Tina Brown, celebrity editor of Talk, previously of the New Yorker, was welcoming writer Alexander Chancellor at a dinner party in New York. "Chancellor failed to rise to the occasion." Then, writes Stephen Robinson, "Brown pinged her glass with her spoon, a sound guaranteed to lower the spirit of a British guest at any American table."
Years ago I wrote about the tendency of modernist, evolution-minded, progressive, pacifist theists to live long lives. Someone once asked Vida Scudder the secret of her longevity. She said that she was a liberal who nurtured many projects, and she had to get up each morning to see how they were doing.
In this ecumenical era not only churches but cultures are melding, merging, learning from one another and even transposing and trading their distinctive characteristics. For example, Finland, historically Lutheran, has come to exemplify old Catholic understandings and uses of purgatory at a time when the Catholics themselves think and talk less and less about purgatory.
Things seemed to be going smoothly on the ecumenical front at the beginning of the new millennium. Among many church-unity and church-amity signs was the year-ago burying of the hatchet by Catholics and Lutherans over the once-divisive subject of justification by grace through faith. True, the parties left the hatchet-handle partly exposed, since there still is some work ahead.
Three months before a major assembly of the Lutheran World Federation, church leaders in Tanzania and Ethiopia—who represent the two largest Lutheran constituencies in Africa—have expressed opposition to “same-sex marriages and those who support the legitimacy of such marriage.”
When I meet strangers and am asked what I do, and I say I’m a Lutheran pastor, there are exactly two possible reactions. Either my new acquaintances look at my fully tattooed arms and my nose ring and say nothing while their faces ask, “Are you joking?
The general synod of the Church of Norway has voted for the first time to radically change the Lutheran church’s relations with the country’s government—a break toward autonomy that may take six years to complete.