread that have the most un-Christian-like attitudes. (Oh yes, JAdamK, you aand your ATTITUDE were the first to jump off this thread at me and remind me of why I no longer want a part of a church that has mindsets like yours within it. I guess you must think congratulations are in order. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them.)

    I am an openly gay man who is living with HIV. I have gotten to know Pastor Andrena Ingram from various HIV-related support groups online but most of all through one which she owns and operates. She and I (ands my legally wedded husband) have spoken over the phone regarding life, people, HIV, support, doctors and medical care, medications… and church!

    She’s invited us down the 45 minute trip to visit her and her congregation some Sunday… and we’ve extended the same invitation for her to visit and speak in our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship where, as I know I will find in Andrena’s congregation, ALL are welcome.

    For those of you with that holier-than thou “spirit” upon you, allow me to say once again, that is was people like you that had me run from what some might call “THE” church… I’ve been disowned and shunned by my own adult children for having been honest and come out as openly gay. I have at least two grandchildren that I haven’t been pewrmitted to ever meet or hold.

    And because of the pain that this has given me, I hope and pray that none of you ever feel your children shun you for any reason. But, those of you with that “holier-than-thou” spirit pointed out, BE WARNED! Your children are learning fro you!

    As Stephen Sondheim so beautifully tells us in lyrics, “Children will listen…”

    They are listening to YOU.

    I will gladly and joyfully set foot in the doors of Pastor Andrena’s church. I will extend not only my hand, but also my warm hug. And I know, without a doubt, that hand and hug will be returned in love.

    At least, that’s what I know I’ll find at Pastor Andrena’s church… and I’d find it from “most” of you on this thread. To the rest of that handful of the rest of you, I wish somehow you could always be wearing a name tag so I’d know to not bother reaching out to you. Not that I wouldn’t reach out toward you, but I would want to put you on the spot or have you pretend to be the Christian you say you are.

    I can’t wait to see you, Andrena! Much love, and knock those kids socks off!

  47. Michael Coffey said,

    on June 11th, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Pastor Ingram’s blog where she talks about condoms is here:

    It is thoughtful and well written.

    Personally I think her choice of words connecting the words of institution with sexuality is in poor taste. But you have to look at her context and the people she is reaching. I look forward to hearing what she has to say at the gathering, and talking with the youth afterwards.

  48. Marcia Simon said,

    on June 13th, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Spencer, I assume your children have never heard “foul” language. Let’s be real. Children hear more and see more than we did when we were children. I think an open minded person would love to see and hear the two pastors speak. They embody the world we live in. Don’t live life in a bubble. You don’t know what you are missing!

  49. on June 15th, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    […] Nadia Bolz-Weber, an ordained clergywoman with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), came under fire after she was selected to speak at the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. The event, which takes […]

  50. JAdamK said,

    on June 17th, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I just wanted to clarify my remarks it seems they were misinterpreted/misunderstood – but first – Colin I am really sorry for your hurt and your anger. I hope you find peace, love and acceptance. It breaks my heart to know that you’ve been hurt by those who follow and adore Christ. (I know I have certainly failed to live up to the example of Christ’s love and have certainly sinned over and over often causing God and others pain) so as a broken but redeemed sinner, I apologize for the hurt you have known.

    First I have NO problem with either of these two women. I have heard both speak in person, so I do feel qualified and it’s reasonable to comment. Pastor Nadia is fantastic and I look forward to her message. As I mentioned in my first post – I only heard Rev. Ingram once and it was several years ago. As I stated earlier, I don’t judge her past and I don’t judge her – I do think it’s fair to judge her message as she’s a pastor sharing it publicly. I am not actually all that concerned with she did or didn’t do in her past. I am concerned with her making it about Christ and not about herself. When I did hear her speak, it was more about her and her accomplishments, than about what God was doing and continues to do with and for her. I am interested in hearing and seeing God in her life journey , but I am not as interested in her biography – we all have those to share – it’s the faith component that I want to hear and I want my youth to hear.

    I applaud the Rev. Ingram in her acceptance of her HIV and living out a full, meaningful and wonderful life, when I heard her speak it was almost as though she celebrated her HIV. I will be blunt and honest – if someone came to me and said they just found out they were HIV+ I wouldn’t say that’s great! Let’s celebrate. It’s a serious thing, and a life altering disease (virus). It doesn’t matter how they contracted it, it matters that it will change their lives forever.

    So I am not opposed to women as pastors, I am not opposed to LGBT, I am not opposed to races, I am not opposed to those with HIV, I am not opposed to sinners, being that I am the first to admit I’m a GIANT sinner. But i do oppose a message that points glory to anything OTHER than God. I am also open minded enough to know that Rev. Ingram’s message absolutely could have evolved to be more God centered, and I hope and pray that is the case. I was just expressing that I want her message to be all about God, not all about what Rev. Ingram has accomplished and done.

    I was not misspeaking when I said she made a comment about the biblical book of revelation being so crazy and weird the writer(s) seem high. I have a concern anytime someone (no matter who they are) would make a reference that I interpret to invalidate (or at least question the validity) of our scriptures.

    I hope that clears up how I feel. I am all for diversity and exposing young Christians to the real world, the “others” we are often blind to, seeing God’s presence in the WHOLE world, but it’s gotta be ALL for God and all about God with us – Emmanuel.

    Peace. Blessings. Love.

  51. Mike Rinehart said,

    on June 28th, 2012 at 8:10 am

    @JAdamK : You might not like what Luther had to say about Revelation.

  52. Laura Bourdo said,

    on June 28th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Just reading up on Bolz-Weber, and I am impressed — not only by her emergent church sensibilities, but by her deep orthodoxy.

    From a case study on the New Media Project site for Union Theological Seminary (, this quote about her: “The thing is, Bolz-Weber has a theology big enough to encompass all these events. She believes in the darkness of the human heart. She believes in the depths to which Christ plunged to save us, even to hell itself. And even after our union with him in baptism and Eucharist, she believes we remain ever in need of grace.” Certainly, there is nothing to complain about there — Bolz-Weber is a fully orthodox Lutheran pastor, if a non-traditional one.

    However, I have no doubt that the central (really unspoken — at least here) objection to her participation in this youth gathering is that her church is inclusive of the LGBT community. The ELCA has formally adopted tolerant policies regarding this community — at least the LG part — but we, as a church, are far from fully embracing the radical inclusion that Bolz-Weber represents. This, I believe, is the true root of the resistance and the rumors.

    Let us, therefore, talk about the pink elephant in the middle of the room, instead of dancing around it. This may or may not be the appropriate forum, and whatever is discussed here will not “solve” the problem in our midst, but it would be a good, honest start.

  53. Laura Bourdo said,

    on June 28th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    As a follow-up, I have read a bit about Pastor Ingram, as well, and can find absolutely nothing of controversy. She is a highly respected activist in the HIV/AIDS community — but that is certainly nothing objectionable. Many of our ELCA churches do work in this area — whether they are inclusive of the LGBT community in their worship lives or not. And Ingram is also theologically traditional, as far as I can tell. From her church’s website: “Fully feeling Christ’s love, Reverend Ingram realized her call to help others who think they are beyond Christ’s reach: ‘It is my wish to bring the gospel to those that believe there is no place in God’s kingdom for them—to invite those living ‘bent over’ from difficulties in life, to come to the table and partake of the feast, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.’”

    Again, however, a clue to the controversy about her speaking at the youth gathering may be found in the prominent placement on the home page of St. Michael’s Lutheran in Philadelphia of a clear, unequivocal, and enthusiastic welcome to the LGBT community.

    A coincidence? I seriously think not.

  54. Michelle Rowell said,

    on July 2nd, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    I have no personal experience with either of these women, as speakers or preachers (and yes, as someone said above, there is a difference).

    I have, however, heard concerns expressed to me about their speaking at the youth gathering. My impression is that people are afraid that someone might inadvertantly (or purposefully) encourage the youth to act in ways that are contrary to the abundant life God wills for creatures in creation.

    We might want to define abundant life according to whatever feels good in the moment, but that is self-centered, and the epitome of loving self more than God.

    I hope none of the speakers at the gathering will promote an attitude of “whatever feels good in the moment,” but that all will promote an atiitude of thankfulness for God’s saving redemption, and a new future from which the foibles of our past are washed away in baptism.

  55. heidi said,

    on July 2nd, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I am slightly offended that someone would think we’d be so careless with what is being said from the main stage at the Youth Gathering. As a leader in the Churchwide Organization I would never allow anyone to even suggest a “whatever feels good in the moment” theology. We choose our speakers carefully, and they all know we can turn off the microphone if they go in a different direction than what we’ve agreed upon. :-)

    I just spent three days with the team of people who are planning the program in the Superdome. Pastor Andrena was there and practiced her presentation several times (she is going to bring you to your knees); the emcees dialogue was tweeked multiple times; and what the team is calling the “theological runners” (presentations that represent the theological guts of the Gathering that “run” through all five days) were scrutinized over and over again in a context of prayer. Just try writing dialogue or scripts that engage teenagers and reflect deep theological and biblical truths in 1-5 minutes. It isn’t easy.

    I’d like to remind you what Prof. Kenda Creasy Dean noted in her book “Almost Christian” when she said that American children are following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and their parents and other grown ups may be responsible. More American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism,” a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem. Kenda said it better than I can: The self-centered nature of moralistic therapeutic deism is simply contrary to what the purpose of the church is. Theologically, the church is supposed to exist for the world. We don’t exist to perpetuate ourselves or to make ourselves happy. The Gospel story that animates the church is about self-giving love and dying in order to live. That is what ELCA youth and adults will hear and experience in New Orleans later this month.

  56. Michelle Rowell said,

    on July 2nd, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    I am sorry, Heidi, that you were even slightly offended by what I said. I do know how difficult it is–and how often we fail in our attempts to engage people (of any age) in faith issues.

    Yet, we are living in a church with divided views on particular issues, and we need to face the fact that our recent actions in the area of sexuality are still widely divisive, and people who feel like they “lost” the argument will be quick to mistrust anything that seems to support the “side” with which they disagree, especially when they feel “their side” does not receive equal time.

    My main point is that I understand the fear, and my hope is that I can come back with some reassurances after the gathering that our youth were able to hear grace and forgiveness rather than the feared “anything goes” anti-gospel that I have heard from some preachers in our church (even some who call themselves conservative).

    I thank you, Heidi, for your reassurances, and look forward to the gathering with excitement and hope!

  57. heidi said,

    on July 3rd, 2012 at 9:20 am

    You are welcome.

  58. JAdamK said,

    on July 3rd, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    @Mike Rinehar – I’d love more specifics to what Luther is quoted as saying in regards to Reveleation – and you may be right I might not like what he had to say, just like I don’t like what he had to say on Jews towards the end of his life. The only person that I would never object to what they said is Jesus Christ. Just because Luther said it doesn’t make it Gospel truth – he was sometimes hot tempered and full of OPINIONS. While we are entitled to them, it doesn’t mean we should just accept them just because Luther or anyone else for that matter says them. Again – I’m not okay with ANYONE implying that bible writers were stoned/high on drugs. You’re welcome to feel fine with commentary like that, I’m just not there.

  59. Kathy said,

    on July 5th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    My 17 year old daughter will be attending the youth gathering this year. At this point in her life she is choosing to not engage in intercourse until she is married. Is she so outside of the mainstream that she will not receive any encouragement or support for this decision? Is she one of such a small minority that she will come away from the gathering wondering if it’s worth it to wait? My daughter is politically liberal who is helping with Obama’s campaign. She is actively involved at the synod level with LYO. She continuously speaks up for justice. I know that much of what she will learn and hear and experience will be challenging, inspirational and life giving. I pray that she will be encouraged to keep this commitment to practice the only kind of safe sex there is….one and only one partner…..ever. I also pray that there will be enough others who will be inspired to keep this commitment so that she will have that choice.

    By the way, I think handing out condoms in most circumstances is important to do. Handing them out with the words of institution is stupid and immature. To equate the safety of using a condom to the abundant eternal life offered in Holy Communion sells the gospel short.

  60. heidi said,

    on July 10th, 2012 at 7:13 am

    While it is a subject that, I believe, the Christian church should not ignore, the Youth Gathering is not the place to be talking about teenagers’ choices about sex. That is not our mission. Your daughter will neither be overtly encouraged or discouraged to remain a virgin until marriage because of something that is said at the Gathering.

  61. Kristin said,

    on July 10th, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I am so excited to meet and hear these two women speak! I have met Pastor Ingram and worshipped with her; I believe both of these women can speak to our youth and give them a powerful message.
    Amen to their being there!

  62. Pastor Zeke said,

    on July 18th, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    “Your daughter will neither be overtly encouraged or discouraged to remain a virgin until marriage because of something that is said at the Gathering.”
    And there is the mistake. You aren’t willing to stand firm on God’s Word, and instead cave into culture. As numerous posters have pointed out, youth are dealing with a sexually charged culture. If they can’t hear the biblical truth that God intends sex to be within the bounds of marriage at the largest youth gathering of the denomination…then you are failing in your responsibility. Even the social statement affirmed that sex is for marriage…

  63. heidi said,

    on July 18th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I agree with you, Pastor Zeke, that we all live in a sexually charged culture, one that needs bright, young, Christian leaders to inform it and make it different. That is our mission here! We hope that teenagers are having converstations about their personal choices in the context of the loving, trusted communities of their family and congregation.

    I encourage you to follow the Gathering online, and share in the spirit of love and grace that is already flooding New Orleans.

  64. Leah said,

    on July 19th, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    As a college student at an ELCA sponsored school, college gathering volunteer, and Christian, I am so greatful and blessed for these two speakers. I grew up in a very small, un-diversified town; not exposed or experienced in diversity, troubles, and hurt in this world. Sheltered would be the perfect word to describe me when I went to college. When I first dealt with seeing extreme alcohol, drug use, and hard real-hitting issues I didn’t know why to do. I was caught up in the way the stereotypical “Christian” would do. I first thought “ignore” and carry one. The tattoed wearing, pierced, free spirited; I had no idea what to do. Through time I learned that those who were different or who had dabbled in the so called ways of “evil” we’re honestly some of the strongest Christians I have met in my life. Growing up I feel as if we ate taught by our elders that we must just leave those alone who don’t fit the “perfect” christian mold. These speakers are what youth NEED. We need to learn how to accept every brother and sister in Christ aside from there past, present, and the things they are caught up in. Speakers like this teach and help us accept our family in Christ.

  65. Ann Bohlman said,

    on July 23rd, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    My husband (the handsome one in the picture), my two adult sons and I just returned from an AMAZING week at the 2012 National Youth Gathering in NOLA. Between the four of us, we have been to 20 Gatherings (and add in our other leader for a total of 27 Gatherings). Can I add that we are from a little two point rural parish in southwestern Wisconsin — not known as a hotbed of liberalism. We all agreed that WE HAVE NEVER BEEN SO PROUD OF THE ELCA AND THE LEADERS WHO PUT THE PROGRAM TOGETHER!!!!!!

  66. Ann Bohlman said,

    on July 23rd, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Oops, hit the wrong button cause I am not done yet — guess I am a little tired. K, a lot tired but soooooo inspired. I re-read all of the blogs, and I began to hear white noise (blah, blah, blah). As a social worker by vocation, I get the big picture, but I dare any one of you to sit in a room of teenagers and talk openly and frankly about this stuff. They have awesome and on-point questions. They are wrestling. One thing leads to another. They WANT to integrate Christ into their daily lives but don’t know how to do it alone. Speakers like Nadia hit these kids where they live. It pulls them in and makes them feel that they too are worthy to be a part of the gumbo (CWTC!) that God is making. Once they feel safe belonging, they let God’s grace pour down on them. If/when they feel safe, they can wrestle with the details. Please remeber that the WHOLE body has a role when you begin pontificating. We put in the blood, sweat and tears (important body functions) to help our youth take in the amazing and challenging messages so that the spread the all-inclusive love of Jesus.

    God is good, all the time!

    I pray good sleep and peace to all the staff and volunteers who put together the 2012 Gathering. You have done your jobs good and faithful servants. Rest assured, we will carry the results of your efforts until Detroit in 2015!

  67. Derek said,

    on July 30th, 2012 at 12:08 am

    This is NOT ok to preach to KIDS at any level, especially the church.

  68. Ann Bohlman said,

    on October 4th, 2012 at 1:15 am

    Big picture dude. Get into the real world where your youth live! I am praying that you get it.

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